Alumna Profile: Ariel Gore, Returns to the Bay Area to Promote Latest Book

By
November 4, 2004

Mills College Weekly

Some students on campus may not recognize the name yet, but
Ariel Gore is a vivid example of an empowered and informed Mills
woman who has not only hurdled obstacles that many women in our
community face in reaching their educational and personal goals,
but has also used those experiences of struggle in a creative and
powerful way.

Gore’s experience was that of a young mother who began at
Mills without the confidence to speak up in Sarah Pollock’s
Journalism 1 class but soon transformed into an outspoken advocate
for welfare rights and for the voices of mothers on campus. She did
this by taking her experiences and putting them into action by
writing and speaking about them. Since those early years at Mills,
Gore has launched her own successful magazine, made appearances on
MTV and published four books.

Thirty-four year-old Gore’s latest and fourth book, The
Essential Hip Mama, is a collection of the best and most inspiring
stories from the first ten years of her magazine. She is currently
touring the Bay Area promoting it.

Gore, an alumna from the class of ‘94 is the editor of the
magazine, Hip Mama, that started out as a senior project and has
reached readers nationwide and abroad. She is also responsible for
writing and co-authoring six books including a Hip Mama Survival
Guide, another guidebook for parents of teenagers, several
collections of essays from “the new generation of
mothers,” and a stunning memoir, Atlas of the Human
Heart.

Gore commits herself not to the goals that may further her
career, but to educating and empowering women like herself who
strike an even more impressive balance between their commitment to
family, creativity, and social justice.

The magazine is a testimony to the commonly-heard advice,
“write what you know”: this writer, activist, and
mother of a now-teenaged daughter has proven the power of a young
woman’s voice that speaks from the heart even when it defies
convention.

Gore went from being just another student to a writer and
activist when she realized that she could use her own talents to
bring about change to the issues she found most important.
“There was nothing else I could do but write about it,”
she said. “Writing was my only skill.” In addition to
publishing her books and magazine, she shares this skill with
others by teaching creative writing to adults and teenagers in the
public schools of Portland, Or. where she now lives.

The Bay Area native came to Mills at age 22, a few years after
watching coverage on national television of the student strikes in
the early 1990s protesting the school’s plans to become a
co-ed institution.

“There was that level of political awareness and activity
on a campus— it put it in my mind as a place that was not
only going to be women-friendly, but [has] a real feminist
sensibility,” said Gore.

“There’s probably a reason I was a commentaries
editor at The Weekly,” she said “rather than the news
editor— because my interests always leaned towards pushing
for change or a certain political agenda.”

Gore’s writing assignments for her classes often focused
on her own experiences or used them as a
“jumping-off”-point to explore how to effect change on
different issues, which is exactly the same attitude she holds for
her magazine, which was once seen as just a senior project.

“Hip Mama itself really came from the community at
Underwood where there were a lot of single moms: a small community
of parents that just became the base [of the project.]” Gore
used articles written by then-Mills students as well as alumnae
writers to put together her first issue, which she not only
submitted to her professors but also to the San Francisco Chronicle
and SF Guardian newspapers.

She cites being in the Bay Area as the key to the unexpected
“catapult” of the magazine into something much bigger
than she first imagined. The Chronicle and the Guardian promptly
ran reviews of the magazine and soon, those reviews appeared in
papers such as the Chicago Tribune. “All of a sudden I had
subscribers from all over the country, so I had to continue—
I didn’t want to write them a letter saying that it was
actually just my senior project.”

Gore completed the next issue of Hip Mama before the end of her
last semester at Mills, and four years later published the Hip Mama
Survival Guide, which has been praised by critics as full of
insight and originality, covering issues not many parenting books
do in a style that is politically conscious and direct.

“For me, that was my radicalizing experience being a mom.
I’ve always been somewhat political but that was the time
where it clicked for me that I was not going to be doing anything
with my life that didn’t have to do with trying to effect
change in some way. Just having a kid and realizing that its not
just about my life— it has to do with the generations going
down the line.”

Gore became one of the most outspoken young people in the media
that was defending the rights of welfare mothers, at one point she
spoke out against Newt Gingrich on MTV. She was a teen mother
“at a time where all the headlines weren’t about how
bad terrorists were, but how bad teen moms were.” She
described the “family values campaign” at the time as a
“cultural moment where teen moms, welfare moms and single
moms were the devil.”

She put her talent in writing to use in working on Hip Mama and
later publishing more books— another Hip Mama guide, a book
called Whatever, Mom that deals with issues of parenting teens
(which includes chapter-by-chapter rebuttals from her teenaged
daughter, Maia), two co-authored collections of essays by parents
that defy the parenting book conventions, and an autobiographical
account of her teenage years that was described by guitarist and
singer Corin Tucker of the band Sleater-Kinney as “a terrific
and important book.”

The book, Atlas of the Human Heart, describes how Gore spent her
high school years “just traveling around…I think it really
changes your way of being in the world for the positive.” Of
what she learned, she said, “It’s fabulously important.
The problem with us Americans is that we generally don’t know
about other countries— do you know who the Prime Minister of
Canada is? And they know who our president is. It’s not just
education for our own enrichment, it’s the fact that we
don’t know anything about anyone else, which makes our
foreign policy impossible. We don’t think people in other
countries are quite human.”

She continues the political dialogue in Hip Mama now on issues
such as the current war, the presidential elections and military
recruitment.

Gore will celebrate Hip Mama’s ten-year anniversary on
Nov. 17 and is currently touring the West coast and reading at
bookstores and museums to promote her latest books.


Alumna Profile: Ariel Gore, Returns to the Bay Area to Promote Latest Book was published on November 4, 2004 in Arts & Entertainment

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