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GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)

GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile.  It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources.  The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers.  I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.

Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s.  He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches.  Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her.  There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income.  Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.

GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly.  The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth.   There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public.  The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate.   How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?

Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil.  It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE.   The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape?  Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?

TLC Book Tours and Gival Press  sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE.   The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me.  I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values.  Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”;  she was ostracized.  Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama.   Baby!  We have not come a long way.  We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.

Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards.   GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.

Related:
The Signature of All Things
The New Men
Margaret Fuller
Supreme Justice

Anger

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

graduationI woke up angry this morning and I just jumped out of bed and figured out why.  I was angry because I was clear headed and I knew exactly what was making me seethe.

I am furious at women especially those women who keep putting other women in their place.  You know those middle class women who think they are doing good and funding a few scholarships for women and the poor.  Yes! They might even host a jumble sale or serve at a soup kitchen and think they are doing “good”.  And yet!  When push comes to shove they always can find a reason not to support another woman or to be prejudiced against a woman succeeding.  They too are always pointing out women who have succeeded as examples and then they casually snuff out any possibility that she just might be smart and capable without sexing her way to the top, cheating, or just being the meanest.

There is always that moment when you know they are complying with the rules.

I am furious at men especially those men who do not even see the women and minorities in their view.  You know, the ones who get a bump in the night or shins that they are not being open or affirming or maybe not even aware of their constituents or customer base.  When they feel the bump they ask someone else to fill the coffee pot and find them some tokens to bestow their energy upon.  Then whenever they sense that someone else is noticing they haul out their handful and display them as small and blingy.  They never see any woman or minority as anything other than their private expectation, even though they make paternalistic gestures and let their wife do the talking.

On a personal level I am furious for my daughter.   I am exhausted and fat with being furious about my own life experiences, and I will not allow those nasty awful moments to happen to my eldest daughter without speaking up and calling it out.

I am furious about my daughter’s undergraduate university.  I sent a bright, talented, beautiful assertive young woman to them and she paid all but about $1,000.00 of her way through student loans.   She won award after award, she got top honors in math, computers, and engineering and I went to the school to see her win these awards.  What I noticed was there was no money awarded with her certificates.  NONE.  She got to grade all the papers for the faculty because she was so talented, she got to set up their computer labs and instruct the others.   They did not present her to the big name companies at graduation. NO, not at all, they did not help her job hunt in the least and so she got another huge loan and went to get an animation certification at the Vancouver Film School in Canada.  Still no job offers came in for all her efforts and for all the foot work. It was very expensive.

As a matter of fact, it was her younger sister’s disability-career counselor at her university who connected the eldest with her present University Job in San Francisco.

This past spring I went to applaud loudly as she walked across the stage to receive hugs, flowers and praise from the University President, the faculty, and her advisor for her academic achievements and honors for her outstanding work on Campus.   They all came up to tell me she should go on to get her doctorate and what an amazing thinker, writer and worker she was and how she would do so well because of her brilliance. No one failed to mention how beautiful she was.

You know what was missing.  As the other graduate students accepted their Master’s degrees we also heard about the graduate studies fellowship$ they were receiving and the programs and jobs they were headed off to pursue.    I listened to all the folks around me talking about how amazing all the headhunters were to experience and all the wonder FULL offers these other students were receiving.

She received the highest academic honors everywhere she attended.  She worked hard and accomplished amazingly creative pieces of work to share, she made a difference in her program and in her university and she received gratitude for her mastery.  Where were/are the offers?  Where are the graduate school fellowships?  And Why are they not forth coming?

Is it because she did not wear a sequined colored robe or hat to the ceremony? Was it because she did not scream and yell and lose interest in other student’s awards and honors?  No, she cheered them on and was enthusiastic for each of their efforts.

It is true she does not talk a great deal, she just moves forward and does her best and problem solves and gets the job completed with creative skill and finesse.

Do women’s educational organizations come forward and say, wow this is a gorgeous, talented, smart young woman how can we make a difference and help her, how can we track down funds to assist her in meeting her goals and needs?  NOPE. They tease her about not having a boyfriend and getting married.  They suggest she should buy a house, which would be a good investment, not remembering that she has paid every penny of her own way and still has lots more to pay before she is done.

And her math genius and computer know-how seem to make those men and boys very insecure.

So here is my question to you: Where or Who is the best coach/agent/ head hunter in this academic arena whom I can hire to get her into Stanford or MIT and their doctoral programs?  Where are the grants for funds for these programs?  And where are the funds to pay off her undergraduate and graduate programs right away?   I could also use a good grant writer, because although I have great luck at getting funds for other people’s gifted daughters, I am not having luck for my own child.

There I have said it, the fury is released.  Can you pass this along to someone who might be helpful on this quest?

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Related Reading:
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Camel Pirouette
Creation
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Kind of Woman