Saturday, March 2, 2019

Books: Amber Tamblyn On Her (And America's) "Era Of Ignition"

Amber Tamblyn.

Era Of Ignition: Coming Of Age In A Time Of Rage And Revolution
By Amber Tamblyn
Crown Archetype; hardcover, $25.00; available Tuesday, March 5

Amber Tamblyn is an author, actor, and director. She’s been nominated for an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit Award for her work in television and film, including House M.D. and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Most recently, she wrote and directed the feature film Paint It Black. Tamblyn is the author of three books of poetry, including the critically acclaimed bestseller Dark Sparkler.

Recently, she has found her voice as an activist, marked by her novel, Any Man ( She is also a contributing writer for the New York Times, where she writes fierce op-eds on women’s rights and gender issues. She is also one of the founders of the Time’s Up organization, which is shaking up Hollywood. 

Tamblyn's new book, Era Of Ignition, is a passionate and deeply personal exploration of feminism. She addresses gender inequality and the judgment paradigm, misogyny and discrimination, trauma and the veiled complexities of consent, white feminism and pay parity, reproductive rights and sexual assault–all told through the very personal lens of her own experiences, as well as those of her Sisters in Solidarity. 

This is also a personal story, as Tamblyn looks back at her late twenties, when she experienced a crisis of character while trying to break out of the confines of the acting career she’d forged as a child in order to become the writer and director she dreamed of being as an adult.

After a particularly low period fueled by rejection and disillusionment, she grabbed hold of her own destiny and entered into what she calls an Era of Ignition, a time of self-reflection that follows in the wake of personal upheaval and leads to a call to action and positive change.

In the process of undergoing this metaphysical metamorphosis, she realized that our country was going through an Era of Ignition of its own. She writes, “No longer stuck in a past we can’t outrun and a future we must outgrow, we are a nation that is actively confronting our values and agitating for change. We are in an age when activism becomes direct action, when disagreement becomes dissention, when dissatisfaction becomes protest, when accusations become accountability, and when revolts become revolutions."

Tamblyn focuses a lot on how the 2016 presidential election changed her thinking, about how painful it was for her to see Donald Trump, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault, beat Hillary Clinton, whom she supported vociferously as she saw larger issues at play with that vote.

On her thought process as Clinton entered the race, Tamblyn writes, "Years after I stared at the defeated face of Hillary Clinton on the cover of that magazine in 2008, I found myself once again preparing for the polarization and pain I knew was coming the moment she announced a second candidacy in the spring of 2015. A video debuted on the New York Times website and I instantly felt a knot tighten in my stomach. 'I'm getting ready to do something, too,' the voice in the video declared. The first half showcased diverse stories from people across America, talking about things they were getting ready for: childbirth, retirement, opening a new business. The camera cut to the back of a woman talking to a man in a deli. The man smiled as he looked at her and I paused the video to study him - his Yankees cap and gray hoodie tucked inside a black jacket, his laugh, his sincere pleasure in whatever it was the woman was saying. Two men stood behind him, also watching her, intrigued. Engaged.
"I didn't want the moment to end, so I left the video paused on my computer for days. I would go back to the image frequently and study his frozen happy face and the woman's head, frozen in mid nod. The moment was picturesque, a surreal dream from which I never wanted to wake up. Men love this powerful woman. Men are not threatened by this woman. Men find warmth, kindness, and strength in this woman. Men take what she has to say seriously. Men do not talk over her but, instead, listen. Men see her as their emotional and intellectual equal. Which in turn could also mean: Men love powerful women. Men are not threatened by twomen. Men find warmth, kindness, and strength in women. Men take what we have to say seriously. Men do not talk over us but, instead, listen. Men see us as their emotional and intellectual equal. 
"The video had been released four days earlier and I felt like the only person in the western hemisphere who hadn't watched it yet. I hadn't watched it because I wasn't ready to. When I looked at the paused image of the man's engaged face, I could live in a world where this woman was not the bull's-eye on the target of American misogyny. But I knew when I saw her face in the next frame I'd be forced to feel everything that had been projected onto her presence. I took a deep breath and pressed 'play.'
"'I'm running for president,' Hillary Clinton said, as the camera cut to her confident, beaming smile.
"I had been through the excruciating experience of this woman running for office once before and I didn't know if I could go through it again. It took me almost an entire year to fully get behind her as a candidate - not because I didn't want to, but because I was afraid to. I was afraid she would lose again. And I couldn't bear that loss and everything that would come with it a second time.
"But when I found out I was pregnant a year after that video debuted, in the summer of 2016, I felt an obligation to put my fears aside and support her. Hillary Clinton didn't need any endorsement, but I needed it. Now with a child inside me, a little girl, I had to be brave.  What if that was my daughter in a video like that some day? Wouldn't I feel extremely polarized emotions? A mix of protection and fear and pride? Wouldn't it be easier to just cheer Mrs. Clinton on from the sidelines this time instead of putting myself out there and traveling all around the country listening to all the ways in which Americans mythologized her into some monster?
"I know it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to publicly endorse a candidate, but this went so much deeper than the narrative of politics as usual. This was unusual politics: a woman, wholly capable and qualified, going for a second chance after viciously losing the first time. I had to find strength and resolve in knowing I was going to have to watch her get attacked unfairly, and be attacked myself for supporting her. It was going to get ugly. Really ugly."

The day after President Trump's inauguration in January 2017 was the Women's March, and Tamblyn writes of what participating in that meant to her, "For many, Donald Trump's election was the grenade that exploded us into a second civil rights movement, but for me and many other women like me, Hillary Clinton's loss was the pulling of that grenade's pin. Both Hillary the candidate and Hillary the woman. Her loss ignited an ancient female fury fueled by generations of egregious inequality, smothered identity, and ritual abuse. People marched not just because of what Donald Trump did, but because of what all the Donald Trumps have always done. Women marched not just because a woman had lost, but because we too were all done with losing.
"No matter how anyone feels about Mrs. Clinton as a candidate, we can all agree - must agree - that atrocious and flagrant sexism played a massive part in the 2016 election. It plays a part in every attempt by women to gain access or authority in any industry and under any title. Love her or hate her, Mrs. Clinton's misogynistic defeat sent a message to women everywhere: If she can't succeed - this highly qualified yet imperfect woman - then none of us can succeed. And if we cannot succeed, we cannot survive."

At once an intimate meditation and public reckoning, Era of Ignition is a galvanizing feminist manifesto that is required reading for everyone attempting to understand the world we live in and help change it for the better.


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