Fiction Points: Elizabeth Kadetsky

Elizabeth Kadetsky’s short stories have been chosen for a Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and two Best American Short Stories notable citations, and her personal essays have appeared in The New York Times, Guernica, Santa Monica Review, Antioch Review, Post Road, Agni, and elsewhere. She has written for the Village VoiceThe Nation, and more. She has traveled to Malta as a creative writing fellow at the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, to France as a fellow in the arts at Camargo Foundation, and to India as a two-time Fulbright fellow. She is the author of the memoir FIRST THERE IS A MOUNTAIN (Dzanc Books rEprint series, 2019; and Little Brown, 2004), the novella ON THE ISLAND AT THE CENTER OF THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (Nouvella, 2015), and the short story collection THE POISON THAT PURIFIES YOU (C&R Press, 2014). She discusses her newest book, THE MEMORY EATERS, below. It will be released on March 31, 2020, from the University of Massachusetts Press. She is an associate professor of fiction and nonfiction at Penn State University and a nonfiction editor at New England Review.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Screenshot 2020-03-18 at 2.00.56 PMThat is so fittingly surreal. I’d want them to know that they are definitely a part of my target audience for my memoir about addiction, homelessness, Alzheimer’s, and those heady days in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The penguin, with its affinity for cold climates, will also be drawn to my portrayal of my French Canadian family and the frigid landscape endured by my ancestors in Quebec. Also, the penguin—as a bird that can’t fly—will be drawn to the disability angle of my book, which treats not only Alzheimer’s, addiction, and mental health problems across my family, but a hidden disability.  My mother’s sister was institutionalized for epilepsy and mental development issues and died at age eleven in the institution, though the family didn’t talk about this to outsiders. My book explores the way that the stigma surrounding her disability reverberates for future generations of my family. 

And the nuns! With due respect (what are they doing in a bar anyway?) my mother’s disaffection from her Catholic upbringing and her conversion to first Judaism and then to a kind of pan-religious mysticism might disturb them, but, as rebels who patronize bars, they may find her story alluring. My mother had many staunchly Catholic aunts. The nuns may have avuncular, protective feelings toward my mother if they dig in to the book. 

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Writing Opportunity: War on Drugs Book Chapter

Looking for an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience teaching some of the complexities of the War on Drugs? Kimber Quinney (CSU-San Marcos) and Amy Sayward (Middle Tennessee State) are editing a volume for the Understanding and Teaching series at University of Wisconsin Press on teaching contemporary American history. The volume will covers the years from Reagan to Trump and, as you can imagine, they would like to include an entry on the War on Drugs.

Each entry will be around 5,000 words and the idea is to summarize the major debates about a particular topic and develop a lesson plan rooted in primary sources to illustrate those controversies. The editors would like to have a chapter by the end of this summer to add to the volume.

If you’re interested in contributing, please reach out to Matt Pembleton (mrpemb@american.edu) for more information or directly to the editors at kquinney@csusm.edu and Amy.Sayward@mtsu.edu.

 

Call for Papers: The Moral Landscapes of Drugs in Africa

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Special issue coordinated by
Corentin Cohen (Sciences Po/CERI, OxPo) and Gernot Klantschnig (University of Bristol)

Deadline for the submission of proposals: 20 April 2020

Context
The trade and consumption of psychoactive products are not new to Africa. There are traces of cannabis cultivation dating from the sixteenth century in Eastern and Southern Africa (Duvall 2016) and records of colonial concern with its cultivation since the 1920s in Nigeria and Ghana. At least since the 1950s the region has started to be used as a transit point by some heroin smugglers (McCoy 1991) and in subsequent decades there have been reports of a clear increase in the volume of cocaine trafficking from Latin America. This has made West Africa into a socalled global hub, a place of transit for more than a third of cocaine exports to Europe and a « new » space of consumption for drugs, such as synthetic opioids (UNODC 2006, 2008, 2017, 2018). Existing data regarding heroin and crack show that consumption has also increased locally while amphetamine production capacities have developed in Nigeria and Guinea Conakry (UNODC 2012).

Most of the existing literature has been discussing these developments from state and security perspectives. Fueled by sensationalistic media reports and the proliferation of discourses on « narco jihadism », part of the literature has also borrowed from the paradigm of failed states and has thus described « weak », « fragile » or « destabilized » states as engulfed by the drug trade (Sindzingre 2001 ; Felbab-Brown 2010 ; McGuire 2010). In particular, Guinea-Bissau has been described as a « narco state » (Chabal and Green 2016), a concept that has little analytical value regarding the importance of illicit economies for the state and the role of illicit activities in countries, such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea Bissau, and Morocco, but which has nonetheless gained traction in the African context (Chouvy 2016).

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Challenging the Foundation Myths

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Matthew J. Raphael, a retired professor of English. Raphael is author of Bill W. and Mr. Wilson (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), as well as other books and essays on the place of alcohol in American literature and culture.

Screenshot 2020-03-03 at 4.18.12 PM“Over the years,” observes William H. Schaberg in Writing the Big Book, the image of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith laying the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous “has become deeply encrusted with so many layers of adulation and myth that it is hard to recapture the reality of the moment.” The objective of Schaberg’s book, the most important study of A.A. since Ernest Kurtz’s monumental Not-God, is to challenge the hoary stories of A.A.’s early days, from Wilson’s attaining sobriety in 1935 to the publication of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939.

Ten years in the making, based on exhaustive research in the A.A. archives and other collections, Writing the Big Book runs nearly 800 pages: thicker and heavier than the original Big Book. The book is truly definitive – a word thrown mindlessly around – insofar as it will never likely be redone and thus will remain unsurpassed.

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“Cultures of Intoxication: Contextualising Alcohol and Drug Use, Past & Present” Conference Report

Editor’s Note: Today’s conference report comes from Dr. Alice Mauger of the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, School of History, University College Dublin. Dr. Mauger also organized the event.

“Cultures of Intoxication: Contextualising Alcohol and Drug Use, Past & Present”, University College Dublin, Ireland, 7-8 February 2020 – Conference Report

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University College Dublin was delighted to welcome twenty-five delegates to the UCD Humanities Institute on 7 and 8 February 2020 to take part in “Cultures of Intoxication: Contextualising Alcohol and Drug Use, Past & Present”. Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, this event featured speakers from institutions in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The conference was part of my three-year Wellcome Trust research fellowship on “Alcohol, Medicine & Irish Society, c. 1890-1970”. Now in its final month, this project has explored social, cultural and political perceptions of excessive drinking and alcohol addiction in Ireland, especially the degree of influence the “drunken Irish” stereotype has had on medical responses to alcoholism. 

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“Typhoid Junkie”: Controversies over Contagion and Cure in the Mid-20th Century

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Jordan Mylet, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of California, San Diego. This is Part 1 in a series on The Addict and Addiction Treatment Before the War on Drugs. The next installment will come in March.

It is common today to think about drug addiction as an illness or disorder, and the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis that deserves a robust medical response. This framework is often paired with an implicit (or not) rebuke of past ways of dealing with addiction as a sin or a crime, something to be shamed and punished. The fact of mass incarceration, which has filled jails with hundreds of thousands of drug offenders, predominantly of color, since the early 1970s, has rightfully precipitated a renewed emphasis on treating addicts as people in need of treatment, not prison time.

However, if one looks closely at the long history of medicalizing drug addiction in the United States, they might conclude that applying a treatment framework to addiction does not necessarily lead to clear-cut or even humane solutions. In fact, the mid-twentieth century architects and enforcers of narcotics control policy—with its street-level raids and mandatory sentences—also espoused a belief in addicts’ sickness and need for medical treatment. When public concern about drug addiction skyrocketed in the postwar years, the dilemma facing policymakers and medical professionals was what was to be done with the addict, given that she was sick. In this way, debates over addiction and rehabilitation were also clashes about the responsibilities of the state to its citizens and the limits of individual liberty. 

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Drug consumption between public debate and political reforms in post-war Italy

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Maria Elena Cantilena, a PhD student in History at University of Trieste (Italy). Her research focuses on drug consumption in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s, exploring how its image changed in public opinion and medical debate, in the context of new legislative approaches.

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Maria Elena Cantilena

On 5th May 1954, the Italian writer Dino Buzzati published «Il Morfinomane» (The Morphine Addict) in the newspaper «Il Corriere della Sera». In this short article, he described the morphine addict as a decent man who is hanging around the city looking for night-shift chemists, using these words:

«He is an old man, elegantly behaved, old-fashioned, he could be a duke, a notary or a judge. … He is a regular there, he is decent and indifferent. Chemists know him already; they call him ‘Commander’ and treat him like a high-value client».

On 23rd 1954, the Socialist congressman Giuseppe Alberti declared in the Senate:

«Drug consumption is a madness made by people who live in idleness, who long for idleness, who poisoned themselves because of laziness. In such clubs, there are no workers coming after a ten, twelve hours shift, no farmers who have woken up before dawn, and there are no clerks who have to come to terms with restricted extra-pay».

Within the Italian public debate, drugs were seen as a vice-related with upper-middle-class and show business, which in the public eye consumed morphine and cocaine because of boredom and transgression. In 1954, a new drug law was approved: consumers and drug dealers had an equal status and were punished in the same way with jail time. If a drug user declared to be a drug-addicted, he could avoid jail, but he had to be admitted in a mental hospital. 

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