Sold! Twenty-one books! Gave some away, signed them all too....
Put that to the tune of 21 Guns and you'll get an idea of how I feel right now. Rockin' Out! Open heart! White light! Camp high!
The final book sales count was the icing on the cake. The cake, and the nourishing meal that preceded it, was the completion of a year of dreaming and scheming. Tonight I launched my book to the audience I wrote it for, and by for I mean to read it and in their honor. Tonight I sat behind my table and listened to stories about an amazing moment in history, by the people who made it. Tonight it was not about me.
President Jan stood up and talked about how she came to put Mills back together after it had been torn by the drama of the strike. She led the SPAM chant—"Strong Women, Proud Women, All Women, Mills Women"—a joke I made twenty years ago when I saw the "Strong Women, Proud Women, Mills Women, All Women" slogan (but took a stand against it in my book). We watched the old documentary and everyone told stories that filled in some of the mysteries. Did you know Mills College is the ONLY women's college that decided to go co-ed and then reversed the decision? One woman told about her school back east, Wells, that decided to go co-ed. The students went on a six week strike, including a 30-day hunger strike and a fundraising campaign, all to no avail. They let men in, and three quarters of the students left. Mills is the only women's college that mustered all its forces to make and keep its commitment.
I stood up and spoke a little, about how when I arrived at the strike there was nothing I could do to help, just observe. I was too stunned to speak, but I found my voice through drawing. Tonight I finally made my contribution. By helping the alumnae and the student activities office organize this emotion-filled evening of conversation and memory—a book launch party about something much greater than my book.
All night long some guy from the LA Times -- yes, THAT L.A. Times -- kept taking my picture. (I'm sure everyone felt the same way.) I was too surprised to protest. I was just grateful all the stress had subsided, and my cold sore had healed just in time. But the part my heart loved best was seeing old friends who have grown twenty years older, and who have become more of who they are. Kind of like I have.
At the end of the event, the Director of Student Life took the mike and sang "We are gentle, angry people, who are singing, singing for our lives." I hummed along. Then she sang, "We are perfectly revolting people..." And then the rowdy war-heroines of 1990 started chanting: "Woman energy! Woman energy! Women in a jeep!"
I really didn't want the night to end. I ended up sitting in the parking lot under the stars, talking to an old pal and listening to the stories of a recent grad with a bitchin' mohawk who is just getting into Roller Derby. (Ah, that old familiar would-that-I-were-queer longing...). I thanked myself for coming out to California to finish my college career at Mills. You meet the most interesting people here. And maybe, if you're lucky, you become one.