D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: christ and pop culture

update city

 

 

how we be rollin' these days

how we be rollin' these days

 

 

heyo. A few things have happened in my real life that has made it hard to update you all about my writing life. But for now I am sitting in a house (housesitting) while my baby naps and my 4 year old watches Spongebob, so I may as well do it now. 

 

1. Firstly, for the month of July I had the incredible honor of being Image Journal's Artist of the month. Seriously, the nice things they said about me almost made me cry. They also re-designed their website and it is AMAZING. Plus, they went ahead and made their content more accesible, so if you never got the chance to read what I wrote for them, now is the time! Be warned: this particular essay is probably one of the bleakest I have ever written, and in a sense I was trying to explain what it means to burn out AS you are burning out in a literary fashion. Anyways, here is a link to that piece: The Rule of Life.

 

2. Secondly, I also had the honor of receiving the VanderMey NonFiction prize from Ruminate Magazine. If you have never heard of Ruminate, you might want to remedy that right now. It is an absolutely gorgeous journal, chock full of art and poetry and a bit of prose, and it feels incredibly fresh and awake to me. If you only had the choice to subscribe to a few journals, I would put this in the top of your list. 

Anyways, I submitted an essay to their non-fiction contest and in return got some lovely words from none other than Scott Russell Sanders himself (squee!). Which just goes to show: submit, submit, submit! While you can't read the essay online, you can buy PDF versions of the journal for the bargain price of $5

 

3. Thirdly I, like everyone else in the world, wrote about Harper Lee's new book Go Set A Watchman. I had a bit of a controversial take on it (spoiler: I think GSAW was her original intent all along). You can go on over to The Curator to read the rest

 

4.  And lastly, I wrote an intense little piece about Cosby, Dr. Dobson, and not raising polite kids over at Christ and Pop Culture. I have to be honest and say I did not think this essay would blow up like it would, but so far it seems to be resonating with a lot of people. You can go on over and read it here

 

 

Well, when I type it all out it certainly gives me the illusion that I have been productive in spite of living out of a suitcase for the past month or so. Even though our car broke down (for good) and we don't have jobs yet, things are looking up for the ol' Mayfields. We move into an apartment on Wednesday and I am sure at some point I will tell you all about it. I just can't seem to help myself.

 

 

 

 

A round-up, of sorts

 

So, I keep forgetting to post things here that I have written in other places. If you have some time this weekend for reading, here are a few pieces I have published (plus a very special essay by a friend that I implore you to read). 

 

1. A Review of On Immunity by Eula Biss

This review (done for Books and Culture) turned out to be more timely than I could have imagined (measles outbreak, anyone?) The thing I appreciate about Biss more than anything is the fact that she has so much compassion and empathy and understands why parents fear vaccinations, but she also lays out the case for how harmful individualized choices are for the community. As someone who has always felt uneasy about vaccinations (yet I got them on schedule for my daughter) this book put me solidly in the camp of pro-vaccines due to what my theology of interconnectedness already is. For those who are similarly in a middle-ground place, this is a smart, compelling, lovely read that forces us to consider how much we do or do not love our neighbors (in a myriad of ways). 

Here is the beginning of the review:

 

 

"Reading On Immunity: An Inoculation, I am unprepared to be plunged back into the high drama of first motherhood: the sleepless nights, the endless internet articles sent by earnest and well-meaning friends, the googling of symptoms, that sensation of closing the laptop with a deep unease in my stomach. I suddenly remember my daughter, six months old, happily splashing in her baby bathtub as I hovered over her. I remember vague recollections of an article where Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo had been linked to chemicals which might cause cancer. I remember absorbing the information, adding it to the litany of cautions and chastisements that had begun the moment I had learned I was pregnant. Watching my daughter gleefully slap and smash the bubbles, I felt a deep despair settle over me, staring at that tell-tale yellow bottle. Of course we, and everyone else we knew, used Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. It was the cheapest one available. We were living in low-income housing, surrounded by families hovering near the poverty line. I watched my daughter play in her bath, both frightened and paralyzed by all that I knew. I chose to comfort myself with the blackest of thoughts. Well, if my daughter gets cancer, at least she will get cancer with all of the other poor children. I told this to my husband, wild with futility. He gently suggested that perhaps I needed to take a break from reading articles on the internet.

As Eula Biss would point out, I am but one of a slew of mothers who are trying to outrun the fears of our age. My desire to protect, to love, to nurture, to make all the right informed decisions, can be traced back to the mother of Achilles, who dipped her own baby into the River Styx in order to protect him from harm. On the cover of On Immunity, we see the mother, holding her upside-down fat cherub of a child. We see her fingers grasped around his heel, preparing to dip him into immortality. We know, of course, how this story ends. How the very place she clutches her child will, in the end, cause his undoing.

Biss takes this as her starting point in a book that is not neatly categorizable. It is a book about Achilles’ mother, and it is a book about current Western obsessions with self-preservation, especially in regard to our own children. Using vaccines as a metaphor for our fears, Biss writes a series of short, interconnected essays to highlight how—well, how very interconnected our fears, hopes, and bodies are. It is an argument for a very un-American view of science. It asks us to believe in myths, and it asks us to look at the preservation of an entire community instead of the individual."

Read the rest of the review here

 

 

2. A small piece of writing advice

I wrote a little bit about the best piece of writing advice I have heard in recent years over at Good Letters. If there is one faux pas of the novice (or experienced) writer that bugs me more than anything it is endless self-promotion without regard for the sharing the quality work of others. The second one would be when big name people pick on the little guys--this happened to me in a startling way this summer and I just couldn't figure out why famous people would feel the need to quash someone so obviously less-established, and in a very offhand way at that (to be clear, definitely think that criticism plays a role in refining art, just not a fan of people taking a piss at others in order to feel good about themselves/their work/their views). Anyways, let's all take a moment to reflect on how we can be more generous in sharing the work of other creatives. Here is the beginning of the piece:

 

 

“'I want to write,' people often tell me, eager to talk about the myriad ways that this happens in our mysterious, internet-driven world.

Writing means different things to different folks: “I want to get published,” or “I want to be seen,” or “I want to be heard,” or “I want to change the world.” This last one, so full of hubris and hope, is especially dear to me, and the trap I fall into the easiest.

I try and encourage others the best I can, mindful of the journey I have been on, and how I am only at the beginning. But the best thing I can say to anyone who wants to write is this: you have to be a reader, and you have to be a generous one.

Writing was never a part of my plan A: at six years old I told my family I was going to be a missionary to Madagascar, and while the geography changed, the vocation remained. Over the past few years, the combination of my chaotic life coupled with a need to process led me to start writing, and I was astonished by the community and solidarity I began to discover."

 

Read the rest over at Good Letters here. 

 

 

3. A Guest Post

My friend Martyn is one of my favorite new writers. Everything he does is surprising--which ain't easy when you try and write for evangelicals. He writes a column for Christ and Pop Culture that basically has iconic status now, where he takes an object steeped in Christian culture and writes an essay that somehow always makes one ponder death and life and human fragility and resurrection. He is like super smart and has some sort of high-end philosophy degree. He is a shooting star, and I don't know where he will land. 

Anyways, he is getting married and asked for people to guest post for him for a bit so I wrote a little something about missionary maps (it's also very personal, which is par for the course for me I guess). Here's the start of the piece:

 

 

"The little blonde girl stands in the foyer, thick bangs in her eyes, and stares up at the large map of the world tacked to the wall of the church. At the top of the map it says that phrase she has heard her entire life: “Go Ye Into All the Earth and Create Disciples.” She reads it again.

“Go Ye.” She has memorized the shape of the continents; she knows a bit about most of them (the starving babies in Africa, the orphans in Russia, the communists in China, the shirtless cannibals in Southeast Asia); she knows all of their wants, both spiritual and material; she knows how much they need her. When will she grow, when will it be her time to go, when will all of those other verses she memorizes on Wednesday nights to get fake plastic jewels in her fake plastic AWANA crowns apply to her?

Blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news. She looks down at her own feet, clad in scuffed Mary Janes. She looks at the map again. There are faces pasted all over, portraits of families and singles, spread wide over the earth. She cannot see the feet in most of the pictures, just the smiling faces, the nicely brushed hair, the polo shirts and khaki pants. The families with the multiple children, serving in the Congo, in Guatemala, in India. The young marrieds in Russia, in China. The single women, posing alone and strong, scattered all over the map.

“Go Ye,” says the sign above the map, and the young girl stares hard at the ones who were good enough to obey. It is easy enough for her to imagine her picture up there in a few years, her hair cut short and efficient, her blessed feet clad in sensible shoes. Perhaps she will be a Bible smuggler, or an orphanage director, or an open-air preacher in the refugee camps. Her dreams fill up the map; she is not called to one specific area. She wants to live everywhere, do all the important work, save all the souls."

 

You can read the rest of the piece here. And be sure to check out the other columns!

 

 

4. The Proper Weight of Fear

Now, I did not write this next piece but my good friend Rachel Pieh Jones did and it is stunning--so stunning, that I wanted to make sure I shared it with all of you. Rachel lives in Djibouti and lives the most fascinating, authentic life. My life is very far away from hers yet we are connected in so many ways (the apartments she writes about living in Minneapolis, where she first met all her Somali friends, is where I currently teach). It is a great look into the culture and climate of Somalia too, for those of you who are interested (or obsessed, like myself). It is a long, lush read, so I suggest taking some time this weekend to sit down with a cup of coffee and savoring it. Here's the beginning of the piece:

 

"As soon as the Jubba Airways plane lands I fold in on myself. I tug on my black scarf with fringes and a maroon hem, settle it over the masar that already tightly conceals my curly blond hair. I defer to my husband. I disembark behind him. I keep my eyes on the ground. I don’t smile at the immigration officer, make small talk, or even look at the Somali man with the power to deny me entry. I’ve been here before, to Somaliland, done these things before.

So when the woman behind me presses her large purse with the gaudy gold buckle and her massive breasts into my back in a futile attempt at moving forward in line, I press back. I speak in a voice even more hushed than my normally quiet voice. I notice the color of my ankles, peachy beige, and the way they flash, scandalously, if the wind blows just so and lifts my long black dress.

The first time I landed in Hargeisa was in 2003. Less than a year later my family was part of an evacuation of all foreigners, after three expatriates were murdered.

Annalena Tonelli.

Richard Eyeington.

Enid Eyeington.

Annalena was shot in the head in the dirt lot outside her tuberculosis/HIV clinic in Boroma, a ten-minute walk from our house in the village that we referred to as the end of the earth. Her murder is still unsolved. Richard and Enid were English teachers in an even more remote village. Drive to Boroma and keep on driving, over the edge of the end of the earth, and you will find yourself in Sheikh. The couple was shot through the windows of their home there while watching television in the evening. Their murderer was put on death row, where he remains. I sometimes wonder who died first, if they knew what was happening, if they tried to grasp hands in the space between the living and the dying. Their maid found their bodies the next morning. The television was still on.

I never met the Eyeingtons but their death has shaped the past ten years of my life. I never met them but I attended their memorial service in Nairobi, Kenya. I wanted to memorialize what they had given to Somalia and what we all had lost. A life. A dream. Educating leaders in a country awkwardly and painfully pulling itself out of hell. I never met the Eyeingtons but I will never forget them."

 

 

You can read the rest of Rachel's piece over at The Big Roundtable. 

 

 

So that's it. Have a great weekend, everyone. I am going to take my daughter swimming for the first time this winter and then spend my weekend in a training learning how to work with traumatized people. You know, like you do. 

 

 

Women, Infants, Children

us, just trying to survive.  

It's been a rough few weeks on the internet. I have wanted to write about violence, #yesallwomen, abusers, rape apologetics, and #howoldwereyou; instead I wrote an essay about WIC.

 

Of course, it really isn't about WIC (or Whole Foods for that matter). It's really about a much bigger issue that creeps into my bones: how much I would like to forget about the most vulnerable. In my life, there have been a few times I have been confronted with this, and in the end it is better to face it than explain or medicate or wish it away. The world has always had a hierarchy that was very much at odds with the kingdom of God, and it still continues to do so. Every day I see the fruit of this, teaching English to women who were never allowed to step foot inside a classroom before--due to outright discrimination or due to the constraints of crushing poverty.

I suppose this piece comes out of a renewed sense of wondering how our family is going to grow and the frailties inherent in all of our options. I am also thinking about the meals my daughter eats at the park, all the children who come to get fed. I am thinking about my own #howoldwereyou story, which I would much rather forget. I am thinking about a God who is so relentlessly for the vulnerable that I feel nearly swallowed up in his love.

So it's not really about WIC. But it is about the good news, for people who tend to not experience very much good in our current world.

 

 

Here's the beginning of the piece:

 

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. - Jeremiah 22:3

The other day, I walked into a Whole Foods to pick up a few items, my WIC vouchers in hand. I have the luxury of thinking carefully about my food purchases. My husband and I do not want to support the torture of animals, and we do want to put money back into the hands of our local economy. We try to eat more in-season, locally, organic, fair-trade. We still, however, sit somewhat close to the poverty line, and we have had to make a few sacrifices. Less meat, more beans. Rice and pasta to tide us over. Eating what is on sale, doing without non-essentials like alcohol or snack foods.

The WIC vouchers help too (especially in more expensive stores like Whole Foods). I wandered the aisles, looking at the beautifully stocked shelves, until I found a clerk at the back of the store. “Do you participate in the WIC program?” I asked. He had never heard of it before, but his female co-worker was sure that the store did. I didn’t see any of the tell-tale blue stickers placed under the proper cereal boxes or bags of dried beans, but I took her at her word. As I queued up to pay and saw the look of confusion on the cashier’s face (male, hipster glasses) when I handed over my voucher, my stomach started to sink. As the line piled up behind me I tried to explain what the WIC program was.

The boy was interested, but he had never heard of it. He called his manager and confirmed what I already knew. Whole Foods did not participate in the program. I left my small bag of groceries at the register and walked out the door, trying to keep my smile bright. I went home and e-mailed the customer service team, who responded to me within several days. “Unfortunately,” they wrote, “we cannot participate in the WIC program” due to conflicts with “quality” in regards to specific products such as infant formula. It was short, conciliatory, dismissive. It was clear that they did not need my business, nor the business of anyone who found themselves in need of a little assistance when feeding their children.

The e-mail brought me back into those harrowing first months of my daughter’s life: due to a vicious medical emergency, she was born nearly 2 months early and I was left without the ability to breastfeed her. I was sad and shaken up by my traumatic birth experience, grieving the loss of my ability to feed my own child. I remembered the price of formula, the staggering realization that it would cost us upwards of $150 a month. Due to both my medical emergency and the financial strain of losing work hours, WIC was a godsend in the area of feeding the baby. I had never felt more vulnerable in my life, both physically and financially.

In a flash, as I deleted the e-mail from Whole Foods, I was reminded of my vulnerabilities all over again. And I did not like it.

//

Go on over to Christ and Pop Culture to read the rest.

 

 

Expensive Narratives: Captain Philips and the Somali Community

I watched the Oscars on Sunday (how did I make it through award shows before the snarky, humorous insights of Twitter?) and I rooted for my boy, Barkhad Abdi. Even though I knew it was a long shot for him to win Best Supporting Actor, it was still surreal to see one of my neighbors, a Cedar Riverside proud Somali boy, walking that red carpet. And it made me long for the day when actors like Barkhad and Lupita have thousands of roles to choose from--and they don't just have to play pirates or slaves.  

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I recently wrote about what it's been like to be at the periphery of the East African diaspora in America. Every day I am astonished at who is carving out a life in this frozen tundra of a land (Lewis and Clark deemed it "inhabitable" back in the day, and I am inclined to agree with them). I find myself living and working in the heart of a community which is complicated, inspiring, thriving--and repeatedly misrepresented by the media.

I haven't written too much about my personal life here, for many reasons. The spotlight on Barkhad Abdi and his role in Captain Philips made for a timely piece, and it finally felt appropriate for me to share my own experiences here.  While I am not an expert on Somalis or the East African community, I believe that it might be helpful for other outsiders like myself to get a peek at a different narrative than the one we are being told over and over again.

Here's the beginning:

 

 

My friend was celebrating Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic holiday commemorating the feast of Abraham, like everyone else was: by going to the Mall of America. I went with her and her family, wearing the clothes she had given me for the occasion. My dress was colorful and flowy; we wandered around the mall and people-watched. It was still a bit early, but the large East African diaspora in the middle of the Midwest was already beginning to pour in. Families, as far as the eye can see, laughing husbands, smiling mothers, children running and shrieking, everyone dressed up in their best clothes, shopping, riding the carousel. I followed my friends, insecure in my outfit, feeling like an imposter or worse—someone playing dress up. The clothes that hung so elegantly on my friends looked like a costume on me, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had done something wrong, just by trying to fit in, to look like everyone else, to celebrate a day and a culture that is not my own.

After a few hours, my friend took off to go see the movie Captain Phillips in the the theater, while I headed home. Later, I asked her what she thought of the film. Oh my gosh, she said, it was amazing. Really? I asked, slightly taken aback. Yeah, she said, the whole theater couldn’t stop laughing. Laughing? I asked, at what? Isn’t it a sad movie?

Yeah, I know, she said, but we couldn’t help it! Although I was a little worried—the few white people in the theater started staring at all of us. But any time one of the Somali boys on-screen would start talking, we would start to laugh. It was just so funny to see them up there, talking in Somali.

Why was it so funny? I asked, still confused.

She turned to look at me, and said it matter-of-fact: because we had never heard anyone speak Somali in a movie before. It was so strange, and so, so funny.  She paused a beat, and then acknowledged: even if what they were saying wasn’t really funny at all.

Go to Christ and Pop Culture to read the rest. The piece is an exclusive feature that has been shared with you but is otherwise available only in Volume 2, Issue 5 of the Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. For more features like this, download our app for iPad and iPhone from Apple’s App Store.  More information here.

Christmas in 4 movies

Merry Christmas Eve, ya'll!

I wrote an essay on Christmas for Christ and Pop Culture. Of course I talk about advent, Home Alone, and the Abominable Snowman. I can't really think of another publication that would let me write about all three.

Truly, the best part of this essay is that Seth T. Hahne made an illustration for it. You can check out more of his work at goodokbad.

 

Here is the image (which I am now going to send to everyone in my family--Merry Christmas, guys!):

 

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So, see if you can guess which 4 movies I use to illustrate my changing perspective on the Christmas Season. And then go here to read the entire essay.

 

Also, my amazing friend Amy Lepine Peterson wrote her own essay on Christmas and movies. It is much smarter and better written than mine, and is also in the same issue of Christ and Pop Culture. You can read that one (which talks more about White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life) here.

 

Happy reading, and happy Home Alone-watching. 

 

 

 

 

Column

hey guys. i don't always call attention to my other writings on the internet in this space, but today my column over at Christ and Pop Culture is deeply important to me. i am writing about abuse in Christian communities, and our need for awareness in regards to who abusers are and how long-standing their damage can be.  

i wish i didn't know so much about this subject. i wish i didn't need to tell you about it either. but would you take a look and commit to being vigilant in bringing darkness to light? can we change the myths we tell our children and ourselves and face the truth? can we speak openly about sexual abuse within our churches? it is my firm belief that only by being completely open will true peace and unity come. maybe you, like me, have been told otherwise. if you have--then i just want to say this: i'm so sorry for your experience.

 

and now is the time for everything to be made light.

Notes from the Margins

Hey all. Just wanted to let you know I am writing a bi-monthly column for Christ and Pop Culture on the topic of the kingdom of God, marginalized peoples, and popular culture. I know, right? Dream gig! My first one is (ostensibly) on Beasts of the Souther Wild, but I get to rant a little bit at the end too (read it here). I would love for any suggestions on anything pop=culture wise that you would like to be addressed. Where are people in the margins being portrayed well (Beasts of the Southern Wild)? Where are they not (um, Honey Boo Boo, reality TV in general)? And what is in that weird in-between (30 Rock, Macklemore, etc). I would love to hear some ideas, so leave them in the comments plz.  

But seriously, it is great to be able to write out some of what I am learning during my apprenticeship year with my mission organization without overstepping any personal boundaries (popular culture is quite large and anonymous). Taking a break from blogging about my personal life has already shown rich fruit in my life of journaling and prayer; meeting up with others in my organization has also lended to me not feeling so isolated and therefore "driven" to write out stories that might be shared prematurely.

 

Thanks everyone for reading the incredible posts we have had so far in the War Photographer series. I am excited to continue this conversation, and excited for the many more voices who will be added to the discussion.

 

Again, I won't be posting here every time I write my column, so if you want to stay connected you can like my FB page or follow me on Twitter.

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