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April 12, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Lilliam Rivera

Kate Hart
Lilliam Rivera in jeans and black leather jacket, standing before a graffiti mural wall
Sometimes these intros are impossible to write. All I really want to say is, You know who kicks ass? Lilliam Rivera, that's who. From the Pushcart Prize and the Clarion Writing Workshop, to readings at PEN Center USA, interviews with MTV, articles for Cosmo and the LA Times, and personal essays on Lenny Letter, Lilliam's already well-established writing career is now paired with the debut of her YA novel The Education of Margot Sanchez -- and she is killing it. What's more, she is a delight in person, and I can't wait to see her again later this month at YALLWEST in Santa Monica. 

Be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of her book!

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cover of THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Lilliam: The Education of Margot Sanchez is my first young adult novel published on February 2017 by Simon & Schuster. I also write short stories that have been published in literary and speculative literature magazines. My background is in entertainment journalism where I’ve worked on staff as an editor and writer for various publications including Latina magazine and E! Entertainment. Now I currently freelance writing copy for fashion brands.


Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Lilliam: As I mentioned above, I’ve written features and cover stories for magazines. Here are just a couple of my favorite stories: America Ferrera, Aubrey Plaza, Why Do Latinas Have The Highest Suicide Rate in America?, and an interview with Sofia Samatar.

I’ve also hosted a radio show called Literary Soundtrack where I interviewed authors of color like Laila Lalaimi, Victor LaValle, and Meg Medina, to name a few. For me, writing is just perfecting that muscle so writing for other outlets helps me with my fiction. You also don’t know where you will find inspiration.


Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Lilliam: My biggest challenge is ignoring the voices that try to convince me that I’m a fraud. Even with a book published and the ability to finish a second novel, I still get caught up in the swirls of doubt. My challenge is to focus on the work in front of me and to ignore what is going on with everyone else.


the crowd at Lilliam's release party for MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Lilliam: Before The Education of Margot Sanchez, I wrote my first young adult novel. It was about Latina vampires set in Los Angeles. I started to submit the novel to agents in the hope of representation. It was right at the time when the Twilight movie came out and every young adult novel was about vampires. Anyway, I received a lot of rejections. It was a real test for me. I worked hard finishing that novel and I learned so much from that experience. I was devastated but I guess I knew deep down that no matter the amount of rejections I knew I had a voice that deserved to be heard. Somehow I managed to keep moving forward.


Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Lilliam: I’ve had the best readers reach out to me and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed reading Margot Sanchez. They’ve expressed how much they can relate to the character. Some have even sent me gifts. I’m always so happy when someone takes to time to let me know that something I wrote moved them in some way. That is a huge deal and I don’t take those things lightly.


Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Lilliam: I didn’t grow up with the word “feminist.” The word I did grow up with is activist or revolutionary. My family instilled in us that we had to fight against the injustices in this world and that there are many out there who refuse to acknowledge Latinx as equal. The first defining moment I came to understand this was when my father explained to me how Puerto Rico, the island he grew up in, is neither a state of the U.S. or an independent island but a commonwealth. If you follow the history of the Island, from when the Spaniards “discovered” it to its current state, you would understand how destructive and racist the colonial mentality is.


Lightning round: Tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m currently reading Among Strange Victims, a funny novella by emerging Mexican author Daniel Saldaña Paris.

watching: I’m watching Into the Badlands. Karate, bad ass girl fighting. Need I say more?

listening to: On repeat, “Humble” by Kendrick Lamarr.

eating: Whatever is in the house.

doing: In front of my laptop, always typing.

wearing: I’m wearing a concert t-shirt from Hurray for the Riff Raff.

wishing for: The list is very long.

wanting: To see the Game of Thrones new season already! July can’t come quick enough.


Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why?

Lilliam: Alynda Segarra is a Puerto Rican folk singer from New York. I’m obsessed with her music. I love how vocal she is in her music, using her platform to make a statement. Her latest album “The Navigator” is all about gentrification and safe spaces.

If you don’t know who Congresswoman Maxine Waters is by now, you seriously need to check yourself. Congresswoman Waters is the only representative who is vehemently against the current administration. She is not afraid.

Julia de Burgos is a Puerto Rican poet who wrote such powerful lines such as “Don’t let the hand you hold, hold you down.” Her work played such an important role in my young adult novel.



Kate and Lilliam (2nd and 3rd) at the North Texas Teen Book Fair with fellow debut authors Natalie C Anderson, Angie Thomas, and Ibi ZoboiKate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Lilliam: The best way to support other women is to have your list ready. What I mean by list is I mean that if someone asks me ‘Do you know of a good person for…’ I will have my list of women to recommend. It is healthy to be competitive but I believe there is more than enough room for everyone so I’m always willing to share my resources. Be supportive. Be vocal.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Lilliam: Find a path that works for you. You will end up finding others on that journey that will help and that you in turn will help.


GIVEAWAY!
US only

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badass ladies you should know logo
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, a contemporary young adult novel available now from Simon & Schuster. Recently named a "2017 Face to Watch" by the Los Angeles Times, Lilliam's work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, and Latina, to name a few. She lives in Los Angeles with her family where she’s completing her second novel.

website  //  twitter  //  instagram  //  goodreads

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March 29, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: The Queens Bookshop

Kate Hart
Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem
We're taking a little cross-country trip -- from last year's profile of the Koch sisters, owners of LA's The Ripped Bodice bookstore, all the way to New York, to meet the badass ladies behind The Queens Bookshop Initiative. As all the Barnes and Noble stores closed in their area, Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem decided their side of the borough needed an independent bookstore of its own to fill the gap.

One $70,000 Kickstarter and a ton of hard work later, they're set to open their new store this year. Find out more about the challenges they've faced and what they're looking forward to!

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Vina Castillo, Natalie Noboa, and Holly Nikodem
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Holly: Take ten plus years in retail and combine that with a love of books, and you get the crazy notion that starting an independent bookstore is a good idea. The Queens Bookshop Initiative, though, really started as a labor of love that sprung from recognizing a genuine need in a community.

As of 2016 all of the big box bookstores in Queens (Barnes and Noble, specifically) were gone. Vina was the one to realize that Queens was left with one general purpose bookstore to service the entire borough (The Astoria Bookshop). She suggested we start our own, after having worked together for several years. Natalie and I agreed. If we were sorry to see the bookstores leave, then we would have to be the ones to bring them back. The people of Queens deserved a place to comfortably interact with books that wasn’t the internet - a place that could foster a sense of community or belonging. Together we formed The Queens Bookshop Initiative, rallied the neighborhoods behind us, and set to work bringing a new independent bookstore to the borough.

Since then we’ve met some of the most amazing people (a little nine year old boy in a park that told us owning books was better for the economy than borrowing them, small business owners eager to let us use their cafes for meet ups and markets, and fellow booksellers that are driving the industry). We’ve also heard some of the harshest criticism (e-readers are taking over the world, Amazon will eat us alive, people don’t actually read anymore...) What really drives me now is a desire to give our supporters what they’ve dreamed of and to prove our critics wrong. Also, books are great? Technologies and markets come and go, but books never need to change.



Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? (If you have photos/links/examples to share, that would be great.)

Vina: Besides reading and film photography, another hobby that has proven to be very useful in this venture is knowing my way around Photoshop. Designing and creating flyers for any of our events, or for announcements we’ve had throughout has been unexpectedly fun and an area I wouldn’t have thought twice about beforehand.

Natalie: I dabble in a lot of random things. I enjoy watercoloring, writing poetry, and Holly never has to try to convince me to craft with her. I think any work you do creatively fuels your soul and gives you a fresh and dynamic look at the work you are also doing professionally.

Holly: Outside of reading? Photography (cameras as technology are fascinating) paper crafting (card making, origami, quilling). I’m not sure if they influence the running of a bookstore, but they certainly make me excited for all the beautiful table and window displays we can set up.



Natalie at the LIC Flea
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Vina: Personally, my shyness can be at times crippling, but when it comes to our bookstore I have found that whenever we are approached with someone who thinks “physical books are dead/ebooks are taking over,” all my shyness is cast aside and I have a huge need to prove those people wrong. Books offer an experience that cannot be replicated, no matter how many apps or devices try to emulate them. The sense of accomplishment of turning the last page of a book? The atmosphere, their aroma, and the presence they have on a bookshelf? I could go on and on!

Natalie: Actually trying to live out your dream can be terrifying and challenging. When you've thought about doing something for so many years it can become a fantasy in your head to the point where you don't think it's really happening even when it really is. It’s given me a nearly constant fear that the floor will fall out from under me, that someone will sweep in and tell us “Just kidding. You aren't actually doing this.” But the community's faith and interest in our project has definitely kept me afloat. As well as the trust I have in my partners’ abilities and knowledge.

Holly: Trusting that I’m smart enough to succeed. I second guess myself, a lot. That and fighting the narrative that books are an archaic, dying medium.



Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Natalie: In my personal life, I've definitely had instances where I've been thrown to the ground and had to drag myself back up again. But with the bookstore, I don't feel like we’ve ever truly stopped moving forward. When we found locations that didn't work, we moved on to the next. When someone told us no, we asked someone else. When our feet dragged, we carried each other. We haven't bounced back because we haven't stopped moving forward.



Holly and Vina at BookExpo America
Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? Or Tell us something that makes you proud.

Vina: I feel the most proud when fellow businesswoman say “I love what you are doing.” I can’t express how thankful I am and how much that means to me, their support has been consistent from the start. As women, most of the time we have to rely on one another, safe to say they haven’t turned their backs on us and they always have advice and offer a helping hand.

Natalie: I think we can all agree that it warms our hearts and gives us such encouragement when people tell us they can't wait to come to our store, and when people tell us that we are doing an important thing for our community. A friend of mine told me just the other day that this project will genuinely positively impact our community and that we were doing something that really mattered. It was so heartening to hear that from someone outside of this.

Holly: We got to meet the author Louise Penny and when she found out what we were doing she took my hands in hers and said “You are my heroes.”



Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Vina: I distinctly remember right before we launched our Kickstarter, we met up at a cafe to brainstorm our campaign and right next to us were about 4-5 men seated and they happened to overhear us. They then proceed to tell us “how we should do this” or ways they think we haven’t thought through our approach… It hit me not only how basic their advice was but how they were wary of our success as such “young women.” Months later I hope they saw that we did achieve what we worked so hard for and that our gender didn’t hinder our success. I can only continue to hope that even under our current political climate, women everywhere have that same chance to prove what they can accomplish.

Holly: There was never that “ah-ha” moment of understanding feminism for me. As an only child to a single mother, the expectation of respect and equality, regardless of gender, was the norm for me. It wasn’t until I was older, probably college, when questions started to begin with “How does it feel to be a woman in ___” that an understanding of feminism started to creep in. That understanding is still creeping and evolving in my mind. I don’t think it’ll ever galvanize; it will always be a changing, growing thing. That being said, if the idea of being a woman opening a business and promoting literacy in a community is seen as feminist inspiration to some, I’ll gladly wear that badge.

Natalie: I feel like feminism was something that has always been a part of who I am whether I had a name for it or not. Every woman has experienced those little (and sometimes very big) moments when someone says that you can't do something, that you shouldn’t do something because you're a woman or because you're from here or you believe in this. And it’s how you react to those moments that define you, not the moments themselves and certainly not whatever label someone puts on you. Sometimes people have come to us and said that we are not capable of the work we are trying to do, that we have no idea what we're talking about because we're just a bunch of girls. At that point, it's just a matter of saying "Yes, we’re girls, we’re women and we are still going to kick this project in the ass no matter what you say."



Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why?

TQB: Audrey Dimola is currently the Director of Public Programs at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. From the moment we started our endeavor, Audrey introduced herself and just brought this intense light and energy with her. She’s a poet and artist and has a love for her neighborhood like no other. We’ve partnered up with her several times and in doing so we’ve had the pleasure to witness her find a calling with Socrates and find an outlet for her creativity and drive that really benefits her community. She’s definitely been an inspiration to us. Plus she gives really genuine hugs.


Lightning round: Tell us what you’re…    

Vina
reading: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Thanks Obama! I picked it up after he chose it as one of his favorite reads)
watching: Veep!
listening to: The xx’s new album I See You
eating: currently obsessed with grapefruits.
doing: working
wearing: all black
wishing for: our bookstore to open soon!
wanting: again, to open our doors.
loving: that I will soon be reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I’ve heard nothing but great things
other: I feel really happy that we are part of this series!

Natalie
reading: Red Rising by Pierce Brown and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
watching: Arrow
listening to: Hollow by Tori Kelly on repeat
eating: pizza
doing: waiting through jury duty
wearing: still winter wear, unfortunately
wishing for: spring time and our bookstore
wanting: a good long nap
loving: my dog, Kaylee, always
other: I've never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my life


Holly
reading: The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente
watching: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (anime, go figure)
listening to: Hamilton (on loop)
eating: a lot of oranges lately
doing: filling out interview questions
wearing: my trusty green cardigan
wishing for: the final piece of financing to go through for the shop
wanting: to see our doors finally open
loving: the graphic novel The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg... it’s so good.
other: My favorite word is “doodle”. Really it's the oodle sound.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Vina: I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said it best: “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.” A mantra we should all live by.

Natalie: Just keep on being your badass self and don't stop doing whatever makes you happy and helps your community.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Vina: Applaud their successes. If you have a platform, spread the word as a way to help.

Holly: Trust them. Ask them questions to learn from them. Expect great things from them.

Natalie: First of all, shop local lady-owned businesses. Second, never ever doubt the capabilities of a person because of their gender. Third, don't stand for the crap you see other people do to women, whether it's someone you know or a stranger. We have to lift each other up because we are all living in the same world.

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Bios for the ladies behind The Queens Bookshop:

Vina Castillo: 4 years of bookselling/managerial experience (Barnes & Noble). BA in Literature and Publishing. You will find on her bookshelf: literary fiction, classics, children's/YA, and four different editions of the Harry Potter series.  Proud Queens resident! Serial music festival go-er, and bitten by the travel bug.

Natalie Noboa: 5 years of bookselling/managerial experience (Books-A-Million, Borders, Barnes & Noble). Lifetime Queens resident. Graduated from Queens College in Secondary English Education with two years at Baruch College for business. You will find on her bookshelf: science fiction, fantasy, an exorbitant amount of YA, memoir, humor, and an accidentally large collection from The Norton Anthology. Loves giraffes and puppies.

Holly Nikodem: 2 years as bookstore manager, 10 years in retail management with experience in event planning and niche markets. BA in Print Communication. You will find on her bookshelf: House of Leaves, Bone Clocks, and Brave New World. But also ALL the graphic novels, ALL the manga.

For more about The Queens Bookshop, visit their website or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.



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March 22, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Alice Driver

Kate Hart
Alice Driver making a film in Juarez - photo credit Julián Cardona
In January, I got to interview sommelier Rachel Speckan, an old friend from high school. Her family must have some killer genes, because this month I have the honor of profiling her cousin, Dr. Alice Driver, a photojournalist whose work I've admired for a long time. Alice uses her prodigious talents to benefit marginalized populations, fight for intersectional feminism, and shine a light on injustice at a time when doing so is becoming more dangerous by the day.


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The cover of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015) by Alice Driver
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Alice: I have two fellowships to support my current writing and photography projects on Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, a Restorative Narrative Fellowship from Images of Voices and Hope and a Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellowship. At a time when the United States has embraced particularly hateful, vitriolic rhetoric against immigrants with a focus on Mexico, I feel that it is essential for me to use my photography and bilingual writing skills to tell narratives that highlight the strength, resilience and humanity of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. My project will take me to migrant shelters in Juarez, Oaxaca, and Tapachula, Mexico where I will focus on telling the stories of women and transgender migrants.


Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Alice: At any given time, I am juggling several creative projects. If anything, the difficulty for me is that I want to turn everything in my life into a project. I am working on a co-authored book about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with Civil Rights leader Mary King, and I recently translated a book by Mexican journalist Julián Cardona into English. I would like to make another short documentary if I can raise the funds.


black and white portrait of Alice Driver by Sung Park
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Alice: The biggest challenge is balancing my creative life and making money.


Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Alice: I fail all the time – freelance writing is 99% rejection. For every fellowship I’ve gotten, I’ve been rejected from 30. Learning not to take rejection personally has been a difficult but important lesson. And keep doing the work, because the work is what matters.


Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Alice: Poet Nikky Finney, who was my professor in college in 2001, wrote me in 2015, "So much of the world needs the muscle found in true words. Please keep sending what your head and belly make as one loaf."


"Muerte el macho" street art in Mexico City - photo by Alice Driver
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Alice: I was raised a feminist. My mom has always been outspoken about social justice issues, and she is funny and a real force to reckon with. The injustice of daily life moves me to continue my feminist work, because I see how women I know, including myself, are marginalized and discredited, as well as paid less than their male colleagues.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Alice: I believe that rising tide lift all boats, and I try to support other women by celebrating their work and their lives. In practical terms, I interview women, recommend them as experts, share their work, and try to increase the participation and visibility of women in my field.


KateLightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m reading The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan and The Heart of the Artichoke by Elena Poniatowska (who, coincidentally, I met in Mexico City recently)
watching: Samantha Bee
listening to: Julie Byrne
eating:  Gorditas, tacos, mamey milkshakes
wearing: Superman converse (Wonder Woman was sold out)
wishing for: equality
wanting: to collaborate on more projects with photographers and videographers who I admire
loving: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer


Alice Driver fly fishing on assignment - Mulberry River, Oark, Arkansas
Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Alice: Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers, both for how genuine she is and how open and funny.

Elizabeth Plank is a media goddess – brilliant, funny and she does a lot of good work supporting disability rights.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Alice: Do the work and be persistent. Don’t overthink.


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Badass Ladies You Should Know logo
Dr. Alice Driver is a bilingual photojournalist based in Mexico City. Driver received a 2017 Images and Voices of Hope Restorative Narrative Fellowship to support her work on a project about women and transgender migrants in Mexico, and she is also a 2017 Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellow.

She is the author of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015), a book which she completed as part of her postdoctoral fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

Driver's writing and documentary photography have been featured in The New York Times, Oxford American, National Geographic, The World Policy Journal, The Guardian, The Texas Observer, Al Jazeera English, Pacific Standard, and Ms. Magazine. She has interviewed and/or worked with foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, actress Lena Dunham, chef Andrew Zimmern, novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, and Emmy-winning writer Moira Walley-Beckett. She has a forthcoming book chapter on Mexico with Oxford University Press.

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February 8, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Jen Baquial

Kate Hart
My fiancée (KT Ballantine, current Sirens Vice President) and I during the moment of silence before NYC Pride March 2016, Orlando was at the front of all of our minds during that time."
Remember that article that went viral a few months ago, about the motorcycle gang that delivers breast milk in NYC? Everyone from the New York Post to the New York Times covered the Sirens Women's Motorcycle Club of New York City -- and it just so happens that their president, Jen Baquial, is an Arkansas native and a friend of another Badass Lady, actress Ashley Atkinson.

One Facebook connection later and I get the honor of sharing this in-depth look at how Jen went from life in Little Rock to leading such a badass group.

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Group club shot out at Floyd Bennett Field where we practice before riding season officially kicks off, Mojo present that day

Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Jen:  The job that pays the bills is industrial automation and electrical engineering.  My mother would describe me as the kid who always took things apart to see how they work, and that curiosity definitely led me to my engineering career today.

My greatest passion in life right now, though, and what I am most proud of is being president of the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, an organization that has a 30 year herstory in New York City leading the NYC Pride March.  It has been my goal to grow the club’s membership and focus on community service.  I really believe that even though we are a small group, every little bit of service we can do is totally worth it.  I always try to stress that we should help in the areas that we care about the most, and so any member or pledge that notices a need somewhere can bring it to the club and we do whatever we can to help.  Whether it’s delivering donor breast milk from the New York Milk Bank to a NICU or collecting clothing for local people in need or mentoring a woman who wants to learn to ride a motorcycle, the Sirens will try to find ways to support and strengthen women in our community.  Riding our motorcycles together gives us immense joy, but doing service in the community together gives us greater purpose.


"My friend and current Sirens Treasurer, Kim Wetzel, and I at NYC Pride March"
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Jen:  Professionally, my biggest challenge has always been “sitting at the table” with men and having to skillfully be assertive without being perceived as pushy or bossy.  I’ve had many encounters with men in the field and in the office where my knowledge or skillset has been questioned or challenged for no other reason, at least that I feel, other than the fact that I am a woman.  I’m not afraid of admitting that my own insecurity can play a part in this, but I often think how I would be perceived if I were a man or a more feminine presenting woman.  Being an assertive woman doesn’t play out in the same way that being an assertive man does, and I work hard to navigate professional confrontations so as not to jeopardize project success.

I think this is why I cherish my work with the Sirens so much.  I never have to feel that sort of pressure in the club.  We are a family, and we empower each other in a way that isn’t full of gendered expectations or insecurities.  We do interact with male motorcyclists in the community and also have moments where we are challenged in the community at large, but as a group we strengthen and empower each other.  That fuels our confidence in the way we ride, the way we carry ourselves, and ultimately the way we are respected by other motorcyclists in general.


Sirens colors
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Jen:  Life in my early twenties was particularly difficult for me. That internal struggle I was talking about gripped me so hard that I dropped out of college and fell into a drug addiction.  There were so many times I would think, this would all be easier if I just floated away.  One morning after a long night of not sleeping, I looked in the mirror at myself and said, “Okay, not today.  I won’t let myself go like this.”  I left town and got clean on my own cold turkey.  Five years after being sober, I had enough strength to finally come out to my parents.  It was the hardest moment of my life, but it felt like I had suddenly gotten rid of 10 tons of bricks I had been carrying on my back since I was a kid.  In that moment, I knew I had to be prepared for however my parents would react.  I’m not going to say it was beautiful and amazing, but I am lucky it wasn’t as bad as I know it has been for others.  I love my parents, and I know they love me.  I respect them enough to give them the time they need to figure out their feelings.  Will they attend my wedding?  I’m not 100% sure they are ready for that, and I’m okay with it.  It’s hard to say what they have a harder time with, me being a lesbian or me riding a motorcycle, haha!



"My funny attempt at a pinup shot on my motorcycle.  See how I coquettishly hide my face behind my helmet?  Hahah!"
Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? Or Tell us something that makes you proud.

Jen:  I think I’m pretty normal, like most people, and find compliments hard to take and respond to.  Honestly, my favorite compliments come from little girls.  When a child sees me and says things like, “Wow, you ride that motorcycle?” and look at me like they are logging in their mind that they can do it too someday, that makes me so happy.  I have a niece that said to me one time, “Aunt Jen, I like you because you wear whatever you like and you don’t care if it’s supposed to be boys’ clothes.”  I explained to her that the idea of boys and girls clothes don’t make a whole lot of sense to me and that people should wear whatever makes them feel good.  The smile on her face as I handed her a child size leather motorcycle vest for her birthday was totally priceless.


Group club shot from Babes Ride Out East Coast, an all women motorcycle camping event
Kate: What's your best experience on a motorcycle?

Jen: In June of 2010 I got laid off of my job at Anheuser-Busch.  I figured I needed a little life reset, so I took 3 months on the road with my dog Mojo (he has a special seat he rides in) and traveled back and forth across the country on my Harley.  It was the ultimate freedom.  I stopped all over the country and visited friends from every time in my life.  Being alone, well aside from Mojo, on the open road gave me time to reflect on what’s important in life and breathe knowing that everything I experienced up to that point just made me who I am and I love that woman.  I ended up making Brooklyn my landing point at the end of my journey, and I knew at that I had found home.  I have so many stories from that trip.  If I was a writer, I’d have a book.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Jen:  Mentor, employ, and engage.


Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Jen:  All of my Siren sisters are badass ladies!


GIVEAWAY!

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Jen's bio:
I grew up in Little Rock, AR, the daughter of Filipino immigrants.  My parents taught me that hard work and respect would get me far.  I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and internally struggled with my identity throughout my entire childhood.  It’s not an easy thing to be indirectly told by all of your adult influences that who you are inside is wrong.  It fueled a lot of low self-esteem issues for me as a child, so it made sense that all I could do was bury myself in academics and sports to find other ways to gain approval and hide who I knew I was inside.  If the child I was then knew that I could be a part of a group like the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, my days and nights would have been a whole lot easier.  I am proud of all of my academic and professional accomplishments, but I am most proud of having finally found a way to be comfortable in my own skin and love who I am inside and out.  That was a 35 year project, haha!  Anyway, I’ve been in the engineering industry for 10 years and have been motorcycling, at least legally, for about that long.

Sirens website  //  Sirens Facebook



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January 24, 2017

The Big Day and a Big Chance

Kate Hart


Today's the day! After seven years of work, After the Fall finally hits shelves. I'm sure there are lots of wise and pithy things I could say about the process, the book itself, and my hopes for the future, but to be honest, my brain is mostly taken up with a high pitched whirring noise and the occasional realization that I forgot to buy plates for my launch party.

If by chance you are in the vicinity of Fayetteville, Arkansas, I'd love to see you said launch party: 6pm at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street. If you have a chance to mention the book on social media today, it'd be much appreciated. But most importantly: Some dear friends have joined forces to turn my release day into a chance to do good. They'll be matching donations to RAINN up to $4000, giving us a chance to raise at least $8000 for sexual assault survivors!

Just go to fundraise.rainn.org/afterthefall and make your contribution, and at the end of the day, the ladies listed on that page will double the total (up to the $4K limit). If you can't contribute but still want to help, signal boost the fundraiser using the hashtag #afterthefall and share some of your favorite feminist reads. Every bit helps.

 As for the book itself, you can find it all the usual places:
amazon  //  barnes & noble  //  booksamillion  //  indiebound  //  nightbird books (signed copies available)

Thank you so much for your support, today and over the past half a decade or so, and for helping to fight against rape culture and sexual assault.


All content copyright Kate Hart 2016

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