A few literary suggestions for Black History Month
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Maybe you know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from when Beyoncé sampled her TEDx talk, “We should all be feminists,” or maybe you’ve been following her emergence as one of the most prominent voices of African literature over the last two decades. Her latest novel, Americanah, was selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013.
Edna Lewis had a hell of a career. She worked her way up as a seamstress, eventually fashioning a dress for Marilyn Monroe. Then she became the first African-American celebrity chef. Then she broke her leg, so she wrote a cookbook. The Taste of Country Cooking was interspersed with personal stories of growing up in a freed-slave settled town in Virginia, and redefined what many thought of Southern food.
Roxane Gay(@roxanegay), famed author of Bad Feminist, is a Tumblr favorite, and not just because you can follow her. She writes about what it means to be a woman of color. She’s the first Black woman to write for Marvel, and she’s writing queer WOC into their storylines. She pulled her unreleased book from publishers Simon & Schuster after their deal with Milo Yiannopoulos was announced. It’s easy to admire her actions as much as her writing.
I will never forget that one time my homophobic stepdad got mad at my mom because she’d never watched a cowboy movie with my younger brother. I was 13 at the time, struggeling with my sexuality and ever since I came out my mom was the one who supported me. We ended up going to a video rental store and my mom rented Brokeback Mountain, my stepdad was excited because he’d never seen it before. After dinner we gathered in the living room, soda and snacks at the ready and turned that gem on. My stepdad made remarks like ‘This movie will make you feel like a man!’ and 'I love cowboy movies, so not suitable for women!’
Needless to say, his face when he saw those two cowboys have sex in that tent was the best thing I’d ever seen in my life.
The world will always be
But I hope,
You still face it with the same,
Don’t let the fire in your heart burn out,
Don’t let the sparkle in your eyes dull.
I was losing my grip and you just stood there, watching me, suffocating and drowning, until I couldn’t make another sound. I was losing me, losing myself, and you didn’t stop me. You knew exactly what I was doing, where I was going, how this would all turn out, and not once, did you ever try and stop me. Maybe that’s why I could never seem to let you back in, because you left me. And even though I pushed and pushed, you were supposed to come back. No matter how far, you were supposed to come back, you were always supposed to come back, but you didn’t. And now, I have no one, because it was supposed to be you. It should’ve been you, it was always you.
netflix: the get down is cancelled what i hear: netflix has decided that a story about kids of colour growing up in the bronx and making conscious decisions to try and get out of poverty through positive music and performance isn’t worth telling so we’re binning it
You do not have a say
in how I do my hair,
how I dress,
how I walk and how I talk.
You do not decide for me
who I love, or how to love.
I am not something like clay –
something that you can
mold and shape
into however you like.
I am my own person.
I am independent.
And you do not control me.
The evolution of Ariel and King Triton’s relationship. "The Little Mermaid is a different fairytale than Disney’s ever done. In this one, the girl, the heroine in it, is more real, more identifiable than any other heroine we’ve ever done. What really makes the picture real is the struggle that Ariel has to be free and the struggle her father has to let her be free, let her grow up. It’s really a story about a teenage girl becoming an adult and the struggle with her father in letting that happen.“ -Glen Keane, animator of Ariel and directing animator on The Little Mermaid.
For me, being a dark-skinned black woman with natural hair, getting to be this center of this love story — Growing up, I didn’t get to see that very often…I think that artists and people in entertainment, we have such an incredible power to remind people of their worth and to help people dream big. So it’s exciting to get to be a part of that.
You: The characters ending up married with kids is boring!
Me, an intellectual: Marriage itself is another adventure, not to mention the challenges of raising a child and struggling with past damage and trying not to have that effect the child. Not to mention the possibilities of new stories coming from the children when they grow up and start their own adventures.
The influence of white supremacy permeates in every area of life.
Here are 7 ways to actively counter the negative effects of white supremacy.
Give them toys, books, movies, games that include Black characters and Black stories. If they grow up surrounded by the power of their own story, they will be better able to resist white supremacy’s disempowering narratives.
The Black community has over 1 trillion dollars in spending power. But it is only power if it is used smartly, with discipline and wisdom. The Black community should demonstrate that the Black dollar can no longer be taken for granted.
To shield yourself from white supremacy, consider shutting down one of its most powerful forces. TV is used to disseminate propaganda that facilitates global white domination.
Learning what made Black people great at one point and understanding the tactics our enemies used against us in the past will help us become great again in the future and avoid the mistakes of the past.
Using destructive language when referring to each other only continues to disempower us as a group. Use of these terms keeps us in a perpetual state of low self-respect and self-esteem.
When exercising dominion over another group, the white power structure exerts control over several important branches of society. White control of education is very important to maintaining their dominance over the Black mind, body, and spirit. To counter the white power structure’s efforts to keep you ignorant, docile and complacent look for ways to expand your knowledge outside of white-controlled institutions.
The best way to fight the enemy’s culture is to embrace your own. Centuries of greatness in the Motherland and strength and resilience in the New World offer a wealth of culture to remain connected to your roots.
Rather radical and powerful list of some important ways to maintain knowledge of our past, of our history, of our roots.This is a very decent path to keep our culture for future generations! Use every opportunity to strengthen our heritage. Don’t let yourself be influenced by foreign culture and don’t let them wipe out yours.
Teach your kids knowledge! This is the strongest tool!
Bungou Stray Dogs Characters and Their Real Prototypes
1. Nathaniel Hawthorne — one of the first and the most universally recognized masters of American literature. He made a great contribution to the genre of novel and introduced elements of allegory and symbolism into the literature. Was in the spiritual Brook Farm commune. Was fond of the theory of transcendentalism. His famous work is ‘The Scarlet Letter’ (Scarlet Letter)
2. Margaret Mitchell — an American writer, author of ‘Gone With the Wind’ (Gone With the Wind)
3. Lucy Montgomery — Canadian writer, known for her serial of books about redhead orphan girl Anne Shirley. Her famous works are ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Anne of Avonlea’, ‘The Story Girl’ (Anne of Abyssal Red)
4. John Steinbeck — an American prose writer, author of many world famous works and short stories: 'The Grapes of Wrath’, 'Eden of the East’ (Grapes of Wrath)
5. Francis Scott Fitzgerald — an American writer, the largest representative of the so-called 'lost generation’. He’s known for number of novels and stories about the 'jazz era’ of 1920s and, of course, for his work 'The Great Gatsby’ (The Great Fitzgerald)
6. Howard Lovecraft — an American writer and journalist working in the genres of mysticism, horror and fantasy, combining them in his own style. Ancestor of Myths of Cthulhu. Known for his works ’The Call of Cthulhu’, 'Dagon’, 'The Silver Key’ (The Call of Cthulhu)
7. Mark Twain an American writer, journalist and public figure. His work covers many genres - humor, satire, philosophical fiction, publicism and others. As an author, he took the position of the humanist and democrat. His famous works are 'The Adventures of Tom Swayer’ and 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (Huckleberry Finn and Tom Swayer)
8. Louisa May Alcott — an American writer who became famous for her novel 'Little Women’ which was based on her memories about her growing up time with three sisters (The Story of Little Women)
9. Herman Melville — an American writer and seaman, the author of 'Moby Dick, or the Whale’. Wrote not just prose but also poems (Moby Dick)
10. Edgar Allan Poe — an American writer, poet, essayist, literature critic and editor, the representative of American romantism. The creater of modern detective style and genre of psychological prose. He became famous for his novel 'Murders on Morgue St.’ (A Cat on Morgue St.)
By Akaigami via Tumblr
So the last post I reblogged got some interesting comments I want to touch on, namely people stating that they don’t dislike Romance because it’s fluffy and feel good, but because it is often sexist, misogynistic, ableist, heteronormative and woefully lacking in diversity, which yes, absolutely, yes. Those are entirely valid criticisms of the genre—indeed I find them to be valid of any genre, whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, young adult or otherwise. There is a shocking lack of diversity in our fiction and media—and not because people don’t want it or aren’t trying to make it, but because publishing houses and media can’t see the co-relation between what their marketing teams are telling them, and the actual reality that of course straight white stories are selling the best, of course it is, because you won’t sell anything else, that’s why there’s no sales numbers for anything else.
I worked in a romance publishing house for a good few years, I also worked for their erotica team, and do you know, not once did I ever come across a manuscript with a disabled person? Not a single one. There was also never a manuscript that featured a character with mental illness who wasn’t the villain, or whose issues couldn’t be Fixed With Love™(*vomit*).
The few times a story featured non white characters, it was usually “The Best Friend Who Gives Sassy Real Advice”, or so horrifically racist that our modus operandi was to nuke it from the office servers rather than try and deal with it because how do you politely tell an author, hey, you’re a fetishistic piece of shit please find God and change the entirety of your story so we can print it, (Answer: you don’t there is no polite way to tell someone they are a
fetishistic piece of shit and you never want their work to darken your inbox ever again.) when you can instead say “Sorry, not what we’re looking for a the moment” and retreat to the relative safety of the slushpile where maybe, just maybe, a hidden gem awaits excavation.
And our publishing house prided itself on diversity because we had an LGBT section, and oh boy let me tell you I was so excited when I got moved over onto that side…only to realize, there’s no w/w fiction because “it doesn’t sell well” and 90% of the m/m fiction is being written by women for women and they fired the one gay author cause his work wasn’t “what was selling” and every bisexual character I ever encountered was either Actually Gay/Actually Straight, or surprise! The Evil Greedy Homewrecker who needs to pick a side, booo hiiiiss, grab your pitchforks and burn the witch.
And I remember, I remember looking to my senior editor who was also my friend at the time, a poly bisexual, mentally ill woman and saying “what the fuck Rebecca” (yes, her name was actually Becky) and she looked at me over our skype call and said “You want to keep your job? Deal with it.”
Because you see, Marketing reigns supreme, and Marketing doesn’t give a shit about people like you and me. It doesn’t care if the neurodivergent person wants to see people like them in fiction, it doesn’t care that people of color want to be more than just the friend/villain, they don’t care that there is more to LGBTQIA+ than the L and specifically the G, it doesn’t care if disabled people want to be represented as more than someone ele’s story arc prop. They don’t care they, don’t care, and do you know why so many publishing houses look down on indie publishing and self published authors and try to call them hacks? Because we don’t give a fuck that they don’t care and we’re doing what we want anyway.
Oh sure you get the usual “but the work is so unpolished, no one has vetted it, it’s just bad, this is why we need publishers to stop the crap from rising to the top”—and yet Fifty Shades of Grey still gets a multi-billion dollar production budget and to the top of the best seller list—do you see, where I am going with this? They’re not interested in selling the best they are just interested in selling, and we are living in a society that has a system designed specifically to a quite literally straight and narrow demographic. So of course XYZ stories sell well, of course they do, because that is where the vast majority of marketing goes, to make sure you buy into it. And Romance…Romance is a lucrative industry to be in if you can get the weight of that campaign behind you…but if you can’t? Well, not only do you have to compete with lack of funding and resources, but also the pervasive lie that because you’re not affiliated directly with X Publishing House or Y Agency, you are not good enough, and no one will want to read your story.
And that’s a bunch of baloney. It’s so much baloney you can slap it between two slices of bread and cover it in mustard because the whole thing is a ham.
Do you know what I would have loved growing up? (And still would) Stories about girls who liked people regardless of gender—and who wasn’t conflicted over it because people are people and gender is fluid and irrelevant to love. Stories about people with mental health issues, where the person is still loved and shown as functional, with their mental health issues, not despite. Stories about disabled and ill people who have fulfilling lives whose arc doesn’t revolve around being brave for simply existing or how much of a saint their families/loved ones are for putting up with them. And do you know what I get instead, even now as an adult who has worked in the industry that sells these stories? I get things like Fifty Shades of Domestic Abuse, and train wrecks like You Before Me where the death of the disabled person is seen as a romantic gesture of selflessness that sets the love interest free to fully live her life. HOW FUCKING FUCKED UP IS THAT. Oh you can argue with me all you want that wasn’t
Moyes intent when she was writing it, but it damn well was the end result.
Yes, Romance is lacking, and yes it needs revamped, it needs more cultural diversity, it needs more inclusion, it needs so many things—but it also needs for people to not want to not write for it because it’s “fluffy” and cheap, like somehow they are selling their souls away.
I’ve got friends who have written amazing, diverse stories told from their point of view…but they won’t ever get them published because as soon as you mention self publishing or the Romance industry they turn their noses up. And they’re shooting themselves in the foot in doing so, because there ain’t no way a story about XYZ is going to make it in a sci-fi house, no matter who much tech you add in. On the flipside of that, I’ve also got a friend who has written about her experiences as a Black queer disabled woman and it’s filled with relationships and great life stuff and so funny…but she can’t get it published anywhere because she’s been explicitly made to feel like she doesn’t belong in the genre because her stories are too complex, they’re too different they’re too comedic…too…too…too (the list goes on). And that’s awful because Romance is a genre that is primarily about people and if you as a Romance house are telling me you can’t sell a story about people, boy are we well and truly fucked.
The biggest criticism of the Romance genre shouldn’t be that it’s too damn happy and therefore unrealistic and nothing but fluff. What’s unrealistic is the complete lack of diversity and inclusion in the genre that makes it so alienating that a huge part of our society immediately feels like they don’t belong.
And that’s a bigger problem than fluff.
So great, yes fine, Romance isn’t for you, you can tell me all the time that you don’t like Romance and I will cheerfully talk to you about literally anything else. But don’t ever tell me you don’t like Romance because it’s simple and fluffy when there’s a whole wealth of actual problematic shit to dislike it for.
And to you, yes you, I’m talking to you. You with the idea in the back of your head and the worry that you’ll never be a Serious Author because all you want to write about is romance and people and angst and fluff and also thinking no one wants to read stories about people like you: take that idea and run with with it, learn from your experiences and keep doing it some more and maybe one day we’ll have the publishing industry we deserve that will acknowledge you. But until then: Rebel and Do It Anyway.
Fact: Pansexuals are known for being excellent storytellers. Not only is the Pansexual Pantheon famous for gripping and captivating story nights, but pansexuals often grow up to be poets, novelists, or excellent fanfiction authors.