Fiction Points: Sophia Shalmiyev

Sophia-Shalmiyev_c-Thomas-TealSophia Shalmiyev’s first book, Mother Winter (Simon & Schuster 2019), is a memoir of immigration and motherhood. She holds an MFA from Portland State University and a second master’s degree in creative arts therapy from the School of Visual Arts. Shalmiyev was born in the Soviet Union; emigrated from Leningrad to New York in 1990; and now resides in Portland, Oregon with her two children.

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?

I write about feminism across genres because closets, gag orders, hangers, boys’ clubs, and a fear of jogging in the park at night are still weapons used against us. Also, inconsolable loss.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

That my mother was seen as a lost cause, especially because she was a woman with a familial history of alcohol abuse, and no one knew how to help her or have empathy for her plight. I have a line in my book where my father’s university professor back in the Soviet Union instructs him to steal me away from her and give up on his wife getting sober because of some made-up diagnosis called Stage II Severe Alcoholism in Woman. She was considered terminal. I am a product of that traumatic theft, but I also lived without the added chaos of addiction in my household. The violence, poverty, and emotional instability from my father was challenging enough.

What led you to write about drugs and alcohol in the first place?

First of all—a drunk girl is the biggest target for violence. The men who willfully and casually misuse their power will find the sloppy girl with falling lids and swoop in (and there is nothing wrong with being that girl, yet we are judged way more harshly for losing control). What if even one woman ever thought in such a predatory way about men? Not that it has to be that bad, because men just interrupting our fun when we are out and following us around and acting creepy because they hope our defenses are down is scary and a real drag, to say the least. The irony of taking a substance to get loose and forget your troubles only to find more of the same trouble in the form of sexual violence or even a coerced or manipulated experience is my nightmare.mother-winter-9781501193088_lg

I spent my twenties trying to get closer to my estranged mother by taking drugs and drinking to black out. I didn’t know how to survive being motherless and wondered if I am doomed to be just like her–so much of what we are told about addiction is that it is genetic–and, yet, I came through mostly all right somehow. It wasn’t my cross to drag on my back, it turned out, though I do tend to have problematic drinking from time to time.

How would you describe the way that drugs function in your work, whether in terms of thematic concerns or the choices you make about how to craft a narrative? Do you think there are things you wouldn’t be able to explore as successfully if drugs weren’t in your writing arsenal?

I do write in a feverish way, but with a lens trained on reconstruction and a posed, theatrically bratty tone around serious issues–no one with money actually cares that much about studying women’s health. Hahahaha. So, let us die, I guess. Our holes of mystery are vast when it comes to estrogen, socialized subordination, and emotional labor women perform and how that folds into substance abuse and recovery. I have this great insight, through never having to reject my mother because I was taken away from her, the shamed and shunned alcoholic, that allows me empathy and nuance. I often say that a useless woman is a dead woman. That’s a mother under the influence. She must heal herself through community and self reflection, which requires the luxury of alone time and the grace of a collective, but we insist that she shut up and be nice and take care of us instead, dammit. A useless man is a man waited on and soothed; his self-destruction is stoic or romantic. We [women] are garbage if we fail at being clean and come clean as good worker bees and maternal influences.

What do you personally find most interesting about how drugs function in your writing, and where do you see that interest leading you in future projects?

My interest in bringing to life discarded and desecrated bodies will keep being a thread in my next book, a novel called I Married the Butcher to Get to the Bone. Addiction is also about trying to mute the ringing bells of fight or flight so that one can feel peace and ease rather than an alarm going off at all times, screaming hold me. I am fragmented. I also see charm and sense of humor and the adventure my mother (and sometimes I) chased when drinking socially. I took drugs almost exclusively due to peer pressure–welcomed peer pressure. I wanted to bond at all costs, and I wanted to fall down a well in a pile of like-minded bodies with heads dangling.

BONUS QUESTION: Let’s hope that Mother Winter gets made into a major motion picture. If you have your choice, which is it, and what song do you fantasize about hearing as the credits roll?

X-Ray Spex, “Germ Free Adolescents

Fiction Points: Karen Hugg

huggKaren Hugg writes literary mysteries and thrillers inspired by plants. Her first novel, The Forgetting Flower (Magnolia Press, April 2019) is the first in her Botanique Noir trilogy and centers on a fictional amnesia drug sold out of a plant shop in Paris. Hugg formerly worked as an editor and now specializes in ornamental horticultural and is a master pruner. She earned her MFA from Goddard College and has had work published in the anthology Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction and elsewhere. She lives in Seattle. 


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?

Ha! I actually went to Catholic school for many years so I’ve interacted with plenty of nuns in my life (not so much penguins). At any rate, I’d say I write literary mysteries and thrillers inspired by plants. I’ve been a writer since I was a child and became a professional gardener as an adult. Several years ago, plants started slipping into my stories. I realized the best way to spread my passion for plants was to write about them in exciting ways that embodied the fascination I felt for them. That led to start speculating about plants that didn’t exist but could. And that was the seed (no pun intended) for The Forgetting Flower.

But I don’t just write about plants. I write about human beings too. The people who care for the plants, the dilemmas they face, their flaws and conflicts. People are interesting because they’re complex and I try to bring that to the page too.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

That The Forgetting Flower is, in part, about the addiction and trade of a flower. It’s somewhat similar to marijuana or heroin made from poppies in that it has a natural origin. But the story really isn’t about the plant but rather what’s done with it. For instance, the plant in the book, Violet Smoke, produces flowers that give whoever inhales its scent amnesia. People forget the last thing they were thinking of. This, as addiction experts would know, could be very handy. People might want to forget certain traumatic or inconvenient events in their life. And my characters do just that in this novel within the dark framework that sometimes accompanies drug addiction: the monetary costs, the desperation to obtain it, the deterioration of a livelihood, the black market on which it’s sold. Continue reading →

Happy Thanksgiving from Points!

Points is taking the week off to celebrate American Thanksgiving. If you’re celebrating yourself, we hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. If you’re not, feel free to take some time to catch up on all the great work Points has been publishing over the past few months.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Points family! Here’s a drug pun that involves this beloved, if gluttonous, holiday.

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Radical Temperance: “Cool Sobriety” and the Novel: Anneliese Mackintosh’s So Happy it Hurts

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Emily Hogg, an assistant professor in the Department for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark. Hogg presented this work to the Radical Temperance: Social Change and Drink, from Teetotalism to Dry January conference held in June, and this post dives deeper into her work on representations of “cool sobriety” in the novel. Enjoy!

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Prof. Emily Hogg

“An air of cool hovers around sobriety at the moment,” argues Alice O’Keefe in The Guardian in December 2017, “just as it does over veganism and clean eating.” For O’Keefe, this is exemplified by “the proliferation of sober blogs such as Hip Sobriety ( and Girl and Tonic (” Indeed, a sense of fashionable distinction is proclaimed by the very title of Hip Sobriety, founded by Holly Glenn Whitaker. The cool appeal of such contemporary ideas about sobriety rests, in part, upon the way they distinguish themselves from older, staler accounts of its meanings; if sober living was generally understood as “hip,” of course, there would be no need for Whitaker to use the word itself. In this cultural moment, there is a determined effort to rewrite familiar narratives about alcohol and its place in our lives. The Hip Sobriety manifesto, for example, directly challenges a number of well-known ideas about alcohol, stating: “you don’t need to hit rock bottom,” “Am I an alcoholic? is the wrong question” and “It’s not incurable” because “Cured is never having to drink again.”

Screenshot 2018-09-27 08.53.35This reimagining of sobriety has a significant literary dimension: it is driven in no small part by reading, writing, and the circulation of texts. In the Guardian article, O’Keefe, reviews The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, a blend of self-help and autobiography which, as its title suggests, seeks to illuminate the pleasures of sobriety through descriptions of its author’s life. Both Glenn Whitaker’s Hip Sobriety and Girl and Tonic, by Laurie McAllister, stress the significance of reading in the maintenance of sobriety. McAllister lists “6 of my favourite books about sobriety,” whilst Glenn Whitaker’s blog includes posts called “Why Reading is Paramount in Recovery’ and “’13 Essential Books to Build a Holistic Recovery from Addiction’.”

Continue reading →

Running Amok on Marijuana: Re-hashing the grain of truth in one of the world’s most persistent myths about Cannabis

by Nick Johnson, author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (Oregon State University Press, 2017)


There’s no denying that the growing nationwide acceptance of cannabis in the twenty-first century has illuminated the many benefits of this plant, long-sequestered in American society:

Hemp, the non-psychoactive variety, is a multi-faceted crop with a bevy of industrial and consumer applications.

The many inter-working compounds in marijuana are an effective medicine capable of alleviating—and possibly curing—some of our most agonizing ailments.

Widespread use of marijuana has proven to be a relatively safe activity that has never produced a lethal overdose or lived up to its opponents’ worst fears.

Cannabis advocates revel in these facts; they form the backbone of the argument for legalization. But every so often a report comes out that notches a chink in activists’ rhetorical armor. In particular, several recent incidents reflect a darker, if relatively uncommon, strain in cannabis’s long history amidst human societies: Continue reading →

Points Bibliography: New Perspectives on the Regulation of LSD, Cannabis, and Heroin in U.S. History

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the above link. We are happy to point out that today’s selection features new work from Adam Rathge and Sarah Brady Siff, two longtime Points contributors!

“Too Hot to Handle”: LSD, Medical Activism, and the Spring Grove Studies (M.A. Thesis)

Author: Halsem, Lauren M.

Abstract: In the early 1950s, medical researchers across the United States began investigating the use of the hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as a facilitating agent in psychotherapy. Despite great promise, crisis struck this young field when, in the early 1960s, the federal government began tightening regulations on LSD—this being a result of public and political anxieties about increasing recreational use of the drug, as well as changing clinical trial standards. Scholars maintain that psychedelic researchers unilaterally responded to the crisis by abandoning the field, fearing that their continued association with the drug would wreak havoc on their careers and personal lives. However, a close examination of the proceedings at the Spring Grove State Hospital, located in Catonsville, Maryland, tells a different story. Drawing on archival material from Purdue’s Psychoactive Substances Research Collection, this thesis explores the Spring Grove research team’s effort to midwife a more favorable view of this defamed drug. In doing so, this analysis provides a new perspective on psychedelic researchers’ response to the LSD crisis.

Advisor: Kline, Wendy P.

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Purdue University, History


Cannabis Cures: American Medicine, Mexican Marijuana, and the Origins of the War on Weed, 1840-1937

Author: Rathge, Adam

Abstract: This dissertation charts the medicalization and criminalization of the drug now widely known as marijuana. Almost no one in the United States used that word, however, until it was introduced from Mexico in the early twentieth century. Prior to that, Americans often called it hemp or hashish, and generally knew it as Cannabis – the scientific name given to a genus of plants by Carl Linnaeus. That transition in terminology from cannabis to marijuana serves as the crux of this project: It begins in 1840 with the formal introduction of cannabis into American medicine and ends in 1937 with the federal prohibition of marijuana. In between, it charts nearly a century of medical discourse, social concern, and legislative restrictions surrounding the drug – demonstrating that the origins of our nation’s war on weed are much older and more complicated than previous studies have suggested. In short, marijuana prohibition in the United States was not a swift or sudden byproduct of racism and xenophobia toward Mexican immigrants, but instead, the culmination of broad evolutions in public health and drug regulation coupled with a sustained concern about the potential dangers of cannabis use dating to the mid-nineteenth century.

Advisor: Summers, Martin A.

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Boston College, History


Tough on Dope: Crime and Politics in California’s Drug Wars, 1946-1963

Author: Siff, Sarah Brady

Abstract: This dissertation places state lawmaking and local enforcement at the center of its analysis of the U.S. drug wars by exposing California’s efforts to reduce the traffic in illicit substances during the first two decades of the postwar era. In contrast with existing work that sees drug enforcement as federally directed, this research reveals that state and local initiatives drove attitudes and action on illegal drugs. The California drug-control experience in the postwar era shows that the drug wars were locally escalated through grassroots campaigns, overzealous law enforcement, and political jockeying to solve the problem of increasing illicit drug use. Beginning just after World War II, law enforcement agencies and the mass media in the greater Los Angeles area encouraged widespread panic over heroin and marijuana smuggled from Mexico. Federal agencies fueled this concern during congressional hearings on organized crime, which connected the “narcotics menace” to the mafia and communism, birthing local crime commissions focused on drugs and juvenile delinquency. Police Chief William H. Parker engineered a brutal narcotics enforcement regime that targeted minority neighborhoods and violated the constitutional rights of drug defendants in defiance of court rulings, suggesting Los Angeles as a western site of massive resistance. Californians interrogated the relationships between federal, state, and local enforcement arms, whose leaders often disagreed and failed to cooperate. Increasingly politicized, drug control became a major issue in the 1962 governor’s race, with Republican Richard Nixon pressing for harsh penalties and Democrat Pat Brown seeking to protect the rights of drug defendants and replace prison time with rehab. California’s critique of the federal drug-control regime was widely publicized and convinced President John F. Kennedy to reorganize federal agencies tasked with combatting drugs. California exercised an early and deep influence over the course of U.S. drug policy at midcentury by pressing the federal government to combat drug trafficking from Mexico and questioning the methods of longtime drug czar Harry J. Anslinger. This dissertation extends backward the traditional timeline of the modern U.S. drug wars and opens a discussion about the roles played by citizens, local officials, and state governments.

Advisor: Stebenne, David

Committee Members: Baker, Paula; Steigerwald, David

Publication Year: 2016

University/Department: Ohio State University, History


Points Bibliography: Cultural Contexts of Drug Use and Recovery Models

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the above link.

Factors Related to Prescription Drug Abuse Among Young Adults in Florida

Author: Gonzalez, Mabel

Abstract: A lack of available data exists regarding environmental factors related to prescription drug abuse (PDA), which could explain the ineffectiveness of efforts to reduce PDA in Florida. Prescription drug abuse among adults older than age 18 varies with the level of education achieved, and these metrics potentially reflect socioeconomic differences. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the connections between contextual aspects of prescription opioid abuse among Florida’s middle and high school students to understand youth PDA in relation to their environments. This study consisted of a secondary analysis of existing PDA data (dependent variable) in relation to a number of independent variables, including the incidence of female-headed households, the nature of residential environment, adherence to religious precepts, and students’ ability to achieve educational goals. Incidence of female-headed households, the nature of residential environment, and adherence to religious precepts were not found to predict youth PDA. The only finding of significance was that PDA predicted lowered students’ ability to achieve educational goals ( p = .015). Data collected from this study might be used by school counselors and administrators when developing drug abuse prevention, intervention, and educational programs, thereby leading to positive social change in helping to reduce PDA among youth. Continue reading →