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Author: Amber Sparks

Recommended Reading on Baltimore and Beyond

I can’t possibly say anything better or more impactful or more insightful than the things said, the research done, in these pieces. And I can’t possibly not say anything about Baltimore. How could I say anything else about anything else today? So instead, here is recommended reading by more graceful minds, more informed heads, and more eloquent word makers than me. Why Baltimore Burned: “Only six miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Hollins Market,” interim Hopkins provost Jonathan Bagger said last year. “[B]ut there is a 20-year difference in the average life expectancy.” The Powerful Scene...

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(I Always Wanted) To Be a Star

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two… – from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot + “Everyday People” is the name of a single by Sly and the Family Stone, released in 1968. It contains the now famous phrase “different strokes for different folks,” which become part of the pop culture lexicon and later, the name of a television show. + Everyday people is also a phrase used often by politicians, interchangeably with the...

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Formidable Words by Some of My Favorite Formidable Women

In honor of Formidable Women Day, I’d like to let some of them speak for themselves: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and...

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On Becoming a Metaphor

I’ve been asked a few times if being pregnant has changed my mind on abortion rights, or made me more likely to oppose late term abortions. My answer? Is always, always: hell, no. I’m more supportive than ever, if anything, of a woman’s right to choose. And choose not just an abortion, but also to choose to have a child, to not have a child, to choose to use birth control or not, to have any kind of surgery she wants to, to be sexually active or completely chaste – basically, to make any decision at all involving her...

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Hi, My Name Is Amber Sparks and I Am a Failure

From time to time, someone will tell me that everything seems to come so easily for me. And whenever that happens, I’m tremendously taken aback. Because I’m not a person to whom things come easily—the opposite, in fact. I can hardly think of a single thing (worth having) that’s come to me without a serious and often lengthy struggle. So why the perception that I’m lucky or good or maybe both? I can’t think of another reason why except that, like my Protestant Midwestern forebears, I do not discuss my failures publicly. Confession is for other people. But maybe...

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What Work Is and Why It Matters: Mourning Philip Levine

It’s probably an exaggeration to say that Philip Levine saved my sanity. But not by much. He wrote some words once, and I read them 10 years later, and they gave me back my creative life. Oh, yes, let’s bless the imagination. It gives us the myths we live by. Let’s bless the visionary power of the human— the only animal that’s got it But let’s back up. At 15 I got my first job at a frozen custard joint down the road.  This was, by the way, not some act of torture on the part of my parents;...

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The Internet Is a Hard Place to Be Human: Toward a Better Internet Discourse

As a writer I have issues with tools that reduce us, with anything that asks us to measure ourselves in absolutes. I think of personality tests like the Myers Briggs—I’ve never once tested the same way on it, and it’s not because I have some multiple personality disorder. It’s because, like most humans, I am a walking contradiction. I love talking to people and consider myself outgoing, but because I’m an introvert I can only do it so often and for so long. I’m unbelievably opinionated (shocking, I know) but I’m also shy and extremely uncomfortable with conflict. I’m...

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Why the Fight for Civil Rights Is a Fight for Economic Rights

My husband and I took a trip to New Orleans, returning just in time for Martin Luther King’s birthday. And so I find myself writing this on MLK Day and thinking a lot about injustice, and also about the upcoming anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. We first visited the city for our honeymoon in 2003, and fell in love with the Creole and Cajun food, the warm friendly people, the beautiful architecture, the amazing music—and then like the rest of the country, we watched the storm on television two years later, horrified as people drowned and people stood on houses...

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Our History Here and Now: An Introduction to The Long View

It’s mostly untrue, that hoary old chestnut about those who don’t remember history being doomed to repeat it. (And yes, I know it was George Santayana, who said lots of smart and useful things, and perhaps it is, in fact, a smart and useful thing to say, but certainly not an accurate one. Besides, it’s melted into meaningless cliche at this point, and since when do we pay heed to the empty words and phrases of cliche?) After all, our history is too progressive to be purely circular. We’re not just spinning our wheels, here on this lonely planet. The increasing complexity...

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Good hair, crooked gait

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