Monthly Archives: July 2021

Eve Adams: A Life that Should Not Be Prettified

photo of Eve AdamsLaurie and Debbie say:

Eve Adams is the subject of a recent New York Times “Overlooked” obituary by Emily Palmer,  in the series featuring people who should have been remembered in the obituary section, but were not.  (Of course, the obit is behind the Times’ paywall.)

The article frames her, accurately enough, as

an outspoken gay writer and Polish Jew in an often homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant America in the 1920sand ’30s, one who published an early example of American lesbian literature written by a lesbian.Her “Lesbian Love,” a collection of short stories and illustrations, was published in February 1925. Written under the pseudonym Evelyn Addams, it explores the sexual awakenings and gender-defying nature of several dozen women of varying social pedigrees whom Adams had met in Greenwich Village and in her travels around the country as a roving saleswoman of revolutionary multilingual periodicals.

She had quite a biography:

Preferring men’s clothes and women’s company, Adams lived her life boldly at a time when the world considered the only decent way to live it was to keep it behind closed doors. She counted among her friends the anarchists and revolutionaries Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman as well as the taboos-shattering author Henry Miller.The United States government considered Adams an “agitator,” records show. Headed by J. Edgar Hoover, the “Radical Division” of the agency that would become the F.B.I. had been charged with spying on her since at least 1919.She was arrested in 1927 by an undercover police officer, Margaret M. Leonard, who had walked into Eve’s Hangout and obtained a copy of “Lesbian Love.” The book was deemed indecent, and Adams was held on several charges, including disorderly conduct. She was convicted and spent 18 months in jail before being deported to Poland on Dec. 7, 1927.

Jewish. Lesbian. Deported. To Poland. In 1927.

The rest of the story gruesomely writes itself.

By June 1940, as German troops were approaching Paris, [Adams and her partner Hella Oldstein Soldner] fled to the south of France. There are suggestions in the research about them that they may have aided the Resistance. The women were arrested while living in Nice and hauled to the Drancy internment camp in Paris in December 1943.Later that month they were crammed, with about 850 Jews, onto cattle cars headed for Auschwitz, according to Nazi police records. The journey took three days. Just 31 of the group lived to see liberation, in 1945, and though there is no record of their deaths at the camp, Adams and Soldner were not among them.

Palmer chose in her obituary to focus on Adams as a gay pioneer, a worldly trailblazer, and to end the article on an inspirational note. She doesn’t paper over Adams’ fate, but neither does she give it much attention.

When we look at this obituary, we see the story of a talented, committed, radical woman who was made unwelcome in her adopted country and sent back to a world where Jews had always been under siege and in danger. She was unwelcome anywhere, and despite everything she did to make a good life for herself, she was eventually destroyed for some combination of her religious/ethnic background and her sexual preference.

As a culture, we are almost unwaveringly committed to telling stories with hopeful conclusions, to turning our eyes away from the torture, the genocide, the abuse. We find some “inspiration” to hang onto, leaving the people who experience the unspeakable horrors to be forever alone with their memories — if they live to have memories at all. And when people do survive, we insist that their survival is enough to constitute a happy ending.

Eve Adams is worth remembering both for her accomplishments and for her fate. In the end, in the hell of the camps, who she was, what she wrote, who she loved, and what she believed was dissolved and erased. Everyone who died in the camps, everyone who dies at the hands of the police, everyone who is deported today to a dangerous homeland, everyone who dies of abuse of any sort should be remembered both for their individuality and for their common experience. The celebrated and deported Lesbian activist writer dies next to the housewife who never left her home village, and nothing about any of their deaths is inspirational, or hopeful.

======================

Follow Debbie on Twitter.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.

======================

 

 

Sleep: Everyone Needs It, but Who Gets It?

Black man in bed awake, hands clasped on foreheadDebbie says:

Katherine Ellison’s article, “The Great Sleep Divide,” in Knowable Magazine/Ars Technica, applies a race and class analysis to the human need for sleep. While her findings are not surprising, they are troubling … and valuable.

it turns out that the poor, as well as socially disadvantaged racial minorities, sleep much less well on average than the rich, which can take a major toll on their physical and mental health.

As Ellison explains, lack of sleep is a major problem in the United States: huge percentages of adults and teens don’t get the recommended number of hours of sleep, and a quarter of  us suffer from actual insomnia (this got worse during the pandemic, as you might expect). And lack of sleep has long been known to have long-term, sometimes catastrophic, health effects, including increases in frequency of cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Researchers have only comparatively recently started to delve into the socioeconomic factors that impact sleep:

Over the years, researchers repeatedly have found evidence that people in poverty get less sleep than those with more money. In 2013, for instance, a large CDC survey found that 35.2 percent of people earning below the poverty level reported sleeping less than six hours in an average 24-hour period, compared with 27.7 percent of those earning more than four times the poverty level.

The disparities are even sharper among racial groups. A rigorous 2015 study involving both lab tests and self-reports from more than 2,000 US participants found that, compared with whites matched for age and sex, Blacks were five times as likely to sleep for shorter periods. [About twice as many Hispanics and Chinese Americans get insufficient sleep than whites.] …

As we all know from our own experience, sleep isn’t only quantitative, it’s qualitative:

As [Girardin] Jean-Louis [a sleep researcher at New York University] and other researchers have found, Blacks tend to spend less time than whites in slow-wave sleep, the deep slumber that supports physical and mental health. In a longitudinal study involving home and lab studies of 210 elderly people, including 150 African Americans, Jean-Louis is exploring the degree to which this deficit may contribute to higher rates of heart disease and dementia.

The best thing about Ellison’s article is that it actually addresses solutions and clarifies that sleep issues are systemic and social, not purely individual.

Sleep has traditionally been seen as a purely individual responsibility: don’t drink coffee at night; keep the room dark; don’t look at your phone in bed, etc., etc. [Wendy] Troxel [of the RAND Corporation], Jean-Louis and other scientists argue that we need to widen our perspective to reimagine sleep as a public health opportunity.”

One clearly helpful intervention, not too difficult to implement, is changing school hours (which of course impact parents and teachers as well as students):

Major national debate has focused on one relatively straightforward change, which scientists contend could help tens of millions of Black, white, rich, and poor children and their families sleep better: namely, delaying school start times by as much as an hour. The science is solid. For their physical and mental health, teens need a lot more sleep than they’re getting.

Many school districts that have moved back their starting clocks have seen benefits including more alert students, better academic outcomes, and fewer car accidents. So far, however, fewer than 20 percent of US middle and high schools have made the change, Troxel notes. (When schools closed for the pandemic, many set their remote schedules later, and some surveys of students suggest that this has allowed students more sleep.)

Class and race inequality pervade all aspects of our lives: this is one where we can make improvements both systemically and in our own networks.

Now go get some sleep!

Follow Debbie on Twitter.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.