On Valentine’s Day, LOVE RHYMES WITH EVERYTHING

There are now only 9 shopping days until Valentine’s Day … which means you still have time to get your copy of Love Rhymes with Everything by Dana Feagin and Kat von Cupcake.

Love Rhymes with Everything is not only a beautiful collection of paintings and poetry, it is a gift to animals everywhere! In this book, you’ll meet sanctuary animals and beloved pets, rescues and strays now living in peace, and your purchase will go to help animal protection and rescue organizations such as SNYP, Sanctuary One, the Jackson County Animal Shelter, Equamore Foundation Horse Sanctuary, and many more. Every penny from the sales of Love Rhymes with Everything will benefit animals.

In Love Rhymes with Everything, you’ll see the beautiful faces of exquisite creatures captured by Dana Feagin’s whimsical paintings, and you’ll hear their voices in Kat von Cupcake’s affecting poetry — and you’ll also learn the personal stories behind many of these rescued animals, from horses and goats to bunnies and cats.

Visit the book’s web page for links to order your copy — you can also order through the Dana Feagin Art website.

If you’re in Southern Oregon, you can buy a copy at the Ashland Art Center in Ashland, or the Rasa Center for Yoga and Wellness in Medford.

Vegan Dining in Ashland, Oregon: Blue Toba

I’ve long heard wonderful things about Blue Toba in Ashland and am so glad I finally made it.

This tiny Indonesian restaurant has a short but diverse menu that includes an abundance of amazing vegan dishes. On this visit I was able to sample three items, all delicious.

My favorite (I think) was the opor, a beautiful and mild “candlenut curry” made with shallots, garlic, and other lovely Indonesian spices. Candlenut is described on the menu as most similar to the macadamia nut, and I found this to be very true: it is mild, rich, and buttery. This dish would be perfect if you want to try a classic Indonesian dish but don’t want a lot of spice.

I also loved sampling the urap, a mix of organic spinach, green beans, cabbage, and sprouts in a traditional Balinese sauce. The sauce contains candlenut, ginger, turmeric, and coconut milk — and it, too, is mild to the taste, though a bit spicier than the opor. (If you like spicy, just ask for the condiments, and you can add as much as you want.) Both this dish and the opor were served with a beautiful tumeric, coconut, and lime-leaf rice.

Finally, the mie goreng: This dish is typically very spicy but can be ordered mild. It’s a fantastic medley of fried noodles with myriad vegetables in an Indonesian sauce made to order with as much (or as little) heat as you’d like. 

The restaurant is small, with only three tables — the entire place seats no more than 12 people at a time — but takeout is available, and probably half of the people visiting on the day we were there were getting their meals to go.

The owners are friendly, helpful, and lovely; they clearly take great pride in their food and in being able to accommodate whatever dietary preferences you may have. I can’t wait to return and would highly recommend this place, especially for vegetarians and vegans and anyone who loves trying new and exotic dishes.

For more information, visit the Blue Toba website, though there’s much more information available on the restaurant’s Facebook page. You can find the menu here, but note that some dishes (like urap) are new and don’t appear on this menu.

 

Vegan Dining in San Diego: Anthem Vegan

We were thrilled to discover this amazing vegan restaurant in San Diego’s fabulous North Park neighborhood.

Anthem is a huge all-vegan restaurant had humble beginnings, as a Speakeasy Vegan Brunch and also a food truck, as our server told us, and it’s now a large restaurant in a beautiful space, along with a small gift shop (with awesome T-shirts) and a grocery area where you can find vegan goodies from crunchy snacks to ice cream (yes, and some healthy foods, too).

The place also has the most lovely staff and a happy vibe — and best of all is the menu.

It was nearly impossible to choose what to eat. We were there too late for breakfast, which is a shame because the offerings look amazing, from cheesy breakfast sandwiches to soy chorizo scrambles, but on the plus side, at least this narrowed down the possibilities for us.

We decided to take the burger/wrap route and chose the AV Burger and the Gangster Wrap, both of which came with delicious, perfectly cooked, and delectably seasoned french fries.

The AV Burger is a Beyond Burger patty with cheddar, lettuce, fried onion, tomato, pickle, and garlic aioli — simple but absolutely perfect. The bun was a highlight: soft and buttery (like a vegan brioche).

We loved the Gangster Wrap, too. This is served on a gorgeous, lightly toasted tortilla with grilled buffalo chik’n, bleu cheese dressing, shredded carrot and celery, fried onion, and baby spinach. It had lots of spice and felt both decadent and somewhat healthy thanks to all the veggies.

Our only regret is that couldn’t try more on the menu … like Sunday Brunch (which looks fantastic) and dessert. Anthem serves a Chocolate Mousse Brulee, and the dessert display was filled with beautiful pastries.

We can’t say enough about this place and its offerings (there’s something for everyone, from burgers to salads to healthy bowls — and appetizers include mozzarella sticks and an “Onion Ring Tower of Power”). We look forward to returning and hope next time we can spend days trying as much as possible on the menu.

Q&A with WRITING FOR ANIMALS contributor Alex Lockwood

Alex Lockwood’s article “With a Hope to Change Things: An Exploration of the Craft of Writing about Animals with the Founders of Zoomorphic Magazine” appears in Writing for Animals.

Q: In what ways has your writing changed as your knowledge and awareness of animals has evolved?

A: Most fundamentally, I have chosen (as far as a writer can) to only take on new projects that foreground the nonhuman and their relations with humans, as much as possible to work towards texts, narratives, and stories that help bring our relationships to light, and to contribute towards a more equal and just sharing of this world across species. Although sometimes as writers we don’t know quite what compels us to write the next story or book or poem, there are conscious decisions we can make responding to the state of the world, and the disastrous state of our hierarchical and dominant current relations with nonhumans. As I come to know more about animals and the nonhuman world, the more I recognize my spiritual and practical responsibilities to attempt to redress through my practice the worst forms of these exploitative relations and hopefully envision new and more equal, kind, and loving relationships.

In particular, I have spent a lot more time working in the second person, and writing works that give serious credence to the voices and agencies of nonhuman others, to the existing and complicated relations between beings across species (in cross-species encounter) and the truly relational nature of who we are, in that without these relations we do not know ourselves and, when you get down to the biota level, we wouldn’t even be alive.

Q: What is the most important thing you feel writers should keep in mind as they write about animals?

A: Compassion. Do not repeat or reinforce dominant speciesist practices in your writing. Question why it is okay to depict or represent particular animals in particular ways. Enrich your writing through learning in the three Es — ethology, ecofeminism, ecocriticism — to continue to forge new visions for ways of interrelating based on kinship and not dominance. Change your own name to that of an animal’s and see where that takes you. Don’t get bogged down by questions of whether or not animals can be fully represented in human language, because your audience is human, generally. But do nurture an understanding of nonrepresentational theories, politics, and practices that shift you and your ego out of the way. If you’re a white, Western male, as I am, do everything that you can to mobilize your white, Western, male privileges and give your writing over to the practice of centering the lives and leadership and needs of all previously marginalised groups, human and nonhuman.

Q: Which authors/books do you feel do a good job of realistically and compassionately portraying the lives of animals?

A: Donna Haraway’s Camille stories are must-reads for how we are now thinking about our multi-species encounters. Cynan Jones has done plenty of good work around animals and viscerality. The animal poet Susan Richardson, whom I interviewed for my chapter, is an incredible writer, perhaps one of the leading animal poets of our day, following in and beyond the footsteps of Les Murray. Sara Baume, Melissa Harrison, Robin Lamont, pattrice jones, Barbara King, Carol J. Adams, Ceridwen Dovey, Lydia Millet are all women working in different genres and forms to respectfully and compassionately help us reach the lives of animals.

Q: Your Q&A with the editors of Zoomorphic magazine highlights the role of literature in a changing world. What other media do you recommend for those who care about animals and wish to write about them with authenticity and compassion?

A: Literature remains for me the art form that can transform our relationship with the world most fully, but of course many would suggest film is the same or better at doing so, and films such as Okja have had a recent huge impact on the ways in which people have changed their relations to animals. Short films and exposes such as Dominion and Land of Hope and Glory have recently, from the documentary perspective, really changed people’s visions of how to relate in cross-species encounters and spaces. I think children’s books are vitally important in beginning that journey of love and compassion, or exploitation and abuse, depending on the forms in which they are written and the ways in which parents and teachers communicate them, and of course how writers write them, so I cannot recommend people such as Ruby Roth enough.

Alex Lockwood is the author of The Pig in Thin Air (Lantern Books), an exploration of the place of the body in animal advocacy, as well as senior lecturer in journalism at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, Sunderland University, UK. He has published widely on human-animal relations and is currently working on a series of novels concerned with human-animal conflict.

Q&A with WRITING FOR ANIMALS contributor Sangamithra Iyer

Sangamithra Iyer’s essay “Are You Willing?” appears in Writing for Animals.

Q: In what ways has your writing changed as your knowledge and awareness of animals has evolved?

A: My entry into the world of writing about animals was when I worked for Satya Magazine more than a decade ago. Each month was a deep dive into a pressing planetary issue. Writing about animals became a much larger project: one that probed the intersections with environmentalism and social justice. By doing so, it evolved into a deeper exploration of how both power and compassion operate. Satya was foundational to me, as I discovered the kind of writer I wanted to be: curious, concerned, and willing to confront the complexity of the challenges we faced. My writing about animals still aims to expose multiple truths about how human actions impact the lives of other animals, but I’ve also grown increasingly interested in the role of writing to imagine other ways of being.

 

Q: What is the most important thing you feel writers should keep in mind as they write about animals?

A: The lives of animals are often trivialized on the page. When animal stories make their way into the news, even the most respected journalism outlets resort to using puns. This instinct to make the easy joke is a self-defense mechanism, a way of avoiding the discomfort of facing the realities animals endure. As I write in my essay in this anthology, I’m interested in how we as writers create spaces in our work to allow the reader to process the uncomfortable and overcome that initial response of avoidance. Humor can still be a wonderful tool in this regard for the writer and animal advocate, but it’s important that the jokes aren’t at the animals’ expense.

 

Q: Which authors/books do you feel do a good job of realistically and compassionately portraying the lives of animals?

A: I trace the animal activism of my early adulthood back to reading Next of Kin by Roger Fouts, which documented the story of Washoe, the first chimpanzee to learn American Sign Language. Washoe and her chimpanzee family were portrayed as fully formed individuals with unique personalities. Reading this book led me to many others and inspired me volunteer at primate sanctuaries.

As a reader, though, one of my favorite things is encountering beautiful animal stories in books that are not specifically about animals, but where the author gives them respectful consideration. In my Writing for Animals essay, I introduce Ahmed Errachidi, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, who writes in his memoir The General about his daily visitors — the ants in his prison cell. Errachidi simply observes and appreciates their lives. He saves food for them and tries to protect them from the guards who stomp on them. It is one of the most beautiful and compelling passages about caring about and coexisting with animals that I have read. Similarly in Zeitoun, Dave Eggers tells the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when he realizes that so many animals had drowned or were left stranded. Both these examples illustrate compassion toward animals in places where there was also dire human suffering. Writing about animals did not detract from the other atrocities but helped to portray a fuller picture.

 

Q: Your essay addresses the challenges of writing about difficult subjects, with the hope of opening hearts. What is the most difficult piece you’ve ever had to write in advocating for animals?

A: Several years ago, I went to India to document the rise of factory farming and visited several battery egg facilities, dairies, and a chicken slaughterhouse. We live in a world where violence against animals is both normalized and hidden. Writing against the norm and exposing what is concealed is always difficult. For me, the challenges are multifold. First, there is the emotional difficulty of bearing witness to animal suffering. Second, there is challenge of keeping my readers in a place where even I don’t want to be. (I am the person who can’t handle the meat freezer aisle in the supermarket.) Third is trying to understand the larger story and forces at play — globalization, urbanization, and migration. The story about meat in India is also complicated by religion and the oppressive caste system. Fourth is the difficulty of my choosing — figuring out how to include so much of what I’ve learned in a way that does not overwhelm my readers but rather open their hearts.

Sangamithra Iyer is a writer and civil engineer. She is the author of The Lines We Draw (Hen Press), was a finalist for the 2016 Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, and is the editor of Satya: The Long View (2016). Sangu served as the assistant editor of Satya from 2004 to 2007, and as an associate for the public policy action tank Brighter Green. Her writing has been published by n+1, Creative Nonfiction, Waging Nonviolence, Hippocampus Magazine, Local Knowledge, Our Hen House, and VegNews. Her essays have been anthologized in Primate People: Saving Nonhuman Primates through Education, Advocacy and Sanctuary; Sister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice; and Letters to a New Vegan. She was a recipient of a Jerome Foundation literature travel grant and an artist residency at the Camargo Foundation. She lives in Queens, where she works on watershed protection and water supply infrastructure planning for New York City.