The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice
Friends, I have a request to make. The writer and feminist activist Soraya Chemaly has written a very important open letter to Facebook asking them to stop tolerating hate speech on their site that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women. This is a real issue that is astonishingly actually happening.
Most of the following is from her letter, with a bit of editing for this blog post:
Facebook allows images of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant” by appending a [humor] disclaimer to it, which literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.
At the same time, FB regularly removes pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies, and bans as porn women’s political speech that involves the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest….while actual pornographic content – prohibited by FB’s own guidelines – remains.
Soraya and many respected organizations — and I stand with them 100% — are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on FB appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until FB bans gender-based hate speech on their site. Please read open letter to FB and let your voice be heard. You can easily contact the advertisers on Twitter and use the hashtag #FBrape.
Thanks for helping create a world that works for all of us and one we can be proud to leave to our kids.
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl the Taliban tried unsuccessfully to execute for speaking out for girls’ education in Pakistan, signed a $3 MILLION book deal to tell her story! This is conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship at its finest. I love to see people rewarded for their courage and effort to transform the world for good.
She also made the COVER of Time Magazine as one of the magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2013 list!
The world is changing in some miraculous ways. The journey is not going to be pretty, but I’m keeping my eye on the destination.
Malala, thank you for leading the way!
I am SO thrilled to announce that my novel is being translated into Hindi! Soon, Indians will be reading it in their native language, thanks to Anu Bhatnagar, an amazing woman who became a fan of Seven Perfumes and, because of her passion and commitment to empowering women in her motherland, offered to translate the book into Hindi. She believes its message is desperately needed in this country that is struggling to find its way. I will keep you posted on when it will be published in this language, and I hope many, many more!
I can’t believe it’s been a year since Seven Perfumes was published!
So many amazing things have happened in this time; here are 15 of the best:
- The killer Kirkus review
- My partnership with The Global Fund for Women, who will be receiving 10% of my book’s net proceeds
- The estimable Publisher’s Weekly review
- Former Egyptian First Lady Jehan Sadat, whom I interviewed at age 17 for my college newspaper, requested a copy of my novel!
- The great Dallas Morning News review
- Being invited to speak publicly about my book and ending honor violence
- The most incredible article I could have imagined written up in The Huffington Post
- 67 five-star reviews on Amazon!
- Seven Perfumes enjoyed #2 status in the Suspense category on Amazon as ranked by customer review for a while; it has settled down at #31 out of 242, 335!
- Receiving the respect of the wonderful novelist of women’s rights in the Arab world Jean Sasson when she said this was the novel on honor killing she’s been waiting for.
- Connecting with hundreds of remarkable people and organizations on Twitter and Facebook who are trying to make a difference.
- Several inquiries about film rights for Seven Perfumes!
- Being acknowledged by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of Time Magazine‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2005, author of The Caged Virgin and Infidel
- I took a public vow today to spend at least 10% of my time for the rest of my life advancing women’s empowerment globally!
- Last but not least…one of my book’s fans, Anu Bhatnagar, an Indian woman who lives in Dubai and is passionate about empowering women, offered to translate Seven Perfumes into Hindi — for free. One of my dreams is to get my book translated into the languages of the Honor Killing Zone and Anu is helping me get that launched this year!
I feel so incredibly blessed by all of this…thank you for buying my novel, standing up and speaking out against violence in all its forms, and encouraging me to keep writing. I will!
by Amy Logan
I’m excited to report that 2012 saw a number of wonderful developments for women worldwide. The UN conveniently covered the big ones already, but I wanted to share with you some of the cool lesser-known inventions, discoveries and trends that came onto my radar this past year:
1. Forced marriage smartphone app – If you’re a young girl in the UK whose family is about to marry you off to someone you don’t want without your consent, now there’s an app for that. The no-cost Freedom app offers victims access to help and information and looks like a game to throw off meddling parents. Hopefully, this will encourage other countries to develop similar apps in 2013.
2. Device that bites rapists where it counts – This ingenious invention was launched in 2010, but I just discovered it this year and I love it so much, I’m including it. The Rape-aXe is a condom-like tube that fits into the woman’s body and is lined with rows of jagged plastic hooks that lodge in a perpetrator’s penis upon entry. (Think vagina dentata of legend.) He can withdraw from the woman, but the Rape-aXe stays clamped on and must be surgically removed. The video is quite compelling.
3. Half the Sky Movement launched – New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn’s best-selling book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide became a hit PBS series in October and now it’s a full-blown global movement! In fact, I have become a Community Ambassador for Half the Sky and so can you! By holding screenings of the film and collecting donations for approved charities, you can make a difference in the lives of women and girls worldwide while meeting like-minded people in your community.
4. The Secret Society of Women – I love anything that’s secret or mysterious and this site just grabbed me. It’s an anonymous place to vent, share and get advice on all kinds of issues too personal to sign your name to. Global investigative journalist Lisa Ling, who I’m a big fan of, is behind it.
5. Semen is good for women’s minds – Who knew? According to a study, seminal fluid contains anti-depressants and mood-altering chemicals that increase affection and induce sleep and women who have regular unprotected sex are less depressed and perform better on cognitive tests.
6. Sanitary napkins for poor Indian women – An Indian guy noticed that his new wife was using unsanitary rags instead of sanitary napkins during her period, which led him to discover that millions of women do the same to save money for essentials like milk. He invented a way for them to make their own in each community at an affordable rate and gave a funny TEDx talk about it.
7. American women get free preventive health care services – OK, this got plenty of PR but I’m sayin’ it anyway: New rules in the health care law require insurance companies to provide services like gestational diabetes screening, domestic violence screening and counseling, contraception, HIV screening and counseling and more free of charge to 47 million U.S. women covered by certain plans. Hooray!
8. Free app helps college girls avoid becoming victims of violence – The Circle of 6 app connects its user to six of her closest designated friends or family members when she feels vulnerable to potential violence or harrassment. Whether she needs a ride home, a phone call interruption, some advice or an emergency hotline, this app’s got it.
9. Support for men who want gender peace – I am touched by men who start things to help men become more whole because it usually means more peace between the genders. The Good Men Project explores what it means to be a good man. The 21st Century Man Project, founded by my dear friend Luke Lehman, provides workshops and coaching for men who want to create more love in the world. My friend, Daniel Ellenberg, Ph.D. is a psychologist who founded and directs Strength with Heart men’s groups and workshops.
10. Body armor for women – Current designs of military body armor are too loose — thus less effective — for 85% of female American soldiers. Finally, the U.S. military is testing body armor designed specifically for women!
Happy New Year, everyone! May 2013 bring even more progress for women — and men — worldwide!
Many people ask me about the cover of The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice, which is very special to me. It comes from a painting called “The Messenger” done by my stepmother, Jackie Watson, in 1994. The image Jackie painted, while inspired by another event before my book was even conceived, reminds me so much of a painting I describe in my novel. One of the main characters, Leila, an artist, produced a painting about a pivotal (and real) ancient myth – how Frankincense, the most prized spiritual aromatic in the ancient world, came into creation as a result of an honor killing.
The legend holds that the sun seduced a king’s daughter. When the king discovered the relationship, he killed and buried the princess. The sun desperately tried to revive his beloved with his rays to no avail, so he found a way she could still come up to see him in the sky: He covered her body in a sweet-smelling nectar that melted away, filling the earth and sky with its spicy citrus fragrance. The spot where her body was buried was where the first Frankincense tree was believed to have grown.
In Seven Perfumes, Leila called her painting “The Resurrection”; it depicted a huge orange-red sun on the horizon behind a Frankincense tree with the face and hands of a beautiful girl in its twisty, low branches. As Prof. Binyamin, another character, explained, “The sun, as the giver of life, symbolizes our conscious mind. It’s our basic identity, our self-realization. [Through the painting], Leila was saying that women in her culture have lost their creative life force and their own purpose.”
Frankincense was one of the “seven perfumes of sacrifice” which were a real incense recipe in ancient times that, when burned in ceremony, were purported to get you a meeting with the gods. For me, this fictional painting reveals that, as women, our capacity to be free and have agency to make our own choices for our lives is inextricably linked to our spiritual connection to ourselves. Surveys have shown that a majority of women living in the Honor Killing Zone believe their husbands have the right to beat them for various reasons. If we don’t first believe in the inviolable integrity of ourselves, who else will? Even women outside the Honor Killing Zone struggle with holding their center to varying degrees. It starts with self-awareness and self-respect – two of our most sacred assets.
“The Messenger” arrived in my stepmom Jackie’s imagination through another means, but the message is uncannily related. She was gardening at her East Texas lake house, digging in the dirt, when a wasp stung her on the chest, right at her heart center. “It seems I had not really been paying attention rather than being in the here and now. And so the universe sent me a little wake-up,” she recalls. “Never had my connection to the earth been so evident and I felt ‘stung’ to my very depth. That connection felt life-changing, as if my sacred space was infinite. I recognized it as if coming home after a long journey. The experience let me know that I had work to do if the connection to that deep spiritual center that is me, that is feminine, that is divine, could take the lead in my life.”
Painting “The Messenger” was “a way of finding a path, of opening the heart, of divine wisdom speaking directly to my heart and emerging through my hand. It felt like sacred magic,” she says. It became a gorgeous 40” x 30” watercolor and acrylic that remains in her own collection. “I don’t think I could ever sell it,” she says. It was the first of what became her “Roots” series. I had forgotten about it when I wrote of Leila’s painting “The Resurrection” years later and was delighted to rediscover it in Jackie’s gallery on-line when I was searching for cover art. She was generous enough to allow me to use it, and graphic artist and UCSB graduate history student Brian Griffith turned it into a book cover that still takes my breath away.
One of the most profound insights Jackie gained from this experience could become the refrain of women (and men) everywhere reclaiming themselves:
“When we begin to live from within outward, rather than the opposite, we come into contact with our own power, the deepest sense of ourselves. We refuse to be unconscious of what we are feeling at any time, not just when it’s convenient or won’t hurt someone’s feelings. We don’t deny pieces of our experience. This is what gives us energy, the courage to change.”
That is my hope, my prayer and what I am doing all of this for.
Prints of “The Messenger” and other paintings of Jackie’s can be ordered at www.jackiewatson.com.
If you’ve been meaning to get around to writing for publication and keep putting it off, this might motivate you: My 96-year-old step-grandmother, Betty X. Davis, just published a story called “The Last Bicycle” in the current issue of Spider Magazine, one of the most respected magazines of children’s literature.
Betty is the most amazing senior I know: mother of nine, grandmother of 13, great-grandmother of nine (and another on the way), Betty is an active member in the her local Austin, Texas, chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, walks at least half a mile almost every day, plays tennis twice a week, and somehow finds time to write fiction!
“The Last Bicycle” is a delightful story set in the French town of Uzaire near the end of World War II. It’s about a boy named Jacques, an American soldier from Texas, and a most loved and rare bicycle…and so much more. I loved this story, as well as her last one that was published in Spider, “The Magic Needle”. Betty is a real talent and I encourage you to find both of these stories if you have children in your life.
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, of Quaker stock, Betty has lived in Texas for 75 years. She just completed another short story “Evolution of Buttercup”, and has started a series, “Mitzy Lynn Takes Charge of the World.” She remains such an inspiration to me!