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 (lots of posts on the book review issues)