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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

“You can take the girl from the Bay…” Reflections on the North from the South

You might not know this but just across from the beautiful city of San Francisco, California lays a small slice of cultural utopia. It’s an area so vibrantly alive that it is no wonder many people live their entire lives without venturing out beyond its bounds. This enriched goldmine of life that I speak of really and truly exists; it’s called the East Bay. It is the place where I spent the first 18 years of my life, the place that I call home. The East Bay is domain to certain notable cities of which you may have heard. Such places include Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland among others. If you have heard of any or all of these cities your preconceived notions about them might be summed up in just a few words: violence; gangs; hippies; weed. Ring any bells? Well, you’re not severely mistaken, reader-friend. All such things do indeed exist there. However, if you can take more than a glance at the local news and seek to explore the real East Bay, the life within it might just surprise you.

My whole life I have had two mothers. One of them is the beautifully spirited Mexican-Cherokee woman who gave me life; the other is the East Bay. As much as I love my birth mother and could write infinitely about how incredible she is, I am going to focus instead on my secondary mother (sorry Mom!). In many senses Mama Eastbay has had quite a hand in raising me. I was born into her air, was filled by her spirit, given sight by her colorful life, and learned to walk on the cracked sidewalks of her foundation. On a most culturally diverse street in Oakland she showed me the many faces of human life. These faces were not just white, black, brown but also Catholic, Hindu, poor, racist, divorced, overweight, hippie, you-name-it.

Just a few blocks down from the proclaimed “ghetto” in one direction and another few blocks from the rolling hills of upper-middle-class San Leandro in the other, I was reared in the heart of the East Bay’s maternal warmth. Now don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t always so warm. She took a ‘no-bullshitting’ kind of hand with me, was real right from the start. She wanted me to see everything she was made of: the violence, the gangs, the politics, the protests, the poverty but also the ethnic diversity, the beauty, the vibrancy, the religion. Humanity! She showed me her soul; raised me against the background of trees chained by human arms; moved my body to the beat of her “ ‘93 ‘Til Infinity” and Digital Underground hip-hop theme songs; preached to me through the voice of a lesbian priest; radiated through paintbrush strokes on Berkeley’s Peace Wall; sang to me in the hummed tune of one hundred Cherokee voices at a powwow; pulled me out of school to hold up a sign with the face of Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams’ on it; reached through me and wrapped my arms around Charlie the homeless man every Thursday after work. She was a shelter and a haven yet never lacking in serendipity and always fast-balling another challenge at me when I felt like I knew it all. As a mother often does, she raised me curious, hungry for the world, and confident enough to leave the safety of her arms.

So I ventured out and found myself not far from home in Los Angeles. The truth is that I am one of those who had fallen so incredibly in love with California that after high school I just couldn’t bear to leave it. Thus, I set my sights on LA with big expectations and little preparation for the life Miss Westside of Los Angeles was about to show me.

Mallory Massie


Blogger j said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 5, 2011 at 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Jordan Bunger said...

love the digital underground reference!

Im thinking you don't need the first paragraph. Starting with "My whole life i have had two mothers" will flow real well. And to make up for the lost words, you could expand on La's relation to the east bay
I love the east bay mother analogy, i think that's awesome.
Great job!

February 5, 2011 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this piece. I especially love how you take in some of the stereotypes and accept them, then say there is more. The mother reference was a really nice way of introducing it too. Great job!

Michelle M

February 9, 2011 at 11:25 AM  

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