Urban Experience for the week of February 12-18, 2003 

Street fairs, festivals, literary events, and other urban fare

Bearing It
"A woman's work" goes global

We complain about our jobs. We complain when we aren't given long enough lunch breaks, or when someone fails to throw out the tray of sushi left over from the board meeting, or put it in the fridge, and it's a long heat-wave weekend. We complain when a voluble client wants to talk about IRS audits, which makes us get home late.But at least the client won't ask us for a three-way, or dock our pay if we speak out of turn. And at least we get to go home.

On February 15, Barbara Ehrenreichand Arlie Hochschild will be at the First Congregational Church of Oakland (2501 Harrison St., 8 p.m.) to discuss their new book, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy (Henry Holt, $26). A collection of fifteen essays by noted writers, only four of which have been published elsewhere, the book is a terrifying but galvanizing look into the lives of millions of women who every year leave their homes in Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and elsewhere in the Third World to take jobs in the houses, nurseries, and brothels of wealthier nations. Motivated by economic realities, this amounts to a mass migration, depleting the female populations of certain regions while creating a widespread sense of displacement, of separation from familiar faces and places sometimes forever, and often not by choice.

This "global heart transplant," as the authors put it, meant that women well outnumbered men among migrants to the United States, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Argentina, and Israel throughout the 1990s.

Calling women the new world order's "import du jour," Ehrenreich and Hochschild have examined the fates of Vietnamese mail-order brides, of Mexican nannies in Los Angeles, and of Thai girls sold to Japanese brothels. "The lifestyles of the first world," the authors assert, "are made possible by a global transfer of the services associated with a wife's traditional role -- child care, homemaking, and sex -- from poor countries to rich ones."

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed, a look at low-wage workers that has been a longtime and current favorite on both the national and Express best-selling nonfiction lists. San Francisco's Hochschild is the author of national best-sellers The Time Bind and The Second Shift. These books have opened millions of middle-class American eyes to present-day lives, lifestyles, and consequences around the world of which we might otherwise be blissfully but perilously unaware: slices of modern history in which we, unwittingly or not, play a part. This latest book -- and the authors' planned dialogue in Oakland -- cannot help but make us feel a bit ashamed of our frequent-flier miles. But that's exactly the point. For more info: 415-575-5550.

Tickets $10-$12, available at independent bookstores in advance or at the door, or by calling 415-255-7296 x 253. -- Anneli Rufus

Her Story
Pain on the page

Given her supporters -- J.G. Ballard, R. Crumb, Mike Patton -- it's plain that Phoebe Gloeckner's comic creations bear little resemblance to Betty or Veronica. Diary of a Teenage Girl is a chilling but apt portrayal of female adolescence along the lines of Linda Barry's Cruddy, but with more drawings, sex, drugs, and violence. Gloeckner has an intensely realistic hand, and the tales she tells are so true that any girl who's grown up at all is likely to see a bit of herself in them. Gloeckner will be at Dr. Comics and Mr. Games (4014 Piedmont Ave., Oakland) this Sunday at 3 p.m., and at Black Oak Books (1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. -- Stefanie Kalem

Watch What You Say

Have you seen the Match.com ads where folks confess to meeting their honeys online? Those proud cybersweeties would fit right in at Saturday's West Coast Live broadcast. Cast members of the SF improv show When We First Met crack their audiences open like a little sister's diary, building sketches around the romantic tales they find there. Other guests on the live radio show include Geoff Dyer, who has written a collection of soul-searching, globe-spanning essays, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It, and Ross King, whose books on the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the dome of the cathedral at Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence are creative nonfiction of roof-raising caliber. It all happens from 10 a.m. to noon at Freight & Salvage. Call 415-664-9500 or go to www.wcl.com for more info. -- Stefanie Kalem

Africa Calling

February is Black History Month, and Contra Costa College is marking it with a touch of ancient folk wisdom and plenty of spoken word. The Friday, February 14 celebration at the campus' Knox Center (2600 Mission Bell Dr., San Pablo, 7 p.m.) is led by Dr. Wade Nobles, a psychologist and professor of Black Studies at SF State, who will point out the African folklore elements in African-American culture. After that, get ready for a performance by the college's Black Song and Poetry Ensemble, followed by a poetry slam. Free and open to the public. -- Kelly Vance


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