Maturational Shame


heavy clouds over field

March 20, 2022

Today a friend forwarded me a NYT article entitled “The Many Uses (and Abuses) of Shame”,22(Jennifer Szalai). The article focuses on a new book, The Shame Machine, by Cathy P’Neil, among other subjects. I was interested in the topic because I wrote two books on shame (The Shame Experience, and Shame in Context: The NYT article got me thinking a bit about constructive or what I’ll call “maturational” shame in the context of fiction I have written, particularly my recent novel, A Beautiful Land, which, you may detect, I am trying to market. I had no intention of demonstrating any ideas about shame or any other psychological concept in writing this work of fiction but looking at the book now I see shame represented in a number of characters, which is hardly surprising since it is a common and impactful emotion. I won’t leap to any generalizations since I have scant data, but if I were initiating a research study I might hypothesize that maturational shame occurs most frequently in situations that blend shame and guilt and where a person sees themself as an agent.

If an individual does something that they see causes injury to another and they have a normal conscience, they are likely to experience guilt, an emotion that focuses on harm done to other creatures or to valued institutions or collectives. Shame co-occurs with guilt so regularly in these situations that people often don’t distinguish the two and frequently mislabel them. If I have hurt a friend and my focus is on the action I took and the impact it had, my feeling can best be labeled as guilt. But if, in that same situation, the focus of my attention shifts to myself and I find myself thinking with distress about my human flaws (“What kind […]

By |March 20th, 2022|0 Comments

Excited to work for voting rights: Promote the Vote 2022

Along with many others, I have been very concerned about efforts to restrict voting rights throughout the country. In Michigan, where I live, a number of organizations are teaming up to try to place a measure on the November ballot that will enshrine critical voting rights in the State Constitution. I am working with Voters Not Politicians, the group that made a tremendous effort to pass Proposal 2, which ended partisan gerrymandering in Michigan by creating an independent citizens redistricting commission. Also involved with the current effort is the ACLU, which worked successfully to pass Promote the Vote into law in 2018, the League of Women Voters, Detroit Disability Power and quite a few other organizations, listed below. The new measure—Promote the Vote 2022—goes farther than the 2018 amendment in protecting voting rights. It guarantees the following basic rights for Michigan voters:
  • Make voting a fundamental right in Michigan’s Constitution in order to protect voters from harassment, intimidation, and interference
  • Allow voters to request a mailed absentee ballot one time and get a ballot for every future election. Submit absentee ballots using secure drop boxes
  • Vote early, in person, 9 days before an election
  • Provide clerks access to state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots; provide secure drop boxes and ballot tracking
  • Enshrine the current ID affidavit process in the constitution to protect this option if voters do not have their ID when they cast their ballot
  • Require election audits to be conducted in public by state and county election officials
  • Require that election results be certified by Boards of Canvassers based solely on votes cast
  • Allow for charitable and in-kind donations—with […]
By |March 5th, 2022|0 Comments

Literati Bookstore conversation

Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor hosted me and podcaster Doug Wheeler (podcast, From the Belly) in conversation about my new novel, A Beautiful Land. Doug is a wonderful interviewer and it is always fun and interesting to talk with him. Literati posted the virtual event on their YouTube channel

By |February 27th, 2022|0 Comments

Book Club Questions for A Beautiful Land

A number of book clubs in Chicago, Ann Arbor, and other areas of Michigan have chosen A Beautiful Land for discussion in the coming months. I hope members will find these conversations interesting. As an aid to thinking about the book, I drafted a number of questions that might guide discussion.


Here are some questions to choose among for a discussion of A Beautiful Land. If you have other questions to suggest, please put them in the comments.


What do we learn from the children’s play that opens the book?


Are there any complexities in the character of the father? the mother?


Why does Raissa refuse to leave her homeland with her family?


What do we learn about the reasons for the hostility the Abukuru feel for the Nshya, and vice-versa? How can we understand the extreme brutality of the attacks on the Nshya?


Why does Raissa take the child, Olite (aka Dogood)?


What do you think of the odd name, Dogood?


Why does Raissa treat Jacqueline as she does, in the forest?


Can you comment on Dogood’s relationship over time with the dog, Gahiji?


What do we learn from Dogood’s relationship to Beno?


Why did the author include the attack on Ritha in the story?


How does Hanni feel about the reunion with her sister?


How do we understand Ritha’s relationship with Dogood?


How do chairs figure in the story?


What are the sources of distress in Jean de dieu’s life?


Why does Dogood leave Lizza and his family and return to the forest?


What is Miya’s role in the story?


What do Jean de dieu’s and Raissa’s relationships with the dog, Izuba, convey?


Do you have thoughts about the book’s ending?


What are the overall strengths and weaknesses of the book?

By |February 11th, 2022|0 Comments

winter pleasure

Since we are up to our elbows in snow, I thought I’d post some winter photos. Many are of two beloved snow-loving dogs I lost last winter, but there is also an ovenbird who should have migrated south and had no business being in Michigan in the winter, as well as a snowy owl–a winter visitor from the north–and a few nature photos. And a drawing to fit the black and white canine theme.

snowy owl




By |February 5th, 2022|0 Comments
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