Huffington Post article 5/13/15
I want Charmaine Gordon’s elderly women’s empowerment fiction to go viral and, while it might not, her work is deserving of it because it is devoted to a small, somewhat overlooked, yet important genre that deserves all the attention it can get.
This woman happens to be my 84-year-old mom and I unapologetically stand atop my desk (metaphorically, that is) trying to find a way to let the world know of this movement in women’s fiction that should have its own section at bookstores. Elderly women’s empowerment fiction certainly has as much value as a cat video or fail compilation, but lacks some of that immediate Oomph. The appeal of the viral videos harking to the wunderkinds, the GoPro thrill seekers and the likes are impressive, yet aren’t we just as moved to see the dance videos in which the elderly hear good music and abandon crutches, walkers and any assistance and kick in with power dance moves of their own?
(see * note at bottom for reference info)
I’m a self-serving son, I know. I’m comfortable touting my mom’s work and I’m proud of her for doing it, but this is not only for my mom. There are a few people out there whose parents could really appreciate this fiction for the hero’s problem-solving skills, romantic life and sheer chutzpah in the face of younger, strong authority figures ready to put the thumbscrews to the seemingly meek old lady. What’s more, Charmaine’s tales reminds us to “Do your creative stuff now!”… the kick in the pants my mom’s intrepid spirit offers to every aspiring senior citizen with an agenda of “shoulda-coulda-wouldas.”
Her books have “what are you waiting for?” written all over them.
Charmaine “The Mom Bomb” Gordon sent me a few of her credos to accompany this article. Being her own best advocate she was willing to equip her son with a few essentials she knows well: “It isn’t over ’til it’s over,” “Survive and thrive no matter who’s in the beehive,” “Life throws plenty at you… so keep dancing.” (That my mom would appropriate one of Yogi Berra’s quotes is fitting, since she and my dad ran a mom ‘n’ pop shop in golf equipment sales and sold Yogi his golf clubs for a stretch of time in the 70s and 80s.)
In the face of adversity, my mom found a voice in this semi-autobiographical niche writer’s market. Her declining health hampered her athletic, self-sufficient style and demanded that she trade her tennis racket for a cane, but it hasn’t slowed her down that much. She had a long tenure in New York’s theatrical productions — small parts in movies, plays and tv soap operas — but ultimately resigned herself to the realities of the spasmodic dysphonia that attacked her larynx. Getting older and no longer capable of enunciating onstage, she took to storytelling in written form. Short stories led to longer ones and when she had a novel-length tale, she shopped herself to agents and found a publisher, one she’s been with for 5 ½ years now. Her first book, To Be Continued is currently optioned for a tv movie.
The characters populating her fictitious neighborhoods always focus on an elderly lady beset by obstacles/prejudices. Through her own wiles she solves/fixes things and exacts retribution from a stalker or other persons with an evil agenda. Due to the tone in her first book — one in which an amorous heroine and her lover cavort and carouse through the first many pages on a sexual skill level reminiscent of the non-stop love world claimed by basketball hero, Dr. J — I lovingly poke fun at her efforts by referring to it as either “old-lady soft-core porn” or “soft-core, old-lady porn” a term of endearment that jokingly belies my feelings.
Gone are the days of despicable phrases like “too much information,” the popular 90s saying that tries to rebuff anyone veering away from some Groupthink form of standards and proper decorum. Bring on elderly women who delight publicly in the search for a satisfying love life. Just as Annie Sprinkle wishes to spread her message by encouraging people to proudly and sexually become their own machines of change and freedom, so can my mom’s writing inspire in its own way for seniors, because my mom’s characters stand strong and unflappable in their entire lives. This genre provides a voice and setting for active elderly women and it appeals to the ever-growing elderly population that shouldn’t be relegated to ignored corners of society. Aren’t these metaphors the same ones we wish taught to every young girl? It shouldn’t be a big leap for any woman over 70, 80 or 90 to be reminded of her potential, right? Perhaps this is the stuff of which revolutions in elderly care can take hold.
Aside from her writing skills, the small but steady fan base my mom continues to develop is due in part to her own spirited personal story, coupled with the senior hero’s story arc. Charmaine has a website, twitter and facebook pages, and works hard marketing her work and embracing current technology. She isn’t about to be left by the wayside and she is not alone in this, teaming up with other women writers to publicize their books in smaller forums around the web. Bearing in mind a lineage of fine women writers who managed to break the age barrier — from Flannery O’Connor to Joan Didion to Maya Angelou to Agatha Christie, this type of novel deserves some investigation and newsworthy attention, not merely because one of those writing in this vein raised me, but it is going to take some influential people offering their business and money knowhow to raise national-level awareness. I’m not claiming my family’s talents to rank with the finest, but I am saying that it always starts from a point of passionate investment, no matter what the investigation; and my mother is certainly passionate and has found a worthwhile cause… and I find myself wondering how to best help spread her message. I believe in the concept behind the brief, delightful TED talk by Derek Sivers, in which a movement gets started by a leader valuing the first followers who choose to embrace that movement, and in doing so become leaders themselves.
As a relatively recently graduate of Goddard College’s Masters of Fine Arts program in Interdisciplinary Arts (yes, a shameless plug for my beloved higher education program), I see many noteworthy examinations within my mother’s genre, including but not limited to social engagement and equality rights. In these times where race relations, handicapped empowerment and gender equality have loud voices, the voices for the elderly speak softer and still require vociferous support from media news outlets.
My mom’s vocal chords are weaker than they once were, not unlike so many seniors, so I suppose it takes words on news/blog sites like this one to push her message out there just a little more. After all, books like hers are only for you if you plan on getting older some day yourself, so it’s not merely a niche market, is it?
Thanks, dear son, who is performing solo in a small town in Denmark this very day.Don’t Break a Leg or Fall down, dearest.
So many books, so little time, so much fun and that’s what it’s all about. My books are full of humor, love, pets, and don’t forget “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”
Love to you all.