SEARCH: Amazing Mothers

•March 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

via SEARCH: Amazing Mothers

SEARCH: Author Spotlight Sumiko Saulson

•March 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

via SEARCH: Author Spotlight Sumiko Saulson

Cancer, “Positivity” and Misogynoir

•March 3, 2019 • 7 Comments

CW: Cancer, End Stage Cancer, Realities of Multiple Myeloma, Depression, Misogynoir, Racism.

I wrote this blog but never published it, back when my mother was still fighting for her life. She passed away January 14, 2019 after a nine and a half year long battle with cancer. I was frustrated with all of the misogynoir my mother and I had to deal with, as in America, a strong black woman stereotype attaches to black women and keeps perpetuating itself even when we are dying, or those close to us are dying. My mom had to be a strong black woman until her dying breath. I had to be a strong black woman as she lay dying.

What follows below the break is what I wrote and how I felt in late September 2018, edited to update it to reflect that she has passed on. Please don’t read it if you feel you might personalize my feelings of frustration over my mom’s death.

Carolyn and Sumiko Saulson flip off the camera at Windsor Care in Vallejo

Mom and I at Windsor Care in Vallejo

So, in May, at BayCon 2018, my mother gave me the bad news: her cancer was no longer responding well to chemo. Her doctor was going to try an older chemo med she’d been on previously, Revlimid. Sadly, it didn’t work either.

In June, she went into the hospital with respiratory issues. Some of you may know that she had a close brush with death around my birthday in March of 2017. That was due to a cardiac issue, as she is seventy years old now and has comorbid conditions along with her cancer. The heart disease and a-fibrillation is related to high blood pressure. So last year she almost died of heart disease. They were able to stabilize her. She always was a fighter.

Since she is a fighter – and she has miraculously pulled through any number of times – when I first became concerned about her latest battle with cancer back in May 2018, I got a lot of “your mother is strong” kind of comments. A lot of people are unaware of how culturally tone deaf it is to repeatedly refer to a black woman as strong when she is facing a major crisis. Yet this notion of me, and my mother, as “strong” persisted. It persists to until the day she died, and many people had no idea how serious my mom’s health problems were because they didn’t want to know or understand.

Fundraisers were going around for mom’s end of life expenses and her burial and people still thought she was “getting better”… she made some recovery from the seizure, stroke and heart attack but she was never going to recover from cancer because they were refusing to give her chemo. They said the chemo wasn’t working anymore.

Mom was not getting better. She was running out of treatment options. Her cancer was in its final stages. Whenever the family got excited or happy about some sort of improvement it was because she just bought a little time with us – not because she was going to pull through. All we could do was buy her time, but every time we did we had to face the reality that her quality of life had declined considerably over the past grip of months.

When I tried to talk about that, people either issued still more platitudes about how I need to “let her go” or, unfathomably, acted like my mom’s cancer wasn’t that serious and gossiped that I was being a “drama queen” or exaggerating mom’s terminal condition. Others were so in denial that she was dying that they said I was being negative and babbled about homeopathic medicine, medicinal marijuana, prayer, and cayenne pepper.

This all boiled down to ways in which my mother’s death was taxing and inconvenient for other people and they just needed me to shut up about it because was depressing them. And please don’t read ANOTHER WORD if you are going to come out of reading this with any sort of need for me to help YOU deal with MY mom’s death or YOUR feelings, because this is me talking about me. I need to.

Carolyn Saulson, Yvonne Matthews, Sumiko Saulson

Mom, aunt Yvonne and me in 1993

 

It has gotten to the point where I no longer reach out for any moral or emotional support. I just post prettied up photos of mom with Snapchat filters and journal about what movie was am watching with her or song was am singing to her, so I could keep up some sort of benign dialog with people in order to have some sort of social contact with people outside of my mom. I had to figure out how I could communicate with others without feeling like my pain, my family’s pain, and my emotional needs were tedious and draining for them. At first, a few people thought the pictures were morbid but after a while, some people got what I was doing.

I had a partner dump me because my need for emotional support during my mother’s death was apparently “manipulative.” Gossipy idiots who decided that my mother’s failure to die in a timely manner meant I am being “dramatic.”  Another partner got drunk the night mom had a heart attack and ran down the street acting crazy and wound up in jail. It seemed like everyone was more upset about Mom dying than I was.

Except my brother, and nieces, who were in the trenches along with me.

Minimizing death isn’t “positivity” it’s just your own personal fragility and entitlement kicking in, telling you that people who have real life crises are “problematic”… if you are someone who makes your personal relationship drama more important than someone dying , yes, this is about you. Constantly calling black women “strong” to get out of offering us any real moral support isn’t just toxic, it’s racist. Ignoring black suffering in order to shield the dominant culture’s fragility is the cornerstone of misogynoir, something a bunch of people who think they are liberal sometimes have an excess of.

My mom was my mom, not someone else’s inspiration porn – not a “strong black” woman who could inspire people by stoically clinging to life. I should have nor should I now be required to be likewise stoic, unemotional, positive, and more concerned with the feelings of others than my own. Even as my mother lay dying, I was to assume the caretaker, nanny, “mammy” role assigned to all black women in relationship to others.

Is this the way white women are treated when they are dying or grieving?

Call for Submissions Wickedly Abled

•February 13, 2019 • 4 Comments

Wickedly Abled CoverTheme: Dark fantasy, dark sci-fi and horror by disabled artists featuring disabled protagonists.

Looking for 1,500 to 5,500 words in length short horror and dark fantasy by disabled authors. Paying $10 flat and an eBook copy, plus offering unlimited at-cost print books to authors in the anthology.  Previously unpublished original work preferred, but reprints will be considered if the work is no longer in print or the work is older than ten years in age.

Please let us know if it is a re-print. No simultaneous submissions. We will want exclusive e-publication rights for one year (first publication rights if it’s unpublished).

Please submit it as a .doc or .rtf or .txt document, double spaced, 12 pt, Times New Roman or similar, to sumikoska@yahoo.com

Deadline: March 31, 2019

Cover art by Lillian Rose Asterios

Special NaNoWriMo Project with Mom

•November 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

living a lie

So I registered mom’s novel for NaNoWriMo since I am finishing it for her and am the cowriter now. She’d written about 10k of it, so I am picking it up and it’s picking up steam pretty quickly.

Living A Lie is an urban fantasy started by my mother, Carolyn Saulson. It currently stands at 10,000 words. I am going to use NaNoWriMo to complete my mother’s project, as she is in the hospital currently with the final stages of Multiple Myeloma and is a nine year cancer survivor.

Carolyn Saulson biography

Mom Portrait

Carolyn Saulson, mother of Sumiko and Scott Saulson, grandmother to Scott’s daughters Franchesca and Maria and his step-son Josh, is a nine year multiple myeloma survivor. She has been a published poet since the 1970s, and has already released a comic book with portions of the first and second chapters of Living a Lie, illustrated by her daughter Sumiko Saulson. It is available online. Carolyn is a founding member of Iconoclast Productions, a multimedia arts non-profit dedicated to the creation and promotion of multimedia art by African American, African Diaspora, and disabled artists. She cofounded the African American Multimedia Conference and the San Francisco Black Film Festival. She is a proud member of WryCrips Disabled Women’s Theater, and Ladies of Literature. She has a band. Stagefright, with her family, and she produced a public access television show of the same name for more than 20 years.

Synopsis of Living a Lie

Randolph Cavanaugh isn’t who he seems. Tall, slim, pale, blond haired and blue eyed, he seems to the world an upwardly mobile Anglo-Saxon gentleman in his early to mid thirties. Well to do, educated… and engaged to Marjorie Anderson, a prominent Bay Area socialite whose Republican father owns a hotel chain.

Everything is going his way. But it could all fall apart now.

You see, Randolph isn’t even his name, and he’s been living a lie for over a decade now.

Who is he, really? The well off lawyer he convinced his fiancée’s parents he was, or the local actor who rolled off the Berkeley Repertoire scene ten years ago and decided to use his theatrical skill and abilities to hide everything about him – his heritage, his parentage, his education, his political beliefs, his abilities… even his name!

The closest he’d ever been to Boalt Hall of Law at UC Berkeley was that summer he was performing as Portia/Baltazar in a local performance of The Merchant of Venice at Zellerbach Hall. He wasn’t anything he said he was.

He wasn’t even really white.

But a “talent” he’d inherited from his mother made it entirely possible for him to deceive the most skeptical of persons. It was a form of telepathy… not magic at all, but a kind of mutation that allowed him to not only read minds, but deceive them, putting on everything from minor glamorous to major Jedi mind tricks. That’s how he’d managed to impress the young heiress and her parents who lived high on the hills looking down upon Berkeley.

But that was all about to fall apart… or was it?

He was getting ready to reunite with his mother, Amelia Ambrose. Also blessed with this particular talent, she’d used it in honest ways, to lift herself up out of poverty and homelessness, and pursue a reunion with her long-lost son, James, who’d she been forced to give up for adoption when she was a teenage girl. That was his birthname, James – but he hadn’t been Jimmy since he was two years old. He hadn’t heard from his mom since he was thirteen.

Unlike Randolph, she was a real attorney now, with a law practice he might become a part of if he played his cards right. But how could he do that without tipping his hands to Sarah’s parents? They would flip out if they found out that his mom was half black and he was a Democrat getting ready to go to work for a well-know civil rights defending legal practice alongside his idealistic mother.

Maybe he would have to continue to live a double life after all, just hold onto this subterfuge for a little bit longer.

Happy Halloween!

•October 31, 2018 • 1 Comment

DeathAngel Halloween

Death, Loss, Spit and Pathos

•October 25, 2018 • 12 Comments

Today is October 25, and despite the odds against it, my mother is still here. Her kidneys are still functioning. Her respiration is improving. She spends most of the day watching television. She makes eye contact. She occasionally tries to vocalize. She is a nine year multiple myeloma survivor as of August 10, 2018. We have gone from More Birthdays and celebrating her living on another year to celebrating in tiny increments.

So I sit here and plan on another Halloween with my mother.

I remember my mom was present at the book release for The Void Between Emotions, which turned into a wake and remembrance for Greg Hug, who died a month before the release party.

This is a picture of Greg Hug from Valentine’s 2017 at Wicked Grounds, along with the painting I did for “Spit and Pathos” after I altered it with Photoshop. The original sits on my kitchen table. I tried to capture the haunted look Greg had in his eyes near the end of his life. A lot of the poetry in the book, most of it, is directly or indirectly about Greg and processing the loss. The stories I wrote were written just before and during the wake of (following) Greg’s death May 26, 2017.

Many of them were for the HorrorAddicts.net “Next Great Horror Writer” contest. Others are stories I wrote for other contests and anthologies that were released, like “Balm of Brackish Water,” which was released immediately after I read it for the Afrosurrealist Contest outside of the ProArts Gallery.

There are also award-winning essays from 2016-2017, including one about Toni Morrison’s relationship to the horror genre, and one I won a Reframing the Other contest for at BCC about when one first realizes they are “other” – reframing other from the view of the othered person and focusing on how becoming aware of otherness changes ones self image.

The book release is at Octopus Salon at 5pm on Friday November 9 and I hope some of you can make it. I am, of course, nervous about my mom’s health. I am worried about how she will be doing on that day and if she will even be here. We live day to day here, me and the rest of my family. Still, I got her a crow mask. I am dressing up like The Crow from the movie, and she can dress as the spirit animal on Eric Draven’s shoulder.

Since my mom’s health declined, I have become very isolated. People don’t know what to say, so they avoid you. They pick fights for no reason, and babble stupidly about how they don’t know how to handle death -and that’s why they have abandoned you when you are facing the wane of your mother’s glorious and vibrant life. Afraid of their own mortality, they demand you remain positive and are eternally insensitive. And you stop complaining. You stop asking for help that won’t come. You retreat, and spend days sitting by your mom’s bedside, coming up with ways to make the inevitability of death less difficult to face.

So you put snap chat filters over your silent mother’s face. You plan to join Halloween Festivities at the hospital. You Thank God for small things, like Mom making lazy eye contact these days, or larger ones, like rescuing mom from the Kevorkians over at Summit (even though you know that there are some who will argue with you that your mom’s quality of life isn’t worth having. You ignore those…)

Mom mostly watches television these days.

And she sleeps.