Tag Archive | Humor

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

 

 

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Quotes to Write By – Day 29 What’s In a Name? More Than You Think!

Disclaimer: The following analysis of characters and their names are solely my opinion and conclusions I’ve drawn from being a wordsmith, character creator, and a lover of names.

williamshakespeare1

Juliet, from the play, Romeo and Juliet, speaks this famous line. She argues that it doesn’t matter that the young man Romeo whom she loves is a Montague, her family’s archenemy.

But Juliet is wrong. Names are important. Especially when it comes to creating names for characters. And on a more mundane note, who the heck would lovingly pen the name, Toilet, on their newborn baby’s birth certificate. Or Virus? Cesspool? Booger?

I read a lot of fantasy and I love when I can tell that an author put a lot of thought into creating their characters’ names. When my oldest brother read the names I had brainstormed for a book we’re working on together, I smiled until my face ached (okay, fine I’m using hyperbole) because I was pleased that he was pleased with my inventions. Creating names is a lot of fun!

Popular Character Names in Book Series

In Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, the wizard Harry Dresden’s full name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Not only is Harry’s name fun to say, but his first name is a nod to Harry Houdini, a Hungarian-American illusionist and stunt performer, famous for his sensational escape acts. Dresden’s also named in honor of David Copperfield, an American illusionist and magician who was born in 1956. I’m not sure about the background information on “blackstone” though. I do know that it comes from the Blackstone Group, which is a financial firm founded by two dudes in the 1980s who used the German and Greek parts of their names to create a cryptogram: “Schwarz” is German for “black” and “Peter” or “Petra” in Greek means “stone” or “rock”. Thus, “blackstone”.

HarryDresden

Harry Dresden

Another popular character in urban fantasy, is the one and only Anita Blake. I adored this series and still mourn for the style it was written in over a decade ago. I miss Anita solving crimes, raising the dead, and putting them back to rest. Her full name consists of four syllables. Her first name sounds softer and more romantic to me. Also, Anita certainly had a softer side in the beginning of the series (i.e., her stuffed animal penguin collection). Her name is derived from Sanskrit and means full of grace, mercy, favor, variety, a leader, without guile. In the series, it’s implied that her name is from the Spanish language because her deceased mother is Mexican. Her last name, Blake, is a mystery and where it is derived from is uncertain. According to Mr. Wikipedia it could come from “blac”, a nickname for someone who had dark hair or skin, or from “blaac”, a nickname for someone with pale hair or skin. Another theory is that it is a corruption of “Ap Lake”, meaning “Son of Lake”. I think this uncertainty and duality of dark and pale suits the character of Anita Blake just fine since she has gone from being a character symbolizing justice and daring not to dabble with the dark creatures of her world — vampires, for example — to not only protecting them, but doing the horizontal mambo with them every day, all day.

Anita Blake

Anita Blake

Popular Character Names in TV Series

Olivia Pope’s name is interesting. Her surname evokes images of holiness, righteousness, and power. However, one could argue that the title or word “pope” also conjures images of the exact opposite due to corruption and hypocrisy in the Catholic Church. Likewise, the character, Olivia Pope, in the television series Scandal, is a woman of contradictions.

olivia pope

Olivia Pope

As a crisis manager, her job is to solve problems for her clients who add to the existing drama in her personal life. Her first name comes from Latin and means “olive branch”. Olive branches are a symbol of peace or victory, which fits Olivia perfectly. The fictitious character of Olivia Pope is partially based on real-life crisis manager, Judy Smith. I watched the first two episodes of Scandal and couldn’t continue. There are no dragons and too much mundane drama that I avoid in the daily news. I found it tragic that Olivia, a beautiful, talented, and intelligent woman couldn’t have her happy ending. Granted, it’s her own choices that often keep her from it. Or maybe Shonda Rimes, the show’s creator, wanted to portray a realistic woman who forfeited the search for an impossible “happily ever after” and instead settled for or could be satisfied with “happy enough”? I have no idea. I like Happy Endings. That’s why I often play RPGs and live vicariously through my CGI characters. 😛

Anyway, I predicted that Ms. Pope’s slippery slope into tragedy would continue to worsen and if I became a fan my heart would most likely break. I’m all about keeping my heart intact. 🙂

Another character with a cool name is Nikita from the series (first a movie), La Femme Nikita, which is French for The Woman Nikita. Nikita. Nikita, Nikita. That’s it. No last name. And that’s all that’s needed.

Nikita

Nikita

Why? This name is loaded with goodies! Nikita is an assassin that is paired with great assets — beauty, intelligence, and the ability to kill with ease and efficiency. Her name isn’t even originally French or female. It originated as a masculine Greek name and subsequently a Russian name exclusively for males. The name has been recently adopted as a French name for girls.

 

 

 Popular Character Names in Movies

Keyser Söze isn’t the name of a breakfast bagel. And no, I’m not referring to one of Moe’s (Welcome to Moe’s), (Tex-Mex eatery — delicious!) salsa. Keyser Söze is the name of the main antagonistic and driving force in The Usual Suspects, one of my favorite movies. I won’t spoil the movie’s epic and mind-blowing twist ending for those of you who haven’t yet seen this cinematic masterpiece. Traditionally, Keyser is a last name and it’s a development of the early Germanic name “Kaiser”, which was derived from the Roman imperial title “Caesar”. In the criminal underworld, Keyser’s great skill,  ruthlessness, and reputation are of epic and mythical proportions. For example, handicapped con artist Robert “Verbal” Kint describes Keyser as “a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. ‘Rat on your pop and Keyser Söze will get you.’ But no one ever really believes.” Poor dears. They should believe.

Keyser_Soze

Keyser Söze

Keyser may be a man of violence and enjoys spreading fear, but like some mega-villains he’s a man of his word. I looked up the meaning of the word “soze” in Turkish and was prompted to look it up in Kurdish. It means “promise“. Keyser Soze is most likely a pseudonym and a small piece of the puzzling, deceptive, and criminal world the “usual suspects” dwell in.

Speaking of the criminal world, how could I not mention John Wick? Before John Wick, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 beckoned action, thriller, and suspense lovers, I didn’t think any movie could bank on the explosions, the mystery, the gunfights, and the gloriously twisted plot that the writers of The Usual Suspects had created. During a heated and no less humorous conversation between a father and son (both elite members to the Russian maffia), important information about John Wick is revealed:

Viggo Tarasov: It’s not what you did, son, that angers me so. It’s who you did it to.

Iosef Tarasov: Who? That fucking nobody?

Viggo Tarasov: That “fuckin’ nobody”… is John Wick. He once was an associate of ours. They call him “Baba Yaga.”

Iosef Tarasov: The Boogeyman?

Viggo Tarasov: Well John wasn’t exactly the Boogeyman. He was the one you sent to kill the fucking Boogeyman.

Iosef Tarasov: [stunned] Oh.

Viggo Tarasov: John is a man of focus, commitment, sheer will… something you know very little about. I once saw him kill three men in a bar… with a pencil, with a fucking pencil. Then suddenly one day he asked to leave. It’s over a woman, of course. So I made a deal with him. I gave him an impossible task. A job no one could have pulled off. The bodies he buried that day laid the foundation of what we are now. And then my son, a few days after his wife died, you steal his car and kill his fucking dog.

The name John is Hebrew and translates to “Jehovah has been gracious; has shown favor”. And the fact that John Wick is unstoppable and for the most part untouchable seems nothing short of a miracle.  Reeves, who plays John Wick also compared Wick’s story to “[…] a kind of Old Testament revenge story” adding that, “When someone takes the things he cherishes, violence erupts and John can’t temper it.” Though the character’s last name, Wick, is a name Kolstad (the movie’s writer) had used as a reference to his grandfather, the founder of Wick Building Systems, as a fellow writer just because something is simply cool isn’t reason enough to do it. So, I did a little digging. The word wick is Old English and related to both Dutch and German languages. The best definition of the word “wick” that I discovered is:

wick1

/wɪk/

noun

1.

a cord or band of loosely twisted or woven fibres, as in a candle,cigarette lighter, etc, that supplies fuel to a flame by capillary action

2.

(Britslangget on someone’s wick, to cause irritation to a person
john wick2

The second definition is symbolic in regard to how John Wick operates in the criminal underground of assassins. Without his wife’s love, he’s like a wick or woven fiber waiting for fire to light it. In other words, there are two parts to John: his need to settle down and find happiness and the wanton desire to kill and blow things up. And the second definition, which is slang for annoying a person is poetic justice. In the first movie, John just wanted to permanently silence whoever messed with him by stealing his car and killing his dog. Cautionary advice: give him what he wants and he’ll return to his quiet self. Word to the wise: don’t bother John Wick and he’s as sweet as a lamb. 🙂

One of My Own Character Creations

From my vampire series starring the titular main character, Gabriel Lennox, I wanted to make a name that possessed sex appeal, mystery, and a firmness to it. Gabriel_ok
The name Gabriel is Hebrew and means “God is my strength”. The last name Lennox originates from Gaelic and means “lives near the place abounding with elm trees”.  Gabriel Lennox is a strong, sophisticated name and it’s also the surname of one of my favorite singers, Annie Lennox.

Fellow writers, how do you choose character names? What techniques do you use?

Adoring readers, what character names do you love or hate . . . and why?

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

Cultural Appreciation, Please?

 

Cultural appropriation_disturbing

Dear America (not just white people), can we appreciate and respect each other in a genuine manner? Can we learn what other people’s cultures consists of and not do “our own thing?”

Some time ago another blogger, the talented and charming, Jess of Daring to Jess invited me to write a post about cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation. I was more than happy to do it. But, I wanted to get it right. I wanted to give this important and provocative subject justice.

So, here we go.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. … Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, and such displays are often viewed as disrespectful by members of the originating culture, or even as a form of desecration.

Desecration. A word like that made me think of one of my favorite RPGs, Dragon Age where mages (magic users for the uninitiated) can enter unholy covenants with demons and transform into tainted, demonic abominations.

morrigan.

Obviously, the word desecration let’s you know, dear reader, that cultural appropriation has a negative connotation and for good reason.

Cultural appropriation is like treating other people’s cultures like an all-you-can eat and not all-you-can stay buffet, picking and choosing which parts of a culture you want to take part in. It’s superficial. It’s shallow. It’s not a good look.

Why? Because you cheat yourself into not getting to know the people of said culture; being ignorant of who they are as individuals; lacking the culture’s history; its struggles, its beauty; its mistakes; its successes; etc.

Likewise, cultural appropriation isn’t looking at a culture’s multifaceted parts. Instead, it’s a practice of using bits and pieces of that culture as a fashion statement. Which is just plain tacky . . . or plain creepy like a study in the twisted doctor Frankenstein stitching the pieces of dead body parts to create his “masterpiece” or monster.

frankenstein

Oooh. Who does your hair? It’s electrifying!

But I have digressed . . .

Some examples of cultural appropriation are:

kat

Pop singer Katy Perry dressed as a geisha.

Oh yes. I went there. Popular singers and actresses like Katy Perry and even Destiny’s Child (before Beyonce went solo) have sported kimonos and fetishized the geisha of Japan. Have these women — especially Katy Perry — considered how harmful it is for Asian women to fetishize the stereotype of the submissive and sexually exploit them for entertainment?

destinygeishacrap

*Face palm. どうして?(Japanese for “Why”?)

The question is, do these women even know what purpose the clothing and hairstyles serve? Do they care? Do they even know what the heck a geisha is? And is knowing important? Damn straight it is! Ask G.I. Joe.

the_battle-

G.I. Joe: Knowing is half the battle.

 

 

 

 

Other cultural appropriation examples are wearing a hijab or cornrows in a selfie and posting these egocentric and annoying photos on Instagram because you think it’s cute or cool or whatever. However, people who naturally wear this attire aren’t immune to micro-aggressions that the “fashionistas” get praised for whilst sitting at home taking more selfies in the safety of their bedroom or bathroom.

jennerisannoying

Uh. No.

 

 

Basically, a Muslim woman may face or have to deal with dirty looks as she shops for groceries or a Black woman who rocks cornrows will be sent home from work because her hairstyle isn’t considered “professional”. Even worse and more annoying is that people who play dress up with another person’s culture don’t even know why the culture they’re imitating has these types of hairstyles or clothes. Nor do they care to know! It’s arrogance in ignorance and I don’t understand why people love it so much! With search engines like Google at their fingertips, they couldn’t think to look up why people dress the way they do and why? Sheesh. I think maybe I’m asking too much . . .

For example, Black women have been rocking cornrows for decades. Historically, cornrows or braids, also called cane rows in the Caribbean, are an ancient traditional African style of hair grooming, in which the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to produce a continuous, raised row.

However, when white women like Bo Derek, Kylie Jenner, et al come along – then suddenly everyone loses their effing minds! Headlines declare, “Blah-blah or so-and-so has broken the Internet after doing such-and-such!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/9-times-white-people-have-appropriated-black-hairstyles-since-2014_us_55a81211e4b0896514d0c3ca). Commenting viewers think it’s stylish, they think it’s beautiful, they think it’s oh-so effing amazing.

How often are Black women mentioned for the beauty of their hairstyles, the versatility of their hair by non-Black people? We’re often our own cheerleaders.

#FACT, motherduckers!

Cultural appropriation  FLASH-ATTACK! (HADOUKEN):

In some predominantly white-audience magazines, Bantu knots are ignorantly called minibuns.

No minibuns

Hmmm. Just tell the truth. Bantu Knots came from south Africa’s Zulu tribe and God forbid if Whites knew that they’d refuse the hair-do, right? (#sarcasm)

Uh, no. Just no.

 

bantuknots

Black women often wear Bantu knots as a protective style. Click and learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about the culture the hairstyle came from? Anybody heard of Africa? You know, the continent with over 50 countries and such diversity and history that its beauty could fill scores and scores of books? The hairstyle is also popular in Jamaica where my mum is from. After you wash your hair, you part your hair and then simply twist the hair (two parts — not three) and then knot it around to lock it in place. It can stay in place for days or more and when you untwist the knot, the hair falls in a lovely manner!

bantuknotsout

Bantu knots undone. Beautiful!

 

 

getoutThe social thriller movie, “Get Out”, written by Peele (the other half of the dynamic comedy duo, Key and Peele) is a perfect example of cultural appropriation on steroids. I’ll discuss those juicy tidbits either on another blog post or on my Youtube channel, Monique Monique, Quite Unique. 🙂 *rubs hands and giggles mischievously*.

Now, for the sake of argument, I shall play Devil’s advocate.

devils-advocate

Sometimes our own perception of potential problems does not connect with reality due to a gap.

While browsing the Internet and all of its many wormholes, I noticed a comment by a White woman who pointed out that it’s not fair that Whites are often criticized for being cultural appropriation villains when non-Whites (particularly Black women) have committed crimes by appropriating White women’s hair. I considered responding to her lament, but fortunately another commentator, Tamika Mustipher, beat me to it. And I’m so glad she did because she was more patient than I would have been and I don’t think my response would have been as clear as Tamika’s.

Below is her explanation in all of its absolutely fabulous glory:

“Agreed! Overuse of heat appliances on hair does cause damage, regardless of ethnicity. I have to disagree with your idea “that cultural appropriation is what they call it when White girls wear cornrows” though. The problem with that statement is that it is far too broad and insinuates that every Black woman is concerned with the ways in which White women style themselves. Let me tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth because I do not care what you or any other woman does with her hair. Yes, there are some who gripe about cultural appropriation, because it is a very real thing but in my opinion the insult of it is far more profound than hair. A Black woman wearing straightened hair or extensions is not necessarily trying to “be White”, just as a White woman wearing cornrows is necessarily trying to “be Black.” Riddle me this; was Bo Derek trying to be Black when she wore cornrows? No. She was a woman, working. Was Nicole Kidman, who admitted that she “ruined” her curls by heat straightening trying to be “more White” by straightening her locks? No. She simply preferred straighter hair. As I said above, and I’ll say again, we as women should be able to style our hair as we wish without negative commentary and attacks from anyone, ESPECIALLY other women.
As for your statement regarding Black women walking around with beautiful jet Black hair straighter than yours, and demanding that they stop trying to be White, have you taken the time to consider that perhaps your look may not be the look they are going for at all? In all my years, I haven’t seen very many White women with naturally, jet black, straight hair. In fact, it’s actually a look that is more specific to the Natives. Another fact is that African and Native Americans have shared a rich history, as many runaway slaves were harbored by Natives and intermarried, etc. With that said, consider the idea that many Black women are not thinking about trying to emulate White women at all, and simply find indigenous beauty admirable.

Thank you, Tamika, for letting me use your words! 🙂

Dear America, cultural appreciation is a beautiful thing to experience!

When I traveled to Japan as a Sister Cities International ambassador, I made sure that I was respectful to the native family I lived with; the native students I taught; and the people I encountered by:

  • Slurping my ramen noodles (real ramen – not that packaged crap)
  • Bathing in a public bath. I embraced Japanese culture even though I was freaked out about bathing where other people could see me! Eeeek!
  • Wearing a kimono for parties/celebrations (not pretending to be a geisha)
  • Taking my shoes off and slipping my feet into uwabaki (上履き)
  • Whatever the family ate that day, I did too. Why? Because I appreciated their culture! I had traveled to the other side of the planet and I wasn’t going to waste my time eating McDonald’s when I could feast on delicacies like okonomiyaki, tempura (which is actually from Portugal, but Japan adopted it to their list of yummy foods). 🙂
  • Speaking the language! If I didn’t know how to say something in Japanese, I asked in Japanese, “Nanto ii masuka?” __ にほんご なん いいます か。
    __ wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka? How do I say __ in Japanese? Why? Because I appreciate the culture! I said that phrase so many times, I still remember it to this day.
  • I’m still friends with the Japanese couple I lived with!

And that finally bullet is key. I love building connections, cultivating relationships, and making friendships that can last a lifetime. I’m also a xenophile and I love learning about different cultures, languages, and people!

moi_kimono

Yours truly wearing a kimono (a gift from my family in Nagano).

 

Isn’t that one of the reasons we’re on this Earth?

So, don’t be ignorant! I challenge you to connect with new people on individual levels and learn something!

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s plain tacky and tasteless!

#FACT, motherduckers!

You Can’t Write That.

You Can’t Write That. Oh really? Just watch. 🙂
The title of this blog post comes from a very tender spot in my life as an author and a Black woman growing up in the USA. Several years ago, I dated a close-minded individual (Who Shall Remain Nameless) told me that I couldn’t write my recently published novel, Forbidden: Book One of the Gabriel Lennox Series. At the time, it wasn’t published and while I waited for that new chapter in my life, I had continued writing additional books for the series.
I wouldn’t describe myself as rebellious, however, when someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m determined to prove them wrong. Especially when that something will benefit me. And then, filled with resilience, I channel my inner samurai:

Come at me, bruv

Come at me, bruv!

Since I had considered He Who Shall Remain Nameless a friend, I was shocked and disgusted, not only because he was trying to tell me what to do, but mostly for his ridiculous reasons.
“Your protagonist is white,” he stated. “And British. Why don’t you write about vampires on the African continent since you’re African-American? Make it about slavery. Make it about something you know.”

Now, he had me perplexed and wickedly amused. First of all, I’m not from the African continent and know more about England than the diverse continent of deserts, savannahs, rainforests, and 55 states! COUNT IT — 55 states! Heck, I know more about England than I do about my own country of 50 states — uhhh, we’re still at 50, right? RIGHT?) So, quite gently, quite softly and without blinking or even smiling, I explained to him that I chose to write about a white, British vampire because the book was a metaphor for a large problem in our world: the monstrous problem of white hegemony in a world of brown-skinned people who have been bled dry by the cruel and grotesque racism of the pale White Man. Did I tell you that I have a wicked sense of humor and a perfect poker face? If I didn’t, Deadpool insist that it be said again:

Psst. I have a wicked sense of humor that

deadpool

I approve!

is often sarcastic and outright ironic . . . and a truly perfect poker face!

He Who Shall Remain Nameless didn’t remain exactly silent though. He sputtered with outrage, eyes comically bulging outside of the sockets while I stirred more honey in my cup of tea. Shame the poor dear couldn’t laugh at my naughtily, wicked wit!

Fast forward to the present day – I’m published and he’s still single.

Back in October of last year, I participated on a series of panels at Necronomicon, Tampa Bay’s Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention to share my perspective on the misrepresentation of minorities in Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as the lack of minorities in the previous stated genres. In this discussion, when I use the word minority, I speak of people of deeper color and/or those who have been marginalized in the world – Latinos, Blacks, and Asians.

Now why is that?

Some could argue that there’s no market for books that represent minorities with equality and quality to their white counterparts. However, one could parry with the counter-argument: if the product isn’t offered in the first place, how can demand be gauged?
So, again why are there few books with minorities as the main characters and/or published authors?
There are a lot of reasons. Let’s list and analyze some of these . . . each one brick by suppressive brick.

The Market Gatekeepers

First, I must say that this (the lack of books with protagonist – who are people of deeper color) is mostly a Western (primarily United States of America) phenomena where thousands and thousands of books that the “Market Gatekeepers” allow to be published, marketed, and consumed by the public are teeming with an all-white cast . . . or worse . . . one or two people of deeper color thrown as if to appease a check list of things to do in the politically correct world. On the African Continent, there are a lot of Black authors who are masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy ( http://www.tungstenhippo.com/content/afrosf-science-fiction-african-authors). Authors I’ve just begun to know of! And here is a link to authors of African descent within the US of A: http://www.forharriet.com/2014/08/7-black-women-science-fiction-writers.html#axzz40U9bxTN9. Why are they not popular here? Unfortunately, they don’t get a lot of exposure. Readers must be vigilant in their search for authentic stories, unique worlds, and diverse perspectives. We mustn’t rely on the Market Gatekeepers to feed us more nutritious and well-rounded literature. Ever had a meal where you felt full, but weren’t satisfied? Well, that’s what the Market Gatekeepers often do. They stuff you with delicious, everyday cheesy potato chips, but you’re hungry an hour later for something . . . else.

The Deathtrap of Stereotypes

On the panel, some audience members asked if it was okay for whites to write or tell a story about a person who was of a different ethnic background. I think that doing so is a wonderful idea. White authors, especially famous ones, should break against the mold, which would in turn open doors and windows for other up and coming authors.

Likewise, Sharon Draper, an African-American author, who wrote an award winning book called Out of My Mind. Melody, the main character’s ethnicity isn’t described or stated. Melody could be anybody and this ethnic mysteriousness works for that book because Draper was writing a story about a mind-blowingly intelligent little girl with a disability that able-bodied as well as handicapped could relate to regardless of color. Draper used personal experience and so much more to write this book with such depth it breaks my heart each and every time I reread it.

Using stereotypes is simply the use of lazy thinking. And writers shouldn’t fall prey to this. Our minds should be ever growing with new and expressive ways of explaining the world and trying to make sense of its often irrationality and cruelty, but I digress. Creating characters with relatable stories should be fun, fun, fun! One way to kill that excitement and freshness is to use stereotypes. For example, some common stereotypes of characters who happen to be minorities are having the highly intelligent Math whiz Asian, the slang-speaking street smart Black man, the strong, independent Black woman, or the seductive Latina or Latino male Lothario. Such a cast is boring, disrespectful, and frankly STUPID! Instead of rehashing these boring, stale bits of crust, we enjoy ourselves with something new and different by actually thinking outside the proverbial box. Do a little research! Visit the local library (my favorite way of garnering information), use the Internet, mingle and socialize with people who are a part of the culture you want to learn more about and relinquish your writerly senses to creative abandon. 🙂

And no!!! By me offering this advice, I’m stating or even implying that the individuals you speak with are The Representative or The Expert on their Ethnic Group or Culture. However, better to gain a little knowledge from actual people instead of looking up information that could be outdated. For instance, when researching for the nation of Io in my dark fantasy/science fiction hybrid, Prelude to Morning, I reflected on and recalled my conversations, encounters, and interactions with the people of Japan when I visited as a teacher and ambassador for a Sister Cities trip. I wanted the Ionese people to resemble the Japanese in this other world and using facts helped to not only breathe life into my characters, but kept me grounded and delighted with the results.

In one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, the Cat in the Hat says, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Writers write. Obviously! And readers read. Oh yes! And as an avid reader, I’ll read any book regardless of the main character’s color, ethnicity, or gender, provided that the story is one that interest me. Now, the difference between a mediocre writer and a fantastic one is how much he or she reads. I promise my students that the more they read, the more they will be able to see what writers do well and be able to emulate the skill. Writing, like all things worth doing takes practice! And creating a cast of more diverse characters that represents a present and growing market, we must broaden and stretch ourselves as well as our minds.

The Blight that Just Won’t Die

My second oldest brother, Ronnie, owned a t-shirt that reads, “Racism is a disease. Are you ill?” He wore it with pride in the 90s and over a decade later, racism in the world, especially the United States of America is alive and well. It’s like a cockroach on steroids that continues to crawl and scurry along in the shadows that some are afraid to speak about or against because they’re afraid it’ll unfurl its giant wings and claws at their faces.

Thwarted Bravery

I won’t go into detail here about racism, but you’re welcome to check this post on my blog https://adaratrosclair.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/desperately-seeking-answers/

Below are links of racist incidences revolving around the published literary world:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/06/14/theodore-beale-racist-asshat-and-embarrassed-by-it/
Don’t fall into this black hole of negativity and ignorance. Please. If you have a story to tell, tell it. And if the characters don’t resemble you or they are individuals simply new to you, take the time to learn who they are, explore their many nuances and idiosyncrasies. Not sure where to begin? On the internet, there are plenty of resources for transracial writing (I prefer the word transethnic because there’s only one race – the human race).

Here are a few places to begin:
Transracial Writing for the Sincere: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/12/transracial-writing-for-the-sincere/
People of Color Underrepresented in Children’s Literature http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201403241000
Further Thoughts and Considerations
While reading some of the comments left on the above link, Matthew S Ann Maxwell’s words made a lot of sense to me (especially what has been empathized in bold by me):
“I would question the statement about being boring or false. There is something that cannot be named or defined when people tell stories from their own experience and it is a beautiful thing. Something so deep in each of us that the way we put words together, how we talk, everything is affected by our experience and how we grew up. This is why first-voice books, books written by authors from the culture they are representing are so important. It’s a deeper connection, one that transcends the words and images, and one that children from those cultures need to see and more importantly feel as they read the books. And beyond that to read a book and see “hey this book was written and/or illustrated by someone who looks just like me”…that is a powerful thing for a child. I would question whether white authors should step back and let people of color tell their own stories. This is one way that white people can begin to recognize and address their inherent privilege in the current publishing system. This is not to say that people shouldn’t have diverse characters in their stories, that would be false since we live in a diverse world and we come into contact with a lot of different people so of course characters in books should do the same. But, writing a story where the author is white and is writing the experience of a child of color, that is one that I would question. There are things about that child’s experience that the author can never know no matter how much they study, no matter how much research is done, because they are white and have privilege in this world that has affected everything about their experience, privilege that that child does not have. This is the basis of beginning to understand white privilege. If there is a lack of diversity in children’s books and only so many children’s books about people of color are getting published right now, are white authors taking up space writing stories about people of color that would be better taken by people of color writing those stories themselves? I don’t know the answer, but as a white person, I do wonder. And that’s not to say that we don’t need even MORE stories b/c the current percentages are dreadful, but I wonder if letting more people tell their own stories instead of telling them for them would be a start.

Getting Down To Business . . . Or Else.

Getting Down To Business. Yup. That’s the ticket, dearies!

Growing up during the 80s, I loved watching animated series like Jem and the Holograms, Robotech, Voltron, and The City of Gold. The above video clip is from Jem and it melodically introduces what I need to do.
After returning to work full-time, (middle school reading teacher – need I say more? Didn’t think so. Heh.) I’ve encountered many obstacles, hindering me from completing the draft for the second book in the Gabriel Lennox Series.
What to do about it?
Well, I have lots of ideas.

Threats: I’ve told close friends, a couple of fellow writers, and my family members that I HAVE to write. And if I don’t, they can punish me. 😦 My oldest is a teenager, so believe me, this plan is foolproof!

Public Appearances: Since my recently released novel is a young one – merely months old – I need to continue to be face to face with the public, by visiting conventions, bookstores, and libraries. Even though writing has always been a reward within itself for me, I know that gaining fans that want to read my novels and look forward to the next book is also a much desired motivator too! My recent author event at a local Barnes & Noble further proved this theory. I sold more books to people who had never heard of me until that initial greeting and handshake, than those who work with me on a daily basis or know me personally. It was a lot of fun shaking hands, taking pictures, and serving cake to these wonderful new souls.

Banning Social Media (or at least dwindling my usage to no more than twice a week):
As a writer, in order to be noticed and “staying relevant”, I (supposedly?) need to tweet, post, and pin. However, I noticed that the more I did that, the less time I have to do what I ultimately love – WRITE. So, I asked a fellow writer for advice who not only has a huge following, but is able to make a good amount of income solely on the books he publishes. He mentioned that instead of “marketing” my book and “tooting its horn”, I should simply write. And keep on writing. The more I write, the more readers will want, which will in itself increase potential buyers. This thinking made sense to me because I don’t want to fall into One Book Wonderland. So, I shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that I won’t be available because I need to focus on writing and writing alone.
Rewards:
Being a mommy, working full-time, taking online classes, and taking care of the home for hubby leaves me limited on “Me Time”. So, I’ve been thinking of ways to reward myself for successful writing sessions. I love reading so it would be wonderful if I could read without interruption from the latest sibling squabble or crisis. I also love to play video games (Final Fantasy Tactics, an RPG has caught my attention yet again) and indulge in pedicures. Sooo, here’s looking forward to being pampered every once in a while.

What works for you to keep to a schedule dedicated to productive writing? How do you balance writing and marketing? Please share! I need all the help I can get!

Book Review for Magic Fishing Panties by Kimberly Dalferes

mfp

I love to laugh. I love to reminisce. And I love fellow authors who can deliver both of these feel goods easily. I haven’t had the pleasure yet to meet Kimba, but after completing this laugh-out-loud, candid, and quirky book, I feel like I’ve gotten to know her (even a little, teeny bit) and want to know her more.

The adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is true in so many aspects. For the sake of argument, I could have assumed that I couldn’t relate to the experiences Kimba had to share in her book. Though both of us have grown up in the south – (yes, I know, I know, Florida isn’t technically considered “Southern” to most for many reasons I won’t get into, natives like me know and have experienced differently) – we’re from different generations and while she’s primarily Irish and my family hails from the islands of Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba, my funny bone often got tickled with similar situations that my own family experienced throughout the pages of this chuckle-worthy book.

Although the book is primarily humorous, priceless and serious gems of truth sparkle light on our ever-changing world. She touches upon taboo subjects, such as sexism and racism with grace and fairness.

Overall, a great read! 🙂