Mary Akers

She thinks about the woman who drove her kids into the lake and cried about it on national TV. What a terrible person, a horrible mother. But the snakes hiss, “Yessss.”
She’s barely gotten the toast buttered once John Junior starts up again…she carries him out to the pickup and puts him squish onto the seat and she leaves supper unfinished and she’s really going to do it this time because she just can’t take it anymore.
—  Medusa Song, Women Up On Blocks, by Mary Akers
A Book Review - Radical Gratitude

Radical Gratitude

Radical Gratitude and other life lessons learned in Siberia

by Andrew Bienkowski, Mary Akers 2010

This story is a wonderful journey, of both body and soul, beautifully written. It enchants you from the opening words. Pure white magic, I believe this is a book that everyone needs to read in order to understand the nature of true gratitude and to value the real joys of life. A book that makes life so much bigger; pain so much smaller and applauds the human spirit.  


At the age of 5, Andrew Bienkowski was forced to leave his home in Poland and flee to Siberia with his family, under the Stalin regime. The following years were a period of extreme trial for Andrew and his family. His grandfather deliberately starved himself to death so there would be food for the rest of the family. He knew the biggest gift he could give his family was to sacrifice his life. Even his clothes were stripped from his body and sold to help the family.  Andrew himself almost died of starvation and disease, but finally he got to England and then America where he trained as a clinical therapist. He has been practicing now for over 40 years. I always felt that noon should be treating mental illness unless they have some idea of the pain, what it feels like, how low life can get. Andrew Bienkowski is fully qualified in this respect.


Radical Gratitude tells the story of those years, along with advice and experiences from Andrew and his life today.  The book is full of haunting and beautiful moments, as well as a stunning if sometimes cruel landscape. The book transports you in both soul and body to another place; a place everyone should visit.  It explains the connection between us all, how our greatest gift in life is that of being able to help others, and how gratitude is our most powerful magic. Andrew even shows us how to extend our help and love to those who cannot be helped.


Everyone should read this book; it is possibly the most life-enhancing story I have ever read. A true gift, from a truly wise man, who knows all about gratitude.


It was May of 2000. And we were beautiful.

We were fierce.

We were Boudreaux and Rothschild, Miller and Stackowski, O’Toole and Greene. We were Dani, Alyx, Rickie, Carlita, Jaz, Sam. We were butch. We were femme. We were bois. We were a tribe. Una familia. We pitched our tents between a bombing range and an ammunitions dump. We slept on sand still hot from the sun. We fueled our righteous indignation with campfire speeches and furtive tangles in the dunes. Our voices ached to be heard. We are here! We are queer!

No, they were proud dykes, disdainful of the base desires of men. To have the strength of a man was good. To want to be a man was a betrayal. Alone in bed at night, I rehearsed my confession. In the dream response, my friends stood in a ring, tribunal-style, horrified butches tut-tutting my Coming-Out 2.0.