Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Musings from a black woman: I can weigh in on this!

Write What You Know: Limiting or Authentic?, by Neesha Meminger, Racialicious. Emphases mine. It is a long post, but keep reading. You can do it!

The other day, I came across a blog post by Editorial Anonymous, “The CSK is Dead (Long Live the CSK).” The Coretta Scott King Award was established in 1969 and is given to outstanding African-American authors and illustrators of children’s books.

Editorial Anonymous writes,

"If the CSK were in charge, male writers wouldn't be able to comment on what it's like to be a woman. The CSK is saying that you cannot understand what it is to be black in America unless you are black.

"Giving an award for creating art about the experience of race is a wonderful thing. But giving an award for creating art and being a particular race?

"That’s racism in action."

So this set me a-pondering. Is it cool for white people to write from the perspective of people of color? How about, as Editorial Anonymous mentions in the quote above, for men to write from the perspective of women?

[. . .]

[prize-winning white woman author Laurie Halse Anderson] also goes on to write, “Slavery affects all Americans today, regardless of ethnic background, or how long our families have lived here. Slavery is the elephant in our country’s living room. It won’t go away until we acknowledge, understand, and deal with it.”

This is absolutely true. Racism (and slavery) affects every single one of us, no matter what our background. White people should be taking it up as an issue – just as men should be taking up the issue of sexism and misogyny –and talking about it, examining it, exploring, and looking for more equitable and just paradigms. And writing a novel like Chains may be this one white woman’s way of doing that.

So . . . what’s the issue? Is there an issue?

There is the view among some writers that one’s creativity or artistic vision should not be limited or “fenced in,” and restricting writers to write only what they know does exactly that. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard some variation of, “Who wants to read about a liberal white woman from New Jersey/Iowa/Seattle?” [I would!]

However, in an interview on ustrek.org, Sherman Alexie, author of Ten Little Indians and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, as well as the writer/director for Smoke Signals, jokingly suggested a “10-year moratorium for white writers so that Indians can tell their own stories instead of having white people tell them. ‘The fact is, when white authors step away from their typewriters, they’re still white. When I get up from the typewriter, I’m still an Indian.’ He wants those authors to question their privileged positions.”

[. . .]

Next time you go to a bookstore, check the shelves and see how many books there, are in any given genre on any given subject, written by people of color. My guess is that very few genres, if any, will have an accurate representation of global demographics in the titles. And that is because there are so few writers of color getting picked up and supported by publishers in any kind of substantial way (a là Twilight, Harry Potter, The Princess Diaries, etc. And, of course, these examples hold true for film as they were all adaptations of novels).

As a South Asian author writing YA, I know from experience that many editors are hesitant to pick up more than one novel with an Indian-American protagonist written by an Indian-American author – even if the two novels are different genres and about entirely different subjects – because both novels still fall under the Multicultural category. This often creates the “everyone elbowing for the one seat on the bus” phenomenon among the marginalized authors who have to fight for that one lone multicultural spot. But I digress…

Yet, as we all know from visiting our local bookstores, or taking an online stroll through Amazon, there is an abundance of books/films by white writers writing on every subject, in every genre – with more than one writer often covering the same topic for varying perspectives. A publishing house can have several white fantasy authors and historical romance authors, even a few writing about spiritual journeys and all of those books are seen as different books. None of my white author friends have ever had their agents come back to them with, “No, this editor declined because she already has a European title about identity issues.”

I, on the other hand,
have heard that exact same phrase, substituting “European” with “Asian.” . . .

I thought about this recently as I was looking at some of my associates who insist upon socializing with and befriending others based on color and gender. I'm not kidding. It is that bad. When you look at them, you feel embarrassed for them. It is hard to believe that they are 30-year-olds living in California, instead of high school seniors going to a segregated Georgia prom.

As I try to explain to people with whom I have enlightening discussions, there is a difference between white men writing about nonwhite and/or nonmale people, and those people writing about themselves. For instance, I know infinitely more about white men than they could ever know about me or any other black woman. I have personally encountered thousands of white men in my short lifetime. That does not include the countless number of white men I have been forced to read about, listen to or watch as part of my "educational" process. In the United States, white men are in your face all the time. Unless you live on a reservation with no mainstream media access, you cannot escape them. I could tell you gross generalizations of what they like, what they don't like, how they grew up, what they think of themselves, the lies they have been told and which they subsequently believe, and who they dream of becoming and why. I could adopt a pseudonym, write Memoirs of Joe Six-Pack, and it would sell millions. (Don't steal my idea! Or, if you do, please blog about it and let me know.)

However, that does not work in the reverse. Some white men have never met any black women, or any nonwhite people at all. Others can count all the colorful friends they have ever had on one hand. They could also count the important black women they have heard of on two hands. An example:

  1. Rosa Parks
  2. Harriet Tubman
  3. Michelle Obama
  4. Oprah
  5. The overly-mentioned Halle Berry
  6. Weezy Jefferson
  7. Whoopi Goldberg
  8. Tyra Banks
  9. um . . .

There aren't even any black women in either of the Night at the Museum movies, as if black women never existed in history, or at least in museums. There are two women (barely) featured in the second one, including Amy Adams, who primarily function as Ben Stiller's younger, better-looking love interest. Or "Amelia Earhart." Whichever.

Based on my above analysis, writing what you know may be limiting, but it can be more authentic. It is revolting that so many books, TV shows and movies that include (white) female characters are written by (white) men. It comes through in the voices of those characters, like when those middle-aged men were writing about those self-involved twentysomethings. It is dishonest, less than believable and disappointing. If more nonwhite and nonmale people were allowed to actively participate in the infrastructure of corporate media, then sure, write whatever you want. But that is not the case, and I do not appreciate having my alleged story told by white men who all share the same one black friend. That is, if my story gets told at all.


I have never worn Lacoste.

But I have read Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster who is featured above. It was funny. Too bad we don't all have the time to exercise for four hours a day like the main character of the book has.


My advice:

Take a nap.

Here, Here! 13 Years Of Perfect Attendance.
, by , The Washington Post via Yahoo!.

. . . Stefanie Zaner, Iron Kid of Darnestown, is closing in on her 2,340th straight day of public school. The 18-year-old is unlikely to get the standing ovation afforded Ripken for his streak when she arrives at Northwest High School on Friday for the last day of senior classes in Montgomery County. But hers is a rare accomplishment. Not once in 13 years was Stefanie marked absent: not for a cold, a family vacation, a college visit or a senior skip day. She once went on a freshman trip to Shanghai with the school marching band and boarded the plane with her clarinet only after securing written assurance from the principal that the trip would not count as an absence. She has never broken a bone, thrown up or caught the flu or even a bad cough, she said. "There were days in high school when I thought she was too tired to get up," said Debbie Zaner, Stefanie's mother. "But by high school, it was up to her. It wasn't up to me." . . .

In five years, no one will care that you missed no days of school and got straight As. Furthermore, college visits are way more important than attending class during your second semester of your senior year.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

What is that supposed to mean?

Hello, Mr. Heartache, by Jincy Willett, New York Times via Jennifer Weiner´s blog.

Holly Frick, the writer at the heart of Sarah Dunn’s new novel, hates the term “chick lit.” Since we never actually get to read her own novel, “Hello, Mr. Heartache” — whose horrible title was imposed by her publisher’s marketing department — we can’t be certain that she hasn’t actually written “fiction by and for women,” the generally agreed-­upon definition of that loathsome term. But the novel in which Holly herself appears was definitely not written just for women, no matter how it’s packaged. True, the protagonist is female, the setting is Manhattan, and the focus is on relationships — and there’s a big shopping scene. True, mostly women will read it. But then women are the ones mostly reading every­thing. Besides, it’s not about shoes. And the shopping is for books, at the Strand. Also, unlike chick lit, chick TV and chick movies, “Secrets to Happiness” is actually funny.

Way to self-hate, Ms. Willett.

bt-dubs, New York Times: aren´t you up for sale?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"A woman voting for the GOP is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders!"

And how.

Republican women: A minority in a minority, by Erika Lovley, Politico via Yahoo! News.

Women make up almost 51 percent of the U.S. population but less than 10 percent of the House and Senate GOP — a gender disconnect that could make the Republicans’ climb back to power even steeper than it would be otherwise.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) notices that she’s part of a shrinking minority every time she heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Republican women in the House say they feel the problem — literally — when their male colleagues nudge them to the front of GOP press conferences to break up the solid lines of middle-aged white men in neckties.

Indeed, Rep. Kay Granger — the first and only Republican woman to represent Texas in the House — says Republican women have to work to make sure they’re even represented at public events in the first place. "We pass the word to make sure we're there at this ceremony or that photo-op, because there are fewer of us and we're spread more thinly," Granger said. "We're working in a very successful manner, and we want to make sure that’s shown."

I would like to be in a photo-op!

While Palin provided a high-profile role model for Republican women thinking of running for office, her experience was a double-edged sword. Lawmakers say the rough treatment Palin received showcased the nastiness of modern campaigns and underscored the notion that women are susceptible to the charge that they’ve been picked to run because they’re a good demographic fit — and not because they’re the most qualified.

Yes, the rough treatment that Sarah Palin received during the 2008 Presidential campaign. No one else received rough treatment. No one else at all.

But the pool is shallow. State legislatures, which often serve as feeders for Congress, are also seeing fewer Republican women step up to the plate. Meanwhile, Democratic training outlets such EMILY’s List have been well-organized and highly successful at recruiting, while Republican womens' groups, such as the National Federation of Republican Women and the Wish List, say they are bracing for another tough election cycle.

. . . "If you believe that a more centrist position for the Republican Party would bring about more success and bring more voters back, then women would help make that happen," [said Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics]. "Women bring a voice of moderation that could pull them back to the party."

The Republican Party should focus on bringing in moderate people, not simply matching the Democratic Party by getting more women, or by putting a white lady and a black guy in high-profile leadership positions.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The children are our future,

including the future of our media: Wonder Where All The Assistants Were?, Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood.

Some observant comments:

Wow! Look at all the minorities! Why aren’t there any white male assistants? Someone really needs to do something about this, guess they just can’t find any. Oh wait, there’s one, there’s another, oh, the tint on my screen was on. The number of blacks in the oval office is equal to the number of blacks in this photo.

- Anonymous

We need one black one, an asian, a white one, a persian, filipino, ok one more white guy, uh, a latino, a light skinned brotha, move along people, leave no empty seats, women please take the back seats, we’re on a tight schedule…

- Roll call

Even Rockville CA is better than the fictional account of this industry subset: The Assistants. At least Josh Schwartz's characters have pigmentation in their eyes and hair, if not in their skin.


We have come so far.

No, really, we have. That's not sarcasm. Much further than this:

Now we get this:

And this:

Though, no more of this:


Thursday, May 07, 2009

I knew there was something missing in the new/old Star Trek.

Black to the Future, by Danielle Belton, The Black Snob.


1. Segregation. Most of us are working the elevator lifts and have other shitty jobs no one else wants.

2. New DNA technology allows us to be "bred" out making, white skin a dominate gene trait.

3. Still too broke for space!

4. New technology allows people the choice on whether to be born black or not. God. Was that a story in "Faces At the Bottom of the Well" because that sounds scary as shit.

5. Hey! That AIDS finally worked. Wait. What?

OK. I've officially scared myself with all these oddly plausible scenarios. Anyone else got a theory on how we got left behind?

I counted two black people in the Star Trek trailer, and one of them was also playing the role of "the girl." Then there was the beloved John Cho, who had approximately 4 seconds of screen time. I will hypothesize that all the colorful people, along with and including all the women, found a peaceful planet, and left the paler gentlemen to play their reindeer games.


"Plus or minus black people"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Forced Smoking & Grizzly Best Man
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Because it's not enough to be born in this country to be considered a real American. This is why I never like to call anyone a hyphen-American. I've never even been to Africa. If only black people didn't vote. Or exist. Then the results would be more accurate?

Byron York responds to the claims that he is a racist, which, okay . . .? Instead of addressing the problems with the article he wrote--including a faulty poll which "divided respondents into black and white, with no other groups reported", as if no other people live in United States--Mr. York is worrying about allegedly being considered a racist. He should worry more about being considered a shoddy journalist.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

I concur, ladies.

ShePop: Time to feed our longtime girl crush on 'Target Women' host Sarah Haskins!, by Jennifer Armstrong, Entertainment Weekly. Emphases mine.

EW: [Your Target Women videos on Current TV] have gotten you enough attention to sell a script.

Sarah Haskins: I’m supposed to technically say it’s been "optioned." It’s called Book Smart. I wrote it with my writing partner Emily Halpern, who’s written for The Unit and Private Practice. I know her from college. It’s about two girls who have been perfect their whole life and they decide senior year they’re going to devote their perfection to the getting of boyfriends. We wanted to do a female take on a typical teen movie. I think just complexity of character is a little bit lacking [in many female-focused films], and I think you’re also missing a broader spectrum of women. There are all these beautiful ladies who can’t get a boyfriend, and it’s like, Really?

Jennifer Weiner, A Moment of Jen. Emphases mine.

Last week, home sick, I read HAPPENS EVERY DAY: AN ALL-TOO-TRUE STORY by Isabel Gillies, the story of a young mother’s marriage falling apart. Probably you’ve seen it – they’re selling it at Starbucks. More importantly, probably you’ve seen Ms. Gillies, who was an actress with a recurring role on Law & Order before she chucked it all to follow her feckless husband to the hinterlands of Ohio, in the name of love.

Gillies is, in a word, gorgeous: a statuesque blue-eyed blond with killer bone structure. But I didn’t know that when I downloaded her memoir, and the Kindle didn’t provide me with either a book cover or an author photo.

In a weird way, the omission made the book a lot more suspenseful than it would have been if I’d had Ms. Gillies’ visage staring me in the face every time I glanced at the back flap. A happy ending would have been a foregone conclusion. Of course she was going to meet “the love of (her) life,” as she wrote on the very last page. Probably on the way back from the post office where she mailed in her manuscript! And she probably got proposed to twice on the way there!

Instead, I read without knowing what the author looked like…although, to be fair, I figured that if she was a working actress she probably did not have the kind of face and figure that would cause observers to run away, screaming…and Gillies notes, more than once, that she considers herself pretty, is considered pretty by others, and often slid by on her good looks.

But a picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words. Being told someone is a looker is not the same as having the evidence right there in your hand. And so I read, thumbing that “NEXT PAGE” button with the dread you feel watching a horror movie, when the pretty girl whose car breaks down hikes to the creepy mansion on the hill to ask for help, and decides to take her top off beforehand. No! I thought, upon learning that Gillies’ intended had ditched his first wife while she was pregnant. Don’t marry him! It’s not going to end well!

I was charmed by Gillies’ description of arranging wildflowers in Ball jars on the organic farm outside of Oberlin; engrossed as I read about the wallpaper she and her husband chose for their big, brick house, the sweet nicknames they used for one another; enchanted with descriptions of her morning routine and her afternoon tea and the tomato-and-gruyere tart she cooked. My heart was in my throat when the gamine brunette who would eventually steal her husband’s heart showed up on campus. When Gillies, clad in a puffy down parka that probably had Cheerios in its pockets, falls to her knees in front of her husband’s mistress to beg for her marriage, I was right there in the snow with her.

Would I have felt that level of identification, that empathy, that edge-of-my-seat, thrill if I’d known that the author probably hadn’t lacked for male attention since age twelve and wouldn’t be lacking for it long, even with two kids, in the wake of a broken marriage?

I’m not sure. I suspect the truth is that I would have looked at the picture more than once, and read the book rolling my eyes. Those charming descriptions of wildflowers and nicknames and tomato tarts and summers with her still-married parents in Maine would have sounded precious. The drama of the kneeling-in-the-snow scene would have read as melodrama. And the ending would have had me cynically shaking my head: babe lands boyfriend. Stop the presses!

C'est tout.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Which is worse:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Harry Truman Was Not a War Criminal
Daily Show
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Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

calling a former US President a war criminal (no, not that one), or dropping atomic bombs on Japan? I would think it is worse to kill over 200,000 people with nuclear weapons.

I don't understand how Jon Stewart has spent the past eight years validly lambasting the second Bush administration for its wrongdoing, yet feels the need to apologize for validly calling someone a war criminal who attacked two cities with nuclear weapons. No other president or country has ever done that. Maybe Jon would feel differently if he had ancestors or family from Nagasaki or Hiroshima who went through that permanent destruction of their homes and lives.

But what do I know? I don't have a late night talk show on a basic cable network.


Friday, May 01, 2009

"I fold my socks."

Something for the ladies. If only more companies cared about what women actually want.


"Meredith, where are your panties?!"

Oh, dear.