Queering the American Dream by Angela Yarber

As Florida politicians try to ban teachers from including LGBTQ+ issues in the curriculum, admonishing them, “Don’t Say Gay” at school, I’m shouting “GAY!” from the rooftops. Because I’m celebrating the release of my eighth book and first memoir, Queering the American Dream. It’s my queer family’s story of leaving it all and the revolutionary women who taught us how.

Our story began the day the Supreme Court ruled our marriage legal and ended the moment my younger brother’s addiction spiraled into a deadly overdose. In-between were eighteen months of full-time travel with a toddler in tow. Criss-crossing the American landscape, my wife and I came face to face with jaw dropping natural beauty on the one hand, which contrasted with the politics, policies, and people who continued to discriminate against marginalized families like ours on the other. At each stop along the way, a different revolutionary woman from history or mythology guided our footsteps, reminding us that it’s not simply our family who dared to queer the American dream, but a subversive sisterhood of saints who have upended the status quo for centuries. From Vermont to Hawai’i, and everywhere in between, the beauty of the American landscape bore witness to a queer clergywoman whose faith tradition was not enough to sustain her. But the revolutionary women were.

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Feminist Freedom: Finding, Following, and Painting Freya Stark by Angela Yarber

“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.” –Freya Stark

angelaOk. I’ll admit it. We all have our secret indulgences, don’t we? It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Shouldn’t we indulge a moment? After years of having my mind mired in the esoteric quandaries of the academy and the heart-yearnings of ministry, I needed an outlet, an escape. And when I couldn’t literally escape to some beautiful far-flung land via travel, I found my freedom nestled up with a good travel memoir. Travel essays, memoirs of finding oneself in another land, became my way of wandering, wondering, and learning about the world. A shelf full of dusty travel essays became my secret indulgence.

Along the way I decided to support feminist and women writers, pouring through every edition of The Best Women’s Travel Writing, sometimes in one sitting. Over and over I found these thoughtful writers referring back to one person, the pioneer of women’s travel, the founder of this far-flung freedom. Her name was Freya Stark. Years ago I began researching her life, reading The Passionate Nomad, and some of her many writings based on her travels all over the world.

Born in Paris in 1893, she was one of the first European women to travel and write about the Middle East, adding Arabic and Persian to the English, French, Italian, and Latin she already knew. There are tales of her riding camels through rebel territory, taking refuge in Bedouin camps, diving into shark-infested waters off the coast of Turkey simply because the water called to her and was too beautiful to avoid immersion, or in her old age (she lived to age 100), driving wildly in her hand-crafted “camper” through the Italian countryside. She lived boldly, going where few women had gone. She lived wildly, caring little about the restraints of decorum. She claimed, “It is the beckoning that counts, not the clicking latch behind you.” It’s no wonder that she inspired and empowered the many women travel writers that have followed in her fearless footsteps. Continue reading “Feminist Freedom: Finding, Following, and Painting Freya Stark by Angela Yarber”

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