Sunday, September 07, 2003

Random notes

John McWhorter, author of Authentically Black and Losing the Race, makes me uncomfortable. He is one of the black neo-conservatives who challenges the old-guard civil rights establishment and says that many of African America's coping mechanisms and ideas about race and class are self-defeating. I try to read and listen to "the other side" from time to time and am working my way through Authentically Black as a result. McWhorter makes me uncomfortable because what he says a)often comes across as harsh b) or what we might otherwise label as racist and c) because I find myself agreeing with some of his points (definitely not all). Anyway, I read this essay in City Journal recently. Here he writes about how rap retards black success. Since I had my son (even before, really) I've listened to less rap, hip hop and even youth-oriented pop. A part of that is because I'm older and partying and talking trash is not on my agenda. But part of it is that I am over the bitch and 'ho labelling, the cursing in general and the often unhealthy sexual imagery. Now, though, I can't even listen to it because it's going into my son's head too. I won't keep him from listening to popular music, but I definitely want to wait as many years as possible and I will be monitoring the airwaves and CDs and mP3s like a hawk.

Shifting Sisters

HarambeeJournal sent me a note about this book, Shifting, The Double Lives of Black Women in America. It sounds like something I should read. And it makes me want to get serious about starting my luncheon book club. Perhaps I will, if I can find another couple of hours a week and a few friends to buy in.

New reading

I've been very mystery-focused lately, with Paula L. Woods' Charlotte Justice character. I've ready Inner-City Blues and Stormy Weather and both were good. I do think that her stories are a bit less intense than some other mysteries. The main character is under duress, but not in the same, end-of-book fashion as some other sleuths. Still, I like her tone and the way it's very contemporary, but still written, not just thrown together.

I'm now reading Douglass' Women, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, who I've never read. It's a novel about Frederick Douglass' black wife and white mistress. I haven't read any historical novels for awhile, definitely not slavery novels. I think I had my fill of that for a time after taking the Slavery in the Novel class during graduate school. I loved the work and the research, but now that reading is chiefly an escape from dishes, laundry and a day job, I need a lot more fun fantasy in my head.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Save this Mag!

Bitch Magazine is on the edge and they need subscribers to save the pub. Lisa Jervis, publisher, has sent out an email appeal. I'm going to post it here. Please pass it on and subscribe.

Dear friends--

As many of you know, Bitch has always functioned on a shoestring budget, especially in the spreading-the-word department. Well, our mid-year financial statements show that the shoestring has gotten even stringier of late. We're falling pretty short of our projected magazine sales for the year, and to ensure that there's a Bitch next year and for many years to come, we need your help now. To put it bluntly, we need more subscribers. About 3,000 more.

Here's why subscriptions are so crucial to our financial health: When people buy Bitch at a bookstore, we eventually (four to five months later) get between $1.77 and $1.98 of the $4.95 plus tax that it costs. When people subscribe, they pay only $3.75 per issue (better for them), and we get all of the money right away (better for us).

A lot of people think that buying Bitch on the newsstand supports us just as much as subscribing. Some even think it's more helpful because it convinces bookstores that Bitch is worth carrying. But the bottom line is that Bitch is much better off having you as a subscriber than as a newsstand buyer. (Of course we'd rather have people buying it in the bookstore than not buying it at all, but I promise that stores will continue to stock the magazine, and new newsstand buyers will always come along.)

And then there are all those folks out there who say, "Oh, yeah, Bitch, I've thumbed through that in the bookstore/been to the website/read a friend's copy, and I always meant to subscribe." Now is the time to get all of these people to actually sign up!

Here's what you can do to help:

-If you are not a subscriber right now, become one today. Go to, call us toll-free at 877-21-BITCH, or send a check for $15 to Bitch, 1611 Telegraph Ave Ste. 515, Oakland CA 94612.

-Buy gifts for your friends and family. Multiple subscriptions are even cheaper: $15 for the first and $12 for each additional. See info above, and please note: If you are ordering online, the discount for multiple subscriptions will not show up automatically. Write a note in the comments field about it (along with the other addresses, of course) and we will manually adjust the price.

-Pass this message along. This e-mail is going out to about 700 or so people. To meet our goal, every one of you would need to buy 4.3 subscriptions--or we would collectively need to reach out to a whole bunch more than 700 of Bitch's closest friends. So please send this to anyone you know who likes the magazine or who you think would like the magazine. Help us get the word out!

-Tell people about Bitch. Read it on public transportation. Leave a copy in places where people will discover it (your local coffee house, your college's student center, the waiting room at your friendly women's health clinic, etc.). If you want to take part in a more formal effort to do this, e-mail publicity director Marisa Meltzer at and tell her you're interested in helping to promote the magazine in your area.

-Buy a t-shirt, too. We have a bunch of styles now and they're super-cute. If you're an exhibitionist, we also have very happenin' underwear for sale. (Pictures and descriptions are at

-Pester your local library to buy a subscription (they really do listen to patron requests).

-Donate a subscription to your local campus women's center, community resource center, or the like.

Anything you can do to get us further toward the goal of 3,000 subscriptions will help Bitch be strong and healthy!

With gratitude,



Lisa Jervis

Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture


1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 515

Oakland, California 94612


Monday, July 07, 2003

Not Raymond

I posted earlier about E. Lynn Harris' new book. It's out tomorrow. Here's a NYTimes story on him and the book.

More Books

Walter Mosley's latest, Fear Itself, is now out. It's the second Fearless Jones novel.

Related: I'm pretty sure I heard that one of the cable networks is going to produce a series of mysteries based on the Easy Rawlins novels, also by Walter Mosley. But now I can't find the reference. Anybody have a clue?

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Can't Get Enough

Barry White died yesterday. He was 58.

Liberty and Truth

CSMonitor had an excellent story this week about the truth about our founding fathers and slavery. Too often we gravitate toward a simple, easy version of our history. And we're told it's unpatriotic to think otherwise. That's lazy thinking and a disservice to our public history. And for me, that makes all our contemporary patriotic moments hard to swallow. I love being an American and I know that it has never been the kind of all-welcoming place we're taught it was from the beginning. It still isn't.

Book Anticipation

E. Lynn Harris's own invisible life will be revealed this week when his memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, hits shelves. I've read all his novels and often wondered how much of the tales are based on his own life. Now I can't wait to find out. I'm also curious about his style in the memoir and whether it will be as readable as the novels. They are very much popcorn reading - fun and light and easy to turn one page after another.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Standing on the Top -- Whiteness Studies

Darryl Fears has an interesting article in the Washington Post about Whiteness studies, the new discipline of studying and critiquing the creation of the white race and white privilege. Worth a read. (via HarambeeJournal). While I know that white people often perceive themselves as raceless (if they think about race at all), I'm concerned that these efforts aren't focused more on bringing an analysis of race into the established disciplines. It seems to me that would be more appropriate in the long run. But I'm no longer walking the academic path, so what do I know?

Speaking of White

This mob idea seems like a very "white" thing to me. I'm not calling people out by race, but rather, noting that this seems to be something only a privileged class of people could or would do. What is the point of having a mindless mob with no real goal to pursue? And if this were a group of poor people or people of color doing this, would it be interesting or would they all end up in jail? Someone needs to do this kind of action with a purpose - to actually address some of our society's problems, rather than just as a lark.

And yes, I'm reminded again that I need to read Smart Mobs.

Friday, April 11, 2003

"Overeducated" Black women and Negro Nerds in general

Excellent links over at George's place about Black women and education. Including an excerpt from Trudier Harris' essay, Mind Work: How a Ph.D. Affects Black Women, at the Chronicle of Higher Education. She talks about how the pursuit and attainment of a Ph.D effectively makes African American women outsiders in their own community and makes dating more difficult. Selfishly I'd like to hear about women who have gone the Ph.D route after having children. I notice that many of the sisters in that set are without children as well.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Friendly takeovers

I love this idea. Just this weekend I had brunch at an upscale pseudo-bistro and when I arrived the hostess knew exactly who I was meeting. Before I even said a word. My girlfriends and I were the only black people in the restaurant. I've gotten so used to that (being the only or one of) at this point. It's still wonderful to go somewhere and see other black folks, though.

The friendly takeover idea does remind me of the swarm, however. Which reminds me that I have yet to read Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs. From the web site's summary of the book:

Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to be both beneficial and destructive, used by some of its earliest adopters to support democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks.

The war thing

PopMatters has some good essays on the cultural aspects of our war efforts and coverage.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Tuned out

Well, I've pretty much buried my head in the sand for the last week. I've only caught bits of the President's pronouncements, like the money request to Congress today, by accident. And, though I am listening out for war news, I am so glad that I don't have to watch it 12 hours a day for work. Unfortunately that makes it all too easy for me to avoid it altogether. That is one of the things that makes our modern wars even scarier to me. That we as Americans can just ignore what's going on and watch our cable tv, our hoops, or just keep on living our normal lives. I wonder how the lack of impact this has on American life relates to our willingness to engage in warfare. Are we more willing to let our government start the fight since it doesn't mean we'll have to go hungry, worry about bombing raids or go to hospitals that are ill-equipped to help us?

Being out of the war loop I was stunned by the story of the American sergeant accused of a grenade attack on his superiors. Apparently this happened in Vietnam as well and was called "fragging." He's an African American Muslim so that of course is being raised as a possible issue. I think it's just another part of this strange and horrific journey that we're on. It reminds me also that although I was an adult during GWI, I really didn't think about it that much. So this feels like my first "real" war - and even this feels very remote. I wonder what would happen to the national psyche if we got real, unfiltered information about all the atrocities in this "conflict."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

It's been too long.

Well, the war has begun and I haven't much to add to all the alternative coverage and commentary. Only that I've been here, and here to get other views and ended up reading notes from a blogger in Baghdad.

I decided to make time today to post photos from the one protest I did attend earlier this year.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Babysitter Bums

Note: the following is really just a vent, so if it doesn't make sense, that's just too bad for you. There are many challenges in new motherhood/parenthood and this week I encountered a big one. The babysitter quest. My second babysitter bailed, just as the first one did - no notice, no call, just *poof.* It makes me crazy. Just crazy enough to think about calling their phone numbers over and over again and leaving mean messages, but not insane enough to actually go through with the harassment. It makes me crazy to be dependent on anyone for precisely this reason -- people fail you all the time.

In the regular, non-babysitting-obsessed world, we're on some kind of higher terror alert. And once again I don't know whether to go bury my head in the Florida sand or gather our canned goods. I firmly believe we won't know when such a disaster is planned or carried out until it's upon us. Even if we were sure something was going to happen, we'd never be truly prepared. I'd rather not know so I won't waste my final hours worrying.

Rev. JJ

This old news, but from a small town, so maybe it's not all over. Jesse Jackson's home county, Greenville County, S.C., has not made MLK day a government holiday. He wants to change that and was involved in a recent demonstration about it.

In looking for that clip, I found a site with a letter from Jesse Peterson urging Americans (like me?) to help him stop Jesse Jackson's push for reparations. Here's a sample:

Millions of blacks (not to mention many white liberals) simply LOVE Jesse Jackson. Yet this evil man has done more than any other single person to undermine the morality of America and destroy our country.

Yeah, Jesse has problems, I don't deny that. But is he evil? Has he done more than any other person to destroy us? Hmmmm. The answer would be NO! I can name any number of people who've done more. And I'm confused about the destruction of our country - aren't we still here? And if we're so decimated by Jesse, how are we about to stomp Saddam? Doesn't sound like Jesse's really a problem. The real problem is many Americans refusal to even talk about reparations and affirmative action and national health care and many other issues. Even as millions are without healthcare, Blacks continue to lag behind in employment, education and wealth. What are they afraid of if we talk about these issues? Justice? And no I'm not going to link to the site.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Just a quickie

I've been off for awhile, mothering and writing mostly. Here's something that published today -- a review of the new Zora biography. More work is on the horizon!

Have a C*ke and a smile

Heard today on Marketplace that Russell Simmons and crew are boycotting Pepsi because of "cultural disrespect." Apparently the soda makers dropped Ludacris after some conservative talkers went after them for his sexually explicit lyrics. So Pepsi hires Ozzy Osborne, who's used profanity here and there. That, Simmons says, is a double standard and folks out to quit drinking Pepsi.

But do boycotts work anymore? Or will it just be the glare of publicity that brings Pepsi back into the rap fold? And isn't it interesting that Pepsi shies away from Ludacris and sexually explicit lyrics, but has no problem with (and isn't pressured for) using Britney's Beyonce's body to titillate. Don't say a word, just look at the pretty pictures.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Things to read and see

Bayard Rustin documentary, Brother Outsider, on PBS Monday, Jan. 20. I got this link from Aaron, who I don't actually know, but read frequently. I saw it one day after telling L. about Rustin, who, though an important figure in the civil rights movement, is rarely talked about in classrooms. He was a strategist, worked with King and organized the March on Washington. Why do we hear so little about him? Because he was gay.

UPDATE: Read Nat Hentoff's piece in the Village Voice to find out some of the folks who tried to out Rustin.

Thulani Davis on Malcolm Shabazz' papers going to the Schomburg. The "trove" will likely yield new biographies, speech compilations and other insight on the man and his work.