Tag Archive | Blogs

Racism? You Don’t Say?

A discussion came up on Facebook regarding the apparent lack of diversity in publishing when Martha Boss, book blogger, educator, and model shared her opinion regarding the lack of diversity at book events. She explained that she had no desire to attend any literary events that didn’t have authors from all walks of life. And in the United States of America in 2017, one would think that such an opinion would be positively acknowledged and celebrated. Unfortunately, an uproar of finger-pointing and finger-wagging ensued by some disgruntled readers of her post. On a positive note, the conversation inspired me to write this post.

Before I delve into where I stand on this matter, I will first give some background knowledge and context.

Most of you may know that my husband is white. I bring up his skin color because of the nature of this post. You see, some time ago Marvel was relaunching Spiderman and making the hero that followed in Peter Parker’s steps a young man named Miles Morales, who is  half-Black and half-Hispanic.

spider-man-miles-morales-peter-parker

I was okay with this change. And as an advocate for diversity, I’m all about the inclusion of more and more people of color in all social constructs. On the other hand, my husband was concerned about this change. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spiderman, he’s a young man named Peter Parker who happens to be white, like most of the comic book characters that have become not only popular, but also who have become mainstream due to aggressive marketing and appearances in movies (Batman, Deadpool, Superman, ad nauseum). All alternate personas of these heroes are white males. And all but two of them are filthy rich (yes, looking at you, Deadpool and Mr. Kent.)

Hardcore fans are all about staying true to the “canon”. And there are laws that must never be broken.

Two main “no-no’s” are:

THOU SHALT NOT CHANGE THE COLOR OF THE CHARACTER.

THOU SHALT NOT CHANGE THE GENDER OF THE CHARACTER.

My husband was concerned that the writers weren’t staying true to the canon by changing Spiderman’s ethnicity. My husband’s argument was logical especially when he supported it with this gold nugget: “The market should be actively looking for writers with new fresh faces and cultures to add to the Marvel or DC universe. Peter Parker should keep on being Spiderman.”

I agreed with my husband that the Industry or Market should be looking for new material from different perspectives instead of rehashing the same tripe year after year.  Moreover, consumers need to do their job by demanding what they want and if the Market isn’t giving it to them? Well, now. There’s this powerful principle called supply and demand and it’s a beautiful thing. If I don’t like a show, I won’t watch it. If I don’t like a restaurant, I won’t eat there. For example, even if McDonald’s were the last restaurant on the planet I REFUSE TO EAT THERE!

A few months after my husband and I had our third child, he turned to me and said, “I get what you’re saying. You know, about seeing more characters that are people of color. I don’t want our sons growing up not seeing that they’re important. That they exist.”

we need diverse books3

BINGO!

And the cry for diverse books wasn’t enough because then you fall into the bait-and-switch trap that it’s okay for white authors to write books that star nonwhites as the characters. Then, the #ownvoices movement was ushered in to stress how important it is for people of color to tell their own stories in their own voices and not having to fear that they needed to pander to or patronize a white audience or any audience (regardless of color) that didn’t understand where they were coming from.

Too bad these movements aren’t making waves on television. Yet. You see, over the past several months, my husband and I observed a disturbing trend regarding television shows for children. I’ll most likely go into more detail about that in a future post. 🙂

The conversation that my husband and I shared regarding the necessity for diversity in books and comics inspired me to reflect on my childhood as a reader and where I am now as an author and reader. My reflection motivated me to write this blog post.

Now, back to the main topic.

In one of my previous blog posts I discussed the deathtrap of stereotypes.  A common stereotype regarding Black people is that we don’t like to read. It was also one of the arguments that excuses the cold, hard fact that 88% of books reviewed by the New York Times are written by white authors. So, one could ignorantly draw the conclusion that Black people don’t like to write either. Or that they don’t know how to write. But, if they do like to write, they’re not very good at it because they don’t like to read and thus there’s no market for them. And that’s just the way it is.

Uh, no. Just no.

weneeddiversebooksbecause

Yes, indeed. 🙂

When I purchase books for my classroom I choose them very carefully. I want books that will not only keep my students engaged, but appeal to their gender, not only relate to their own experiences, but challenge, and build onto this foundation. My Black students, as well as White, Asian, and Latino students love reading a good book regardless of what color the main characters are . . . or whether or not the main characters are even human. However, there comes a time when nonwhite students wonder WHY their experiences, their truths, their very essence isn’t proudly shown on the cover of a book or even within its pages. I know because I was once their age and wondered these thoughts: Am I not worth writing about? Are people like me not worth reading about? (Well, unless you’re a slave getting the crap beat out of them). By the way, what is the USA’s morbid obsession with Black pathology? Yuck.)

We Need Diverse Authors

About eight years ago, libraries (some may still practice this, but I’m pleased to say my local library DOES NOT) shelved books based on genre in an obsessive compulsive way that would impress even this guy:

monk-logo

Back then, there were no cross-genres.

mixedupauthor

Dear heart, weep not. Tis 2017 and we live and breathe for literary mashups such as yours. 🙂

No, no, no. Every little book went into its own boxed off little shelfie-welfie corner. Oh yes, yes, yes.

So books like this:

black romance

 

 

 

or this . . . romance_black

 

 

 

 

 

 

wouldn’t appear in the general romance aisle, but be ghettoized or segregated from that oh-so lucrative and coveted section and placed in the African-American books, Street Lit, Urban Lit, or wherever library’s chose to place books with dark brown to light brown faces on the cover. Think about your local grocery store and how soy sauce, butter chicken, and curry are cordoned off in their own aisle labeled “multicultural or ethnic” away from the other condiments. Even poor sauerkraut and gelfilte fish has its place there. If I hadn’t watched the Food Channel or binge watched “Great Eats Around the World” I would remain culinarily (made that word up) ignorant! Now, regarding the segregated books: Was this practice intentionally racist? *Shrugs shoulders*. Not sure. But, one could see how this limits authors of color from being discovered from readers regardless of their color even though it fit in the “general genre”.

A couple of weeks ago while visiting my local library I noticed a lot of newer authors I had never seen before. I was so impressed that the library had become “integrated” that I had to take a picture of it!

libraryintegration

A Japanese author, a Black author, a White author, and even a Native American author all on one shelf! 😀 And all different genres! Ha! Impressive. 

Clearly, people and books don’t belong in boxes. Well, unless you’re dead and boxed in a coffin. Sorry, I digress.

In 2015, Lee & Low, a publishing house that prides itself on finding new authors of color shared the results of the Diversity Baseline Survey, which revealed that overall the Industry is predominantly white and female. Bet you weren’t expecting THAT revelation. But, it’s true. And when I say overall we’re talking about all levels:

  • Executive Level
  • Editorial Dept.
  • Sales Dept.
  • Marketing & Publicity Dept.
  • Book Reviewers

Is this predominantly female white status quo deliberate and thus, racist? Well, if you consider the data . . . the other question is will it be kept this way and by design?

While I hunted for facts regarding the struggle many writers of color — Asian, Caribbean, African, South American — experience trying to get published, I encountered similar stories:

  • Mira Jacob, young author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, shared a powerful speech about her struggles as an (East) Indian woman dealing with ignorance and prejudice in the publishing industry. A MUST READ!
  • Jenny Zhang shares how a white poet, Michael Derrick Hudson, used a Chinese pen name, Yi Fen Chou.
  • Paul Langan, a white novelist writes popular series about Black students growing up in an Urban setting.
  • Brandon Tensley discusses America’s Problem With Writers of Color.
  • PP Wong, author and editor shares how many times her novel was rejected. One of the reasons is really, really, really stupid. And clandestinely racist.
  • Phenderson Clark, speculative fiction writer of Afro-Caribbean descent draws back the curtain regarding racism against fellow Black authors (and the lack of characters) in the science fiction and fantasy community.

To piggy-back on the final bullet regarding the science fiction and fantasy genre that I write and adore I come to a fork in the road. Lately, several of the Big Five publishers that are located in New York are requesting romance novels from Black authors. I don’t know how to write strictly Romance. I mean, doesn’t it entail, you know, like a “formula” where handsome guy meets gorgeous lady and they don’t like each other at first until he or she does something and then the tide is turned and then they like each other, but not like that and then they fight and break up and then you know — heck, I DON’T KNOW! So, my point that I’m trying to make is do I just “sell out” and go to the “Crimson Wine and Chocolate Covered Cherries Side” of Le Force and write Romance because it’s popular and I’m more than likely to succeed since there’s an open call for it?

Like I said before, I don’t know how to write strictly Romance. I need creepy scenes, an occasional vampire or demon to slay. I need undiscovered elements on the periodic table. I need a nod to the current status quo and how to change it. I need to believe that there are dragons to slay whether they be literal or figurative. I need to hope for windows, doors, closets, basements, or even dreams that lead to alternate dimensions.

I may not write Romance yet, but I could learn, if I feel so inclined, and not because it’s what a publisher wants of me to selfishly benefit themselves.  In other words, why should writers of color pigeonhole themselves? We should be able to write what we want.

This scenario brings this excerpt from Rachel Deahl’s Publisher Weekly’s article, “Why Publishing is So White”:

So how does the industry move forward and do better? Right now, publishing seems to be struggling with the difference between words and actions. Take, for example, a situation a publisher at a reputable Midwestern press recounted. Claiming he is “always trying to diversify our staff,” he brought up a recent editorial assistant search that initially yielded 250 applicants. The press narrowed its options down to eight finalists, five of whom were white and three of whom were people of color. Although all the finalists were “excellent” in his estimation, the position went to a white woman. The reason? “There’s no room for tokenism at [our press].”

Dude, there’s no need for tokenism! What a cop out!

There’s always going to be a first and you don’t have to stop there. A first — if that’s the intended direction you want to go — will lead to a second and a third.

It only takes one to turn the tide.

The need for diverse books from diverse authors with different stories to tell isn’t a trend and never will be.

I'mnotatrend

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 20

In an earlier post of the “Quotes to Write By” series I cited Mervin Block’s quote “nouns are the bones that give a sentence body. But verbs are the muscles that make it go.”

Well, let’s have a little discussion about adjectives and adverbs.

marktwain

Twain

 

Believe it or not, these descriptive parts of speech can do a lot of damage to a decent sentence, paragraph, or scene.  Mark Twain advises “if you catch an adjective, kill it.” And Stephen King admonishes that adverbs are not a writer’s friend.

Stephen-King

King

 

 

Why?

Here are some examples from King:

“Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

King also addresses how adverbs can (taboo -ly words) weaken — not strengthen dialogue:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

What’s a writer to do?

Kill them! Kill them all!

Kill them? Kill them all? Not necessarily. And not always. 🙂

For starters,

  • Use strong verbs instead.
  • Describe your character’s facial expressions, actions.
  • Utilize literary devises such as metaphor and similes, which I call formidable beasts.
  • Get inside the minds of your characters with Deep POV.

At last, the quote for today:

jackmbickham

Bickham

Quote #20

“Adjectives, like adverbs are lazy words, slowpokes, tranquilizers. Watch out for them.”

Jack M. Bickham

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

Quotes to Write By – Day 13 . . . with a BONUS!

I have two quotes today from two different authors: Daniel José Older and Ray Bradbury.

daniel jose older

Older

From a superficial perspective, it appears that these men don’t have much in common. However, both Older and

ray bradbury

Bradbury

Bradbury are exceptionally talented writers. Yes, are. Even though Ray Bradbury has died, his stories are still read and discussed today. For example, Fahrenheit 451 was one of the first-ever dystopian novels! Bradbury was also a screenwriter and he worked in many different genres: fantasy, science-fiction, horror, mystery. Likewise, Older is not only a talented writer that writes in different genres. He is also a composer and an editor. I first learned about him over a year ago when I saw a copy of his fantasy novel, Shadowshaperat my local library.

Shadowshaper_cover-

Sierra, the protagonist, in all of her glory!

I had to read the book. Needed to. I don’t recall ever reading a book that spotlighted an Afro-Latina as the lead! (Review will be coming soon). Older is an expert at stringing words together without too much flowery description. The dialogue and setting is realistic. The characters are relatable!

I aspire to be like the authors Bradbury and Older by writing more and dabbling in different genres and medians to stretch, tighten, and polish my author’s voice. Why? Because I’ve got to be better than I was the day before. After all, readers of all ages and colors are relying on writers for more “honest literature”! 🙂 There’s much work to do.

 

Quote #13

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”

Ray Bradbury

BONUS QUOTE

daniel jose older_quotes

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

 

 

 

 

You Might Be Sexist If . . .

dark-girls

According to the documentary Dark Girls: The Story of Color, Gender, and Race (which everyone should watch no matter how much melanin their skin possesses) deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color – particularly dark skinned women, exist outside of and within the Black American culture. And based on my own experience growing up as a little black girl in the United States of America, I can attest that this phenomenon is shamefully and painfully true.

The reality of this secret (which is no longer much of a secret) and the disgust and anger that I feel about color and race in this country didn’t arise within me until a conversation came up at work in the teacher’s lounge.

I know. I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering what the hell I was doing in the teacher’s lounge, which is often called a cess pool of negativity and where teachers congregate to eat, complain, and vent their unhappiness about school board policy, students, parents, and anything else that pops up. And I ask myself, “Monique, what the hell were you thinking?” Well, I’m trying to be more sociable and when you’re an introvert that often appears to be an extrovert, you have to swallow your fears, your shyness, and grin pretending that you enjoy being amongst people that sometimes make you feel uncomfortable. Besides, when you’re told that you’re as sociable as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes, and you don’t realize that the comment is actually an insult, your efforts at “fitting in” increase exponentially.

Basically, the conversation came up when another teacher shared the horrible news that a 14 year old girl had been raped by a 16 year old boy in one of the local middle schools. Another teacher had the audacity to express that some girls this happens to aren’t “completely innocent” of being assaulted and that their behavior had something to do with the assault. In other words, he blamed them for being raped.

doctor_who___dafuq

Dr. Who, would you kindly give us the use of your Tardis so we can manipulate time. You know, so that way readers who didn’t see the offense in the above remark can reread it. The rest of us who realized this utter stupidity the first time have bloody eyes.bloody-eyes

 

 

Well, I’m done with trying to “fit in”.

I’ve been mocked as a “defender of justice”. I’ve been stupidly and unfairly asked to explain WHY things happen in Black society or culture as if I’m the spokesperson for said culture. And politely, I’ve told these people where to take themselves. I’ve been downright PC.

Well, I’m done with being politically correct, damn it!

medea_fed-up

I’m going to tell it plain in this  “rant/epiphany”.

  1. You’re a Racist if you Entertain the Fallacy of Race just like a sadist enjoys inflicting pain, if you even entertain the idea of different races as if human beings are boxed in separate species like dogs and cats!  There are too many people in this country – in this world – that believe they are not racist. However, even individuals who claim not to be racist often possess racist attitudes on an unconscious level. Race is a social construct. There is NO scientific fact that supports it. So, if you’re one of those people that check off what race you are, then yes, you are a racist and need to stop sippin’ the damn Kool-aid. (More on that later in a soon-to-come blog post).
  2. Black Women and Latinas are more than a Big Butt and a Smile. We’re not hypersexual, exotic toys. We’re just like any other women who deserve and demand respect.
  3. Silence=Agreement During the teacher’s lounge discussion that made me lose my appetite, I learned that these men (particularly white men) think that teenage Black and Latina females (ages 14 and younger) are tempting older men with sex. “Come on, these girls DON’T LOOK like kids. They look so much older – 18 or 19 at least. And the way they act makes men want to engage them. So, it’s their fault if anything happens. They’re not COMPLETELY innocent.” And no one, other than myself, countered this “man’s” disgusting opinion. No one. Perhaps, they were shocked. Perhaps, in their disgust they couldn’t speak. Or worse, perhaps they agreed with him because he spoke expressly about Black and Latina girls and not the white girls who they represent. If someone speaks about these kinds of things and you don’t speak up against it, then you’re implying that you agree! Don’t be afraid to speak up because often no one else will!

ALSO, just because these young girls LOOK mature on the outside does NOT MEAN THEY ARE developmentally ready FOR SEX! The phrase “if there’s grass on the field means play ball” is the outcome of a twisted and perverted mindset. The appearance of sexual maturity does NOT give a man (or woman) the right to even entertain the idea of having sex with children. Do I really live in a nation of damned perverts!? If this person had the sense to think about what’s going on inside the minds of these brown-skinned girls (which is also happening now to peach-skinned white girls) then he’d realize that the media has not only oversexualized children, but also brainwashed girls into thinking that their only worth is in their bodies. There is MORE GLORY in these beautiful children than spreading their legs for some f-ing pervert! And how can it be clear that he’s not bringing this destructive mindset into his classroom to the students he teaches on a day-to-day basis. It makes me sick!

I need to take a breather.

pause-button

*Drops the microphone*

March Media Madness: Down and Dirty

M.L. Desir’s Wednesday Down and Dirty Tip: Social Media

The days of authors languishing away behind their keyboard, clack-clack-clacking away on their latest story or poem are what one could call the good, old days. Of course, in those good, old days you could end up like Edgar Allan Poe – wandering the streets of your city delirious and distressed, then dying shortly after. Or you could share a similar fate to Emily Dickinson, a reclusive writer, who didn’t become popular until after her death. However, if you’re a writer who wants to be a Somebody are also new to using social media, here are some down-and-dirty tips. The easiest social media tools to use (in my opinion) are Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

Why?

Twitter is similar to texting. It’s best done when short, sweet, and interactive because even if you don’t have something of your own to tweet at the moment, it’s entertaining to read what has already been tweeted and join in by retweeting, liking a tweet, or commenting on a tweet that caught your attention. I LOVE it! 🙂

Facebook

Though it’s not my favorite social media, I do enjoy interacting with readers, friends, fans, and fellow writers who leave comments on my post. I rarely post photos and I’m thinking about posting more as time allows.

Blogs

In the beginning of my blogging journey, I procrastinated because I didn’t think I had anything new or interesting to say. However, I’m learning that even if I share views with other people, my take may be a little different based on my own individualized life experiences. I enjoy writing about lots of topics. The only problem I still struggle with is finding the time to write. Between working full-time as an educator, writing books, being mommy to three sons –ages 15, three, and three months – time is a precious, priceless luxury.

So, the down and dirty tip for marketing yourself as an author is . . . create an account, engage as much as you can, and with time and consistency the routine will become second nature, and nothing more than an afterthought. Like breathing air or drinking water, but uh, not simultaneously.

And yet, with the way technology is becoming so very intrusive and the rampant focus on egocentric me-ism, Emily Dickinson’s poem, I’m Nobody! Who are you? is a state of being much to be desired.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260) Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

 

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

finis

reclusive author

Ah, Emily! You woo me with the seductive beauty of anonymity!