Tanya Shaffer: Writer, Performer, Traveler
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"For a moment I had the distinct sensation that I had slipped sideways out of my life and into someone else’s - that I had somehow eluded the storyline that should have been mine. The feeling was bittersweet, and I paused to salute my phantom double: the solo traveler who shadows me still."
- “Of Sweethearts and Sperm Banks: A Twenty-First Century Love Story”
The stories and essays on this page are available for online reading.
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Buddhism
"From Nudism to Buddhism: A Journey of Discovery"
A mad dash across Europe in pursuit of inner peace. This is where Tanya first coined the sentence, “It’s my life, and if I want to run from it I can.”
First published on Salon.com
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"Beautiful Freedom of the Heart: The Five Wonderful Precepts and Me"
Chronicles Tanya's comic wafflings about whether or not to officially take the five precepts with Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
First published in Inquiring Mind, the International Journal of the vipassana Buddhist Community.
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"The Artist's Buddha: Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation as Tools for Coping with the Challenges of the Theatre Artist's Life and Craft"
Explores the ways in which theatre artists incorporate Buddhist practice into their lives
and work.
First published in Callboard, the magazine of the San Francisco Bay Area theatre community (now called Theatre Bay Area)
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Memoir
"Of Sweethearts and Sperm Banks: A Twenty-First Century Love Story"
Chronicles Tanya's determination to have a child when she hit 35, with or without a man, and the surprising turns her journey to motherhood took.
First published in the anthology The May Queen: Women on Life, Love, Work, and Pulling It All Together in Your 30s
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"Make Black the Night: An Oberlin College Memoir"
Captures some of the comedy and complexity of Oberlin College in the mid-80’s as students struggled to define their personal and political identities, sometimes in highly confrontational ways. (TANYA’S NOTE: I hate the title Salon gave this story, but I really like the piece itself.)
First published on Salon.com
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"The Circle Game"
A memoir of Tanya's shifting focus between acting, writing, and activism, published in 1999.
First published in Callboard, the magazine of the San Francisco Bay Area theatre community (now called Theatre Bay Area)
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Travel
The following pieces all originally appeared on Salon.com. All except the first two were later adapted to become chapters in Tanya’s book, Somebody’s Heart is Burning. The parenthetical titles correspond with the chapter titles in the book, where they differ from the Salon titles.
"A Passion for Pelago"
Rainbow Gathering meets Burning Man meets rave at a music festival in a tiny Italian hill town.
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"Death in Ghana (The Boy Was Like This)"
A haunting tale of a child's death.
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"Looking for Abdelati"
The search for a friend's home in Casablanca leads to an extraordinary experience of hospitality. This story is Tanya's "hit single," reprinted in seven English-language anthologies and one Italian, and read on Australian National Radio.
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"Mother Love in an African Village (Yao)"
A tale of a beloved child's illness and a traveler's awkward efforts to help. (TANYA'S NOTE: This is perhaps my favorite of these stories, for its ambiguity and complexity of feeling.)
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"Mother Load (She Kept Dancing)"
A portrait of a passionate, complicated African woman. Set in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
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"Genie"
A comic tale of lust on the road. Set in Burkina Faso.
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"Malaria Dreams (Malaria)"
Hubris breeds consequences when the mosquitoes finally strike. Set in Tanzania.
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"Losing Their Shirts (The Man in the Cave)"
A strange encounter with a fetish priest in the hills of Ghana.
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