This week, I attended a wonderful talk at The Attic by Ritu Menon, co-founder of India's first feminist publishing house, and a wonderful writer and speaker in her own right. This talk was called Who Am I? Autobiography, Memoir, Blog -- and How Women Write Them, and dealt mostly with issues of concealment and revelation and how various women writers have navigated that tricky public-private line. It was a great talk at many levels, and I don't feel equipped to go into all of them here, but the sections on the blog in particular were fascinating. Specifically, the talk introduced me to two blogs I intend to spend a lot more time on over the next few months — Baghdad Burning and Gaza Mom. The former was written by an anonymous Iraqi woman (well, she refers to herself as a "girl" on the blog, so probably an anonymous young Iraqi woman), who went by the name of riverbend and blogged through the invasion of Iraq in 2003. She disappeared off the blogging map in 2007, and apparently never even encashed the royalty cheques for her book, so no one knows where she is, or even whether she's dead or alive. The latter is a blog by a Gazan mother, blogging about what it means to raise a child while living in the Occupied territories of Palestine. Both blogs are beautifully written and very powerful in very different ways, and the conversation they create goes far beyond either of them.
Having grown up in the Internet generation, I think I'm expected to be fairly blase about the amount and variety of information available to me without my even leaving my desk. I can't be. It blows my mind that I can sit here and access the stories of women living such different lives, through their joy and their pain. Equally that women living those lives are able to reach out to others around the world and share not just their stories but their worldview — advocate, in a sense, for a particular way of looking at the world. The power in there, the potential power of a good writer in these times, is enormous.
And these political blogs are only one kind of blog, of course. While I think that political blogs perform an incredibly important function, I don't think that they are necessarily the most important kind of blog — I think there's just as much value in a lot of other stories, a lot of other moments from different lives, being allowed to interact with each other. That's a new possibility for interaction that has opened up to my generation of writers, and I'm curious to see what we do with it.
Equally, I'm curious about how history will look back at blogs. We know that memoir and autobiographies are part of the staple diet of historians, but suddenly, a whole other level of richness gets added to what future historians can access through blog archives — if the archives survive long enough, of course! Can you imagine running into pages and pages of writing, however poorly written or edited, by a nurse in the American Civil War, or a homemaker and mother during the Indian independence movement, or soldier returning from the first battle of the Ruse-Japanese war? 22nd century historians could have hundreds and thousands of such resources, such glimpses into our everyday lives. The idea gives me goosebumps.
I think we start out assuming blogs to be more transient than books, but I wonder if they may not be more permanent in some ways... books go out of print pretty quickly, but maybe these words will stick around?