According to Lakota legend, the crone goddess Owl Maker guards the Sky Road – the entrance to the Land Of The Dead. Souls who bear the wrong tattoos are cast back to Earth to fade into oblivion….
Connecticut alternative metal trio Owl Maker were thrust onto the international map earlier this year with their first EP ‘Paths Of The Slain’, which garnered rave reviews from the likes of Metal Hammer. They are back with a second EP this November, ‘Sky Road’. With themes of hopelessness, isolation and revenge set against a stark desert landscape, they continue to evolve their sound, which blends doom and stoner metal with a rock n’ roll energy.
Bassist Jessie May is also a school librarian, so she really knows her books, and has written a fascinating piece.. check this out:
Jessie May (Owl Maker)
Jessie here, bassist of Connecticut heavy metal trio Owl Maker. By day, I’m a school librarian — so you could say that books do “make” me, or at least they make my paycheck. I don’t fetishize books as much as the idea of free, accessible information — don’t get me started on towns closing libraries, clearly a move to disenfranchise the public — but certainly I’m an avid reader. Much of my reading is adult nonfiction (books and news articles) and elementary children’s books. One problem I’m hesitant to admit on the internet is that I forget the details of a lot of the novels I read. I enjoy them at the time, but don’t ask me to elucidate the major plot points six months later. Scenes and quotes will stay with me; everything else fades away as current reading takes its place.
That being said, the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and finished by Brandon Sanderson) is the first influential work that comes to mind. My then-boyfriend-now-ex-husband gave me a copy of The Eye of the World when we first started dating and it got me hooked on fantasy series. The characters still seem real five years after finishing the final tome A Memory of Light. Owl Maker even has a WOT-inspired song, “Mashiara” — it’s a reimagining of the relationship between a prominent couple in the book, and also a bit of an elegy for my marriage. (“Mashiara” meaning “lost love” in some made-up WOT language….) But aside from the personal significance WOT has for me, it’s an amazing series which got me into reading Game of Thrones, Tolkien, The Kingkiller Chronicle, and more.
Speaking of fantasy series, I just started reading Harry Potter! Yes, about twenty years too late — especially blasphemous coming from an elementary school librarian. I’m on Goblet of Fire now and I have to say that I’ve really been missing out! I see why people get obsessed with these books… JK Rowling’s own story is also inspiring, a “rags to riches” tale of a divorced mom on welfare becoming one of the bestselling authors in the world; I wonder how many times she wanted to give up before Harry hit it big.
While we’re on children’s books, I find myself enjoying anything by Patricia Polacco. I read Fiona’s Lace to my classes a couple years ago; the tale of Polacco’s ancestors’ immigration from Ireland struck a chord with my students, many of whom were immigrants themselves or whose parents were immigrants. They all wanted to share where their families were from and it turned out that a lot of kids had Guatemalan heritage. When it was time to check out books, predictably they all wanted to read something about Guatemala. It was my first year working at this particular school and I said, “Okay, let’s go over to the 900s and find the Guatemala books.”
Turns out there was not one single book. Not. One. In a Latino-majority school with a significant Guatemalan community, there were no books about Guatemala. It was upsetting and I felt like I had (however unwittingly) let my students down. Let me tell you, I ordered every goddamn fiction and nonfiction book involving anything remotely Guatemalan or Mayan that I could find, as well as books on every Central and South American country. (Which it turned out the library was also lacking…) The experience was a reminder that institutional racism can be the result of oversight as well as intention, and also underscored the importance of patron demographics in collection development.
I said in the beginning of this article that I read a lot of nonfiction, so now I better talk about some! There is an essay collection that has stuck with me through the years, Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters by Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institute. Couldn’t Keep It To Myself is a series of essays by women in a Connecticut prison; not allowed to profit from whatever incident that directly landed them behind bars, the women wrote mostly about their childhoods or past romantic relationships. Each essay is preceded by a current picture and a younger picture of the author along with some basic stats about their crime and sentence, then followed by a blurb with some details of their crime and what they are/were doing in the present.
I love anything “true crime” and the essays were definitely interesting, but most of the women had experiences that I couldn’t relate to. (Speaking of which, have a listen to OM’s “Ride With Aileen.”) I’d never been a teen mom, an addict, or an abuse victim. Let’s face it, as a middle class white kid in the suburbs, there was no chance I would have been part of a gang initiation that involved beating an elderly neighbor with a two-by-four.
But there was one essay that made me stop in my tracks: Robin Cullen’s “Christmas in Prison.” Cullen’s photo showed a forty-ish, professional-looking lady with a neat ponytail and the same kind of jewelry my mom would wear — in other words, someone “like me.” She had been convicted of second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle; her essay about holiday celebrations in the clink was funny but bleak, a short read. In the afterward, readers learn that Cullen was a literacy tutor while incarcerated and later became a writing teacher — yet another way she was “just like me.” It turned out that Cullen was in jail for killing her friend in a drunk driving accident on the way home from a wedding.
It struck me that while I would probably never be in any of the other authors’ shoes, this was something that could happen to me. I probably would not kill someone on purpose. I probably would not traffic cocaine or commit credit card fraud. But no matter what I had or how smart I thought I was, all that could dissolve in an instant with a single wrong choice — and I could be in Robin Cullen’s shoes, wearing the same orange jumpsuit as everyone else. When I looked back at the essay to write this article, I noticed that the accident happened when Cullen was thirty-four, the age I am right now. The warning in Cullen’s story still rings as true as it did when I first read it over a decade ago…
Isn’t this a cheery essay?? If I keep going this way with ten books, it’s also going to be a long one! So I’ll cut it short and leave off with this quote from the Gospel of Thomas, which I try to keep in the forefront of my outlook:
I am the Light
that shines on everyone.
I am the All.
The All came forth from me
and the All came into me.
Split the wood, and I am there.
Turn over the stone,
and there you will find me.
Happy reading, check out Owl Maker’s tunes, and don’t forget to support your local library!
Thank you Jessie for such a personal and thoughtful insight into your reading world. Sky Road by Owl Maker is released on 2nd November 2018, and you can find it here: