Look out world, it's time to Code Like a Girl. Ever wanted to know how to code? This is your entry. Starts with Scratch, shifts to Python. Puts together a computer from a Raspberry Pi, goes to motion sensors that send you emails. Begin with knowing very little. Leave understanding the five basics and the Internet of Things. Written with love and fascination for building things and telling stories about code and with code. Code Like a Girl is a welcoming how-to-code book for middle school girls, and for everyone.
The follow-up to The Daring Book for Girls was published during the recession of 2008. It sold very few copies, and few have heard of it. That's a shame, because the book has some good stories about the underground railroad and about cowgirls, and more stuff to keep life interesting: info on how to tie a sarong, make a labyrinth, win at scrabble with 2 and 3-letter words, turn your backyard into a farm, and much more. In the publishing world of my dreams, it is reissued as a series of five books.
The Daring Book for Girls began as a feminist dare, really. Andi and I were between books, and we were running, with Stacy DeBroff, a digital book promotion startup called MotherTalk. That's how we learned about the Dangerous Book for Boys. Sounds goo, we though, but where's the book for girls? Turns out there was none, so we had to write it, which we did in the summer of 2007. No way were we going to let the boys have all the outdoors, make-it break-it learn-it fun for themselves. My fave chapters include, well, all of them, as well as the punk-themed Daring Book trailer.
I wrote this book while trying to understand my new life as a parent and a mother, once my first daughter was born. It was my first attempt to write a popular book, to crossover from academe and to experiment with a non-fiction voice that was ever more personal. I wanted to create a book about motherhood that didn't give up, which looked across class and race lines, and which didn't pretend that women are superhumans who can do everything. The truth? It's the system, not we individuals, that constrain our choices. Until that changes, no mother, parent or child wins.
"Miriam Peskowitz offers a dramatic revision to our understanding of early rabbinic Judaism. Using a wide range of sources―archaeology, legal texts, grave goods, technology, art, and writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin―she challenges traditional assumptions regarding Judaism's historical development." This description stands. Spinning Fantasies is the book that emerged from my dissertation. In it I experimented with a writing voice for ancient history that is personal; not memoirish, but personal, close, and takes history seriously. lts exploration of the cultural construction of the "ordinary tedium of everyday life" and how that creates meaning is still something that animates my writing. It was part of the University of California Press' Contraversions series of studies in Jewish literature, culture and society. Amazingly for an academic book, it's still in print.
Now you know how I spent my late 20's: "Judaism Since Gender offers a radically new concept of Jewish Studies, staking out new intellectual terrain and redefining the discipline as an intrinsically feminist practice." While Laura Levitt and I were assistant professors we wrote our individual first books (hers was Jews and Feminsm: the Ambivalent Search for Home) and we edited this anthology. We were young. We were brash. We decided to take an entire field of classical knowledge and transform it.
The book contains my classic essay, "Engendering Jewish Religious History." In Spinning Fantasies I wrote about physical tools that people used. Here, I wrote about having a critical and analytical toolbox, and what that means. I love this book, love that Routledge published it in the late 90's when the press was doing so much to spread the discipline of cultural studies, and love that this book, too, is still in print and still being read.
HarperCollins asked us to create two pocket versions of The Daring Book for Girls, each including some writing from the original book and some new chapters. We split them into things to do and things to know, which in the big book are interlaced. I'm not sure I agree with that split philosophically; I rather like the intertwining of heart and brain and hand. But these books have remained popular with readers, likely because they are much lighter to carry in your travel bag than the original.
The Daring Book for Girls has been translated and published across the globe, with special English-language editions for the UK and for Australia, and over 12 translations, including French, German, Icelandic, Turkish, Hebrew, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish.
Technology Year is a memoir of learning code, as a woman in my 50s. (And that's a photo of Wiggles, my dog, a rescued pit bull, on one of our daily morning walks in the woods. These walks are the anchor of my social life; I'm much more fun and interesting and present in the morning woods than I am at a coffee shop or restaurant or party. The morning walks are a mainstay of my intellectual life, too, thanks to the other people -- artists, writers, activists, creatives of all types -- I get to talk with along the way.)
I see this work-in-process in a continuum with Beauty Routines, one of my earliest published pieces, which sketched out daily learning as a core beauty routine, and played with incorporating brainwork into our assumed notions of femininity.
When I was 30 and a young professor at the University of Florida I opened a manilla folder, scribbled "Ancient Queens" on the tab and began tossing my notes inside. A quarter century later there's a full rough draft that syncs between my hard drive and the cloud. Over time the story changed to become about a queen and the ancient historian who wrote about her, and about the curiosities of the histories that have preserved the evidence of their lives. Queen Artemesia of Halicarnassus had Herodotus, the Father of History. Queen Salome Alexandra of Judea had Josephus Flavius, historian of the Jews. The draft ends with Queen Helena, one-time barmaid and the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Helena traveled widely through Roman-controlled lands and became an archaeologist and historian of the life of Jesus, who had preceded her by a few centuries. Helena was perhaps one of the first women to take on the role of being the historian, in charge of actively creating knowledge about the past.
As I searched my own archive more fully, I found several other works-in-progress, Likely the completion of these will wait until my active duties as a householder and parent are fulfilled. One of these works-in-progress is a book called The Daring Workshop; it's a kind of implementation of what it means to be daring, active, or at least to figure out the first step forward. Another is based on the first research project I did as a post-academic: a personal anthropology of Bible Theme Parks across the US. (One part of this was published as "Passing/Moses' Wilderness Tabernacle".)
There's also a half-done draft of a book called Archive of My Childhood, which is about the NYC-based psychoanalytic experimental trial I was enrolled in as an infant. So far, this work tracks what it's like to find my growing self narrated in a series of Freudian-influenced books, and see myself as a baby in a film made by the project and circulated through Psychology 101 classrooms. The project turned out to be less about us kids, and more about which mothers were or weren't good enough.
©2019 Miriam Peskowitz