Volunteer Work with Prostituted Women in Baltimore

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to work with prostituted women for over ten years now, first through the ground breaking nonprofit, YANA, and then through its successor organization, Safe House of Hope. The vast majority of women I’ve met have been the survivors of severe childhood sexual abuse who are struggling to make sense of who they are and what has happened to them. Contrary to the wisdom of every single pop culture portrayal I’ve ever seen of middle-class people trying to help the disadvantaged, I have never been hazed, harassed, accused of condescension, or told that I have nothing to offer because I can’t possibly understand my clients’ hardships. Instead, I have been welcomed and given respect and friendship. My work with women who, in many cases, are turning their backs on decades of abuse and addiction so that they can construct completely new lives has greatly expanded my own sense of what is possible.

Study of Tang Dynasty Poetry

I have been studying classical Chinese poetry, particularly that of the Tang Dynasty, for years with a gifted Chinese immigrant who has recently received her doctorate. I’ve gained a great appreciation of how much originality can be encompassed within a very constrained form and how much meaning can be encompassed within a few plain words. The era itself has become the backdrop for the historical novel I’m currently writing.

Study of New American Literature

It should come as no surprise that I like to read, but in the past few years I’ve begun to think that I have spent so much time with classical and 19th century works that I’ve neglected my own contemporaries. Plunging into modern fiction has been exciting for me, and I have particularly enjoyed going to readings at The Inner Loop which features readings by renowned and not-so-renowned writers in the D.C. area. I read the first few pages of my historical novel there recently and have had the opportunity to be introduced to many new writers.

I am currently founding a book review blog which will go live in March. It will focus only on new works of fiction that the reviewers love, so that it will serve as an ongoing recommended reading list. Most of the books (or short stories) reviewed will be by lessor known writers, so that the blog will live up to its motto, “Books that weren’t reviewed by The New York Times -- but should have been.” If you would like to nominate a work for review, or if you are interested in becoming a guest reviewer, please let me know through the contact link on this site.