Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Busy bee links

Gah! I'm busy! Seems like everything is due this week...so that just leaves time for some quick links.

Check out The Book Corner on the Legal Defense Fund's (the law firm for the NAACP) website for book reviews and commentary.

The Oxford American's "Race issue" is on newsstands now. It's "a special issue devoted to the 'Past, Present, and Future' of Race in what may be among the first white-run, mainstream publications to be written by a vast majority (in this case, 88%) of writers of color."

On the Galleycat blog Jeff Rivera, author of Forever My Lady and founder of http://www.gumbowriters.com/, is writing a weekly column on interesting authors, editors, agents and book publicists of color.

Another argument for reading a wide variety of fiction: Psychologist and novelist Keith Oatley says that "fiction at its best isn't just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves." So, does reading fiction written by people of different races make us more open to connecting with real-life folks of other races? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing! (Thanks to Readerville.com for the link.)

Anybody know if any of the Romance Writers of America 2009 RITA Awards finalists are writers of color? I didn't see any names I recognized on a very quick read through. (Thanks to SORMAG for the link.)

In April (maybe as soon as tomorrow), blogger and author Felicia Pride will be launching a new books column on TheRoot.com. Her first column asks different African American writers (including yours truly) what they'd do if they ruled the literary world. Check out her list of books by black authors from around the world.

Don't forget April is National Poetry Month. Poet and professor E. Ethelbert Miller will be here in April to tell us about some of his favorite poets. And if you want to receive a poem a day from The Borzoi Reader, go here. (Thanks to SORMAG for the link.)

Literary Obama explores the literary and historical implications of Michelle Obama's new garden. As a gardener and a writer, I find the whole topic riveting. Black women have a long history of tending gardens that have nothing to do with sharecropping or working plantations. (Check out Harlem renaissance poet Anne Spencer's roses and Jamaica Kincaid is renowned gardener.)

Anika at Writeblack has a review of Claudia Burney's Murder, Mayhem & a Fine Man, a Christian mystery, and a podcast with author Uwem Akpan, who wrote Say You're One of Them.

Anika also hipped me to a conversation about people of color and sci-fi over at deadbrowalking. And there's more about "Racefail 09" (about diversity in speculative fiction) over at Readersroom.com.

Check out Color Online's Potpourri Quiz. Answer their questions about a female author and you could win a prize!

Color Online and Diversity Rocks is starting a weekly meme on Fridays. Sounds cool!

Oh, and a question: who watched The No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency pilot on HBO last night, and what'd you think? I'm so pissed. I was planning to get rid of HBO, but they got me! (A friend says I sound like this guy.) I really liked the show and will be watching the entire series.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blurbs in black and white

Blurbs are on my mind, as we are seeking them for my next novel. I'm thrilled to report we have a great one so far. I'm grateful for any author of any race who takes the time to read my work and lend their name to help out. But the process has got me thinking. This blurb is from a white author. My first novel also had blurbs from black and white authors. A quick look on my bookshelves finds Stephen King blurb My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due; Dorothy Allison blurb The Untelling by Tayari Jones; Jill McCorkle blurb Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Ansa. First question it raises is: Does it matter to white readers to have a white author say, "hey this is a good book"? Second question is: Why? Third question is: Are there white authors who have blurbs from black writers? Maybe Walter Mosley, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison. Anybody know?

Heads up!

New books and upcoming releases:

Don't forget J. California Cooper's latest Life is Short But Wide is out today!

That Devil's No Friend of Mine by JD Mason just hit!

Finding Me by Darnella Ford looks good.

Other new books and upcoming releases that look good (including the Book of Night Women by Marlon James and Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead).

Blogger Donna Bennett has a good list of 2009 releases too.

APOOO's list of books they're reading this month.

Kiss The Sky by Farai Chideya looks like a winner. Out in May; available for pre-order now. Here's the synopsis:

Sophie Maria Clare Lee doesn't have the résumé of a rock star. She grew up a book-smart black girl in blue-collar Baltimore, then remade herself at Harvard into a hipster with an appetite for self-destructive men. One of them is the mesmerizing Ari Klein, a charismatic and handsome black-biracial trust-fund baby. Ari is her Harvard classmate, the man she toured America with as part of an indie rock band right after college, and -- by the time we meet Sophie at the start of the novel -- her ex-husband.

Ten years after graduation, Sophie has made a career as a music television host in Manhattan. But she's grown restless of interviewing pop culture icons and wannabes enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame. Spurred into a one-night musical reunion with Ari in order to help a friend, Sophie decides it's time to stop playing the good girl and snatch back the mic. She wants to be the next "It girl" in the music media circuit.

Sophie has the talent and drive to take her game to the next level despite the odds. She lands a record deal -- with the help of a new manager and paramour, Leo Masters -- but quickly discovers that her celebrity status brings new risks for her sense of self and even her safety. As she and Ari begin to play music together again, Sophie, Leo, and Ari also enter a complicated love triangle. It puts her in personal jeopardy just as she's beginning to achieve commercial success. With a Greek chorus of advice from her two best girlfriends from Harvard, Sophie tries to figure out how she relates to these two men, the music business, her loving but demanding extended family, and her penchant for alcohol and melancholy. As the band tours America, Europe, and Africa, will Sophie's faith, family, and friendships crumble under the weight of her dogged fight for fame?

And new on my radar screen (even though she was published a while ago), thanks to AALBC.com, is author Nina Revoyr, who has 2 novels about Japanese-American & African-American relationships. Southland really sounds interesting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Links and stuff

ringshout is back up! Martha Southgate (Third Girl from the Left), Bridgette Davis (Shifting into Neutral), Eisa Eulen (Crystal Mourning) and Chris Jackson (editor) formed ringShout, a place for black literature, and they're blogging again. Check it out.

Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant author of What Doesn't Kill You will host Lit Chat on Twitter Friday, March 20 at 4 pm EST (or Eastern Daylight Time or whatever it is now). The topic is Beyond Black & White: Writing in Color. Join the conversation here.

I learned of this video by Jay Smooth via the #raceSXSW feed on Twitter.

Books by black folks that are not about race

Or at least not only about race. Please chime in!

If These Walls Could Talk by Bettye Griffin: real-estate dreams

The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate: drama at a New England prep school

Better Than I Know Myself by Deberry and Grant: friendship amongst women

Shifting Through Neutral by Bridgette Davis: a father & daughter relationship

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer: nerds & others who happen to be black

The Untelling by Tayari Jones: a young woman haunted by a family accident

The Other Brother by Brandon Massey: a man's half-brother comes to claim what's his

Somebody Else's Mama by David Haynes: a woman and her mother-in-law

Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy: personal identity

Sisters and Lovers by Connie Briscoe: 3 sisters and their relationships (sequel coming in June!)

Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone: a married couple during the 40s & 50s

Baby of the Family by Tina McElroy Ansa: a woman born with 2nd sight

Waiting in Vain by Colin Channer: a sexy love story

Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do by Pearl Cleage: a woman in recovery meets her soul mate

The Middle Sister by Bonnie Glover: a girl struggles after her parents divorce

Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins: a divorced woman tries to save a dying town

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead: growing up in the 80s

Every Reasonable Doubt by Pamela Samuels-Young: a murder mystery written by an attorney

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An editor speaks

When news breaks, I can't wait till Tuesday to post. And this is news. Talk about validation! Check out this essay at Editorial Ass. A New York editor speaks about racism in publishing. I wish I could send it to every one of those crazy Washington Post commenters.

A snippet, but please go over and read the whole thing and leave a comment:

Racism sucks. It sucks even more in publishing, since mass media is basically the only "thing" with the power to reach lots of people fast, and instead, for the most part, media generators--book publishers among them--find that it is comfortable, happy, and money-padded to carry on with the status quo, give people what they're used to, and ignore the problems. But yes indeed, racism we have. The thing about racism, particularly among well-meaning people, is that it's not overtly, deliberately malicious--most of it is just passivity, or, like I said, people doing again what made them money before. There are some (profound and terrifying) exceptions, examples of actively racist and/or bigoted publishing. But the majority of our sins are sins of omission--of failing to represent authors (and/or characters) of color the way we do white authors.

Best part about this? We are making a difference! We are making our voices heard and maybe, just maybe, if we can get readers to think a little outside the box we'll get publishers to think that way too. Change from the ground up? Where have I heard that before?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memorable female characters-a list for Women's History Month

In honor of Women's History Month, I'm starting a list of the most memorable female characters in African American fiction. What female character stayed with you long after you finished the book? What woman would you want to hang out with if you could? Please add her in the comments. In no particular order, here's my list:

Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, because she may well be the 1st black feminist character in literature (Review from Color Online's BHM writing contest)

Cellie and Shug in The Color Purple Alice Walker

Lila Mae in The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, elevator inspector: "The man's lips arch up toward his nose and Lila Mae understands that he's never seen an elevator inspector like her before. Lila Mae has pinpointed a spot as the locus of metropolitan disaffection. A zero-point. It is situated in the heart of the city, on a streetcorner that clots with busy, milling citizens during the day and empties completely at night except for prostitutes and lost encyclopedia salesmen. It's a two-minute walk from the office. With that zero-point reference, she cna predict just how much suspicion, curiosity and anger she will rouse in her cases. 125 Walker is at the outer edges of the city, near the bank of the polluted river that keeps the skyscrapers at bay from the suburbs and quite a distance from the streetcorner: He doesn't like her...."

Sugar in Sugar by Bernice McFadden, a young prostitute starts a new life in a new home. "It seemed to her that getting ahead was something reserved for people that already had their feet placed one in front of the other. Sugar, well, she guessed she was just born with both feet turned backward, 'cause every step she took placed her one step closer to where she'd been instead of where she was trying to get."

Stella in How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan, for showing us age doesn't matter when it comes to love

Sethe in Beloved by Toni Morrison, the mother who murders who own child rather than see her a slave (Color Online's BHM review)

Lillian and Myraleen in This Side of the Sky by Elyse Singleton, for Lillian's open heart and Myraleen's fire. Lillian: "As a girl, I loved anything with wheels or wings--including Pontiacs, trains, bread trucks and hummingbirds--because they all had the power to get out of Mississippi."

Clare Kendry in Passing by Nella Larsen, the woman who passes for white (and even marries a racist white man) in this haunting story (go here for another great review)

Jean in Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair, a warm, funny coming of age story in which Jean realizes she's gay. "Mama says I'm at that awkward age, and that soon I won't just be arms and legs; I'll need a bra and a girdle. I can't picture myself needing a bra, as flat-chested as I am now. And to tell you the truth, I'm not too hot on having my behind all hitched up in a girdle. I have to help Mama into hers on Sunday mornings, and I feel sorry for her, all squeezed in so tight you wonder how she can even breathe."

Mudear in Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Ansa, the mother who haunts her three daughters in life and death

Dill Smiles in Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks, the lesbian lover of the titular mother

Mattie in The Women of Brewster Place, the mother who spoils her son rotten and pays for it later

Blanche White in Barbara Neely's Blanche White Mystery series, a smart, humorous domestic worker solves crimes and gives voice to people rarely seen in literature

Keri in 72-Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell, the mother who goes to illegal lengths to try to help her mentally ill daughter. "I counted the pills in the bottles on my breakfast room table, the mood stabilizers and the antipsychotics, and counted them again. The television was playing in Trina's room. I knocked on her door and opened it before she responded. Watch your mouth, I told myself. Don't accuse her of anything."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Take the poll, win a book!

Look to the left. The poll about African American fiction sections in bookstores is up. Please let me hear how you feel. The poll will be up until the end of the month. Blog about the poll (a link will do) and let me know in the comments, and I'll enter you in the contest for a free copy of the paperback of SEEN IT ALL AND DONE THE REST by Pearl Cleage.