gentle reading list for the tired soul

Museum of Modern Love

There hasn’t been a lot of fiction reading happening lately so I took to the socials asking for book recommendations. Criteria of no rape, murder, kidnapped or neglected children. I’m sure you get the picture. The list below is still growing, please feel free to add recommendations. I feel we could all do with a list like this right now.

I kicked off  my reading with The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. It was loaned by a friend and delivered to my door by another (thanks and big love Mig and Trish). As soon as I started reading I knew my tired soul was in good hands. Its a delight!

White Houses – Amy Bloom

Space Opera – Catherynne M Valente

The Summer Book – Tove Jansson

Liaden Universe – Sharon Lee/Steve Miller

The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal

The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami

Babel 17 – Samuel Delaney

Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose

Belonging by Toko-pa Turner

The Years of Rice and Salt  – Kim Stanley Robinson

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simpson

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life in the slow lane


I started the day feeling guilty because I ran out of steam last night and didn’t bake biscuits to bring in to our Transgender Day of Visibility morning tea.

Its not until the 31st of March, but we celebrated early.

Anyway, as I churned up and down Fitzroy pool I was thinking about guilt and shame…..about the emotional labour of donning my bathers and walking out to the pool without covering my fat body with a towel. Of feeling like I don’t deserve to take up space alongside all the super fit dawn swimmers.

And I was thinking about how delighted I was when I heard Darebin Council had their first trans & gender diverse swim night, and thought about the bigger picture – how traumatising local pools can be for many folks in my community.

So I forgave myself and went along to morning tea empty handed. Someone else had baked (yay)!

I’m still hoping to write more about gender and archival description. Right now I’m in stage 1 of how to be a better ally; the listening, thinking and reading stage.

When I got out of the pool I took a selfie. Because fuck shame, right?

me pool

** Check out for some reading or follow them on twitter @TransGenderVic



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unmetered supply


I just spent a week in North Carolina for the SNCA18 Conference and discovered that it is poutine that makes me happy. Also (things I already knew); archives conferences, GLAM folk, snow, feminism, historical sites, eating ice cream with Nicola, radical empathy, having my heart expanded, and my brain stretched, and adorable lift signs in old libraries.

Rubenstein Library, Duke University


Before I left, I wrote this next bit.

If you follow me on twitter you may know I have been doing a 10 week Trauma Yoga course. When I signed up I was asked to complete a form with all the usual questions, injuries, allergies etc.

Close to the end were two questions that brought pause;

  1. Who are your support people, and how often do you see/speak to them?
  2. What do you value most in life?

The existential emergency was thankfully brief. I answered that the two things I value the most are my relationships and my connectedness to a sense of purpose. It’s the second I thought I would write about for March #GLAMblogclub.

Happiness is a fuzzy concept. Rafts of people have pulled their hair out trying to explain it and even more seem to have attempted to do that in a format that becomes a best selling book. This makes me feel ok about not really knowing what happiness is, or that it is something I should be striving for above all things. I’m not the first person to say this. If the number of GLAM folks in the #SadOtter fan club are anything to go by, I’m not the only one who thinks “its ok to be sad” sometimes (Sad Otter, 2018).

My parents say that the only thing they want for my brother and I is for us to be happy. I have often joked it would have been easier if they had insisted I become a doctor or a lawyer. I’ve talked before about the legacy of aspirational family dynamics. I’ll probably keep doing so. To be able to work in a field, in a job that I get so much personal satisfaction from, is a privilege I don’t take for granted.

The thing is what gives me a sense of purpose is my work and my activism. Other than a brief period in the early noughties when I was paid to milk cows and cuddle Guinea Pigs  as a community development worker at Collingwood Children’s Farm I can’t claim my work has made me happy. It often has made me feel valued, useful and that I am making a meaningful contribution. But happy? No.

In the end I don’t want to be judged on what I did to make myself happy. I hope I am judged on the contribution I made.


Spontaneous instagramming




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we are volcanoes.

“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, commencement speech to Bryn Mawr in 1986

I spoke at a records management conference last week, and joked that it was the first conference I’d been to in ages where no-one had quoted Derrida. As with a lot of humour, underneath there is an uncomfortable truth. Our uncomfortable truth is that the archival professional was built on, and continues to represent dominant, oppressive systems.

The great news is that we can do something about it. One way we can enact change immediately is in who we choose to cite, or give voice to. In our papers, our talks, our blogs. We  also nudge the revolution along every time we buy a book or watch a movie or a play written by someone who isn’t a cisgendered pale male .

Sarah Ahmed has written extensively about her citation policy. She states “Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow” (Ahmed, 2017).

               Helene Cixous is a post-structuralist, feminist, and contemporary of Derrida’s.    Since I discovered her, every time I think about Derrida, I now also think about Cixous.

Its that easy.


Oh, and how have I chiselled this into the February #GLAMblogclub theme? Its time to stop watching, and start acting.


Ahmed, S. 2017 Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press. Durham and London.

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humbling along



This is a quick emotional muster at the start of the week.

Yesterday I spent the day at our Victorian Greens Women’s Network Conference.  As part of an exercise we discussed women as leaders and what some of the qualities were in women that we admired. This morning I’m trying to quickly unpack why I had an instant and negative response to humble as a positive quality. Then I need to get on with business.

Other people have done a much better job than me at analysing qualities of women and leadership but here are a couple of of thoughts. I’m the result of aspirational family dynamics. I was encouraged to achieve but at the same time told not to get my hopes up. It was also not the done thing to sell yourself too much lest ye be accused of having tickets on yourself. The worst.

I guess you could say I was raised that being humble is a good thing.

So what happens when you grow up, become ambitious, feminist, driven? Is it possible to be all of those things and also humble?


I’m going to go with a tentative yes and shape what I mean by humble. To me it means backing yourself without diminishing others. It especially means acknowledging the contribution other people have made to your success. It means not bringing the drawbridge up after yourself, but shoving a massive stick in the cogs so that no-one else can either (sorry about mixing the metaphor, I haven’t had a coffee yet).

So, there are a few thoughts about being humble. If you have any please let me know. Go forth into the week lovelies. Back yourself, back others.

Toni Morrison

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In 2017 I…..

“We all have a certain measure of responsibility to those who have made it possible for us to take advantage of today’s opportunities”.  

Angela Davis

I’m not alone in taking on too much in 2017. There is a theme running through lots of #GLAMblogclub end of year reflections, from Annelie de Villier’s post talking about burn out and getting more balance, to Hugh Rundle’s post about (among other things) vocational calling.

The idea of professional vocation is an interesting and, as Hugh pointed out not unproblematic one. I entered the nursing profession on the heels of the nursing strikes of the 80s. A long fight for wages and professional recognition that pushed back at the socialised idea of nursing as vocation. Discussion of work that uses words like vocation and calling can invite a different expectation around pay and conditions, that we should perhaps be grateful and accept lower pay or poorer conditions or even work for free, for the privilege of doing what we love.

I see occasional references to being an archivist (or librarian etc) as a vocation and it concerns me somewhat. It is certainly blended as part of my identity but it doesn’t mean I’d do it for free. (Ok maybe I would. Its complicated). Being engaged in professional life outside of our day jobs often means committees, organising, attending workshops and conferences, reading, writing, engaging on social media, volunteering. Being politically engaged layers on another level of involvement. Perhaps the liminal spaces between these are what makes it hard to identify the boundaries between personal and professional life? It is certainly much harder to to balance ‘work’ and ‘life’ when there are no clear lines between the two. 

As we continue the conversations about activism and archival practice, I’d suggest we need to parallel it with conversations about self care.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde

I’m on board the move to push back the cult of busyness. Every time I hear myself say how busy I am I roll my eyes at myself. If we know each other moderately well I’ll be asking what you are doing to make yourself less busy.

This is not the most picturesque shot taken of Stephen and I in Iceland, but it captures a moment of breathtaking peace and happiness.


I wrote about my self care strategies in DeepSmile, I’m hoping to spruce this list up as 2018 goes along.

Here are a few of my favorite self care resources;

Plan to Thrive

Self Care Strategies for Dismantling the Patriarchy

Read more about that Audre Lorde quote here;

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chaining myself to fences and other professional development.

This is part one of two, maybe three posts about archival activism. I wanted to respond to Annelie De Villier’s excellent post and also use this as a contribution to this month’s #glamblogclub with the theme of ‘how you ended up here’.

Protective interrupting is a behavioural strategy  developed by social workers as one of a set of skills for children and young people exposed to abuse or violence. It has been part of my own skill set since the 90’s and it is only making sense, as I write this, why that might be.

These days I pull it out of my toolbox if I find myself in conversation with someone and I start to feel uncomfortable. It might be because they are sharing something I don’t feel I should know, or if boundary lines are being crossed. It might be because a third parties story is being shared. I might not be feeling safe or resilient enough to hear that story.

I went to the Australian Society of Archivists’ 2017 ‘Diverse Worlds’ conference last week prepped and ready to protectively interrupt. Nicola Laurent and I presented on Vicarious Trauma and Radical Empathy in Archival Practice. We set up the discussion with some clear guidelines around personal disclosure, confidentiality, self-care and safe (enough) spaces. It felt like all those participating responded to this respectfully and thoughtfully and no interrupting was needed.

Eileen Louden

picture taken by @EileenLouden

Creating this kind of space doesn’t happen by accident and it is extremely hard to measure. I learnt this and other skills as a young feminist activist in the 90’s, living alongside women who were working in women’s shelters, at sexual assault support services, women’s health clinics.

Together we organised and ran major events, rallies, protests, built organisations, conferences, festivals. We used nonviolent and feminist principles to underpin that work. We drove to the desert and chained ourselves to fences. We caught buses to Canberra and got sprayed with tear gas by military police. We learnt to listen, and argue, negotiate. How to take up space, create space, remove ourselves from space.

Reclaim the Night

Poster from my personal archive

I got arrested more times than I care to mention.

So what point is there to telling this story? Well, firstly I want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that some of what we built was deeply flawed. Bi phobia, transphobia, racism, ableism all existed to some extent within the constructs of our work.

To uncover and examine this structural violence requires critical self-reflection. In the archival context this requires us to examine how and why we do this work. As Scott Cline describes it “in the archivists circumstance, self-clarification is uncovering the meaning of our profession and distinguishing its inherent values” (Cline, 2009,p336).

I think what I’m trying to say is that the skills that make an activist archivist aren’t necessarily going to be taught in a Masters program. Activism can take many shapes, though, and the skills of an activist can and should be applied to change the colonialist, heteronormative, patriarchal structures that shape our current institutions.

As Cassie Findlay points out “we need to come to grips with a necessary refashioning of our professional identity” (Findlay,2016,p.158). Perhaps this new identity is one where skills such as the ones I have mentioned are considered as important as appraisal and description.


Cline, S (2009). To the Limit of Our Integrity: Reflections on Archival Being. The American Archivist, vol 72, 331-343

Findlay, C. (2016). Archival activism. Archives and Manuscripts, 44(3), 155-159


**Part two will be about professional associations and working within institutions of power. Also about citation as a political act.

***Part three will be about the silences in our descriptive schemas. I’ve been working on something for a while about gender and archival description and  I suspect I’ve been sitting on it out of fear.




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