A re-discovery of holy
women who are wholly God's
Comfort food from the kitchens of the women we love
women who Have paved the way
feminism + spirituality
Letter from the Editor 3
Women of Excellence 4
Poetry and Prose 6
Felt Board Femininity, pt. 1 8
Paving the Way 10
Spring Recipe 12
Cover art by Laura Messer
Contributors to this Issue include:
Reba Balint, Co-editor and Graphic Designer
Rachael Holloway, Long-Term Collaborator
Laura Messer, Editor-in-Chief
For more information on these contributors, check out their bios on Tambourine's Facebook page!
Hello, and welcome to the first issue of Tambourine! I am so glad that you have decided to join us as we seek to lift up the voices and stories of all those who have led with a spirit of femininity. The idea of this zine came to me during a discussion with a good friend about my vision for my future work. I realized that what I most want to do is create a platform for people who have important stories to share to send them out into the world. I know so many incredible people who write and create beautiful work--some professionally and some as hobbyists--and I wanted to give these people and many more the opportunity to showcase their work in a publication that respects the unique voices they each possess.
Letter from the Editor
The title for Tambourine was inspired by one of my favorite biblical women, Miriam, who is featured on the cover of this issue with her infamous instrument of celebration. She was the sister of Moses, but Miriam also played a crucial role in leading the Israelites to freedom from Egypt (along with their brother Aaron). In Exodus 15, the Israelites successfully cross the Red Sea, and in verse 20, we read, "Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing" (NRSV).She's a mostly unsung hero in the Hebrew bible. We never read about her for more than a few verses at a time, but she is clearly an inspirational leader who inspired hope and confidence in her fellow refugees through her song and dance. Tambourine is here to expose stories like hers and celebrate the countless women and female-oriented people throughout history and today who have worked to free and inspire their people with the same boldness, elegance, and imagination as Miriam.
The theme of our first issue is Ancestresses: Women Who have Paved the Way. I hope that the pages of this zine will inspire you to reflect on the work of women who have sacrificed so much to improve the world we live in today. These people include feminist activists and LGBTQIA folx who have had the bravery to be themselves in the public eye. They are also our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and chosen family who have nurtured us and given us opportunities to grow and flourish. We see the fruits of their labors in our daughters, sisters, and friends who challenge us to work toward a brighter future for everyone. Like Miriam, spirituality and/or faith has played a key role in the formation of each of the people who have contributed to this issue, and they have been kind enough to share pieces of their spiritual practices and struggles with us here. Read on to find encouragement, beauty, and bravery to accompany you on your own life's journey.
Maya Angelou was an incredibly talented American singer, memoirist, civil rights activist, and Pulitzer Prize nominated poet. Her poems led revolutions in the hearts of many, her embrace of femininity challenged the social bigotry of the day, she set a path for little black and brown girls to feel beautiful in the shade of their skin.
Angelou was the poet I discovered too late and the activist I aim to be.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
"I sit now, on the edge of February, contemplating the direction my art has taken me - the project that swept me away from my typical style. I created three images with techniques I’ve never used before, which celebrate world shakers in a way new to me.
Black History Month is powerful tool to celebrate and empower people of color; from young boys and girls, to elders who have lived through deep suffering. I wanted to honor the incredibly strong, courageous, skilled, and badass women during the month of February; using my platform as an artist honors these three black women who prevailed despite blatant racism, sexism, and other bigotry. These women were world shakers."
Women of Excellence
bell hooks, whose pen name is derived from her maternal great-grandmother, is an American author, feminist, and social activist. Her work ranges from topics of race, class, and gender in education to art, history, sexuality, and intersectional feminism.
“Ain’t I A Woman?” Is the most important question I have been asked in a long while. Questioning the very foundation of who can be a woman, who dictates that standard, and who am I to enforce it? I was shaken by her work.
Audre Lorde was an American writer, poet, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. Her most impactful poems and prose covered civil rights, feminism, sexuality, power, and the exploration of black female identity. Lorde courageously upset the power dynamic between men and women, white and black, and even the dynamics of queerness and heteronormativity. She is an inspiration.
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
I wrote this poem for my grandmother's funeral a few year ago. My grandmother died just shy of 100-years-old, and was the matriarch of a rural farming family. As I've gotten older, I've really come to appreciate all the meaningful work she did to support her family. As I start to forge my own traditions as a twentysomething woman, I find myself looking to the traditions she upheld.
by Caroline Slavin
When I think about you, I think about patterns.
In the fabric shapes of your newest quilt,
laid out carefully, piece by piece.
In your puzzle book in the living room,
working your way through, page by page.
In the chords of a Sunday hymn,
played at your church, year after year.
In the lines of your vegetable garden,
planted thoughtfully, row by row.
And at each holiday gathering,
we always join together, hand in hand.
The magical thing about patterns
is they continue after you’re gone.
This might be goodbye for now,
but your patterns will still live on.
My breath caught as she opened the glass doors. The smoke moved ahead of her; leaking into our room it cast a heavy atmosphere. Dark, heavy hands rushed towards me drawing a wispy line from me to her. Her wrists flicked and her hands intertwined and wove into a complex lattice of moves; and these were just her arms, for she had not yet entered the room. Now, she graced us with her presence.
She was exotic- her hair cascaded down in her back in thick coils; her eyes were the color of the desert, and her skin was cinnamon. She had wide hips, a narrow stomach lined with muscles, and a large chest. And her apparel served her ethnicity well. The fiery reds and rich golds made her glow in the dim light. She was the flame in the center of darkness, the eye of the storm. And when she moved, the tempest swelled and the fire raged. She spun this way and that, rolling her hips, and the folds of her embroidered skirt licked the air; she blazed beautifully.
She weaved her way through the crowd with a lazy ease, mimicking the motion of a viper slithering through the jungle. She rolled her hips back and forth, capturing the fluid motion of a cobra dancing out of a wooden basket, head and body bobbing in exact tempo to the Indian flute fantasia.
Transfixed in the moment, I danced in my chair. Copying her fluid movements, my rib cage revolved in unfamiliar, erotic ways. Out of our table of twenty I captured her attention. She glided over to me. I sat, body rigid, spine straight, staring with wide eyes. I wanted to vanish, but before I could go up in smoke, her long, slender fingers traced their way up my arm raising hairs until they finally clasped my entire forearm.
With a smirk, a tell-tale glance- a look that knew everything- she leaned in and whispered in my ears. Her voice was soft, hypnotic.
"Dance with me," she hissed, coaxing me from my seat.
The rest of the night I was hers.
She had lit the flames within my soul adding tinder to the timid light. Inside, I blazed, fire burning my body like a shot of whiskey; outside I too became an unpredictable, flickering flame. Spiraling into the air, I escaped.
The restaurant invited us in as we danced through the large, beige arches. The music beckoned us to join the celebration with a mystical rhythm, and the lights led the way to the heart of a large room.
Hesitantly, I glanced down to find the floor littered with a white snow of napkins. As we approached the hostess she smiled at us, grabbed a handful of napkins, and threw them high into the air. Each one drifted and preformed as an individual. Bemused, we were met with a cheer from other tables as we sat at our table for twenty.
In the back corner of the room we had a stunning view of the entire show. Beside us, separated by a glass barrier, was another room. It was lined with Egyptian pillows and low tables for one to kneel and eat. A heavy smoke was projected through the room by mysterious, twisted pipes. Young couples sprawled next to each other whispering as if not to be heard. Their room was cut off from the commotion; they were their own world of quiet romance. Ours was bursting with colors of celebration.
Caught up in the mood, we cheered as new people entered. We excitedly ordered a dish called OPA! And applauded when it burst into blue, snaking flames. We clapped out a beat for the line dancers to perform. We bobbed in our seats to the rhythm of the Greek music.
Suddenly the lights dimmed. The festive music was transformed into a more seductive, alluring, precarious rhapsody. Darkness flooded into our room, slithering from table to table, catching unaware victims by shock. Chills raced down and up my back, sending me into a cautious, alert state.
The room beside us lit up, finally alive. From a veil of smoke, she appeared. At first seeming a ghost, she rose. She flicked her jeweled wrists, spiraling them into the air in the motion of a flower blooming; her entire body flowed with the music. She moved like smoke, Her body twisted so elegantly. I watched through the glass, anticipating her moves, but she was so unpredictable- like a flame.
Felt Board Femininity
Part One: "We Can Stop Waiting; We Can Build
As Tambourine took form, I began to wonder what I would write on. There are so many ways I am still working to understand my assumptions about my femininity and spirituality, having grown up with a Christian background. While Christianity isn’t the only way I experience my spirituality, it is a space I’d like to occupy for a few articles. The reason for this is that this specific form of spirituality has been used by some of our top political leaders as a backbone to belittle, exclude, and legalize against those they feel are “others”. The “others” have been people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ peoples, women, youth and increasingly anyone who disagrees with their agenda. While it’s possible this behavior is simply a political power move, the reference to Christianity seems to be commonly approved by Christians and Christian leaders alike. Were the lessons I was taught more exclusive than I’d originally understood? Maybe the Christianity I thought I learned isn’t as far removed from this pattern of “otherness” as I’d like to think. Through my next few articles, I’ll be exploring the dichotomy between male and female biblical characters, how these stories were taught to me, and how gendered Christian spirituality has impacted my understanding of what it means to be female. I’m hoping that this exploration will help me better understand how to support and engage my community.
Let’s start at the beginning. My Sunday School teachers varied but I was given the opportunity to be taught by both men and women, and for that I am thankful. Even as a child, I understood their role was to help me become a person who could be kind, share, and forgive because those were important things to know in
a community. We met in a small Sunday school room to the side of the Sanctuary. Each week we looked at a different biblical story.After we read our story, we played on the felt board with our snazzy Bible character of the day (a few felt-sheep if we were lucky), then we started in on the questions. Each week we were asked the same questions: “How has this character listened to God?”, “What happened when they didn’t?”, “What does this tell us about God’s love for us?” I was always excited and hopeful to have the right answer, let’s be honest I am still excited about having the right answers. However, I was far from understanding the messages I was receiving.
You see, the male characters in our stories had much different experiences than the female characters. King David, Jonah, Moses, Abraham, Sampson, you name them, they all had these things in common; a personal relationship with God, an understanding of their role within their community, and a human temptation. For a male character, the storyline usually went something along these lines of: Male character hears from God about the task God wants him to complete. The character then refuses the mission as it is too difficult, or scary, or not enticing enough. The character becomes distracted by his own temptation and loses sight of his divine adventure. In a grand finale, God allows each male character the opportunity to get back on track and then exalts them to leadership and greatness. The female characters, on the other hand, had a slightly different storyline. Ruth, Mary, Martha, Esther, Sarah, etc. most often had an obligation to God’s Kingdom, a challenge from God ostracizing them from society, and were required to wait faithfully, hopeful in these challenging circumstances that God would bring their redemption.
by Rachael Holloway
Esther is a great example of this, she was given the task of wooing the King to stop killing her people (this was her duty), had to leave her family to become a part of the King’s harem (ostracizing her from her community), and then had to continue wooing the King, trusting that he would have a change of heart all the while not knowing if she too would die (patiently waiting.)
When I entered that Sunday school room as a six-year-old girl I felt equal; equal to my male friends, equal in my divine place in relationship with the same God, equal to dance, sing, and pray as I felt. I had an innate spirituality, complete with a belief in my sacredness. Leaving that classroom week after week, I began to understand something might be different about me as a female. Boys, in their maleness, could be taken on grand adventures. They could be forgiven for being human. But I needed to be ready, worthy, brave, and patient. I understood that like each female Bible character, I would have three sections to my spiritual story-line; duty, challenge, and waiting. My understanding of my own spirituality had been transformed. My Type-A personality traits began to emerge; I began to read books about how to be better at waiting. I spent two decades of my young life believing that if I could just be better at understanding obligation, better at listening, better at accepting hardship, better at being resilient, then I could be better at waiting, which seemed to me to be the way females had a seat at the holy table.
As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that my waiting began to break me down. My waiting became a catalyst for my own “othering” of myself and my community. I began to wonder why I wasn’t selected for that fantastic job opportunity, why I didn’t have a family, why I couldn’t have my own house, a stable bank account, a new car...I was waiting patiently for my God to redeem me. I began to look at my female friends, coworkers, and church family with bitterness, resentment,
and anger. I couldn’t see a space for myself in church or community because I didn’t think I was living a spiritual narrative and I didn’t know another way. I am just now starting to realize all of the ways I’ve been stuck because of an inaccurate representation of femininity. I had been experiencing female spirituality in "felt form". To better understand my own exclusionary practices, I’ve decided to look back on Ruth, Mary, Martha, Esther, Sarah and all of my female role models. I’ve decided to start imagining how I would respond in their situations because I think we may have summarized a little too much the female struggle in our traditional teachings of these verses. Each biblical woman faced life-altering adventures, reliant upon a relational trust with God and an objective to create community.These women wrestled with God, strong in their identities as instrumental leaders. They were resilient and outspoken; they were devout and joyful. They were living in their families and cities as wholly questioning, wholly spiritual, Holy Females.
I’m excited to sit with the questions of what it means to be female as a Christian. I’d love for you to join me as I continue to look to biblical text as well as my past to uncover misguided lessons of females and salvation, femininity and purity, and feminity and shame. I’m hopeful that I will find a more empowering female narrative in the Bible text I may not have read before. I hope this zine will start to iterate a more empowering message to our young people. Being Christian doesn’t have to be segmented into an “us” and “other.” Being female within Christianity doesn’t have to be stagnant, it doesn’t have to be full of waiting. Being female and spiritual could be an exciting and enriching practice in building community through service to each other so that we are welcome at the Holy Table.
"You’re only half living life when you’re inside the closet."
My perspective about life outside the closet didn’t begin to change until college. For the first time in my life, I encountered LBGTQ folx. While I still couldn’t admit then that I belonged in this entirely new and foreign community myself, I began to see hope that I too might find self-acceptance, people ready to support me as I claimed a new and exciting part of myself, and maybe even a first kiss that left me dizzy in the wake of its touch. This hope led me to leave my hometown. With it, I also left all the reasons for staying in the closet.
Within a year of leaving, I finally found the freedom and boldness to come out. When I did, I was a member of a new community that supported me every step of the way and literally threw me a coming out party. They were absolutely incredible, but while my new community supported me in more ways than I could have ever hoped for, they were allies who weren’t on the spectrum themselves.
For most things in life I’ve walked down the paths paved by others—friends more daring than I, and mentors wiser than I—theirs paths were familiar, preferred to starting my own. I would watch them travel from the sidelines, and I learned from their outcomes. Only then would I venture after them, smoothing out the bumps they encountered before I, too, fell in them. Coming out was the first time I had to discover my own pathways.
I’m from a small town in Florida with a population of 13,000. Growing up in the South, and in the Christian tradition, meant rejecting the LBGTQIA+ community. For me, this also meant rejecting this part myself. The denial of my sexuality was an unspoken agreement between my community and myself. I would continue to have a place with them so long as I suppressed myself. At that time the thought of leaving my community was too much to bear. Anything was preferable to that loss. So I stayed, closeted from my community and most days closeted even to myself.
While I was prepared for reality of life within the closet, I didn’t really understand the consequences that came with it. You’re only half living life when you’re inside the closet. While it’s the safest space and the best option for so many queer people, it’s terribly isolating.The longer you’re in the closet the greater your fears become, making it that much harder to come out.
So I stayed in for 25 years of my life. I continued to invest in friendships within my community that I knew I would lose as soon as I tired of the closet. The result was that I never spent time around people on the queer spectrum. I often imagine what life would have looked like if I befriended the few bi or lesbian girls at my school. I believe that I would have come out a hell of a lot earlier and spared myself a few more years of deep loneliness. I would have used their stories as a resource for myself and they would have celebrated my journey as I slowly began the process of coming out. I can’t change my experience or undo my choices, but I like to think I chose the best option for myself—even if it was also a choice that caused me undue anxiety.
Paving the Way
by Leslie Cox
When I hit really rough patches as I came out to more and more people, I had support but not advice. I didn’t know what to say when a straight cis friend pointed out that I was appropriating queer culture by claiming that identity before I had the chance to kiss a girl, nor did I know how to handle my family when they suddenly stopped all form of physical contact as if gayness was a disease they feared for themselves.
After a few months of navigating life out of the closet solo, I dreamed up Love Les- the coming out re- source I wished I had. Love Les is a queer story- telling website filled with interviews from queer people both inside and outside the closet. I launched Love Les in February 2017 after publicly coming out January that same year. Since its launch, I’ve inter- viewed 40 people of different ages, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations. All of their stories speak hope to life outside the closet. They are ordinary queer people living their lives. I’ve inter- viewed a fashionista in NYC working with Tim Gunn to create clothes for clergy, a couple that came out during the AIDS crises in the 80’s, and a friend I’ve been mentoring during her own coming out journey.
Love Les has grown into the safe space I initially hoped it would become. I’m based out of Atlanta, so most stories feature Southern queers, but anytime I travel I spread the word about Love Les, hoping to score some interviews. While I didn’t know if Love Les would resonate with others, I’ve been so thankful to watch it grow. When we looked back over our traffic for that first year, we had 10,000+ viewers spread out between all 50 states and 89 different countries. Within the next month we’re launching up a new phase of Love Les, international interviews!
While I didn’t know much about queer culture, Love Les has become a resource for myself. Over this past year I’ve looked at so many different resources. I’ve been discovering websites, magazines, movies, and blogs; attending conferences and trainings; and exploring coming out through my academic studies. I’ve been able to help people find support, safe spaces to stay, or legal resources within their areas. I’ve had opportunities to create my own queer resources and advocate for LBGTQ rights on The Hill and the United Nations.I’ve even been lucky enough to walk alongside some really amazing people in their coming out journeys. Love Les truly is the resource I wish I’d had, and I’m still learning so much from the people I’ve interviewed and connected with.
"I hope Love Les continues to be a safe space for people who need rest, a resource for people who have questions or are questioning, and a spark of inspiration for the LBGTQIA community to truly celebrate themselves."
Leslie Cox curates Love Les - a home for queer stories. She’s a grad student at Columbia Theological Seminary studying the intersection of faith, justice, and sexuality. When she’s not in class or protesting at the Capital, you can find her fueling her caffeine addiction, orchestrating photo shoots, or exploring ATL with her girlfriend.
Grandma Messer's Bierocks
Brown hamburger and onion, mix in seasonings. Add cabbage, cover, and cook on low heat until cabbage is done, stirring occasionally (If using sauerkraut, drain and stir in, heating thoroughly). Stir in shredded cheese.
Divide thawed bread dough into 12 even pieces. Roll out until each piece is about 1/8 inch thick or about 8 inches in diameter. Fill each piece of dough with hamburger mixture, pinch closed, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until dough is golden brown.
2 lbs hamburger
4 c. cabbage or 2 cans sauerkraut
2/3 c. onion
1 c. shredded cheese (your preference)
dash of Tobasco
salt and pepper to taste
2 lb. frozen or homemade bread dough
One of my favorite forms of self-care--and a spiritual practice in its own right--is cooking. I've had some health concerns pop up recently, and it has become even more important than I'd ever realized to care for my body through the food I make for myself. Honoring my health through intentional cooking is a way of honoring and respecting the life my creator has given me, and I try to do it as often as possible these days. Spending more time in my own kitchen has reminded me of the many delicious and comforting meals my mother, aunts, and grandmothers have produced over the years. This month, I want to share a recipe with you that may not be the world's healthiest meal, but I promise it's good for the soul! I reached out to my mom for my grandmother's classic bierock recipe, and I am presenting it to you now in all of its simple, warm, gooey, down-home, Kansas-German glory! I hope you enjoy.
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