I was nervous to start the Ooligan program this term, but when my project team told me our first task was to launch Memories Flow in Our Vein by hosting a feminist pub trivia event, I knew I was in the right place.
Though Memories Flow in Our Veins launched at this year’s AWP in March, the book’s Portland launch was on April 21, surrounded by the warm and open atmosphere of the Belgian pub Bazi Bierbrasserie. Somewhere around fifty people showed up for the event; the tables were packed, and even the bar was full of trivia contestants. Ooligan students, professors, friends, the CALYX team, and even some strangers scattered here and there chatted over beer and pub food while waiting for trivia to start.
Memorable team names included Michelle Obama’s Arms (because why not?), My Interesting Lady Friend (yes, that’s a reference to Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and impressively, two separate Susan B. Anthony puns.
The Memories team had worked hard to ensure that questions were difficult, diverse, and interesting. Consequently, when teams were asked what kind of fluid ancient Roman women wore to improve their complexions, there were some unusual responses. Of course, the actual answer was also weird—the sweat of gladiators—but the fluids brainstormed by my team were significantly more disgusting. If I had been worried that there would be tension or uncomfortable competitiveness, it was quickly dismissed with everyone’s reactions to this question.
We really did try to make these questions difficult so that no single team would have all the answers. The group I sat with won third place, but no one on the team had any idea when the first woman ran for president, let alone what her name was. (For those interested, it was women’s rights activist Victoria Woodhull in 1872.) My group had only discussed possibilities from the twenty-first century, perhaps thinking that if people have such a problem with Hillary Clinton today, nineteenth-century politics wouldn’t have even allowed for a female candidate. It turns out we just haven’t made as much progress as we thought.
For those who weren’t up on historical facts about women’s rights, there were questions about sports, politics, literature, science, and pop culture. If you didn’t know what kind of creature Nettie Stevens used to determine biological gender through chromosomes (mealworms), you might know instead the hashtag that Star Wars fans used to call attention to the lack of merchandise that included female protagonist Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (#WheresRey).
Because anything can be a marketing opportunity, we shamelessly plugged Memories Flow in Our Veins right before we got to the trivia category focusing on Memories and CALYX. Teams were allowed to buy the book and then flip through for answers, and since many of us are college students, we know how to quickly navigate through front and back matter. Though each group performed admirably, the team from CALYX scored the highest, to no one’s surprise. (To their credit, they graciously declined their prize of Ooligan backlist books and merchandise, granting it instead to the runner-up.)
For many of the Memories team members, the feminist pub trivia event was the culmination of a long, sometimes hectic but ultimately fulfilling process. Some of them are graduating at the end of this term, so launching the book was as much a goodbye as it was a celebration. For me, so new to the program, it gave me a glimpse of what I can look forward to in the next couple of years: hardworking students, supportive professors, a feeling of camaraderie, beautiful books, and hopefully more Belgian beer.
The Memories project team members, past and present.