Ms. Magazine  
feminist news wire feminist archives

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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This essay first appeared online in the Spring 2000 collection at www.ducts.org


Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963
Peace, War, Snow, New York, and the Inexplicable Past Explained
By Helen Zelon

My family landed in a spanking-new stucco bunIgalow in Holly Park Homes, in Gardena, California, after the construction of the San Diego Freeway leveled our first house. Our new house had been built along with hundreds of close cousins, all promptly sold off to a generation of young families striving to inhabit the American Dream-- three bedrooms, two baths, eat-in kitchen, two-car garage. Block after block, laid out on a grid as predictable and contained as the houses themselves. Controlling the interior environment, the terrain of memory and emotion, was the peculiar art my parents practiced every day.

Banked by the commercial avenues Van Ness and Rosecrans and the abyss-like 135th Street drainage ditch and sandy Rowley Park, the Holly Park kids biked, skated and ran, stripping hydrangea bushes for pretend-bride bouquets and cycling the endless loop of Ardath, 141st Street, Daphne, 139th Street as summer mornings stretched past noon into lazy, hot, white-sky afternoons.

The summer I turned eight my mother returned to fulltime work and my life took on an air of autonomy. Our babysitter, Mrs. Mozell Rollins, an Ozark Baptist quilter, was so besotted with my toddler sister-- she of the long ringlets and liquid eyes, the spider-web eyelashes and sweet baby scents-- that I had comparatively free rein. It was my opportunity for adventure.

Summer afternoons, I hopped on my bike and rode the three-quarter miles to Purche Avenue School, where Mrs. Owens, the school librarian, presided. Mrs. Owen's first name was Charlotte. Charlotte, my mother's name! Her newest name, that is, after her birth name Tsirla and her nickname Cesia, which became Czeslawa when she went underground on Aryan papers, in Warsaw, in 1941. Now her friends and my father called her Cesia again, but at work, where my parents strove to keep the facts of their lives a secret, she was Charlotte. That she shared the librarian's name was an omen to me; Mrs. Owens stood in for the grandmothers whose faces I had neverseen.

Every weekday was the same: Ride to school, get a book. Read the book overnight, go back. Biographies, novels, mysteries, series-- I ate the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew for breakfast. Fridays were the best, because I could keep the book until Monday, and because Mrs. Owens often had something special put aside for me. One Friday in July, she gave me "A Cricket in Times Square," and my life changed forever.

New York! Lively, loud, vibrating city! People from all kinds of different places, with faraway names and strange accents confusing their speech. California was sameness to me, even then, and I did not fit in. My friends were blonde and fair, I am dark. They had patent-leather cases filled with blonde Barbies and red-headed Midges; my Auntie Celia gave me my brown-eyed, black-haired Barbie, a mini-misfit among her 11-inch peers. All my girlfriends had -ee names-- Vicky, Kathy, Debbie, Ruthie, Randi and I was stuck in the old world, with a name for aunties and old maids. My sister lucked out: she was named Edith, but became Edie (that -ee ending!) right away. Me, I am Helen, named for my grandmother, named for a dark and foreign place, for a time lost to fire and history.

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