My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Arrival and niqab

It’s a grand sight – Torontonians stumbling about in the warm air, blinking with astonishment. 13 degrees on Nov. 29th! It’s minus 13 in Britain, apparently. Here, people out in shirtsleeves and shorts. It’s a first. “It’ll come,” people say gloomily, but in the meantime, let’s get out there, into the warm bath of November air. And try not to think about the polar bears.

I have completely regained my equilibrium, though it hurts still to read the papers, hard to do so without raging. But I’m trying not to rage. What’s the point? History will judge this vile, intolerant, childish, dishonest, reprehensible man and his friends.

Several things to tell you. First, went yesterday to see Arrival, the new Denis Villeneuve movie that’s about a linguist meeting and translating for aliens in Montana – but which was shot entirely in Montreal, as the long list of French-Canadian names in the credits attests. It’s a wonderful movie, though I did have to check reviews when I got home to be sure I got it all. Thoughtful, dense and complex, with a big twist at the end. Excellent – about so much more than aliens. Though I do hope when aliens land in Montpellier, they call my linguist friend Lynn to come and translate.

Second, I have asked permission of one of last term’s students to write about her. When the classroom door opened and she walked in, I wondered how this would work – my first student wearing a niqab, completely covering her face and head, her eyes behind glasses, in a memoir class about being nakedly honest and telling the truth. I have always felt – as those of you reading here know – that the niqab is a medieval horror, a denial, ordained by men, of a woman’s most basic right, to have a face in the world.

My student turned out to be warm, honest and open, friendly and smart and a good writer. At the end of term, I wrote telling her that she had countered my prejudice. She wrote back, “I started wearing the niqab 14 years ago, at age 22, much to the consternation of my husband and both sides of our families as no one covers to this extent. I felt and still feel that it makes me closer to Allah. I find the niqab liberating and dignifying. It gives me a sense of strength; I choose what you see. 


At times I do waiver in my fervour, specially when it hinders on some activities. But never when faced with anger or contempt from perfect strangers who equate my niqab with extremism. 

I have urged her to write about this in more detail – especially important in our new age of explosive intolerance. I hope she does, and I thank her for what I have learned about mine. 
I’ve also just had some extremely nice notes from friends and students, which I’m reprinting either because I’m an impossibly vain person, or, on the other hand, an impossibly insecure person. Your choice.
From a student whose THIRD book will appear next year: It took years to write the stories for this book and you helped me immensely, you read/edited them first and gave me the encouragement and, more important, the courage to send them out into the world. My books wouldn’t exist without you. Truly. Thank you, Beth.
A spectacular success story, this student. I am one proud teacher.
From someone reading my book about my great-grandfather:
I just wanted to let you know that I am LOVING your book on Jacob Gordin. Not only is it a fascinating portrait of a great man, but it is also such a rich tapestry of his world. It is such an exciting and gratifying read. So thank you so much!
Thank you, dear reader. If it weren’t for you, our work would not be worth it.
Tonight – November 29, a mild sweet evening – I rode my bike to the U of T Faculty Club for the retirement party of my boss, Marilyn Booth, Dean of Continuing Studies, for whom I worked first at Ryerson and then at U of T. A spectacular woman. Honoured to be there to honour her. And on MY BIKE on November 29! As Lynn said, if the weather continues like this, everyone on earth will want to live in Canada. But it won’t. “It’s coming.” Take my word for it.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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