Viewing entries tagged
reading

Book Talk: The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Comment

Book Talk: The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

I also had a chance to give a book talk on a special book that I recently read--The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore. It's book that represents my desire to see publishers publish more diverse books to more fully represent kid readers of various backgrounds. It is also a book that touches on my favorite period of American history--the Harlem Renaissance. And it represents one of my favorite places to hang: the local indie bookstore.

Comment

2016: Reading in Review

Comment

2016: Reading in Review

My personal reading this year has been specifically targeted toward reading more ethnically diverse books. I am on a mission to figure out who I am going to be as a book publishing professional in light of what I see in our American culture. (You can read more about my mission here.) With all the gathering of stories, characters, platforms, ideologies, and perspectives, I don’t have words yet for how I feel like I have been shaped, emboldened, or propelled by what I’ve read.

Comment

Graduate School Musings: Finding My Place in the Quest for Many Stories

Comment

Graduate School Musings: Finding My Place in the Quest for Many Stories

Currently the official canon of American Renaissance literature (defined by F. O. Matthiessen as literature written between 1850 and 1855) includes no women and no people of color. Across the US and the world that include American Renaissance, or the like, as part of their curriculum study this time period with only the perspectives of white men. But both women and people of color wrote landmark, culture-shifting works during this time that embody the very meaning of renaissance. I aimed to uncover and explore their works.

Comment

Women's History Month Profile: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—Writing to Power

Comment

Women's History Month Profile: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—Writing to Power

Adichie tells the story of a Nigerian family under the oppression of a fanatically religious father. The story is told through the sensitive eyes of fifteen-year-old Kambili. The wealthy and privileged family consists of father, Eugene; mother, Beatrice; elder son, Jaja; and younger daughter Kambili. They are members of the Igbo tribe and live in Enugu. Despite his tyrannical rule over his family, Eugene is known an upstanding businessman and kind-hearted, generous philanthropist who gives to widows, pays tuition for over one hundred poor children, and funds the efforts of his local Catholic church.

Comment

Beyond a Love Affair: How I Went From Loving Books to Writing Them

6 Comments

Beyond a Love Affair: How I Went From Loving Books to Writing Them

I ventured out and tried something different on my blog today and let you hear from one of my dearest friends Becky Van Volkinburg, who just became a published author. Becky and I have sang together, cried together, prayed to gather, dreamed together, vented about "stuff" together... I am so proud of her journey and I wanted to share it with you today.

6 Comments

30+ Ways to Show Your Favorite Author Some Love

Comment

30+ Ways to Show Your Favorite Author Some Love

So do you really love the writing in that book you're reading? Are you so engrossed in the story that you forget you are actually reading? Has this book challenged you to live a better life? Give more? Work harder? Go the distance when you first thought you should quit? Take that leap of faith? Yes? Well, you need to get off your duff and show some love!

Comment

8 Comments

11 Things You Can Do Now to Encourage More Diversity in the Book Market


FOR THE BEGINNER
1. Venture in to any section of the bookstore that shelves books by authors who are not of your ethnic background.

2. Buy a book from that section on something that interests you--fiction or nonfiction.

3. Read the book.

4. Write a brief review of the book and post it on Amazon.com, your blog if you have one, a friend's blog, the author's website, and the like.

5. Recommend the book to your friends who share your same ethnicity.

6. Rinse and repeat.

FOR THE ADVANCED
7. Research and find blogs by people who regularly promote or feature books by people of color. Follow their recommendations on good books--and read them. Many maybe indie or self-published books, but limit discrimination here as well. This is sometimes the best way for a person of color to get their message out.

8. Participate in reader groups or book clubs that discuss books by a diverse collection of authors. There are many online, if you live in a homogenous geographic location.

9. Peruse multicultural or urban bookstores (this can also be done online), buy a book, read it, write a review, and post your review--I think I may have said this already. :) You may be so bold as to send your review directly to the publisher asking for more books like the one you read and liked.

10. Be ready to explore your biases against other ethnicities. Overcome them by allowing childlike wonder to draw you in to reading books by them and about them. Consider the story over the ethnic background of the characters in the book and the artwork on the book cover. You'll be glad you did.

BONUS FOR PARENTS AND CHILD EDUCATORS
11. Buy books for your children/classroom that have stories with diverse characters. Be brave enough to actually talk through the issues presented in the books. ANSWER YOUR CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS about ethnic, social, and cultural issues honestly and with compassion. If you can't, go back to the first two sentences of #10. Also, involve other people who are committed to educating children and adults on diversity issues. Consider that it really does take a village...

These are deliberate actions that will help you step out of your normal reading habits and inclinations. Consider this a challenge for the year. As you become more aware of good books by people of color and find that they are not available in your bookstore, request that the bookstore order more diverse books. Tell your friends to do the same thing. I've done this a few times with hair/beauty supply stores and grocery stores and still find my requested products stocked on their shelves to this day. Stores will stock and promote what sells and it takes a smart and active consumer to help make a difference in what's readily available for purchase.

This is a battle worth fighting with all the bullying and other crimes going on these days. Our active engagement and genuine interest in the lives of people who are different from us helps us to break down the walls that separate us and eliminate the ignorance that makes us fear the unknown.

Will you take the challenge? What other things can you personally do to encourage more diversity in the book market?

8 Comments

11 Comments

On Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and the ‘N’ Word


My response to Publishers Weekly and NPR articles on the new editions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that remove all racial epithets.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.”
—Mark Twain

English class was the one place that we could air all our crazy teenage/twenty-something philosophies about the world, history, language, art, religion, fashion, technology, and so much more. I recall it being the one class I never skipped. We hashed out race and gender issues, theological differences, and ideals verses reality. I feel that removing “offensive” language from literary classics robs students and teachers from being able to have these kinds of meetings in the classroom.


Of course teachers should be well trained in how to facilitate effective and beneficial conversations on controversial topics, but I remember leaving my classes feeling enlightened and more aware of my neighbor’s plight. My professors were brilliant! We didn’t have to agree, but we were encouraged to respect and understand.

Are we so politically correct that we are afraid to confront the hard stuff of life head on and then make our way back to common ground? It is a scary thought. My husband and I stay happily married because we aren’t afraid to confront the hard stuff. Our “talks” can get pretty heated. However, we approach them with the desire for understanding each other a little better and being able to empathize with the other’s feelings or position. This is a discipline. Empathy is a discipline. We were taught this at home and at school through many avenues, one of which was open discussion about cultural, religious, and racial differences. Twain's novels encourage this kind of discourse. Do we care that this is at stake with NewSouth Books' way of thinking?

I’d have to say that this removal of the racial epithets in the Twain novels is not the beginning of our lack of addressing cultural/ethnic differences. Our discussions have been decreasing in frequency and substance over the last several decades to the point that our children lack empathy and understanding of people who are different from them. I believe that NewSouth’s thinking is partly the kind of thinking that has contributed to the rise of bullying and cold-heartedness in our schools.

You may be able to hide relics of the past, but the memories bubble up in the form of passive aggression.
NewSouth has continued to stand by their decision to publish the novels without the N word, saying that they have provided a detailed introduction that examines the use and context of various racial slurs and why their edition will not contain them. But I agree with Stephan Tawny, who said in his blog Tuesday, If the publisher finds it acceptable to confront the language head-on, why not place the note in the front of the book and then leave the original text alone?”

We can rob the upcoming generations of their opportunity to have an understanding of other ethnic groups if we erase the historical context of what makes these ethnic groups who they are. None of us want to glorify the past or stay stuck there, but we need it to stay in tact so that we can grow from it.

What I’ve also been privy to is that the editor, Dr. Alan Gribbean, who sought to make these changes is white, and because I am blessed to have a multiethnic group of friends and colleagues, I understand that my white friends are very sensitive to the N word—sometimes more than I am. It hurts them to the core. So I do hear Dr. Gribbean’s heart on this. However, let’s not cover up the past or erase it. Let’s use it as a learning tool, as a jumping-off point. Maybe from now on, books should be careful to not use the N word.

So what does this one move by NewSouth Books mean? Should we start hiding Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Roots, Birth of a Nation and The Color Purple? Then what do we do about classic books that have demeaning messages about women (The Scarlett Letter was pretty deep) or any other minority group for that matter? Why stop with just those two books?

This is a bad idea. Cover-ups like this have the potential to promote further ignorance, which leads to fear, which leads to hate.

I’m thinking I’d better go buy the editions of these books with the racial slurs in them before they’re all wiped out!

What are you thinking?

11 Comments