Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

August 19, 2012

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

During a TED conference, Chimamanda Adichie shared how she found her authentic cultural voice and spoke about the dangers of only hearing a single story about a person or country. Having grown on a university campus in Eastern Nigeria, Chimamanda read a lot of British and American children's' books. As she began to write at a young age, Adichie penned stories not unlike those she was reading; in the following clip, she relays how learning about other African writers changed her perception of literature and helped her identify with and write about people, like herself.
"What this demonstrates [I think] is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature, had to have foreigners in them, and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify." Adichie explained.   








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August 06, 2012

Bill Campbell's "Koontown Killing Kaper"

“Like rats to cheese, folks in Koontown are drawn to yellow police tape. It’s utterly irresistible. ESPN, BET, not even sex can break the hold that thin, plastic strip has on them.  And they come. I don’t understand it. I grew up in the suburbs. But I’d seen it all throughout my police career, and tonight is no different.”  So narrates the embattled heroine Genevieve “Jon Vee” Noir in “Chaptah Tu” of Bill Campbell’s satirical novel, Koontown Killing Kaper.
Not since Mat Johnson’s “Hunting In Harlem” has a book from this genre grabbed me from the very beginning and carried me stto the very end at such a rapid pace.

Rappers, purveyors of urban literature, and TV producers are being found murdered in gruesome fashion. Word on the streets of the besieged city of Koontown is that vampire crack babies are the perpetrators.  Former international supermodel-turned cop-turned private detective, Genevieve “Jon Vee” Noir is hired by rap impresario Hustle Beamon, to find out who’s killing off his business partners and top selling rap artists.  Together with her former Koontown Police Department partner Detective Willie O. O’Ree, Jon Vee navigates the dark, dank underbelly of Koontown; coming up against pimps, dubious record executives, secret sororities, disreputable politicians, and government conspiracies to get to the bottom of the savage murders plaguing the city, lest the crimes threaten the already fragile détente between Koontown residents and the nearby gentrified neighborhood of Toomer Way.

August 01, 2012

Victoria Foyt’s ‘Save the Pearls’, A World Bereft of White Privilege and Beauty Standards

While browsing the internet for current events, I happened upon some buzz of the “WTF?” variety regarding an independently published YA novel written by Victoria Foyt called, “Save the Pearls Part One: Revealing Eden.” A quick Google search led me to an interesting list of results; which included dismay from bloggers, Amazon stats [the book was rated poorly], and its official site. The cover art for the book features a young woman whose skin and hair color are split bilaterally, down the middle [black skin, raven colored hair on one side, flaxen haired and pale skin on the other]. An official synopsis [from the Save the Pearls site] reads…
In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman’s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. The clock is ticking: if Eden doesn’t mate before her eighteenth birthday, she’ll be left outside to die.

If only a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class would pick up her mate option, she’d be safe. But no matter how much Eden darkens her skin and hair, she’s still a Pearl, still ugly-cursed with a tragically low mate-rate of 15%.

Just maybe one Coal sees the real Eden and will save her-she has begun secretly dating her handsome co-worker Jamal. 
I haven’t read the entire book, but based on the generous excerpts I’ve been able to without having to pay and Foyt’sown misguided views on what constitutes anti-racism and racism, I’ve gleaned all that I need and then some, so more than enough to offer a critique on Foyt’s work.

February 16, 2012

In Which I Share in Earnest: The Uprising

 My writing prowess isn't just relegated to essays, blog posts, and articles. For years-- well before I delved further into the world of print journalism, blogging, and freelance writing; I was a prolific short-story writer. Short-story fiction is my first love and I haven't done nearly enough of it lately. 

I dabbled in poetry, participating in half-hearted public readings at open mics (I'm not a performance artist by any means), but I've always had an affinity for writing prose. Every now and again I dust off an old piece of work and put it through a series of revisions with the intent to self-publish. The Uprising, perhaps my favorite Pièce de résistance, is no exception. It's a story I've always aspired to have published as a novella since conceiving and writing it while at college. 

I rarely share anything I've written within the realm of short-story fiction via the Blogosphere and have an inkling to do so now. 

In observance of Black History Month, I've decided to release the prologue to The Uprising.
Perhaps if the mood strikes me, I'll share more.   


**Also, check out Dolen Perkins-Valdez's compelling book, Wench. I recommended this before however, I'm currently re-reading it for the third time and it's what prompted me to share an excerpt of my own work.


Read The Uprising...
 

October 20, 2011

Secret History of the Black Pin Up: From Tease to Sleaze

I recently wrote two blog posts regarding the lack of information on Black pin up or adult models from the 1950's here and here.

In response, a collector, historian and independent publisher named Jim Linderman contacted me and divulged that he'd written and self-published a book (laden with images) outlining the lives and experiences of Black pin up and porn models. 

He had amassed an impressive collection of vintage adult periodicals and pictures showing Black women in various stages of undress and poses. and included some rare finds in his paperback Secret History of the Black Pin Up, which is 118 pages and includes some brief, but  interesting, history with the visuals. 
"There is a whole generation of young women who idolize Bettie Page and such, but they have no idea how UN-glamorous it was for her and the others. I wanted to show some of that, as well as make some points about racism of course." Linderman said in an email exchange

July 17, 2011

Help Me Understand The Help


Social and Print media has been buzzing about Kathryn Stockett's book The Help. The story takes place in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement and is about a young woman named Skeeter... an aspiring writer who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi after having just graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). Encouraged to write about disturbs her, Skeeter decides to down-low collect stories from Black maids detailing their experiences working for their affluent, White mistresses who while relying on them, also mistrusts them - (A woman won't even let her maid use the family's bathroom in one instance). Skeeter collects these stories with the help of a domestic named Aibileen and Aibileen's friend Minny. Like many bestsellers that pique Hollywood's interest, Stockett's book has been adapted into a film also titled The Help, due for release this August and starring the underrated and prolific Viola Davis, who plays one of the several domestics.
General consensus about the book seems to be positive with most people calling its story "uplifting." One commenter on an article's feedback section patronizingly wrote (perhaps without meaning to): "The best book I've read all year. I would welcome any of the maids in my household... especially Aibileen..." But it definitely isn't without its share of controversy. There're a few people who're skeptical about Kathryn Stockett's intentions (for better or worse), the story's theme, and the upcoming film. Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has worked as a domestic for many years, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, claiming the principal character in The Help appropriates her back-story and likeness; and also uses a variant spelling of her name, without her consent and finds it "emotionally distressing." Another interesting twist is that Cooper has worked and currently still does, for Stockett's brother and his wife (who seem to support Ablene in her suit against Stockett). Cooper claims that Kathryn Stockett never approached her prior to the writing and subsequent publishing of The Help
The issue of race, especially as it relates to Black women (particularly in the American south) working for affluent White families... cleaning their homes and raising their children... is still somewhat of a delicate matter, most notably for those who've had to do it for many years for lack of better opportunities and at the risk of their own families. A white person composing these stories about the Black community heightens the skepticism many feel. Stockett herself has acknowledged the book’s cool reception by people (including some of her own family members) in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. I understand that most of us writers are very keen about our surroundings and the people that inhabit it, and so may base ideas and characters off of those elements... but sometimes it's a slippery slope and can come with its share of backlash. Particularly if we aren't careful in how we re-configure those characters we base off of real people, places, and things. 
Additionally, most Black people have mentioned being sick and tired of stories and movies featuring somewhat wayward Black people seemingly being rescued by heroic White people. The August 2011 issue of Essence Magazine features two perspectives on The Help by two Black writers, one of whom enjoyed it as she could "picture the homes, hairdos, and even feel the Delta heat" each time she opened the book and didn't think it reinforced stereotypes, while the other commented that the book "glosses over the reality of African-American triumphs we bled and died for, in order to make a feel-good Hollywood story." 
I'd be remis if I didn't mention my own reluctance about books and movies that tell our stories from a third party perspective not similar to my own ... and have actually tried reading The Help myself, but couldn't quite make it past the first two chapters, as it just failed to sustain my interest. I'm also ambivalent about the upcoming movie. So I'll refrain from opining whether I believe it to be a "uplifting" read or whether I think it'll be a great movie. I will say that I do enjoy reading compelling and honest Black stories, written by Black authors and am still reeling from Wench written by Dolan Perkins-Valdez and would love to see more Black films about Black women, made by... well Black women. It has been a while since I've seen a feature film made by Kasi Lemmons or Julie Dash. I'm still a bit... cranky about Tyler Perry's movie adaptation of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn't Enough." but I digress... that's a whole other topic.
It'll be interesting to read the reviews once the movie has hit theaters and people have actually seen it. Either way, please discuss...

June 18, 2011

Reading Is Fundamental

I have MASSIVE amounts of reading to catch up with! I feel as if I haven't read for pleasure in forever due to being busy. I'm looking to resolve this today! But... but... Where to begin? 



September 01, 2008

Dante's Inferno

There's a new book out. Yet another manifesto that feasts and nibbles on the fleshy insecurities and perceived shortcomings of women. Because Tariq "K-Flex" Nasheed's Art of Mackin' and The Mack Within' needed a supplement. Because men are infallible masters who hold all the answers to life's complexities and one of their primary purposes is to guide us wayward women into a magick fairyland where we would gladly submit ourselves to a life of passivity and servitude.
In any event, this latest fuckery is entitled, The Re-Education of the Female and it's written ever so eloquently by computer engineer and first time author, Dante Moore. Moore-- described by Washington Post writer Laura Yao as a well groomed, heavyset, baby-faced, 33-year old with neatly twisted dreadlocks-- professes to love women, and that he wrote this book to help us along .
Moore was also raised in a matriarchal household, and his father was mostly absent. His mother insisted that he treat women like, "queens." But as Dante aged, he came to the realization that his mother was oh so very wrong. See, he discovered that acting like a douchetard toward insecure and needy women, made the phone ring off the hook, much to his delight-
"My mother used to say, walk them home from school, grab their books, give them gifts, blah blah blah, yada yada yada. I went like that for maybe two years, and I probably lost every girlfriend that came along- Once I started being myself and saying, 'look, I'm not going to do this, this, or that for women,' the phone didn't stop ringing, "
The kicker is that Moore was able to train his girlfriend of two years, into dressing sexy on the daily and even prompted her to clean the house looking like a femme-fatale.
"He's wonderful. He's one of the good ones." She coos lovingly (I assume she cooed lovingly). Despite succeeding in brainwashing gaining the adulation of his girlfriend, Dante still claims to not have found "true love" as yet, which would explain why he's not hitched, even though he has an impressionable 11-year-old son to doucheify. Yao neatly summarized the crux of Dante's literary point: Women need to Cook, clean in sexy-hot attire, bow down to a man's every command, put out, and stay skinny if they want to snag and keep a man's interest.
"I like someone of a certain size," Dante rambles on. "My preference would be African American, size 10 or under, conscious about her history and culture."
Miseducation Re-Education of the Female reinforces Dante's preference in this excerpt in which he charmingly compares women to rotten fruit--
"The fatter you get, the more you decrease your potential single-man pool. Let me give you an example. When you go to the grocery store to shop, do you pick out the nastiest-looking, most rotten, smelliest fruit or meat you can find? Oh, you don't? Why not? . . . It's the same with men when they see baby elephant-sized, out-of-shape women."
If Dante Moore's douchery still doesn't illuminate, read this excerpt from Yao's interview with him, in which he fumbles an attempt at being evasive about his dating history--

Though generally reluctant to discuss the specifics of his dating life, Moore does talk unabashedly of a time he broke up with a woman over the fact that he inadvertently almost stole $15 from her.

He took her on a date to Maggie Moo's, and she gave him a $20 bill to order for her. He pocketed the bill and, distracted by the menu board, claims he never saw the value of the bill and just assumed it was $5. When his date later asked why he hadn't given her change, he thought she was accusing him of not treating women well, and dumped her on the spot.

"If I would've just paid for it, had she not given me the money at all, we'd probably still be dating," he says.

This incident, he recalls, happened about two months ago. But weren't he and Tuitt (the trained girlfriend) "exclusive" during this time? Moore quickly revises it to "several months ago," he can't really remember, but probably before he and Tuitt "became exclusive."

Dante's bottom bitch girlfriend later covers for him, saying he probably made a mistake with the time frame, for he's "open with everything he does."--- (queue the collective Bitch PLEASE! and eye-rolls). Laura Yao concludes her expose by mentioning that a 14-year-old girl enthusiastically purchased the book promising to lend it to her mom when she's done reading it, and that a "large stack" still remained during Dante's underwhelmingly attended book signing, that particular day.

Unfortunately, this is what relationship advice has been reduced to. Insecure and bitter men doling out wordz of wizdom to other insecure, bitter men seeking validation and this overwhelming need to rate or condescend to women, not to mention the naive women who will undoubtedly fall for this hype, because they are sick of waiting by the phone (when they should be doing something far more productive).

I've extricated myself (unofficially yet gladly) from the market sans regret, and must admit that while annoyed, I can't be angry over books (or ideas) like this. All one has to do is find the comic relief and entertainment in its message. To read between the lines and wonder why yet another man, would go out of his way to write such a bittersweet symphony about the evils of womankind.
I'll bet Moore almost exploded into a million teeny tiny douche pieces when his book got picked up. All the more reason to gloat and pound his chest. Why not just enter into a legitimate BDSM relationship, complete with a signed contract and willing participant, if he is that intent on dominating and subjugating a woman?? At least it'd be a lot more honest and less bullshitty. I also just LOVE how he considers us FEMALES and not WOMEN. Makes me all shivery. If Dante Moore is indeed, considered "one of the good ones" as his loyal girlfriend claimed, then I'd rather find some Aggressive to do the scissor with. Look, everyone is entitled to having preferences when it comes to what they consider aesthetically appealing. I'd be lying if I said certain physical traits on a man didn't attract me. And admittedly, Dante Moore appears to be an attractive looking man. And while I believe I can pass for being quite attractive despite my flaws, I don't walk around pretending to be perfect looking or that everyone should want me because I think I'm goddess's gift. I'm realistic, and while my expectations are up there, they're within reason... with the bulk of the emphasis being on intellect and whether or not a man is respectable and respectFUL.
I am sick of dudes lumping ALL women in the same categories due to their own personal experiences:
  • Golddiggers,
  • Unappreciative,
  • Hyper-sensitive,
  • Gullible,
  • Not attractive or mindful of her appearance due to having some meat on the bones,
  • Expecting the world to revolve around her
  • Uncooperative.
We're automatically uncooperative and high-maintenance because we want to be treated respectfully? I'll be the first to admit that many women may be conflicted over that concept and will send mixed signals... and blow off a genuinely nice guy, no matter what he does for her, but the majority aren't. Trust. I mean, I could neatly classify ALL MEN under the same categories and write them ALL off for the following reasons:
  • Jackass
  • Douche
  • Disingenuous
  • Unreliable
  • Too Dumb
  • Not packing in the meat department
  • Fug
  • Blathery
  • Uneducated
  • Boring
  • Poor
  • Old
  • Impotent
  • Sloppy
  • Unstylish
  • Misshapen
  • Dogs
  • Liars
  • Cheaters
But I don't, because I realize one's personal experience with a few isn't indicative of the sum total of a whole lot. And more importantly, most of those labels and rating men based on bullshit standards are unfair. It's a shame that a few bad dating experiences from seemingly ungrateful women resulted in Dante becoming crass, bitter, and cynical enough to pen this book. Rather than suggesting that women need to be "re-educated", perhaps he should get some therapy and explore the things that may very well be wrong with him as well. Women who fall for men who treat them poorly have deep rooted issues they need to work out. i.e. the women who seemed to call Dante once he started treating them like yesterday's bowel movement. Or the groupies Dante met during his signings and whispered their phone numbers in his ear. I'm tired of guys of Dante's ilk thinking perfection is their due, when they have a looooog way to come themselves ... physically and especially intellectually. These distorted and unrealistic perspectives regarding what womanhood entails. Par for the course as far as the patriarchy is concerned. I am a LADY who would not give this type of base chauvinism the time of day. Get a fucking uterus, a pair of tits, some culture, and a clue and I just might engage you.

I shall certify Dante with Massengill's stamp of approval for exerting the effort, for having a great smile, and more importantly- for successfully conning his girlfriend.

October 04, 2007

Décadence

I'm a huge fan of the reading. Yes, in-between moments of self-indulgence, lamenting my non-existent dating life, self-absorbency, moisturizing, exfoliating, glossing, imbibing and the like, I manage to squeeze in time for some voracious reading. I've consumed some really tasty literary fodder the past couple of months-- but none as titillating as-- (my favorite author)-- Andrea Lee's latest offering, Lost Hearts in Italy. I finally stopped being a coward, and about three weeks ago went down to the public library's main branch, downtown, and got a new library card. A looming balance haunted my previous bibliothecal existence and so I stayed a way. The fine wasn't particularly hefty. It was under 20 dollars, in fact-- (some videos I'd returned late), but the idea of having a library fine intimidated me... Okay, fine, I just didn't relish having to pay one! In any event, I'm happy to report that in the lieu of the library's recent renovations and updated databases, my account was purged, apparently. And so I retained a brand spanking new card administered to me sans having to pay a dime. Loves it. Hungry for more Andrea Lee, who's previous offerings: The Russian Journal (non-fiction, memoir), Sarah Phillips, and Interesting Women (a collection of short stories)-- left me wanting more, and so I checked out her latest aforementioned novel, Lost Hearts in Italy. Andrea Lee, an Ivy League educated black woman from Philadelphia, is an expatriate living abroad in Turin, Italy (for well over ten years)-- where she raises her two sons and is married to an Italian baron named Ruggero Aprile di Cimia. They all live in a large, old, funky fresh castle. Yes, what I fancy my life to be. In any event, perhaps due to Lee's own circumstance, she goes the route of Henry James. Her characters tend to revolve around women of color (usually) living successful, sophisticated, and glamorous, trans-Atlantic lives abroad, while managing relationships with grandiloquent foreign men, who sweep the heroines off their feet. Lost Hearts... has all those same elements but is even more decadent and tragic, as it charts the disintegration of a young American couple's happy (interracial) marriage, due to the wife's inexplicable act of adultery with a surly, cold older Italian billionaire named Zenin. Who is seemingly fixated by the idea of possessing the protagonist's (Mira Ward) whole being. Needless to say, the affair reaches a crescendo and it consumes Mira, culminating in the bitter demise of her marriage and family. Lee's characters seem to encapsulate themselves in a life of grandeur and material success. Her descriptive, almost prose like descriptions of Italy's sumptuous locales makes it easy to get lost and wish you were somehow involved, if only to be in the luscious European backdrop of baroque furnishings and fancy almost hedonistic getaways ...
Heres an excerpt:

The call comes three or four times a year. Always in the morning, when Mira's husband and children have left the house, and she is at work in her study, in the dangerous company of words - words that are sometimes docile companions and at other times bolt off like schizophrenic lovers and leave you stranded on a street corner somewhere. There are moments when Mira, abandoned in the middle of a paragraph, sits glaring furiously out past the computer at the chestnut trees in her hillside garden and the industrial smudge of Turin below in the distance and the Alps beyond. Then the phone rings, and she breaks her own rule to grab it like a lifeline. And eerily enough, as if from hundreds of miles away he has sensed her bafflement, her moment of weakness, it is often Zenin, a man who once wrecked part of her life.

Oh, not Zenin himself, not at first. His billionaire's paranoia is too strong for that. He never calls her on a cell phone, always from his office, never from one of his houses, from his yacht, from his jet. The call is placed by any one of a bevy of young Italian secretaries, the kind who announce their names in bright telemarketers' voices. Pronto, it's Sabrina. Marilena. Or Veronica. It's different each time, but always the kind of aspirational Hollywood-style moniker that in Italian sounds slightly whorish. ---