Hello Everyone!

I am delighted to welcome you to my website. Please feel free to ramble at your leisure—there’s my blog, an interview, research suggestions, reader’s sharing page, and lots of great links to other writers and artists with similar interests.

And don’t forget to let me know what you think! I’m always up for a juicy discussion.

Tamis Hoover Renteria

The book is now published!

Fear of The New: Opening Up to Women’s Spirituality

small_4846802655Several years ago when I was first exploring Goddess spirituality, I signed up for a women’s weekend retreat in the hills of western Sonoma County. I did not know the leader of the retreat, except by reputation, and I did not know any of the women who were attending. So I was a little bit nervous about the whole adventure.

However, I was determined to pursue new experiences. So I turned my small sons over to my husband and headed into the wild hills with my map and my minivan on a Friday afternoon——and quickly got lost, not to mention… Continue reading

Maleficent is Magnificent

small_14127966246I haven’t been a fan of Disney movies since I was about ten. But recently several of my more feminist and enlightened Facebook friends endorsed the movie Maleficent. That made me curious, so I actually managed to peel my backside off the t.v. couch one evening to go and see a movie on the big screen.

And I’m glad I did. I actually loved this movie. The whole damn sexist patriarchal paradigm of the Sleeping Beauty story is completely turned on its head! Not only is Maleficent a good fairy, but she’s complex and multi-dimensional and so capable of self-reflection and change that she eventually comes to terms with her own internalized anger and evil–anger and evil, by the way, which are the result of a man’s betrayal and a male assault on the magical kingdom of which she is the self-proclaimed protectress.

It was at first a bit difficult for me to enter the movie’s story, because I had a personal history with the earlier Disney Sleeping Beauty movie: it caused me nightmares for years when I was a little girl and was a foundational dream in my early Jungian therapy. So when Maleficent first appeared as a fairy girl with those iconic twisted horns that look so diabolical, I was a little on edge. But I kept reminding myself that the horns and antlers of goats, deer, and cattle, (not to mention the tails and hooves) were once sacred to many pre-Christian cultures in their pagan gods and goddesses, and had been stigmatized by the Church and transformed into symbols of evil.

And soon I was pulled completely into the story. Maleficent is introduced as a powerful young fairy, soaring across the fields and forests of “The Moors” with her magnificent wings, friendly with all the magical creatures of this very egalitarian and happy kingdom. Continue reading

Monsoon and Moving Blues

small_7699555636I’ve been thinking a lot about heat, drought, and rain in the last few days. That’s because I’m leaving one hot, dry place——Tucson Arizona——to live in another hot, dry place——Hanford, California. I’ve looked up the statistics. Technically, Hanford has fewer hot days and more rain than Tucson. But Hanford has a lot of smog and it doesn’t have the southwest monsoon.

I’m not going to even talk about the smog, because I’m too worried about it and I’ll get crazy. But the monsoon? Aaah. That’s what Central California needs——a cool, fierce blast of wetness in the middle of the impossibly hot summer.

The monsoon started this week in Tucson. Clouds have been building up for about a week now and finally they accumulated enough moisture and energy to boil up a couple of beautiful big storms. Beto and I were caught in one on our way to a friend’s house two days ago. Rain was blasting down on our car from all directions, the wind whipping it around in wild gusts as though a gang of giants was hurling fistfuls of water at the windshield, trying to knock our car off course. The water was coming down so fast that even the main streets were flooded. I’ve never seen my cool, calm husband grip the steering wheel so tightly as we navigated through that deluge and finally reached our destination. Continue reading

A Serendipitous Choice of Character: Arishat

small_3393757320My female protagonist in The Prophet’s Woman, Arishat, is a Phoenician, daughter of a long line of priestesses. According to the backstory that I created for her, her family originally came from the island of Minoan Crete, a great matriarchal civilization of which Arishat has many ancestral memories, and which continues to shape her values.

I first chose Arishat because I have been intrigued for years by the Elijah/Elisha biblical stories where women are empowered by their associations with a prophet.* Because this particular story of the widow of Zeraphath (Sarepta) shows a long term relationship between Elijah and the widow,  I thought it might be a good starting place for the novel.

But at the time, I did not think much about the fact that this story is about Elijah’s relationship with a foreign, non-Israelite woman.

And then, months into the writing, it hit me like a stroke of lightening and I had to laugh at how oblivious I’d been for so long. How had a I missed it? Arishat is like me, an outsider to Judaism, who through association with a prophet, becomes a member of the Israelite people. My unconscious had been working double-time in this selection of a character! Of course I’ve never met a real prophet, but the prophetic, social justice side of reform Judaism was a key element in my attraction to Jewish religion and to my converstion.

And as I wrestled further with the book’s plot, I more consciously used my experiences as a convert to flesh out the dynamics of the relationships between Arishat and her adopted people. At first, she is just learning about the culture, observing and absorbing. Then slowly she becomes used to the rhythms of her new life, and learns to live in harmony with the clan and the people. And as a reflection of that integration into this society, she is eventually formally inducted into the tribe through ritual: a mikveh (bath) with the women, an examination by the clan elders, and a formal presentation of herself as a Jew to the entire clan. Continue reading

Where Are The Wise Old Women?

small_8118864065Earlier I wrote a blog about Elijah as an example of the Wise Old Man archetype, but what about the Wise Old Woman?

No surprises here: She is much harder to find in our cultural heritage than the Wise Old Man. Wisdom figures are those that help the hero or heroine on his/her journey, so perhaps the most obvious Wise Old Woman is the Fairy Godmother of the Cinderella story, portrayed in dozens of popular versions from children’s books to the Rogers and Hammerstein musical to the Disney movie.

Then there’s Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz who helps Dorothy find the yellow brick road. And, as my husband has argued convincingly to me, there’s also Galadriel the Elf in The Lord of the Rings, who, as co-ruler of the Elfin kingdom of Lothlórien, plays a Wise Old Woman role when she gives guidance to Aragorn and the others on their journey with the ring.

But do you notice that in two out of these three examples the Wise Old Woman (WOW) is not depicted as an old woman? Glenda is portrayed as a sparkly fairy-like creature of indeterminate age, and Galadriel, although she’s supposed to be centuries old, is depicted as looking young and beautiful. And even when the Wise Old Woman is depicted as an old woman, as in Cinderella’s fairy godmother, she’s usually made to look foolish and silly, bumbling as she guides the heroine along.

It’s as though we can’t put female, age, power, and goodness together in our cultural mind set. Think about it. The only truly powerful, elderly women who appear in western heroic journeys are not Wise Old Women, but Evil Old Witches.

Hmmmmm. Continue reading

Jewish Feminism, Anti-Semites, and A Difficult Web Search

small_6945543910-2Wow. Talk about a difficult topic to pin down in a web search. I was looking for progressive, feminist, Jewish blogs and websites the other day, and to get started, I typed in “Jewish Feminism” on the Google search site. However, to my horror, instead of what I was looking for, I got all kinds of bizarre and frightening stuff, some of which frankly scared the crap out of me, and all of which offended and worried me.

The worst was a You Tube video made by some anti-Semitic right wing group. I was greeted first by heavily ominous music, followed by a video which scrolled through dozens of pictures of Jewish feminists——Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc. Each picture was superimposed with a bold Star of David and the message that accompanied this display was a diatribe about how Jewish feminist women would eventually destroy their own men, which in turn, would eventually ultimately rid the world of Jews.

Watching that video, even briefly, was a horrifying experience. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only anti-Semitic site that I stumbled on in my search for Jewish feminism. Evidently, an integral part of much Fascist neo-Nazi propaganda is to associate Jews with feminism, and feminism with the alleged degradation of our species.

Unfortunately, it’s not only neo-Nazis who associate Jewish feminism with the degradation of civilization. Several of the other websites that popped up when I typed in “Jewish Feminism” were those of orthodox Jewish groups. One in particular was Chabad’s website. Chabad is an extremely conservative Jewish religious movement dedicated to returning all Jews to orthodox Judaism. On these sites, they discussed the proper role of Jewish women and blamed feminism for all kinds of problems in the Jewish community. Continue reading

Jezebel and Me: The Frustrations of Smart Women Living Under Patriarchy

small_252421956-2I understand a lot about the legendary Queen Jezebel who is a key character in The Prophet’s Woman. But what I understand best is her frustration as a woman who has intelligence and ambition in a completely patriarchal world.

Technically, I grew up in the women’s liberation era, when patriarchy in the U.S. was getting its first big assault* from feminist power. But in actuality, I grew up in a fundamentalist church that was isolated from the mainstream, where women were not allowed leadership roles.

Like Jezebel, when I was very young, I didn’t understand that my life as a woman would be different from the lives of the boys I grew up with. That’s why I portray Jezebel as queen of the sand dunes playing with her brothers and cousins when she’s a young girl. Only later does she discover that although she dominates the boys in play, when she grows up, she will be relegated to subordinate status under them.

That’s what happened to me. I was queen of the Sunday School, the smartest, most dedicated student among my peers. But when I was in my early teens——after I chose baptism and became a full member of the church——I slowly began to realize that I had only a few possible roles to choose from as a woman, and none of them involved my intelligence or my leadership potential: I could teach young children in the Sunday School. I could arrange flowers for the altar and prepare the communion cups. I could be church secretary. Or I could get married and serve a man in leadership. Continue reading

A Woman’s Place

small_6882422150Imagine this: a warm summer weekend at a beautiful retreat property of gentle, grassy hummocks near the ocean. There are hundreds of women setting up tents around a lake, attending workshops on The Dark Goddess and How To Make Herbal Remedies, playing in women’s drumming circles, and getting free massages. Several times a day women comedians and musicians perform in an outdoor amphitheater to a laid-back audience of women and little children sitting on the grass. And every evening, after delicious vegetarian food is served and eaten, women dress up in long, flowing dresses and circle and sing together around a huge bonfire.

This was the Oceansong Goddess Weekend I attended in the mid-nineties, out in West Sonoma County, an area of California known for its organic gardens and alternative lifestyles. It was a magical, wonderful weekend. The weather was so perfect that the women started taking their blouses off and breasts of every size, color, and shape blossomed under the warm sun. And as the all-women musicians played in the outdoor amphitheater, mothers nursed their babies openly and danced alone or with their young children in the aisles.

I was not one of the women taking off my blouse——too uptight for that——but nevertheless, I was perfectly and blissfully comfortable that weekend, relaxed and laid-back in a way I had not experienced since childhood.

And then on Sunday afternoon, something happened that momentarily shattered my bliss and taught me a valuable lesson about how defensive I am in the outside world as a woman. Continue reading

When I Was A Wannabe Chicana

small_7471410328The day I received my housing assignment at Casa Zapata for my freshman year at Stanford, my father mumbled something about knife fights, and walked off to the kitchen scowling. Casa Zapata was the Chicano Theme House, a dormitory dedicated to the celebration and exploration of Mexican-American ethnic identity. Forty-percent of the house residents were allowed to be members of that ethnic minority, and the rest of the residents were randomly chosen students, most of whom were not particularly happy to be placed in such a cultural environment.

I, on the other hand, was delighted. I had spent a summer in Mexico City, loved speaking Spanish, and had an irresistible weakness for Latin American men. I think I envisioned an endless fiesta of dancing with dusky-skinned lovers, alternating with deep, intellectual conversations about Cervantes and Neruda taking place in dark, smoky corners of the cafeteria. What I encountered instead was the Chicano Movement and ethnic nationalism. There wasn’t a lot of room for a well-meaning but sheltered, conservative, Christian white girl with the hots for the Latino Other.

But my psyche apparently needed something from this community, so I plunged in and became a fully dedicated “Wannabe.” Casa Zapata and everything that happened inside it became my passion. I participated in everything from house dances to Cinco de Mayo celebrations to classes on Chicano Identity, where I was the token Angla. My proudest moments came when a member of the community would say, “I don’t even think of you as White.” Psychologists have a name for this kind of desire to be a member of a different group, which I forget, but it has something to do with lack of self-esteem and alienation from one’s own family and culture, all of which makes sense for me in those years.

Continue reading

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