Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Check out my Slide Show!

Word of the day

The word of the day over at Merriam-Webster is auctorial, of or relating to an author. Seeing that made me a bit nostalgic for grad school so I could find a way to work that word in. But simple rules out here in the real world.

Good news for Due fans

I wandered over to Tananarive Due's blog this week to see if she had any new posts. And I was rewarded with the news that the third novel about Dawit and Jessica will be out early in 2008. I'm a big fan of her work and it is on my list of must-haves. If it were available now, I'd be dropping big hints about it for Christmas.

The novel, Blood Colony, won't be out until June 2008. So it will be awhile before you can get your hands on it - still that's more than enough time to re-read her early novels in this story.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book reviewers, ethics and a new detective

The National Book Critics Circle has posted the results from their latest survey of book reviewers about ethics. There's a summary of some of the results on the blog and you can link to the results with comments from 2007 and 1987.

Trying to muddle through the conflict questions was a little tricky for me. Not because I'm an ethically loose kind of person. It's more likely because I've only had about 5 hours sleep and, in this new socially networked, multiple stream of income world, I wonder how hard it is as reviewer and a book editor to identify and shut out those conflicts.

If an editor cannot review books by any of their freelance reviewers, that's strange to me. Sure there are thousands of books being published, so content is not the issue, but coverage (if any of them has a noteworthy, popular or very unique book) is.

And as the actual job of book reviewer disappears and all reviewers are freelancers or writers who do other things as well, how can that last?

Interesting reading and thinking.

New P.I. on the block
Walter Mosley will introduce a new detective, Leonid McGill, in 2009. Mosley has left Little, Brown and is now with Riverhead Books. He has a three-book deal there - two will be entries in the detective series and one is a literary novel.

Easy Rawlins was my first adult love in the mystery genre - I still remember reading the early novels and not being able to get enough of Easy. I will be eager to get into the other series. (BTW, my elementary mystery fix was good old Encyclopedia Brown - who doesn't love a mystery solving nerd).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Good Blog is Hard to Diversify?

Karin Gillespie, the editor (or site manager?) of A Good Blog is Hard to Find - the currently all-white Southern writers blog, I posted about - left a comment. Here's what here response was to my rant about there being no people of color in the ranks over there:

Hi there,

I'm the Southern site person. I did invite several African American authors. Never heard a word back. I had the same problem with men. There's way more women than men. Anyway, I'm working on the diversity thing. Just didn't want you to think it was deliberate.

Karin Gillespie

She posted it in comments, but I thought it worth sharing in the regular content here. So there you have it - she's working on it. I hope somebody takes her up on the offer - and that she has a good list of folks to query.

For now, the blog is still in my bookmarks and I'll keep checking back.

Thanks for the response, Karin.

Other notes to share
I found, on the Crime Sistahs' blog, a post by Persia Walker (web site | blog). I wasn't familiar with her work and am glad to have seen her post and gone to her web site. She writes mysteries set in Harlem in the 1920s.

Mysteries are my current (as in last five years or so) obsession and I'm always sad when I find an author I like who has only 2 - 3 titles, because I end up hunting for someone new to read. So Persia Walker's on my list - right after I finish the two Nichelle Tramble books I bought (finally!) this weekend.

I am currently reading the The Dying Ground and were it not for having to help people play, eat and get to bed, I'd be finished with it already. It's really the kind of book I want when I have a day (ha!) alone in my pajamas. And it made me come up with an idea - a book lock - that I really like and is completely bizarre, unmarketable and useless to 99.98% of the world.

The Book Lock - Are you ever frustrated by a spouse/partner/child/sibling/parent who picks up that wonderful novel you've been reading and then can't put it down? Stop rolling your eyes at them and get a book lock with your own combination. With the book lock you'll be able to finish a book without delays and annoying references to the ending.

Yes, this is a product I would consider buying. I'm that possessive of new books. Read it after I'm done!

Friday, December 07, 2007

A rant - and a little naivete

I read about a new blog a few weeks ago. A group blog by Southern writers. Sounded like just my kind of reading - as I am a Southerner, a writer, a reader and a lover of stories of all kinds, including the sometimes wonderful, terrible, fascinating tales of the South.

I am so naive.

Here is the site - A Good Blog is Hard to Find.

As I said before, I'm from the South. I know quite a bit about the South and the history of the American South and its culture. So this should be no surprise to me, but it was.

The surprise? As far as I can tell, and I clicked through to all of the author pages, all of these contributors are white. ANd it is 2007 and that is unbelievable. Forget being a Southern writers blog, an American writers blog with that many contributors ought to have some contributors who are non-white. Unless of course the originators of the blog completely ignore large portions of the writing, reading and published population.

I've been stewing about this for a few weeks and just did not want to make it a post, but it keeps making me feel like smoke is coming out of my ears. I would have hoped that contemporary, living Southern authors would not have a circle that is so limited that the only other authors they think of are white.

But perhaps they reached out and not African American authors responded or were interested in participating? Hmmmm. On another day, when I am feeling more confrontational, I will e-mail whoever is the master of the site and pose this. When the smoke clears.

Now, onward and upward.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All I want for Christmas - books and two days of quiet

I doubt seriously that I'll get both those items, but I can always dream. In lieu of having all my dreams come true, I'll hunting for some good reads for this month.

One book I'm getting closer to buying is Nathan McCall's Them, reviewed in the LATimes by Paula L. Woods (whose mysteries I love, btw). He's appearing at the Margaret Mitchell House (which makes me laugh for multiple reasons) in Atlanta on Dec. 6 and at Medu Bookstore in Greenbriar Mall on Dec. 8. Tina McElroy Ansa will also be at the Medu event with a bunch of other authors - make a day of it.

And, as my mother says, I'm switching subjects now ...

I love it that Nichelle Tramble is a writer on Women's Murder Club. I only watched it because of her talking about it on her blog and I really love the show. I am a police procedural junkie anyway, so it was kind of an easy sell. I'm ashamed to admit that I don't have her novels yet. (Okay - so that's my to do for today, order them!)

She's also been posting about the WGA strike. Here's a news story about black writers who are participating in the strike. I hope it's resolved soon, since I think they're right, I don't like reality shows, and I really count on my taped shows for diversion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday morning surf

I'm not much of a romantic and I don't cry at weddings. But this story in the NYTimes today nearly made me cry.

Nooses - to ignore or not?
Two pieces this week question whether or not we should pay any attention to things like nooses that are used to spark a rise in us.

In today's Washington Post Robin Givhan, in writing about Kara Walker's retrospective at the Whitney, writes about how much power we give these symbols. And how we should no longer give that power to the symbol and to the people who use it against us.

And earlier this week I listened to John McWhorter's commentary on NPR and he said very similar things about not giving over power to the symbol.

I generally argue against that kind of thinking which essentially urges us to let racist symbols be. I don't want to ignore those symbols - and certainly if I ever see a noose anywhere near me or my family, I certainly will raise a stink. But is that the right thing? It, as McWhorter and Givhan argue, doesn't work and doesn't matter. We hold vigils and "raise saying" and still the symbols are waved in our faces. So what does it matter? Does a noose, raised by an ignorant white person (or any other race), erase or diminish any of our opportunities? Or accomplishments?

It's a part of the discussion we haven't had yet, I think, among all the Jena 6 protests.

And it's interesting that we can come up with this much support and energy around this one case, when so much else that we can impact is going on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's really not all-Terry all the time, is it?

Well, I've been watching the Terry McMillan / Jonathan Plummer spectacle - like so many. I'm amazed at how much press this is getting and how this twisted personal drama is now the thing making us talk about ghetto/urban literature. I suppose as long as we have the discussion it matters, but it seems so weird to hear stories about it that start with the divorce drama. I feel like I'm gossiping every time I read something about this.

I have to admit to being in the dark about who Karen Hunter is, though. But now I certainly know who she is and I'm surprised at the number of books she's had and has coming out. The Black men love white women book is one that I'll be curious to see if it has any legs once she stops getting the attention drawn to her by Terry. What a bizarre book to even write in 2007. And the Ray J book - there are just so many "ew" factors with that that I am amazed she can talk about that book in meetings. 1,000 women and he's in his mid-twenties? Who would even believe that? And even if it were true, I think it's crazy and I wouldn't even what that in my head.

Oh well. Here are some of the links in case you don't have enough Terry, Jonathan and ghetto lit in your life:

NPR: Publishing Company Called Out Over Ghetto Lit
The Advocate: Bookstore Refuses to Carry Plummers Tell-All Novel

A few things to read and hear:

About Edwidge Danticat and her new book, Brother I Am Dying -

Review in the Washington Post by Bliss Broyard
Interview on Fresh Air

Amy Alexander reviews Margaret Cezair-Thompson's The Pirate's Daughter - WashPost

And I didn't know that Target sponsored Children's Book Festivals. If you're a children's author, this sounds like a good thing.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Decatur Book Festival - not live blogging, but here

I'm at the AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend and it's been fun. I'm actually here working as a publicist, but did get to visit quite a few vendor booths and just walk around and get a feel for the events.

Today I went to Hank Klibanoff's presentation about his book, The Race Beat, on the press and the coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. I have always been very interested in movement history and my undergraduate years stoked that interest. One of my professors, Claude Sitton, is one of the most prolific white reporters from that time and Hank mentioned him today. So that was cool to hear.

I'm excited to read Hank's book. It's been awhile since I've done serious reading about the movement.

Yesterday I went to Tina McElroy Ansa's reading - she's the reason I'm at the festival, actually - and that was great fun. Lots of laughter and excitement for her new work, Taking After Mudear.

I haven't been to downtown Decatur in a long time. It is such a cute downtown and filled with shops - shops that I would actually spend money in. So cute that I want to move here. It's also perfect for the festival - no shortage of sweet restaurants to sit in and talk about books.

Some other authors I'm interested in are here, including L.A. Banks, but I haven't made it to their events. I was really low-key on my festival planning and decided to just chill a bit this weekend. Other folks that I've seen here are Dr. Beverly Tatum from Spelman College and Valerie Boyd, author Wrapped in Rainbows.

I've enjoyed browsing at all the book tents, though I am always, perhaps too much so, analyzing whose books are placed or not placed and how the staff at the tents are selling books. At one tent, for a publisher, I don't remember being greeted, which is especially odd because it's such a small space. But I browsed anyway, as it was really a press with a lot of authors or titles that seemed to speak to me. Then I heard the staff member telling someone else that they did have a lot of Caribbean, African American and African titles, authors and/or subjects in their list and that was a focus for them.

On the one hand, I'm glad he didn't assume that, because I'm Black that I would just have to know that. But on the other hand (a more than slightly cynical hand) I wondered why he didn't share that with me. Did I just not look like a book buyers?

So I didn't buy anything there, though I was definitely looking at two titles and trying to decide between them.

Oh well, I bought books elsewhere and am moving on.

I'd love to hear reports from other book festivals - from authors or readers - send yours if you'd like to see it posted.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Original music, Sapphire and more

Just read an interesting post at M.J. Rose's blog about original music being the next big thing for book promotion. Not exactly new, but perhaps it will be hotter now. I seem to remember that there was original music, or maybe a compilation "soundtrack" for one of E. Lynn Harris' novels. And I think Erica Simone Turnipseed had some music hookup for A Love Noire. Oh well, as fast as the promotional trend globe is turning, everything two years old is new again.

In an interview with Mo'nique, the comedian talking about being cast in the film version of Sapphire's Push. The novel is about a young Black girl who's been sexually and physically abused - that's not the whole story, so go read it if you haven't. It's one of the best serious books I've read and one of the hardest to take in. I've read it twice and didn't think I could read it again, but I do want to see the movie. It's amazing that Sapphire could write this particular story, make it nearly impossible not to read and finish and yet it is such a terrible tale in some ways.

[Warning - I'm totally in a change the subject without warning mood.]

The latest Easy Rawlins mystery, Blonde Faith, will be out in October. And I have a galley copy. I'm going to find a place to review it, I hope, but am very excited that Easy is back.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Reviews, more Blair

Here's a couple of recent reviews:

The Girl with the Golden Shoes, by Colin Channer (WaPost review by Tina McElroy Ansa)

Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only, by Patrick Mcgilligan (Miami Herald review [originally in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] by Eugene Kane)

Casanegra is getting good press, again. Another article, in the LATimes, mentions that Tananarive Due did the first draft of the novel.

I bought the novel a little over a week ago - and knowing that Tananarive Due did the draft was what put me over the edge. I really love her fiction, so I felt like it was a book I would enjoy. And I really did. It was fun, a little racy at times, and I kept being distracted by wondering which of the three authors wrote which sections. Though I have my theories about which parts Blair had a particular hand in.

I also learned in the LATimes article about just how much work Blair is doing. It will probably make me tune in to even more television... oh well.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Author updates, etc.

Marie-Elena John was nice enough to send a couple of updates about her novel, Unburnable. Her novel is nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in the Debut Fiction category. Go to the Hurston-Wright site to see all the nominees. There's a cool endorsement of the novel from Chimamanda Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) posted at the Caribbean Beat blog.

And Marie-Elena John has been smart enough to post an interview she did in San Francisco on youtube.

In the category of good reading and eye candy:

Here's an update from Tananarive Due that was forwarded to the bbb.

"**I couldn't be more excited about the positive feedback on CASANEGRA, the new erotic mystery novel I co-authored with my husband, Steven Barnes, and actor Blair Underwood. If you have read CASANEGRA and enjoyed it, please don't keep it a secret: Please tell your friends, and post reviews on Amazon.com and/or Barnesandnoble.com. Those reviews make a big difference to potential readers.

**CASANEGRA has been getting amazing attention. In addition to July's Essence Book Club, you may have seen the story with Blair's photo leading the Life section of USA TODAY last Thursday, 6/28. (If you missed it, here's the URL: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2007-06-27-underwood_N.htm

**Monday, Blair Steve and I were interviewed on NPR's "News & Notes," with host Farai Chideya. In case you missed it, you can listen to the interview here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11658408
There is also a nice photo of the three of us at the radio station, as well as a book excerpt.

Now, the television blitz begins.

**Monday, July 9, Blair will appear on EXTRA. Local listings vary.

**Sunday, July 15, Blair will appear on the Weekend TODAY show on NBC.

**Monday, July 16, Blair will appear on REGIS & KELLY on NBC.

**Also, Blair is appearing solo at Hue-Man Books in NEW YORK (Harlem), Monday, July 16. If you live nearby, please contact the store for details.

**All three of us will be doing at least one appearance in LOS ANGELES this summer, but the date has not been set. I will update you when I have more information, since joint appearances are rare.

**I will be making a solo appearance in DALLAS in late August, and Steve and I will make a joint appearance in OAKLAND on Sunday, October 28th. I will post more details about those appearances soon. "

I will definitely be setting the DVR for the Blair-watch. I haven't read any reviews of Casanegra yet - so if you have thoughts on it or a link to share, do send it along.

HarperCollins has a readers advisory panel and I signed up for it just over a week ago. My first comp book came in Saturday's mail and I'm already reading it. I think it's a smart way for them to drive some attention to their authors and it definitely put a book in front of me that I might not have seen otherwise. I started reading it last night. The book: Hunger, by Erica Simone Turnipseed. I like it thus far. It helps that there's a woman with a big curly, 'fro on the cover (a different one that the one on HarperCollins' site - so there must have been a switcheroo) and that the protagonist is an academic interested in Haiti and has lovers from Africa and the Caribbean. It really hit a lot of my interest areas, but I wouldn't have gotten that by walking by it at Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday round-up

I am sneaking in some early morning reading before my crew wakes up... woo hoo!

There's a new biography of Condoleezza Rice out by Marcus Mabry and I read an earlier review of it this week that made me not want to read it. The review today in the NYTimes makes me feel that I need to read it. The book, Twice As Good, is published by Rodale. (The image at left is from the review url and was provided by the Rice family via The Associated Press. Shown are Condoleezza Rice and her mother, Angelena).

I think, as Jonathan Freedland writes in is review, that she is "enigmatic." ANd I know I have conflicted feelings about her because she sits in the Republican camp. If she did not, I would already be a Condi-follower. She would easily be one of our community's most talked about and revered heroines. We'd hold her before all of our children and say, "See, this is who you can aspire to be."

On some of my less partisan days, I think I'm being unfair and short-sighted in not thinking of her as a Black hero. My internal debate around this troubles me - I feel like I'm only proud of Black accomplishments if they're in line with my politics and that feeds into the idea that our community must be a monolith. We are not a monolith and shouldn't have to fit into one mold of beliefs.

(Okay - putting soapbox away.)

An author's career trajectory

Martha Southgate's essay in the NYT Book Review, "Writers Like Me," discusses the challenges of being a literary writer who is African American and writing about African American subjects. She writes about not seeing other writers like her in her writing, book, life circles.

"At the parties and conferences I attend, and in the book reviews I read, I rarely encounter other African-American “literary” writers, particularly in my age bracket. There just don’t seem to be that many of us out there, and that’s something I’ve come to wonder about a great deal."
She writes about how the industry sees or does not see Black literary writers. What I found most interesting and fresh, though, was that she talks about the challenge of African American writers who, due to cultural pressure or economic challenges, don't get to the writing until later in life or at all.

"It’s just plain harder to decide to be a writer if you don’t have a financial cushion or a long cultural tradition of people going out on that bohemian limb."

She quotes Edward P. Jones and Randall Kenan on those issues.

I'd be interested to see a list of who is considered a literary writer among African American authors. Anyone want to kick off the list...?

Other quick links
Speaking of Randall Kenan, the LATimes reviews his collection of essays, The Fire This Time. The review is written by Erin Aubrey Kaplan.

USAToday had a story on the new novel by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes last week. The novel, Casanegra, is "a new series featuring gigolo-turned-actor-turned-L.A. tough guy ." All three are listed on the cover as authors of the book. In the article, it's reported that Tananarive wrote the first draft, though. Hopefully the celebrity connection will mean big sales for them. But it is kind of odd to market it as by three people.

Stephen L. Carter's new novel, New England White, is out. Here are a couple of reviews: Miami Herald and in the LATimes (reviewed by Paula L. Woods).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Returning to the world and some reviews

Well, I've been gone too long again. But this blog is not forgotten - well by me anyway. Hopefully not by readers either.

The good news is that I've been writing more lately. Working on a book proposal and a play and I've been to a workship this month. So I feel like I'm moving forward.

I saw today that there's a new biography - though somewhat imagined - about Harriet Tubman. This one, Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life, by Beverly Lowry, is reviewed in the NYTimes today. I think it's interesting that there have been a few Tubman biographies in the last decade. I really enjoyed the one by Catherine Clinton. Unfortunately, since I've read one and am not doing research on Tubman, it makes this new one less attractive. I wonder how publishers cope with that and how Lowry was able to secure a contract for this work.

[Warning - I notice that I'm beginning to be like my mother in this way - I change subjects mid-conversation to totally different things. In my head there's a series of twists and turns that got me there - but of course the listener/reader, does not follow. I could have written a transition instead of the above, but I don't have it in my head today.]

Terry McMillan has a wonderful essay in the Washington Post that is a memoir of a summer of change for her (and pain and sadness and color). This line:

This is when I began to dye.

Seems so perfect to me - read it, you'll see. The essay is called "Excitement in Bed." Tantalizing, isn't it?

There's even an email address for her at the end - which I thought was bold. I'm sure she'll be flooded with messages.

Also in the Post today, a feature on Michael Baisden's radio show, Love, Lust and Lies. I've listened to it a few times and found it oddly adult for the middle of the afternoon - but maybe I'm just a prude. I do like it when he talks about issues and the fact that he calls his audience family really works. And, to be honest, I live a life that's pretty separate from some of the main centers of traditional African American life. In other words, I don't hear "us" talking in most of my encounters during the week, so it's kind of a window for me. Sad, but true.

And, on that topic, I am making a better effort to find children's books featuring characters of African descent. I had been rather lackadaisical about that, though our childrens' library at home is robust. So we came home with a stack of books today. Thank the universe that our local library puts a good sampling on display, as with the two little ones, my rounds in the children's section consists of grabbing what I can while being pulled into our reading castle.

I am looking for the Gullah stories that were published and are, I think, connected to the defunct children's series, Gullah, Gullah Island. Surprisingly, only one is in our catalog here. I think the books are out of print, so I'll likely be buying used copies at Amazon. But I'd love to find them at a Black retailer, so I'll check Cush City too. If you have a recommendation for sources, let me know.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A writer on writing and images of us

Mat Johnson posted a really interesting quote from Terry McMillan about writing.

Here's part of it:
“I just think there are some people who try too hard. They just think every sentence has to be perfect. I’m the sort of writer who thinks your first draft is your most honest."

Good to know she isn't trying too hard.

In other, non-book, but very interesting and disheartening news. The New York Times story last week about infant mortality rates rising again in some states among African American women had me angry, sad and amazed. And I almost didn't read it because of that first picture. I just felt like the picture fed into those old, though likely still held, stereotypes about Black women and their children. And it really hit me how much those images impact how I try to control the way my own children look - i.e., the t-shirt and diaper, no pants look.

Anyway, I have been deeper in my bubble than usual the past few years and it just amazed me that we're still talking about access to prenatal care. It's one thing if mothers choose not to go to the doctor, but having some program available to them should have been solved years ago. And in some cases it seems like it was, but our government has decided to take away the solution.

This feels like somebody's book project - a look at pregnancy, birth and infant health today among poor women and minority women. Or a book that, through women's stories, shows the disparities among mothers and babies - things that we should be able to level out.

Instead of so much coverage of the "mommy wars" and the "opt-out" revolution and "balance," what if more of us opted in to making the same basic health care and support systems available to all pregnant women and mothers, regardless of marital status, geography, race or wealth?

Okay- I'm done ranting for now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Narrowing our options

Like most of you (I presume) I've been watching the book review campaign over at the National Book Critics Circle blog. And I'm sad that I can't be in Atlanta for the protest tomorrow.

I have been thinking about the demise of newspapers in general and how I'm part of the problem. There was a time I wouldn't miss a Sunday paper. But I haven't bought a Sunday paper regularly in years. If it isn't online, I don't read it. So the book section in my own city's paper (if it's still published as a section - really just two pages) is a non-issue for me.

I usually get reviews from the bigger newspapers - LATimes, Washington Post and the NYTimes. Occasionally I read online reviews, but more often I find a recommendation for an author on a web site or blog and follow through on that.

Over the years, particularly in the past two cities I've lived in, I've sometimes enjoyed the book section, but on most weekends, the editor is not including reviews of books that I'm looking for. Or the review is done in a round-up, which isn't very helpful at all.

So I take my chances with blogs, the library and the book jacket.

If you are not able to make it to the protest tomorrow, spend some time thinking about all the places where you read reviews. If it's important to you - online, in print or broadcast, I'd suggest you let that outlet/individual know, before they take away the reviews.

And if you have some thoughts on this, let me know. I'd be interested in publishing a few here.

Here are few links about the controversy.

NYTimes article today
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/ (lots of posts on the book review issues)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Racial cleansing and other notable notes

Although we talk about ethnic cleansing these days, Americans are usually referring to things happening elsewhere in the world. Most people don't know about the racial cleansings that happened in the U.S.

A new book, Buried in the Bitter Waters, by Elliot Jaspin, covers 12 of those racial cleansings. The WashPost reviewer didn't give it a good review, but I'm still interested in the book. Particularly to see if it mentions the racial cleansing in Ocoee, Florida, which I've written about for the stage. Here's a link to the newspaper series that eventually led to the book.

I'm glad that the reviewer mentioned an earlier book Sundown Towns, which I hadn't heard of.

Mockingbird tops Brit List
Apparently British librarians are high on Harper Lee. They've ranked To Kill a Mockingbird as the number one book that adults must read before dying. Here's an interesting story about the endurance of that novel as assigned school reading. I think it's interesting that the novel is one of the key images of the U.S. in the British imagination, even though it's quite dated.

I remember a classmate, a Black classmate, who was offended by the racial slurs in the novel. I defended it, saying that that's just realism and fit the times. I am glad that we are also reading books by Black authors in schools now - or I assume students are. It'll be a few years before I have to deal with those reading lists again.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mother, artist/activist, friend? Apparently not

It must be exhilarating and exasperating to be Alice Walker's daughter. But I didn't really think about that much until today, when reading this story in the NYT about Rebecca Walker. To recap - she's partnered with a man, she has a two-year-old and lives in Maui (on Maui).

And she's estranged from her mother.

And she is being really honest. And, I think, rude and insensitive. Here's the quote I'm talking about:

The most incendiary notion in "Baby Love" may be that, for Ms. Walker,
being a stepparent or adoptive parent involves a lesser kind of love than the
love for a biological child.

In an interview, Ms. Walker boiled the
difference down to knowing for certain that she would die for her biological
child, but feeling "not sure I would do that for my nonbiological child."

The article refers to her previous, female partner (but does not name her, even though she's famous and it's well known that they were together) and the woman's son. Who Rebecca helped raise during the years they were together. I was really taken aback that she would a) think like that b) express it and c) put it out there for all the world to see, even this teenager.

I was really interested in reading her book and may still get around to it. But this really made me pause.

New writers to visit
I saw this blog today by three mystery writers - it's called Crime Sistahs.

Those sisters pointed me to a survey on racism and publishing at Karen Scott's web site.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A new publisher is in the mix

Tina McElroy Ansa announced Friday that she is starting a publishing company, DownSouth Press.

The full release is on her web site: www.downsouthpress.com

She had this to say in a GalleyCat item -

"I am not a self-publisher. We are a small press."

I've had this idea for founding this independent small press for a
number of years," Ansa continues. "It is in reaction not only to my own
experience in mainstream publishing (I've been published by three of the large
publishing houses), but also what I know other authors of color have run up
against—many writers of quality serious and contemporary fiction are being
passed over and being told that there is no longer a market for their
work." In her speech last week, Ansa described her plan to operate as "the kind
of involved, smart publisher I dreamed of and the type that every serious writer
deserves for his or her work." After publishing her own novel, "each of our
lists will feature a new book by a well-known, established author and at
least one debut work by a new voice in American literature... We plan to publish
the books that will be classics in years to come."

Ansa also directs writers retreats - I've been to two of them - and the next one is April 28 - 29 in Atlanta at Spelman College.

Details on the retreat are available at www.tinamcelroyansa.com.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tayari Jones, Hilda Hutcherson, Angela Bassett

Tayari Jones will be reading at two events in Atlanta this week. One is tonight, so it's too late for that - the other is on Saturday. Instead of sinking into a depression because I won't be there, I thought I'd spread the word.

From her site:

I'm headed to Atlanta tomorrow for the AWP
conference. There are going to be quite a few exciting literary events around town, so don't miss out. I'll be at the Margaret Mitchell house on Wednesday night at 7pm. (Get there at 6pm to score snacks.) I'm sharing the stage with Lee Smith (whom I love.) There's a cover charge for that event-- just FYI. On Saturday night,8:30pm, Grand Ballroom, 2nd Floor: I'll be at the Hilton downton giving a headline reading at the AWP Conference. This one is free and open to the public. If you're around, I hope you can make it. I'm reading from my new novel-in-progress. Friendly faces are very very welcome. (Don't make me beg, okay?)

An sex and books party
I went to an event with Dr. Hilda Hutcherson over the weekend. (It was at a private home so I won't disclose more than that). It was a great setup - the all-female crowd could post questions in writing and Dr. Hutcherson pulled them out of a box for answers. Eventually the group loosened up a bit (in a good way!) and the questions were flowing without the anonymous box. She is the author of Pleasure and What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex. She has been on Oprah and is the sex columnist for Essence.

A celeb book worth the pages?
Two things - I was skeptical about the Angela Bassett/Courtney Vance book, Friends: A Love Story. I just worry about the merits of a two celebrity + one writer book. Just because people look good on screen and sound great, doesn't not make them writers.
But I'm predisposed to like Angela Bassett - she is one of my favorite actresses. So I was pleased to see a report-out on galley cat about a recent event with Bassett and Vance. Here's how good they were in person talking about their love story, according to gc:

(They really should flesh it out to about 90 minutes and take it on the
road; it's that good.)

The other thing is that I was just excited to see a post, bad pic and all, about a book by African Americans on a non-ethnic book blog. It's rare, at least when I'm reading those blogs.

I'll have to get a copy of that book someday.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What we're reading this week

Remembering Black/Negro/Colored School Teachers
I think I'm going to have to read A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in The Segregated South, by Adam Fairclough. I'm not old enough to have attended segregated schools, but my parents did and a few of their teachers were still around during my childhood. And I really could feel the respect that Black teachers and the profession had then in our community. Here are a couple of quotes from the WashPost review that caught my attention:

In 1935, Ambrose Caliver, the highest-ranking black employee in the U.S.
Office of Education, proclaimed, "In the hands of the Negro teacher rests the
destiny of the race."

Fairclough makes clear that the nostalgia of many African Americans since
the 1960s for the Good Old Days of all-black schools is rose-colored. Only
through desegregation could black children hope to attend decently funded public
schools in the South.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Looking for good news

I really hadn't intended to post tonight, just quickly add a couple of links and catch up on sleep.

Then I noticed that Bebe Moore Campbell's web page was still listed on the blog. I took it down, but it really made me sad again. I went to her page and saw that information about the services in December was still there. Just not something I think about doing - removing a young author from my list. There are two of her books that I haven't read, though. So I do look forward to reading them and remembering her.

And, in Dallas, Black Images Book Bazaar closed on Dec. 30. I bought books from Emma Rogers when I was at NABJ in 2003. It seems we will lose all of the black bookstores. Here's a column that ran in the Dallas Morning News about the closing, by a local minister.

The main black bookstore in our city closed a couple of years ago, but I'm going to ask around to find out if anybody has a little shop somewhere - and go get some books. If it's not too late.