The contest between small independent presses and huge media conglomerates could be won because the little guys are able to take big chances. In science fiction and fantasy, at least, they're willing and eager to publish minorities and women, and wonderfully fresh debut novels like Karen Lord's "Redemption in Indigo" (Small Beer Press, 200 pp., $16).
Lord is a well-traveled native of Barbados with a University of Toronto science degree. Using a Senegalese folktale the way a composer uses a musical theme — as a basis for variation — she recounts the fantastical adventures of Paama, who escapes her unfortunate marriage only to be placed in unwitting charge of awesome universal powers.
An enchanted kitchen implement allows Paama to bring the slightest probabilities to pass. At first unconscious of this ability, she rescues a drowning boy and resurrects a plague victim from the dead. Gradually the "undying ones" (known to Paama's people as "djombi") teach her how the branching implications of her interference lead to consequences a mere human woman could never foresee. Full of sharp insights and humorous asides ("I know your complaint already. You are saying, how do two grown men begin to see talking spiders after only three glasses of spice spirit?"), "Redemption" extends the Caribbean Island storyteller's art into the 21st century and hopefully, beyond. -Nisi Shawl for The Seattle Times
Did anyone here read asha bandele's book? I just read it and I was wondering how everything turned out for them. I know she has a daughter now and Google told me that her husband's latest parole hearing was in January 2008. Does anyone have anything else? Was he released? Are they still together?
I know some people may be memoir-ed out by now but this book was the first one I purchased on my new Kindle and even though I'm only a few chapters in, I had to post about it. It's really a beautifully written memoir about growing up in an wealthy white California suburb in the 70s and 80s. Definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something to read.
LA Times review
NY Times review
Can you read a book about one person's cultural experience written by a person from another one, especially if the author is from a majority culture?
I might be framing this wrong. I'll use an example from blackfolk chat.
It was brought to my surprised attention that Memoirs of a Geisha was written by a white guy.
Since the anthology, which shall remain nameless, will be available sometime around Jimmy Hoffa's reappearance, I've decided to post my story that was supposed to appear in it to all my friends and colleagues here on LJ. Fuck buying the book. I'm not even remotely happy that I've been screwed over and don't anything to show for it aside from a gaping wide ass. Sure, I could make a little trip up to Brooklyn with a nine iron in tow. But, aside from hearing the orgasm-inducing sounds of crushing bones and cartlidge, what would that achieve?
It is tempting, though...
Anyway, below is the story. I really hope you enjoy it and I would greatly appreciate all of your posted feedback.
( Read more...Collapse )
x-posted to my journal
For the record, I never called my work “street literature” and I never will. When I began to publish ground breaking contemporary novels with Flyy Girl in 1993, and Capital City in 1994, I called them “urban classics.” They were “urban” because they dealt with people of color in the inner-city or “urban” population areas. They
were “classics” because I considered myself one of the first to start the work of a new era. But now, after sixteen years and sixteen novels in the African-American adult urban fiction game, I feel like the man who created the monster Frankenstein. Things have gotten way out of hand. So it’s now time to put up my pen and move on to
something new, until the readership is ready to develop a liking for fresh material on other subjects.
To a degree, it now seems hypocritical for the man who self-published the first gold digger book with Flyy Girl, and the first drug-dealer book with Capital City, to turn around and cry wolf about a readership who-fifteen years later-seem stuck on the subjects. However, I never intended to remain on those same topics. And I
didn’t. I moved on to cover a dozen other community issues through my work.
Nevertheless, the new young writers, who became inspired by my earlier work; Teri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Nikki Turner, Shannon Holmes, K’wan, and several others, related to my “urban classics” alone, and they began to match it, writing from their own sources of hardcore street knowledge. And I can’t knock them for writing their
honest stories. I can’t knock them for wanting to be published. I can’t knock them for earning an honest living. But after awhile, as dozens of other new writers began to follow in their footsteps, creating more gold-digging, ghetto girl, gangster love, drug-dealer stories, I had to seriously ask myself, “Don’t we have some other things to write about it?”
This new form of “street lit” began to remind me of a similar destruction of hip-hop, where the same ghettocentric stories began to take precedence over the creative perspectives and multi-faceted
voices and subjects of our urban music. All of a sudden, you could not succeed as a rapper unless you had sold drugs, committed violent crimes, and claimed to be an unruly gangster, who had done hard time in prison. You couldn’t rap about the normal joys of life anymore. These new kids on the block rejected how Ice Cube had had a good day, while preferring to hear how dark in hell it was for DMX.
That hardcore fact — of an urban audience’s preference for denigration — remains to be our most pressing issue here. The fact is, when I began to write about good black men with A Do Right Man in 1997, the importance of black family with Single Mom in 1998, the reality of black-on-black love with Sweet St. Louis in 1999, the indulgences of superstars with Just Say No! in 2001, the ugly face of New Orleans poverty with Leslie in 2002, or the challenge of positive feminine power with Boss Lady in 2005, few readers bothered to listen
In fact, after trying to educate and uplift the same young, urban readership who fell in love with Flyy Girl with the sequel book, For The Love of Money — which hit the New York Times bestseller’s list in 2000, and won me an NAACP Image Award in 2001 — the positive and progressive voice that I become so proud of, had lost me the support of my young urban audience. They bought Flyy Girl sequel, For The Love of Money, in droves because they were certain that I would return to the “streets” with the reckless young character they had grown to love in the first book. But when this same character grew up, finished college, earned a Master’s Degree, and returned home to find that her drug-dealing lover from high school days had been released from jail, and was now a self-respecting Muslim man with a new wife and kids, the lack of expected drama and bullshit caused a national riot.
I began to receive hordes of e-mails from passionate, young, urban women you had obvious tantrums with me for not writing a second “street book,” while they began to brag about the hardcore tale of Sister Souljah’s new title, The Coldest Winter Ever. And suddenly, I found that my urban voice and validity had been quickly replaced.
That replacement of significant voice had nothing to do with the publishers preferring “street lit” over responsible lit.” It had all to do with an urban audience who preferred grit over polish. And that love for grit, crime, sex, broken hearts, drama, and other bullshit, reinforced the sales that I enjoyed for Diary of a Groupie in 2003, and What They Want in 2006. These were both books where I wrote about the subjects of sex, idolization, blackmail, and black women getting their fantasy freaks on, that urban readers had begun to love from my
good friend Zane, and her various Sex Chronicles. Again, I can’t knock a sister for expressing her inner freak. I would want a woman confident enough to show me what she got as well, just not on every other page.
Nevertheless, that’s what the majority of the black readership, based on recent sales figures, are choosing to read nowadays. So as I hear some of my more responsible peers in the book industry, complaining about the publishers, who market and sell the work, I have to remind us all that publishing is still a business. The majority of these “street lit” and sex titles are still being self-published
anyway. In fact, the only people making any significant money from it are the chain book stores, and the small houses who score off of quantity over quality.
Hell, let’s sell it all if we make money from it all. The book on the philosophy is called The Long Tail. And if here’s another new street writer willing to make a few bucks around the corner, then let’s publish them and make more money. In the meantime, only Teri Woods can sell major numbers of a new “street lit” title. The readers barely know the names of a hundred other writers. Unless of course, we count Karrine “Superhead” Steffans and her book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, published two years ago. Her real life sexcapades and celebrity name dropping created a real storm. Now she’s back for seconds.
With all that in mind, I couldn’t even name my latest book The Writer, about a New York Times bestseller author, who ends up on the run for his life when he agrees to write a true-crime book in the contemporary “no snitch” zone of Harlem, New York. The retail book stores actually informed my publisher that the title wasn’t specific
or gritty enough. They needed something edgier. Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I can’t even name my damn book titles what I want now because of what retail says about African-American readership.
So I said, “To hell with it then. I’m done with writing all urban fiction. Tell the stores we’ll call it The Last Street Novel and move on to something else.” I then enlisted my other good friend, the queen bee of “street lit” publishing herself, Vickie “Triple Crown” Stringer to remind the world that I started this shit, and now I’m closing the book on it all with another “classic” that lands way above the rest. Nevertheless, since The Last Street Novel is an unabashed guy’s book, like the original “street literature” of Chester Himes, Iceberg Slim, and Donald Goines that I read, in this new era of 99.9% women readers-excluding the brothers who read while on lock down-you can expect another Omar Tyree “classic” to be overlooked by the smokescreens of featherweight material until Martians land on earth a few thousand years from now and find me buried inside of an obscure library.
So with my publishing contracts running out, I wrote my final adult fiction novel to be published in September, entitled Pecking Order, which is all about the innovation and hustle of making legal money. That’s what it all comes down to, folks. Either the product makes money like “street lit” and sex novels do, or it fades into obscurity like a VHS video tape machine. But if the only way I can earn a living now in African-American adult fiction is to sell my people the same poison that they’ve become addicted to, then I quit with my artistic integrity still in tact, while moving on to a more progressive mission.
Such is the way of all leadership in industry; to remain above the pack, we must successfully diversify of services and products for the betterment and advancement of the overall community.
Omar Tyree is a New York Times best-selling author who has published 15 books and has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.
There's Something Missing from Mommy Lit
By Deesha Philyaw, Bitch Magazine
Posted on June 28, 2008, Printed on July 1, 2008
Shortly before the birth of my first child nine years ago, while browsing the bookstore for mommy wisdom, I discovered Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year and fell in love with the author and the book. More than any parenting truisms the book might have contained, it was Lamott's writing style -- funny, self-deprecating, and brutally honest -- that kept me reading. The big mommy insight I gleaned from Operating Instructions was that I wasn't quite as neurotic as Anne, so my kid and I would probably be all right.
This was the only book of its type that I read all the way through back then because, like a copy of a copy, subsequent mommy memoirs just weren't as sharp. I found them to be one-note and lacking in whatever essential quality that had drawn me to Operating Instructions in the first place. In the absence of top-notch writing, I really needed to see myself in those pages. In other memoirs, I saw college-educated stay-at-home moms who felt equal parts gratitude, mental fatigue, and boredom, but I didn't see any women who were black like me.( Read moreCollapse )
© 2008 Bitch Magazine All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/89758/
I'm sure you've seen it. The Big Read thinks the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books on their list. Of course, their list is largely composed of white writers so I thought it might be interesting to see what books people here would have added in place of "My Antonia." I just jotted down the first 25 books that came to mind here. Does anyone have any other suggestions?
001 White Boy Shuffle - Paul Beatty
002 A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
003 Nigger - Dick Gregory
004 The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X and Alex Haley
005 Black Girl in Paris - Shay Youngblood
006 The Bible
007 Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurtson
008 Pushkin and the Queen of Spades - Alice Randall
009 Erasure - Percival Everett
010 Caucasia - Danzy Senna
011 The Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead
012 The Bluest Eyes - Toni Morrison
013 The Farming of the Bones - Edwidge Danticat
014 Complete Works of Shakespeare
015 Kindred - Octavia Butler
016 Eva's Man- Gayle Jones
017 Small Island - Andrea Levy
018 Black No More - George Schuyler
019 Brown Girl in the Ring - Nalo Hopkinson
020 Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents - Octavia Butler
021 The Between - Tananarive Due
022 Brothers and Sisters - Bebe Moore Campbell
023 The Street - Ann Petry
024 Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned - Walter Mosley
025 Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
I don't think the authors have to be black necessarily but they should all be people of color.
DJ puts racial ruminations up against the (Berlin) wall in "Slumberland"
By Tyrone Beason
Special to The Seattle Times
by Paul Beatty
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., $24.99
New York novelist and poet Paul Beatty has pieced together the shards of the old Berlin Wall and come up with "Slumberland," a remarkably strange and funny meditation that finds parallels between late-1980s Germany and the post civil-rights era black experience.
From its opening pages, Beatty's powerhouse novel leaves no doubt about the topsy-turvy narrative road ahead, one that destroys conventional notions of black identity and white oppression while finding perverse humor in verbal salvos flung at and over the wall of race.
We meet our hero, Ferguson Sowell, an ebony-skinned Los Angeles disc jockey who goes by the provocative name DJ Darky, while he's pondering the state of the black race during a tanning-salon visit in what was then West Berlin.
Why would a black man want a tan, you ask?
Beatty depicts the black experience as an absurdist, tragicomic saga that has grown stale, like a No. 1 hit that's suffered from too much radio airplay. DJ Darky doesn't want to be white. It's just that blackness feels passé. Having progressed, blacks, "the once eternally hip," are now "as mediocre and mundane as the rest of the species," says the pensive DJ.
"If you're still upset with history, get a lawyer on the phone and try to collect workmen's comp for slavery," he says. What could top going to the mountaintop and seeing the promised land anyway? DJ Darky's answer is to take up tanning; he leaves the booth door cracked a bit so white passers-by can get a peek.
What brought him to Germany was music and an idea. This "plagiarist of rhythm" with a phonographic memory laments that his music collection lacks a sonic masterpiece, his own aural Mona Lisa. His quest is to create the perfect beat, to achieve universal, "quintessential dopeness," rendering "blackness" obsolete.
All he needs is a musical contribution from the Louisiana-bred, free-jazz instrumentalist Charles Stone, known as the Schwa, who's been slumming in obscurity in West Berlin.
DJ Darky goes there in search of the reclusive musician, taking a job as "jukebox sommelier" at Slumberland, a dive bar popular with black expats and their Teutonic admirers. At Slumberland, the boastfully intellectual DJ stocks the jukebox with classics and out-of-nowhere B-sides that simultaneously make the patrons bob and scratch their heads.
"Slumberland" walks the hazy corridors between love and hate, black rage and white guilt, listlessness and purpose and "those nanoseconds between ecstasy and panic."
You'll need an iron constitution to stomach all the strong language (racial and sexual). But for Beatty to keep it real, as they say, and exorcise the demons of bigotry and repression, he must use the virus to kill the disease.
There's a literary payoff. From DJ Darky's bizarre account of wide-eyed, banana-eating East Germans making their first forays across the Wall into West Berlin to the DJ's unlikely bond with a neo-Nazi skinhead who becomes obsessed with the Schwa, too, "Slumberland" offers some revelatory and mind-blowing vignettes.
The author is clearly high on the possibilities of our culture-imitating, genre-skipping, information-cribbing times, where reality means nothing if it can't be snatched up, taken apart, re-imagined and played out for public consumption.
But "Slumberland" leaves it to us to decide whether we're evolving or stuck in perpetual shuffle mode.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company