I weirdly love doing my taxes. Jami’s taxes too, since she is kind enough to let me do them. I think it’s something about the order of it – all those little boxes to fill in, although the fact that we usually get money back (especially since buying the house) certainly doesn’t hurt.
This was my first year to do our taxes since we got married, and so for the first time I got to see the actual financial cost to us for not having our marriage recognized by the Federal government. Because we filed jointly in DC as a married couple, I had to create a “mock” federal return to use as the basis of our District return. Actual cost to us to be “unmarried” in the eyes of Uncle Sam? $869. We would have gotten $869 more back if we had been able to file jointly.
Now the money to me isn’t that big a deal (although I’m sure I could think of lots of good, economy stimulating things to do with the money). We are still getting tax returns this year and I don’t actually mind paying taxes. I think social programs are important and I’m happy to be able to support them. The few extra pennies that Medicaid, and public schools, and the VA, and the NEA, and everyone’s grandparents get because of my tax dollars are money well spent, I think.
I mention this only because it is a concrete example of the difference that marriage (the federally recognized legal institution of marriage) has on one couple. People who oppose marriage equality often ask why same-sex couples want to get “married” any way. Why aren’t civil unions good enough? Why isn’t living together enough? In what way are same-sex couples being harmed by being denied the right to marry?
Generally, the concrete, practical arguments in favor of marriage equality sort of bother me. Not that the issues themselves aren’t important (if your wife is dying and you are not being allowed into her hospital room, that is not a silly issue), but I hate that every discussion of same-sex marriage comes down to hospital visitation and taxes. I resent the fact that I have to justify why I wanted to enter into an institution that opposite-sex couples enter every day without ever thinking about the practical benefits. I am a human being and a citizen, and I believe I have a right to marry the person I love and build a life with them. Period.
But I also believe that the most important thing anyone can do to battle discrimination and homophobia is to come out. When faced with “real” gay people, folks generally become more tolerant and supportive of equal rights. I generally try to avoid the soapbox, but by not mentioning the tangible costs to being denied marriage equality, I worry that I am allowing those opposed to continue with the false assertion that no one is being harmed by the current state of affairs. Marriage inequality cost my wife and I $869. That’s not the end of world and I’m not upset about it, but it’s not nothing either.
Last week, through the goodness that is LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program I got a copy of My Korean Deli: Risking in All for Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe in the mail. As soon as I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down. The book is a memoir centering on the author’s purchase of a Brooklyn neighborhood market with his wife’s family (immigrants from Korea, which is where the subtitle comes from). As a city dweller, I love a neighborhood market and have often wondered about the family commitment necessary to keep one running, and this book confirms that it’s intense and stressful – but does so in an entertaining and thoughtful way. (The book also made me miss NY markets that really are deli – with a meat counter and some “real food”. I wish DC markets would do that as well). If you enjoy memoirs (or just love a deli, bodega, or local market), this book is for you.
Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn. Daisy Dalrymple returns in another fun and fluffy mystery – this one set at a Guy Fawkes celebration.
Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen. A graphic novel imagining of the true tale of the moving and hiding of art work from the Louvre in advance of the German takeover of France in World War II. Enjoyable with nice black and white illustrations.
All Clear by Connie Willis. The sequel to Blackout, which a read and really enjoyed last year, All Clear resolves to stories of the time travelling historians trapped in World War II England. Lived up to my high expectations. If you’ve never read Connie Willis, I really recommend her.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese. Aimed at early readers, this the first book in a cute graphic novel series in which a guinea pig tries to solve the mystery of the disappearing sandwich.
Dracula Madness by Mary Labatt. A graphic novel detective series featuring an investigatory sheep dog. Nothing brilliant.
Room by Emma Donoghue. This book was on a lot of “best books” list at the end of 2010 and having read it now, I can say that the acclaim is well deserved. The story is told from the perspective of a 5-year boy who has only ever known the room is held captive in with his mother who was kidnapped when she was a teenager. Definitely worth reading.
Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. Buettner wrote a book that I read last year about lessons learned from communities where people live a long time (routinely get into their 90s and 100s), and with this book he takes the same approach with communities who rate high for happiness. Nothing new or brilliant to the book, but I thought his description of Denmark sounded pretty great!
Children of the Sea, Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi. Beautifully illustrated manga that tells the story of the friendship between the daughter of an aquarium owner in Japan and two boys from the sea (children raised in the ocean by sea mammals).
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. This is the latest is a cute and fun graphic novel series staring some elementary school aged kids and their lunch ladies who foil evil plots using things like fish-stick nunchuks. Good for the mid to late elementary school audiences.