blog banner

Speak Right On

A book is usually a one-sided affair: only the author reveals her thoughts and feelings. The airing of readers’ reactions typically is left to book groups. But not now, not here.

With this blog I want to hear what you have to say. Though I will use Speak Right On as a springboard and reference point for my blog entries, you don’t need to read my book to join the conversation.

Just speak right on, from the heart.

“He who does his best for his own time, lives for all times.”

African proverb

frontcover web

Want to Join the Conversation?

  1. Sign Up for Our Free Newsletter
  2. First Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  3. Last Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  4. Email(*)
    Invalid Input
  5. Invalid Input

Memory business

My husband is making a documentary film about an American family and their "memory business"—for 65 years they helped communities with all aspects of photography. Sadly, actual film photography is a dying business. People today "snap" photos and roll film with their phones, and few of those gazillion pixels are even being printed anymore.

A prominent theme of this documentary is survival. The family came to the U.S. in 1939, fleeing the Nazi infiltration of Austria. As the now-deceased matriarch of the family recalled on film her experience of Vienna during the Anschluss, I felt extreme anxiety because, ever since I was old enough to understand the Holocaust, I have always believed it could happen here. And this survivor's description of Vienna under Hitler matches too closely our new political landscape. Chiefly:

"Well, I thought that the good old Viennese, they go with the wind, you know? They're typical for that, Viennese—they will do anything. When they can better their lifestyle, they will do it."

Our human capacity to turn a blind eye to others' suffering while focusing on our own aggrandizement is precisely why Holocaust-like crimes can and do persist. And now, with the Trump presidency, our democracy is vulnerable to being swept up in fascism or autocracy, systems where individual human life and rights don't matter.

Cornel West has long decried American neo-liberalism and squarely blames the Democratic Party for our current political chaos:

"The abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy."

I have contributed to that failure. I have not demanded that my elected officials wrestle with unequal education, unequal healthcare, unequal pay, unequal opportunity. Thankfully, it's not too late to start, and I will be joining throngs of other protestors. I have felt tremendously uplifted and inspired to see the millions around the globe who have protested the Trump presidency and its policies.

In answer to the question—what is to be done?—Dr. West replies, "First, we must tell the truth." He adds that:

"Trump's neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do."

We are all in the "memory business." We cannot forget our unifying principles. The realities of today will be the memories of tomorrow. Let us all actively be our best and do our best. 

For those of you in New Mexico, here are the names and numbers of those you need to call to make your voice heard:

Senator Tom Udall (D): Online comments or call (202) 224-6621.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D): Online comments or call at (202) 224-5521.

Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), District 1: Online comments or call at: (202) 225-6316.

Representative Steve Pearce (R), District 2: Online comments or call at 202-225-2365.

Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D), District 3: Online comments or call at (202) 225-6190.

  8641 Hits

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." Marie Curie

Many people have written about the presidential election results. In lieu of repeating here ideas that surely someone, somewhere has already expressed, I'm going to share a bunch quotes—cherry-picked, because I want to put my energy into constructive statements of compassion and real possibilities of change. And I want to give my gratitude to my husband, Andrew Neighbour, who endlessly brings beauty into my life, especially through his photographs.

Hannah Neighbour

FaceBook post, November 9, 2016

It's been a hard day. A surreal day. There's an energy in NYC that, to me, feels reminiscent of some time after 9/11 when I very first moved here. There's a sense of shock and defeat but also a connectedness. I saw a lot of kindness today and a sense of shared experience. I feel lucky to have been in NYC on this day. I myself was kinder, gentler today. . . . This is an opportunity to trust my fellow human beings and my adult self instead. This is a chance to become more deeply grounded in my own inner authority because the authority in power does not feel like my authority.

This image is courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Rheanni Lightwater

Mind Exercises (newsletter)

The truth is, thoughts are only concepts and have no power unless we give it to them. So, in the simplest terms, whenever we try to fight, control, or sweep negative thoughts under the carpet, we are actually causing ourselves more suffering. . . . we actually limit ourselves and stay locked into the past. Our decisions and projections become fixated and immovable. This preoccupation with how real we think our thoughts are, actually cause us to miss opportunities to be present and happy.

Louis C.K.

Live performance at the 10th annual Bob Woodruff Foundation benefit for veterans, reported in The New Yorker by Sara Lawson, November 6, 2016

There's no greater contribution you could make than to be a public-school teacher. . . . What we need you to do is make children know math. Wow. Do they want to know math? They don't want to know it. You make them know it against their will.

Garrison Keillor

Reported in The Daily Kos, by Leslie Salzillo, November 10, 2016

Back to real life. I went up to my home town the other day and ran into my gym teacher, Stan Nelson, looking good at 96. He commanded a landing craft at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and never said a word about it back then, just made us do chin-ups whether we wanted to or not. I saw my biology teacher Lyle Bradley, a Marine pilot in the Korean War, still going bird-watching in his 90s. I was not a good student then, but I am studying both of them now. They have seen it all and are still optimistic.

Aaron Sorkin

A statement to his fifteen-year-old daughter, published in Vanity Fair, November 9, 2016

The battle isn't over, it's just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I'll never go to sleep on you again.

David Brooks

The New York Times columnist, November 11, 2016

The job for the rest of us is to rebind the fabric of society, community by community, and to construct a political movement for the post-Trump era. . . . I've been thinking we need a third party that is social/open. This compassionate globalist party would support the free trade and skilled immigration that fuel growth. But it would also flood the zone for those challenged in the high-skill global economy — offering programs to rebuild community, foster economic security and boost mobility. It would integrate the white working class and minority groups by emphasizing that we are all part of a single American idea.

Master Mingtong Gu

Shared in an email from the Chi Center, November 11, 2016

This current, collective experience is not just about one person or party or this moment in history. It is about many things, including the opportunity we have right now for individuals and humanity to come together, learning and healing our longstanding discord and misunderstandings, together.

Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Great quote, solid wisdom! Thank you for sharing, Jeannette. This succinctly expresses the interpersonal dynamic that is needed in... Read More
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 14:44
  8648 Hits

Speak Right On: Author reading on the 159th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sanford

On March 6, 2016, I was on stage at Santa Fe's Jean Cocteau Cinema with Maxine Neely Davenport, author of Love Is a Legal Affair. We both read from our books and answered questions, and then we signed books. It was a great event, and I thank everyone who came out that day. 

This film clip is the first of several, taken by my husband, Andrew. Here, I read from "Chapter 1, Upriver, Downriver." I hope you enjoy it. 

  9316 Hits

A new review of Speak Right On

I feel proud to share with you all a new review of my book, from a well-respected industry publication, the Midwest Book Review:

"A deftly crafted work by an impressively talented writer, Mary Neighbour's Speak Right On: Conjuring the Slave Narrative of Dred Scott is an inherently fascinating read that is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is fully absorbing and illustrative of one man's struggle to be perceived as a human being with all the rights and responsibilities that slavery would deny him and all who were like him. A fact-based work of historical fiction, Speak Right On is very highly recommended for both community and academic library American Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Speak Right On is also available in a paperback edition and in a Kindle format." -Mary Cowper, MBR Bookwatch: February 2016

  7955 Hits


I've got a strong urge to make gifts by hand this holiday season. Maybe I'm tired and turned off by cyber-this and virtual-that; I want something real and tangible. But there's one big problem: I don't do any crafts. As a teenager I made long paper chains made of folded bits of gum wrappers, but I don't think that counts.

Continue reading
  8940 Hits

Silence the Guns for Christmas!

I am pleased to be part of Rhonda Parrish's Giftmas Blog Tour. She has brought together a couple of dozen bloggers, and today I'm hosting a blog from Rebecca Gibson, an author of a novel set during the First World War. I know you'll enjoy what she has to share . . . and be sure to check out the links below, because Rhonda has lined up some great raffle prizes!

Continue reading
Recent Comments
Mary Neighbour
Rhonda, you've put the connections together--thank you!
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 19:19
  7708 Hits