Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-03-16
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Witches, Warlocks and Ice Cream Trucks: An Interview with Joshua Safran
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Sarah Toce
2013-12-03

This article shared 5868 times since Tue Dec 3, 2013
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Not many people could say they were born in a coven, raised in an ice cream truck, and were considered warlocks from a young age, but one man can. His name is Joshua Safran, and he's written to tell the tales of yesteryear … the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Windy City Times: Why was it time to write your revealing book, Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid?

Joshua Safran: Most of my friends have been nagging me for years to write about my childhood. "Who else lived in an ice cream truck!?" But they were only thinking of the first half of my story —born into a coven, hitchhiking across the American West with my mother, living in vans, buses, and, yes, an ice cream truck. What prevented me from writing this book, though, was the second half.

When I was nine, my mother met and married a guerilla fighter/shaman/poet/healer who was - more than anything else - a violent alcoholic. Surviving and overcoming him was not something I ever wanted to think about again, much less talk about. Yet, in 2011, the film Crime After Crime broke my silence for me and both survivors and former perpetrators began to reach out to me. As a man and an Orthodox Jew, people saw me as a fascinating and unexpected champion for breaking the cycle of violence. When I saw that speaking out would do the world more good than silence, I decided the time was right to tell the whole story.

WCT: You say that you were "raised by lesbian witches in the Haight-Ashbury commune." What in the world must that have been like for you?

Joshua Safran: I have largely positive memories of the coven— In the early years it was like having 13 mothers all at once, even if they were often paying more attention to the Goddess than me. As I got a little older, I was shocked to learn that, as a boy, I would never grow up to be a woman. The anti-man vibe was pretty strong, though, and eventually my mother decided we needed a new community — one that would accept little warlocks, too. Later in life I became nostalgic for the "women's women" because of the exceptionally poor choices my mother made once she started dating men. I still feel very much at home among gay women—but as a big, bearded yarmulke-wearing man, my sense of homecoming is not always understood.

WCT: What was your experience attending school for the first time at the age of 11 after living the hippie lifestyle with your mom, Claudia?

Joshua Safran: It was rough. Years of discussing Karl Marx with my mother in the wilderness did not prepare me for the Darwinian realities of Middle School in a rural dairy farming community in Washington State. I came stumbling out of the forest in patched thrift store clothing, covered in pine needles and tree sap, ready to discuss feminism and queer rights. I didn't know I had to raise my hand in class and, since I had only been taught what my mother knew, I couldn't do math or read or write in cursive. All of this was a recipe for an endless series of beatings on the school yard and general bewilderment in the teacher's lounge.

WCT: Were there any positive outcomes of being "unschooled" that you think modern society should embrace?

Joshua Safran: It took me a couple decades to appreciate the benefits of living beyond the perimeter of society, but there are some. I grew up blissfully ignorant of popular culture which I think is largely a good thing. I was raised almost exclusively in the company of adults and was largely treated like an adult. That made things awkward when I tried to integrate into America at the middle school level, but it left me remarkably well prepared for the adult world. I also wasn't saddled with busy work or nightly homework which allowed me to read a lot of original texts and pursue study on various topics much more deeply than I would have in school.

WCT: Was it difficult at all to get this book accepted by a publisher given the nature of the subjects involved?

Joshua Safran: I'm happy to report that the publisher was interested in Free Spirit precisely for the reasons that it was a difficult book to write. That said, once they saw some of the gritty details, they balked and pushed back on my desire to be so candid and "graphic." Luckily I'm a lawyer by training so I pushed back and we reached an acceptable resolution. I do think, though, that this story is far more intimately revealing and emotionally raw than they were expecting.

WCT: Being that you are a women's rights champion and social justice activist, how did your childhood experiences impact your desire for positive change?

Joshua Safran: For years I've said that I advocate on behalf of domestic violence victims and survivors to right the wrongs that were visited on my mother and me. And that's true, but in writing Free Spirit, I came to realize that I also had a more specific motivation. The hardest part of writing the book was forcing myself to remember the darkest days with my violent alcoholic stepfather and re-inhabiting my childhood mind at the time. When I finally went back into my memories, I was overcome with feelings of shame at my cowardice in the face of my stepfather's abuse of my mother. Why hadn't I stood up to him? Why hadn't I protected her? As an adult, looking back, I know now that it was unreasonable to expect a child to confront and subdue an enraged former guerilla fighter, but the self-judgment remains. At a very deep level, I think that my advocacy work is an attempt to prove to my 10-year-old self that I finally have the strength and courage to protect my mother.

WCT: You have a wife and three daughters. What advice ( or words of wisdom ) do you give them about the injustices you have seen and witnessed?

Joshua Safran: My wife is wiser than I so there's not a lot I can tell her, but I have shared what I've learned about picking battles. We are all confronted by so much injustice, but we'll never move forward if we stop to fight for the right at every moment. The key is identifying what really matters in the grand scheme of things and what you can let go. I've probably been over preparing my daughters for the dark corners that they may run into out in the big world. They are now tired of me saying that love shouldn't hurt and that violence never ever has a place in a family. The best thing I can do, I think, is to constantly subtly remind them that they are amazing and strong and wonderful and that they don't need the approval of anyone else ( particularly a boy ) to feel good about themselves.

WCT: What advice might you give to others in a situation resembling yours growing up?

Joshua Safran: When a victim is in it, she feels like she is all alone. She feels that the control and violence is totally unique and secret and intimately personal. It's not. Regardless of race, class, country of origin, sexual orientation, and religion, batterers generally employ the same techniques and follow nearly identical patterns of charm, coercion, intimidation, and violence to dominate their victims. Once they realize they are stuck in the cycle, a lot of victims feel like they should just ride it out since it will get better. Their batterers, they feel, are in the healing process or seeking help. Don't wait, it won't get better. Once a victim begins to summon the courage to try to leave, they realize that their batterer has left them socially and financially isolated. They get the impression there's nowhere to go. This perception is exactly what the batterer has constructed to maintain control. Victims need to let go of their fears and immediately contact their local domestic violence shelters and agencies to seek help. There will be difficulties and lean times, perhaps, but that freedom is priceless.

WCT: As you mentioned earlier, you were featured in the award-winning documentary Crime After Crime, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network even picked it up as part of their Documentary Film Club. Please tell us about your work to vindicate the locked up innocent.

Joshua Safran: I've spent over eight years advocating for justice and freedom for wrongfully incarcerated survivors of domestic violence. Beginning in the 1990s many states began recognizing a "Battered Woman's Defense to crimes" against their batterers. Unfortunately, no state but California has allowed women serving time ( often life ) in prison who were convicted before the Battered Woman's Defense laws were enacted to reopen their cases. I have specifically been working in California and other states to advocate for this forgotten generation of women who are still unjustly locked away in prison.

WCT: What is the main take away from this book you want your readers to embrace?

Joshua Safran: I can't choose just one. The first theme is empathy. I was a dirty urchin sleeping on a tree stump who came to school in patchwork clothing covered in tree sap. And the reception I got was unpleasant. When we look at people who are less fortunate from us, we tend to judge them pretty harshly. We don't know what they've been through and often an encouraging word or even a smile will go a long way. Another thought on identity. So often, particularly on the left, we tend to judge people by their political convictions, not the content of their character. This is a huge mistake. A revolutionary hero who beats his wife is a bad man. No exceptions. And on children. America, in its youth-obsessed culture, is spawning generations of adults who feel they should never have to grow up. Self-involvement is a choice people can make, but it's the wrong one when they have children. Life as you know it must change when you have children. You are no longer the primary actor on the stage; your children must come first.

WCT: Any last words?

Joshua Safran: Redemption is always possible.


This article shared 5868 times since Tue Dec 3, 2013
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

State Farm drops GenderCool Project; Illinois General Assembly LGBTQ Caucus, Equality Illinois respond 2022-05-26
- This week in response to an outcry from a hateful few, Illinois-based insurer State Farm dropped their support for The GenderCool Project, which provides LGBTQ-affirming books to schools across the country on a voluntary basis. We ...


Gay News

Actor/model David Pevsner challenges age and body stereotypes in recent book 2022-05-24
- When writing his recent book—Damn Shame: Desire, Defiance and Show Tunes—actor/model/filmmaker David Pevsner noticed three themes coming to the fore: body shame, sexuality and ageism. "All three of those are ...


Gay News

Gayla Turner talks new book uncovering her grandmother's secret queer identity 2022-05-23
- In Gayla Turner's debut book, Don't You Dare: Uncovering Lost Love (BookBaby, May 24), she reveals her Grandmother Ruby's (1896-1977) century-old secret queer identity that she hid from the wider world. This revelation became c ...


Gay News

HIV/AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton on her new memoir, 'Unprotected' 2022-05-18
- Emmy-winning HIV/AIDS activist, author, minister, political organizer, motivational speaker, life coach, jewelry designer and social media figure Rae Clara Lewis-Thornton's recently released book, Unprotected: A Memoir, is already a pre-release ...


Gay News

TV Writer Joel Kim Booster, director Andrew Ahn take a trip to 'Fire Island' 2022-05-15
- Based on the classic Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice, the new Fox Searchlight film Fire Island has an important story to tell LGBTQ+ audiences specifically. In that story, there are plenty of laughs along the ...


Gay News

BOOKS 'Tinderbox' author to appear in Palatine on June 14 2022-05-13
- Author Robert Fieseler will discuss his debut book—Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation—on Tuesday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at Palatine's Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, ...


Gay News

THEATER Underscore's 'Notes & Letters' running through May 28 2022-05-12
- Underscore Theatre Company celebrates its 10th-anniversary season with the world premiere of the musical Notes & Letters, which features book, music and lyrics by Annabelle Lee Revak (she/her) and is ...


Gay News

Book-signing for HIV/AIDS activist's 'Unprotected: A Memoir' on May 21 2022-05-05
-- From a press release - "I had been torn apart by the doings of others and blamed myself for surviving to the best of my ability. It would literally take decades for me to understand that I was the product of what happened to me." Emmy ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart announces change in leadership 2022-05-04
- Wil Brant is no longer executive director of Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. According to an open letter from board co-chairs James Conley and Kevin Nunley as well as Board Treasurer Becky Chmielewski, Brant "served in this ...


Gay News

'It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful' explores art collective's part in HIV/AIDS activism 2022-04-23
- In Jack Lowery's book, It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic, the historian shares how the art collective Gran Fury utilized community-made propaganda to address the HIV/AIDS ...


Gay News

Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project showcases 'History of Milwaukee Drag' starting June 27 2022-04-21
-- From a press release - Milwaukee, WI. - A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour, by local historians Michail Takach and BJ Daniels, will be released Monday, June 27 by The History Press. For nearly 150 years, Milwaukee has ...


Gay News

Gay Latino techie Michael Sayman talks about his inspiring book, 'App Kid' 2022-04-17
- Michael Sayman is a key figure in Silicon Valley, having worked at Instagram, Google and, now, Twitter. However, he stands out in many ways. The twentysomething Sayman—an openly gay Latino—was only in his teens when he ...


Gay News

Indie Bookstore Crawl on Independent Bookstore Day April 30 2022-04-14
-- From a press release - Chicago, April 12, 2022 — It's back! Yet again, Chicagoland proves itself to be the dream destination for book lovers and readers of all ages! Nearly 40 independent bookstores in the greater Chicago area—from Lake Forest ...


Gay News

'Trans Bodies, Trans Selves' second edition out April 15 2022-04-11
-- From a press release - NEW YORK CITY, New York, MApril 11, 2022—The Trans Bodies, Trans Selves board is proud to announce the release of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves' second edition, published April 15, 2022. The Trans Bodies Trans Selvessecond edition ...


Gay News

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Actress/comedian discusses acting, sexuality in new book 2022-04-10
- Emmy-winning actresses and stand-up comedians who just finished publishing their new memoirs, while simultaneously embarking on their stand-up tours, rarely have moments to themselves. Thankfully, Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her work on the TV ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.