In 2008, I wasn’t writing the Empire State Vamps. I was selling drawings, mostly of fairies, and nature photography, on Etsy. I was learning new things every night. I followed established artists and indie artists and newbies like myself. I kept seeing the name “Frida Kahlo” and art inspired by this Frida Kahlo, and I did not know who she was.
9 years ago, my immediate impulse was to go to the library. As I was living on Long Island at the time and the library was convenient to my ex-husband as he left work, I asked him to pick up a biography of Frida Kahlo for me. I searched the library catalog from home and found the most appealing bio to me: Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. I printed the page, gave it to my ex-husband, and asked him to check out the book for me.
I really didn’t expect a Major Racist Insecure Male problem, because he regularly checked out books for me. I just wanted to understand Frida, who was so important to so many women artists.
What I got was:
“Why would you want to read about her? She was a lesbian who had an affair with a black woman.”
For my self-protection, I played the shocked female role. “I didn’t know! I would never read a book like that! I was just curious about her because she’s so popular on Etsy.”
I never heard a bigoted word out of that man’s mouth until President Obama announced his candidacy. In fact, he used to mock Southerners for being ignorant and racist. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad I don’t have to listen to it any more.
Please understand that I was in an abusive, controlling relationship, isolated (why I asked him to get books for me) and afraid for my personal safety and that of my cats, and brainwashed. This incident was an element of my packing up (including the cats) and leaving him. This incident may have been the impetus. He was okay with my drawing fairies, but I stepped out of line. After that, I started daring to go to the Riverhead library and Borders. I don’t think that I ever asked him to bring another book to me.
Still, that book lingered in orbit around the moon of unread books. I thought of it from time to time in my new life, but there was always something else. Until the other night.
I remembered the book, the fact that it was paperback, had the movie tie-in cover, was 500 pages long. I searched the library catalog on Long Island. Then I found it on Amazon: Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.
Now I have it in my hands.
Of course in the years since 2008 I’ve educated myself about Frida Kahlo. But my desire to read this forbidden book never waned. And now I’m going to read it, and I know that it doesn’t matter to my ex-husband because I’m no longer his property.
But it matters to me that someone told me not to read a library book, and now I own it, and it sits on my bedside table.
(Edited for clarity, and because one sentence just made no damn sense 5/11/2017)