Ever since the fall of Google Reader I’ve followed my favs on Bloglovin, but apparently I haven’t claimed my own blog. Whoops. If you’re on BL, too, look me up.
These last few, what has it been? days? weeks? is it a month yet? I’ve been wide awake, even when I don’t want to be. It’s been hard to relax, hard to lay down and keep my eyes closed. Because someone’s living it, someone’s talking about it, and someone’s denying the world that imposes on me exists.
We think that strength comes from not caring what other people think. I don’t see how that’s true. We were created to be relational beings, even if we don’t all execute that in the same way. I’m not sure what the stoicism that says I’m not upset or I don’t mind what other people say or think would gain me. What kind of person would it make me, if that were true? More than that, why is the expectation that it could be true?
I am a socialized being (albeit an intentionally re-educated one, by the grace of God which I mean quite literally). I’m an American, and I’m Black. I’ve gotten messages all my life as to the value system of the culture into which I was born. I don’t say this to absolve any other country of their scarred history, but to say that because of ours, the answer to our questions and our issues and our homegrown terror must take them into account. If I’ve been told all my life – on every conscious level and whether I agree with it or not – that the White American voice is required for all manner of validation, shall I be held wholly responsible then for dismantling all of the privilege that is therein implied, denying its destructive impact and cultural capital, by simply denying that a single voice does harm when it’s declaring injustice to be a lie, accusing us of “attacking western civilization”, saying that “white people are being demonized” (because there is no way for someone to be wrong without being undone entirely…) or any of the willfully blind and unapologetic other things being said? On my own, I should just be the bigger person when someone tries to rewrite the definition of racism, which – if I can be – somehow means it won’t feel the least bit deflating? I won’t be discouraged or disappointed or further disillusioned, not ever or least only by admission long after the fact?
But if these are your countrymen, and that means anything, why wouldn’t I be? It *isn’t* enough for *me* to know the truth. People who look like me were the enslaved and then the segregated and then the scorned and mocked and antagonized and still the oppressed, but I should today in 2014 because ostensibly time heals all wounds brush off that so many people still refuse to acknowledge the truth? Why would I want to do that? How would that not grieve me?
I don’t *want* to live in a world where everyone looks like me or sounds like me or only knows the things that I know. I don’t want to go our separate ways, stick to our “own” kind, because where and when did that ever work? And, because it matters to me, how does that please God?
It does bothers me that you don’t get it. It just doesn’t change my mind. It doesn’t make me think maybe I’ve got it wrong. It doesn’t mean I’ll let myself be shut up, even when I don’t want to have this conversation all over again, even when I’m tired of having my heart race waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to be completely disregarded. I’ll never stop knowing what I know about you, about me, about us, about respectability politics and the fact that anyone would find murder justified whether a boy had stolen cigars or not. I’ll never stop knowing that criminalization and oppression and self-loathing and crime are related, even if you don’t know. I’ll never stop knowing how – before I can show my talents – I must first disprove a prejudice.
I just know it should bother you, too.
We cannot be together right now. I am with my novel. It’s gotten serious. Forgive me.
^I can’t even.
People don’t buy books with people of color on the cover.
People don’t read books with people of color as narrator or MC.
People can’t relate.
First of all, one of the best things about that collection of quotes explaining racism is that it calls us out for not identifying who is being racist. Because of the way we police our speech, there are no racists, right? Just racist things that are happening all on their own. Just a machine already in motion (which is true) that no one is controlling (which could be true but that doesn’t negate) that someone is benefiting from. So s/he is responsible for shutting it down.
So we’re not talking about “people.” We’re talking about white people. White people is not a dirty word, you guys, unless you insist on just being people while the rest of us have always been identified by our phenotype or ethnicity. Which says something. (I’m convinced that there are at least a slight number of people who – if they had something pointed out – can get the message.)
And while others have already eloquently spoken on the fact that the thing about diversity is that white people shouldn’t have to be able to relate to everything in the marketplace – which I will sum up as follows: Diversity in literature is having something for everyone, not everything for someone – what I wanna talk about is how that’s baloney. That whole can’t-relate dealie. Is baloney.
Because the thing is: none of us fell out of the womb relating. We were *taught* how to relate to the default voice. From the first reading assignment through to the last, by whom we were assigned to read, by the way we were taught to decipher it, we were taught how to relate to literature.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Frost, Atwood, Wharton, and everyone else we read. We were taught how to read them. We were socialized to identify and identify with the style, the imagery, the pentameter, the allusions, the themes. We were taught.
Which means you can learn. Anyone who wants to. Everyone. Because – instead of trying to edit out the minority voice – the standard response should be, lemme stretch myself so I can hear the things I’m not hearing. Let me learn a new way to read, just like all of the western world was taught to hear the white, (mostly) male voice.
Learn to read, y’all.
And if you need to hear it again, please go read this. Because TRUTH:
White is an ethnicity as well. Which is why you can’t take a white character, slap a skin color on, and say, “Tada, now you’re (insert race)!” Because your character, depending on what race and background they have, isn’t going to look at white things the way a white person would.
And I’m keeping my voice.
By which of course, I mean my birthday – and all the Morrowpalooza bdays (Me, hubby, son) – are this coming week!
We had family in town to start off July and took a little trip to the Quebec City area, which was delightful! ::throws some pics atcha::
And in completely unrelated news: (a) new book!! and (b) APES.
Dawn. of the et cetera. SO. INTENSE.
That is all.
Let me tell you about the most frustratingest two days of my June life. (Because, let’s be real. I can’t rightly remember what happened in May. That was May’s problem; none of my business.)
So I have a bucket of projects from novel to flash fiction length out and about, looking for a home. (Does anyone else do this thing where they have several submission lists, in various visual iterations – like each particular project has its own excel workbook and then there’s the linear list of each project and where it’s subbed but then there’s this other thing which is shapes and just a different presentation of the same information because sometimes that’s how my brain needs to ingest information. You do, right? I should mention I am not soliciting diagnoses at this time.)
I tell you about this murder of organizational/administrative/brain-pressure-relieving documents because sometimes dealing with this aspect of the writer life suffices for a day or week while I wait on the next Must Write story/character/scene.
But not this past week. I was/am in the middling stretch with basically all aforementioned projects and I was like, okay, the next step in the thought-it-would-be-a-collection-of-flash-stories story might be transitioning into novellette or novella territory (dude, I wish I could tell you why) and simultaneously wanting to write a new novel for the adult market, but no. Seriously, not a single thought or concept was coming. By which I mean, not a single thought or concept that made sense.
It’s about a killer robot driving instructor, who travels back in time for some reason.
And then as it does, magic happened via the mundanity that is something I experience all the time and BOOM. Scene in my head. So, even though it was a simple scene, I wrote it down. As per yoosh, in the writing, more was revealed, but it was still vague in a way that surprised me. It could be more than one genre, part of more than one story.
So I made a two column list. This is how the story would proceed if it were this genre, this is how the story would proceed if it were this genre. And ho.my.gosh. One of those columns got long and extravagant and the concept turned into a world and ojsdopfjpdogkpdkfophhpodjfg and
It’s not ready to be written but WOW. I can’t. It’s one of those I have no idea how to write this projects and I can.not.wait.
This marvel of marvels, this tastiest of things? Is my new journal. Now, the first observation should rightly be: this is not a Roma Lussa, to which I desired greatly to return after two years of writing in a lined, non-marbelized-edged, decidedly un-handwoven-paged, sans leather not to mention wrap-adverse covered tome. Which I ended up very much enjoying for its delightful thickness.
So the thing is, I am very near the end of a journal and I cannot handle that being the case without knowing where I will write next. Mentally. I can’t handle that mentally. And finding my beloved Roma Lussa has been a challenge (no, the cost of shipping was not acceptable) so I went to Renaud-Bray to see if there was anything I could love. And immediately, no. NO. on all “leather” journals. I put that in quotes because I don’t know what these things are made of but it is not the supple buttery delectability to which I am accustomed, friends. It is not.
But then, I move a journal aside on a top shelf – I feel it’s important for you to accurately picture me on tiptoe here – and there is this. This flabbergasting cover with two glorious hooks, containing larger unlined pages than I have ever journaled on. But it wasn’t what I was looking for so I put it back. And then I came back and picked it up. And I put it down and went about my business. And then, as I was preparing to leave, I came rushing back and picked it up again. And then, darlings, I knew. I could not be without it.
I’ve begun my goodbye to the current journal. The obligatory flipping back to the beginning, seeing where I was, where it began. September 2012.
Le sigh eternal, you guys.
Like many writers treating this like a j-o-b, I have eleventy things out and about right about now. Novels, novellas, short stories. Only one of which I’m stereotypically worried-bananas-obsessed over because DID THEY GET IT, did they forget they said I could do that, Dear Savior please halp. Like, for real, I don’t even know what to do. And I can’t just leave it be and go submit elsewhere because you’re the one, the one I’ve been looking for, what’s your name?!
And then anyway.
I just really wanna see Maleficent again. As much as I had ZERO intention of seeing it in 3-D and resultantly paying a grillion bucks to do so because it was the only showing that didn’t make me late to get to my little boy’s award ceremony (the things we do for kids, eh?) – I loved it.
Speaking of movies (of which this summer has a ton I cannot wait to see):
I remember falling in love with the trailer for the Rise of the PotA movie – being so scared that it’d hurt me just like the trailer for Terminator: Salvation did. But it didn’t. In the words of Homer Simpson, it did rocketh my world. So much so that I endured the original five Planet of the Apes. (Yes, that’s three links in as many sentences.) And of course, I’m about to do it all over again. Because YAS.
Who’s comin’ with me?
This is where I started to write a hilarious (to me) post about how when elected, Diverse Author will make the world a better place in general, a la Homer Simpson’s Sanitation Commissioner campaign.
Like any passionate politician, I was going to promise the moon – or at least a doing away with the new PRH logo.
If one can really call it that. I feel like they were going for clean and minimalist, forgetting that they’d gone with PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE as a name. When we all had already decided on Random Penguin.
When you choose to support Diverse Author, you get my personal guarantee that I will fight for the PRH logo we deserve. The one where the penguin is wild-eyed and wearing one sock, possibly brandishing an umbrella. You know, something you’d be proud to have on the spine of your book.
But it would go well beyond rebranding. Diverse Author promises to increase your daily word count by combining things the internet assumes every writer has to begin with. A cat. And a laptop. Using a cat’s innate desire to sleep on your keyboard, I will help you produce record-breaking and experimental content without ever plotting or world-building.
I was totally gonna write that post. And then I worried that the joke might be lost on many, if a joke is what we could call it. The strange expectation then that seems to constantly accompany diversity hires – POTUS included – which dictates that we must be The Living End. That which shall set right all the things and purify every iniquity.
The expectation that makes such hires and initiatives unsustainable.
Because the thing to realize is that the world is improved precisely by our having a voice, simply by righting the wrong. Not if we exceed sales expectations with a single bound, not if we surpass our cultural icons and heroes. By taking our place.
Can we replace “diversity problem” with “delusion”? Google’s mostly white-male staff underline Tech’s delusion sounds more honest. Let’s call it what it is. It reflects a clear and persistent and almost inspired inability or unwillingness to operate in the real and actual world. Concurrently, it reflects a system so lopsided that there is an overrepresentation of white men in the corporate world which, if scrutinized even slightly, would point to significant problems with the socio-educational-economic-everyinstitutionever complex that makes up our nation.
Click-bait titles for self-aggrandizing, pseudo-radical-social-revolutionary stories that in no way challenge the foundation, you’ve done it again.
How do you get Latino children into classical music, NPR? Really?
Somehow get people out of the ethno-social class that is historically and perpetually marginalized. Give them a break from chaotic and desperate circumstances which perpetuate the comparatively high percentages of academic under-performance and criminalization and thereby allow them a longer scope and vision. Give them access to all the things you have access to while doing away with the institutionalized barriers and negative expectations and baggage that inhibit upward mobility and create self-fulfilling prophecies. Because we know that “classical music” is code for something else entirely.
But we also know that no one was genuinely asking in the first place.
We Are The People That You’ll Never Get The Best Of.
But this is a reminder: any and all campaigns dedicated to increasing diverse representation have to be constantly self-regulating. Sometimes finding a solution isn’t the first order of business. The first order of business is resetting the way we all think.
Yep, #WeNeedDiverseBooks. But that means #WeNeedDiverseAuthors to write books that reflect the actual reality. This is my story.