Ampersand Gazette #33

Susan Corso
10 min readMar 20

Ampersand Gazette #32

Welcome to the Ampersand Gazette, a metaphysical take on the news of the day. If you know others like us, who want to create a world that includes and works for everyone, please feel free to share this newsletter. The sign-up is here. And now, on with the latest …


“The point of the law is to terrorize people.”

They see their role as guarding the border between their narrow, normative definitions of “masculine” and “feminine” and making sure no one traverses it. They are sentinels of the patriarchy, all too willing to oppress or try to intimidate their fellow citizens.

[T]he anti-drag law [i]s a continuation of “a kind of legislative waterboarding” by the political right to generate backlash against L.G.B.T.Q. progress that many see as “a massive threat to white Christian heterosexual values.”

From an Opinion Essay by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times
“Tennessee & The Anti-Drag Race”
March 6, 2023

As if this essay wasn’t startling enough, when I first saw the headline, I read it as Anti-Drug Race, which is, in my opinion, as ridiculous as an anti-drag race. I want to warn you upfront that you could have a knee-jerk reaction to what I’m about to say, but it will be absolute metaphysical truth, that I can promise.

The entire essay is well worth your reading time, and the thing that’s the most important about it is that we, each of us, have a choice to make … about whether we will agree to be terrorized, or we won’t.

Don’t misunderstand me. Terrorism is a real thing, and I agree with Mr. Blow once again that the purpose of this law and the other seven-hundred-odd anti-trans laws that are grinding their way through our draconian legal system are terrifying.

And …, Beloved, terrorism can only thrive in people who are terrorized. The real problem here isn’t the terrorism in itself, it’s the terrorism that we each harbor.

The people who are attempting to legislate an entire segment of the population out of existence are going to lose. I’m sure of it. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. The North Dakota (!) Supreme Court this week struck down the right of its citizens to ban the abortion pill as unconstitutional. A small pinprick of light in the darkness. And, Minnesota governor Tim Walz just signed a bill into law, and I quote, “Protecting and Supporting the Rights of Minnesota’s LGBTQIA+ Community Members to Seek and Receive Gender Affirming Health Care Services.”

And here, now, we come to the matter. It is the terror in me that I need to touch, and love, and integrate that will allow the terror that is out-picturing in the world to be healed. That’s not to say don’t give to the ACLU which is fighting these silly propositions. Hell, go to Tennessee in drag if that’s what your spirit is calling you to do.

But in the meantime, I in New York, and Henry in Cleveland, and Janice in Topeka, and Harvey in San Diego, and all of the rest of us everywhere all the time, have a look within. Where are your inner terror cells?

I stumbled over one in my own consciousness this week that has been there for sixty years. Yep, sixty, and I’d never seen it. Speak Truth to your own inner terror, Beloved.

Those inner fears are there to protect you, or they started to protect you. Are they still? Only you know that. My sixty-year-old terror was so old that when I fell over it, I gasped, and then I laughed. The actual fear wasn’t mine and it never had been. It had been my mother’s and I, as a loving five-year-old had picked it up to help her, meaning only something kind and good.

You might think I’ve gone ’round the twist in making this suggestion. Okay. But if you suspect that there’s even a tiny kernel of truth here, try it for a week. Every time something pings your fear within, turn to it, and hold it close. Don’t fix it. Don’t heal it. Don’t work on it. Just hold it close.

That’s called reassurance, and it works on terror like no other method. In one way or another, Beloved, we are all going to have to pick up this banner eventually, now’s as good a time as any to apply an Ampersand approach.

Maybe we’ll even help those poor sentinels of patriarchy, and wouldn’t that be a fine how-de-do?



Finding Refuge, and More, in the Arts

To the Editor:

Re “The Power of Art in a Political Age,” by David Brooks (column, March 5):

Like Mr. Brooks, I often feel that “I’m in a daily struggle not to become a shallower version of myself.” As a teenager, I lose track of my own thoughts in the flood of videos and headlines. Also like Mr. Brooks, I turn to art to quiet these imposing distractions.

However, I have found myself doubting whether art is worthwhile. Despite the wonder I feel when experiencing art, I often find myself questioning the merit of spending any time reveling in paintings or poems when I could be spending all my energy working at things that have a greater visible impact.

But then I remember, as Mr. Brooks has reminded me, that to experience art is to feel your aliveness in a tangible way. So thank you, Mr. Brooks, for reminding me that sometimes, as the poet Mary Oliver says, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves” — that I can let myself love art and know it is a beautiful act in and of itself.

Grace Anne Jones
Santa Cruz, Calif.

To the Editor:

David Brooks cites the strong feelings we have when experiencing a profound and meaningful work of art. Therefore, as a lifelong arts administrator, I am always dismayed by the lack of respect and funding our field must grapple with on a daily basis.

The arts inspire love of learning, bring diverse groups of people together, are our greatest treasures housed in our most iconic buildings, and encourage tourism and the discovery of new places and traditions. Art endures from generation to generation to generation. Sounds like a worthy investment to me!

Karen Brooks Hopkins
The writer is president emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and senior adviser to the Onassis Foundation.

To the Editor:

David Brooks writes that “art teaches you to see the world through the eyes of another, often a person who sees more deeply than you do.”

Yes, absolutely — a poignant fact continually discovered by thoughtful and wise people throughout the ages.

The cultural critic John Ruskin wrote in 1885: “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts — the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only trustworthy one is the last.”

The brilliant interviewer Terry Gross, in a 2015 profile in The New York Times Magazine, said she loved interviewing artists because they are ‘‘the people we designate to open up their lives for examination so we can understand better who we are.’’

We need art. Art shows us our strengths and our weaknesses. Art speaks truth to power.

Susan Calza
Montpelier, Vt.
The writer is a visual artist and gallery owner.

Excerpts from Letters to the Editor in The New York Times
“Finding Refuge, and More, in the Arts”
March 13, 2023

I have a button on my refrigerator that I’ve had since I was nineteen. It reads: You Gotta Have Arts. I believe that statement heart and soul.

These letters to the editor about how one columnist finds solace in art were balm to my terrorized soul a week after the Tennessee article above.

“We need art. Art shows us our strengths and our weaknesses. Art speaks truth to power.”

Be reminded that the phrase “speak truth to power” came originally from Black Quaker and Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin in 1942 as a call for the United States to stand firm against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism. A good thing to remember, no? This is not our first rodeo.

I recently had a conversation with an award-winning journalist about the need to write. I write to understand myself, to understand my world, to understand what to do next.

It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing kindergartner’s drawings in a school classroom or Rembrandt or Tharp or Barbra or Beyoncé. What matters is where you let whatever you see as art take you, how you let it touch you, how you are changed by participating with it.

I’m writing the second book of The Subversive Lovelies right now. It’s called Jasmine Increscent, and I’d planned both the book and its subject long before the Supremes did, to my mind, the unthinkable and overturned Roe v. Wade.

The book was meant, from its inception (pun intended), to address abortion in 1900. I never, ever in a hundred million years would have thought the story would apply to life now, but it does. Perhaps that’s why I am writing at such a furious pace? Over 2,500 words a day, which is a lot. I’m almost up to 100,000 words at this point. It’ll probably finish at about 225,000. Speculative historical fiction takes a lot longer to tell than a mystery or a romance.

This morning I read the Times Book Review as I always do. In it was a new book about Madame Restell, the premiere abortionist of the Victorian Age. She practiced in New York openly helping women to manage their reproductive health. What are the chances? That’s how it goes though whenever I’m seriously mid-book. The things and ideas and quotes and pictures and everything else I need seem to be delivered Express straight to me.

Why? Because that’s how the universe works. When you engage with a piece of art, Beloved, you are speaking truth to power. You’re speaking even more truth when you tell someone else about your experience of it, or write about it in your journal for someone else to find fifty years from now.

Speaking truth to power, starting at home in our own bathroom mirrors, is what is the only thing guaranteed to get us through these painful political crackdown times. You know where the mirror is. Get to it. I will, too.


And in publishing news …

Attending Physician, Book 1 of The Boots & Boas Romances, is climbing higher in the rankings. I’m up to the top 400! The title is free here.

Please help yourself, and if you’ve read it, and enjoyed it, would you please make the time to write a quick review? If you don’t want to have your name be public, I’ve recently learned there’s a way around that!

Write a review to me, and email it here, and I can post it under Editorial Reviews.

I’d so so so appreciate it.


“While writing about writing is often deadly, [C. S.] Lewis is as delightful as he is wise. He offered this indispensable advice to an aspiring child writer named Thomasine in 1959: “1. Turn off the radio. 2. Read all the good books you can, and avoid nearly all magazines. 3. Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken. If it does not sound nice, try again.”

from the Self-Help column in The New York Times by Judith Newman
“Want to Put Something in Writing? Read These Books.”
February 25, 2023

I thought I’d finish this week’s issue with this lovely bit of advice from C. S. Lewis. I so appreciated the antiquated idea of turning off the radio.

But, in addition, my editor (and husband) Tony Amato and I live by this number three bit of wisdom from Mr. Lewis. I never publish a book that hasn’t been read out loud in its entirety. Tony reads and I make corrections.

We do this after he’s already done one round of edits, and I’ve incorporated them, and it’s astonishing to us both every time! Truly.

What you catch when you read a book aloud is gargantuan compared to when you read it on the page, and it makes such a difference.

If you’re ever struggling with a scene in your writing life, go back a few pages, and read it aloud. It should unstick you almost immediately. And make sure you do a read-aloud before you put your book-baby out into the world.

And, … if you need a brilliant, wonderful, talented, kickass editor, visit here. Or send an email here.


I wish you every good thing for a life without terror, a place for all of us in this world, and a world that works for everyone, no exceptions. Be ampersand, Beloved, and I’ll see you in two weeks. S.

Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso a metaphysician with a private counseling practice for 40+ years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is