Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays, Everyone!!

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, joyous holiday season, and a bright, healthy, prosperous new year!

See you all in 2011. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jazz, Now Available!!!

So I just was alerted to the fact that JAZZ is now available (early!!) on a number of online retail sites!

Here are the ones I've found so far . . .

Boone Bridge Books (indie bookseller)
Indiebound (US)
Powell's (US)

And here is where you can find JAZZ in eBook:

For the Apple iPad

Sony e-reader, Stanza, Diesel, and hand-held reading devices


Still waiting for the paperback to show up on Borders and other indie sellers in Canada, the UK, etc. But for now, this little book is slowly making its way out into the world . . . with a lot of help from its friends :).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Me & L.A. Banks - That's How We Roll...

It looks like me and NY Times best-selling author, L.A. Banks, are going the same route with our books. I noticed her most recent release on Smashwords last night, which is the ebook distributor I'm going with, and saw that she listed herself as the publisher. I was so excited you do not even KNOW.

If you're interested in the ebook for JAZZ, it's available right now, here, and will soon go live on the Barnes & Noble and Borders online sites, as well as the Sony and Apple eBook stores within the next few weeks. The print version is on its way and should be available for purchase by mid-January (or sooner).

So exciting! Go, Ms. Banks! It looks like sisters ARE doing it for themselves *grin* (okay, that was cheesy). I'm going to buy her book for sure, and so should you. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

JAZZ Book Trailer

Here's JAZZ, in images and sound . . .

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Food, Freedom, Control, and Profit

This link was posted on Facebook and I had to share it here. Jason Taylor is over on Vimeo with a video series about food, freedom, control and farming (hence, the title of this post - clever, huh?). I saw three of the short pieces and was duly impressed. Unfortunately, my connection slowed, so I was frustrated and couldn't watch the rest, but I'll be sure to be back on Jason's channel as soon as I get another chance. Check out the videos - they're really interesting.

Here's one that shows the Golden Temple's langar ritual. Langar is the communal meal served at all Sikh temples. Anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, whatever is given a free meal - it's one of the basic tenets of Sikhism, and one I whole-heartedly agree with. No one should go hungry.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Favourite Quotes

A couple of *great* quotes this week . . .

This has to be one of my absolute most favouritest quotes of all time:
"The lack of regard for YA fiction in the mainstream isn't an altogether bad thing. There's something to be said for living in a disreputable, ghettoized bohemia . . . . There's a lot of room for artistic, political and commercial expectation over here in low-stakes land, the same way that there was so much room for experimentation in other ghettos, from hip-hop to roleplaying games to dime-novels. Sure, we're vulnerable to moral panics about corrupting youth (a phenomenon as old as Socrates, and a charge that has been leveled at everything from the waltz to the jukebox), but if you're upsetting that kind of person, you're probably doing something right.

Risk-taking behavior — including ill-advised social, sexual, and substance adventures — are characteristic of youth itself . . . . However, the frightened and easily offended are doing a better job than they ever have of collapsing the horizons of young people, denying them the pleasures of gathering in public or online for fear of meteor-strike-rare lurid pedophile bogeymen, or on the pretense of fighting gangs or school shootings or some other tabloid horror. Literature may be the last escape available to young people today. It's an honor to be writing for them. " -- Cory Doctorow
And this is one I swiped off CrazyQuilts, the blog of one of our favourite blogging librarians:
"I'm tired of YA books that stereotype teens of color and continually cast them as victims. Too often, whether the teen be Asian or Middle Eastern they are first or second generation with immigrant issues or retelling traditional stories. Blacks and Latino/as are urban dwellers with violent anger issues and Natives are silently stereotyped, too. No doubt we need to meet students where they are and validate their existence, however not all teens of any one ethnic group have the exact same experience. Even those who live marginalized lives deserve to see other possibilities for themselves and White readers need to see people of color in equitable situations." -- Edi Campbell

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Introducing...JAZZ IN LOVE!!!

So I have been very busy. I am so SUPER, TERRIBLY, UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED to share with you the cover of my second novel, JAZZ IN LOVE!!!!

I have to say that this is an incredible time in publishing for creative pursuits. I know there are many who are predicting doom for publishing and the printed book, but I think things are simply going to change (and for the better!) because people will have more options and choices. For instance, even five years ago, I would not have known about, nor had access to the types of resources that have allowed me to put JAZZ out into the world. I am releasing it under my own imprint, Ignite Books, and I worked with a very enthusiastic and supportive former Greenwillow/Harper Collins editor to get the book in the best shape it could possibly be. The result is a fun, funny story with elements of romance and a little bit of intensity thrown in. YAYYYY!!!!!

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

"Jasbir, a.k.a. Jazz, has always been a stellar student and an obedient, albeit wise-cracking, daughter. Everything has gone along just fine--she has good friends in the "genius" program she's been in since kindergarten, her teachers and principal adore her, and her parents dote on her. But now, in her junior year of high school, her mother hears that Jazz was seen hugging a boy on the street and goes ballistic. Mom immediately implements the Guided Dating Plan, which includes setting up blind dates with "suitable," pre-screened Indian candidates. The boy her mother sets her up with, however, is not at all what anyone expects; and the new boy at school, the very UNsuitable hottie, is the one who sets Jazz's blood boiling. When Jazz makes a few out-of-the-ordinary decisions, everything explodes, and she realizes she'll need a lot more than her genius education to get out of the huge mess she's in. Can Jazz find a way to follow her own heart, and still stay in the good graces of her parents?"

The official release is slated for January. If you'd like a review copy, please leave a comment below, or email me, and I'll do my best to get one out to you as soon as I can!

Monday, November 29, 2010

"I Want My Life To Be Awesome NOW."

Recently, I put up a link to a video that was created in response to the recent bullying incidents of LGBTQ youth. The basic message was "it gets better." Well, this video is by young people who don't want to wait for it to get better. They want it to be better now. And I can totally relate to that sentiment . . .

Reteaching Gender and Sexuality from Sid Jordan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Class and Language

Here's a fascinating glimpse of how accents and language play into perceptions around class and privilege:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quotes of the Day

I remember these quotes from my early years as a young activist on the arts and culture scene in Toronto, and it was wonderful to be reminded of them today. I found them on this blog; if you haven't had a chance to check it out, definitely swing by . . .

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
-- Audre Lorde

"If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable."
-- June Jordan

The second one resonates quite strongly with me at this juncture in my life. Do either of the above quotes mean anything to you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Roy on Obama's Visit to India & Globalization

Here's an interesting clip from acclaimed Indian author, Arundhati Roy (GOD OF SMALL THINGS), on Obama's recent visit to India.

Roy has been an outspoken activist against corporate greed and globalization for years. She has made some controversial statements and has ardent fans as well as staunch critics. Personally, I love listening to her. Besides the fact that she's beautiful, I love that this creative mind, and acclaimed novelist, has become a voice for the poor--who often have no voice in the face of political and corporate power.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Screaming Purple

Today I am wearing purple to remember those young people who took their own lives after intense anti-gay bullying, and to offer hope, support and solidarity to teens who are struggling with those issues in their lives now. You are not alone, and your voices are incredibly important and valuable. Hang in there - it will get better, I promise. You will get stronger and understand just how precious you are. And you will see all these voices around you in a different light. Not as powerful and big as they seem now.

Along the same lines, over at Chasing Ray, we're talking about what made us want to scream as teens. Here's an excerpt from the incredibly poignant contribution from Anonymous:
" mother despaired of my clothes when I went away to school. She complained when I wore knee-length sweaters, baggy jeans and long coats, all year ‘round. My mother always told me to stand up straight and didn’t understand why I didn’t make “more of an effort” in college.

Didn’t she understand that the message I’d already received was, disappear?"

And a bit from Cecil Castelucci:
"He told me I was wrong. That I didn’t know what my own thoughts were about it because I was too young. That I was just parroting what my clearly liberal parents said. So, he dismissed me. That enraged me. I mean, come on, just cause you're 15 years old it doesn’t mean that you don’t know what your own thoughts are. Or that you’ve been influenced or are parroting your parents. Ask my dad. When I was a teenager, we got into debates and disagreed about stuff all the time. He still thinks that graffiti on the subways is not art. I still totally disagree with him and I am now way older than 15. So, the thing that enraged me, made me want to scream and tear my hair out was being dismissed."

Here's a small clip from mine at the end:
"But what made me want to scream the most was the double standard. How I couldn't cut my hair, but my brothers could. How I couldn't play sports, but my brothers could. How I couldn't go out and have friends, but my brothers could. It was the same double standard I saw with my parents - my father was engaged in discussions involving family decisions, but when my mother spoke up, she was told that no one asked for her opinion. She ran our home, but in public had to defer to my father. She made every important decision, but had to pretend that my father was the one "in charge." It was infuriating, not to mention an outright lie."
Check out the rest of the post - it's wonderful to see all those voices together.

Monday, October 18, 2010


If you haven't checked out John Scalzi's "Things I Don't Have To Think About Today" post, do that now. He totally gets it.
"Today I don't have to think about men who don't believe no means no . . . Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in . . . Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being pulled over for anything other than speeding . . . Today I don’t have to think about the people who’d consider torching my house of prayer a patriotic act . . ."
And this article, by Will Neville of, a project of Advocates for Youth, gives us a good idea of just how deeply ingrained misogyny is in contemporary US/North American culture. There is video footage of frat boys at Yale shouting "No means yes, yes means anal..." as part of an induction exercize for new pledges.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Links, Upcoming Events, Awesome Video

I shared this video on Facebook, but love it so much I want to share it here, too. It was created by my partner-in-crime, Hollis, and it ROCKS.

If you're not sick of me like I am, you can check out a recent interview on Sayantini Dasgupta's blog. I'm not doing many interviews these days, but Sayantani had the best, thought-provoking questions, and I cleared off some space to answer them. Check that out here.

I'm going to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico from November 5-7th for YALSA (the Young Adult Literature Symposium of the American Library Association)'s conference on diversity, and on November 22nd, I'll be in Orlando, Florida for the ALAN conference (the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, a branch of the National Council of Teachers of English). If you're in or around either of those, please come by and say hello!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Thoughts on Self-Pubbing and Ebooks

I have a post up here on my thoughts about self-publishing and ebooks. Here's a quote:
"I've been wondering which route to take with my own writing lately and these links were very interesting to come across. My debut novel, Shine, Coconut Moon (McElderry, 2009) released to rave reviews, has received enthusiastic support from the teacher and librarian communities and is holding its own vis-a-vis sales, considering it was one of the quieter releases last year. But publishers have become increasingly risk-averse over the past few years. I sold Shine in 2007. My current project, a contemporary, realistic YA with elements of humour and romance is, according to editors, "too quiet," "too commercial," or it "won't stand out." The first and last translate to something many of us, particularly writers telling the stories of marginalized folks, have heard incessantly: "this won't sell," or "there is no market for this." It is something I'd heard over and over from both agents and editors about Shine."

I also link to a few different articles and posts. Here are some quotes . . .

From The Wall Street Journal:
"There will always be the lucky new author whose first novel ignites a hot auction. But more often today, many debut novels that would have won lucrative advances five years ago today are getting $15,000 or less, says Adam Chromy, a New York literary agent. Mr. Chromy was recently disappointed with the immediate response from editors for a debut novel he thought was exceptionally good.
Meanwhile, small independent publishers are becoming more popular options for new writers. Leslie Daniels, a literary agent for the past 20 years, was thrilled to sell Creston Lea's recently published debut short-story collection, "Wild Punch," to Turtle Point Press.
But the author received only a $1,000 advance, typical of the advances paid by small independents. "I can't make a living as a writer, but it feels great to have these stories out in the world," says Mr. Lea. The author, who lives in Vermont, builds electric guitars and writes on the side. Jonathan Rabinowitz, publisher of Turtle Point Press, says "Wild Punch" has sold about 1,500 copies, including 150 e-books. He described the performance as 'encouraging.'

"The smaller advance has a ripple effect. Ms. Daniels, who earns a 15% commission, used to make $11,250 on a big publisher advance of $75,000 or so. Her cut on Mr. Lea's $1,000: $150."
From an interview with author Karen McQuestion, who had two agents, almost sold novels several times, but ultimately never got published by traditional, mainstream publishers, then self-pubbed half a dozen of her books, signed with Amazon Encore, and optioned one of her books to film. The entire interview is up on J.A. Konrath's blog:
"Sometimes I still can’t believe the turn my writing life has taken. A year ago I was a failed novelist with years of work on my hard drive, and now I have readers and an income. Life is good."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Statement Worth Reading

Here is a link to the Carl Brandon Society's official statement on the Elizabeth Moon controversy. I particularly like these two paragraphs:
"Regarding “tolerance”: “Tolerance” is often considered one of our primary duties as citizens. “Tolerance” does not mean agreement, consensus, likeness, or even understanding. It does not mean assimilation. It does not require friendship, nor even dialogue. It is simple. It means refraining from expressing negativity towards things that are different from or alien to you. Tolerance is part of our social contract: you tolerate me, and I tolerate you; we both refrain from attacking one another; we live and let live. On the other hand, tolerance doesn’t deserve reward, either. As a social responsibility, it doesn’t change, lessen, or end; you never cease to be responsible for tolerating others. 

Regarding “teachable moments”: It is not the responsibility of members of marginalized groups to educate others about their group’s reality, history, or oppression. In situations like the current one, where someone has made bigoted statements against members of a particular group, members of that group have the right to be outraged and hurt without being forced into a false “teaching” position . . . " 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ellen, Using her Platform to Say Something

Caught this on Facebook today. I love that people are stepping up and speaking out, especially those with large platforms. If you haven't seen Ellen's statement, watch it now:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back In A Groove

I finally feel like I'm getting back into a sort of rhythm again. The summer really threw off where I was going and what I had planned. It was like I was on a clear path for the first half of the year, and then everything just got knocked off the tracks. I'm trying to pull myself back on and adjusting the course as necessary, but still not sure where I'm going to end up.

I know that's all a bit convoluted, but that's because it's like that in my head - all muddled, with only a few sure things to lead the way.

In the meantime, a friend forwarded me this link to an interesting post by Amal El-Mohtar, which was in response to this post by author Elizabeth Moon. Just to sum up, Moon is to be honoured at Wiscon next year as an esteemed Guest of Honour. The issue at hand is that Wiscon is the "world's leading feminist science-fiction/fantasy convention." Moon's post, however, is very problematic, to put it mildly. The Wiscon conference committee released a statement that they did not intend to rescind Ms. Moon's Guest of Honour-ship, but that they hoped the conference would be a place for further dialogue on the issues.

I won't give additional credence to Moon's post by reproducing it here in any of its parts, but here's a bit from El-Mohtar's response:
"I can't help but wonder, if Moon had said that 'many Black people possess all the virtues of civilised persons,' there would have been any 'controversy' at all. Or, to forestall the 'race and religion are different!' arguments, if she had said 'many Jews possess all the virtues of civilised persons.' Basically, if she had expressed bigotry that can't masquerade as a political leaning or a concern for national security, would there be any soul-searching over what to do? Would the committee co-chairs still be 'committed to making WisCon a place where all may participate and be heard'?

For me, it's a tough call with regard to the conference because the other Guest of Honour next year is Nisi Shawl, whom I deeply respect and admire. At the same time, Wiscon is a feminist, progressive conference. It is one of the only spaces of its kind where people of like mind can gather and move dialogue forward. It is one of the few places where discussions around power and privilege are part of the programming and actually take place, front and center, in all their honesty, ugliness, mess and, at times, enlightenment.

Do read the posts if you get a chance. The comments after El-Mohtar's post are lengthy, but worth the read, too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This is a crappy cell phone image, but if you look closely at my cup of tea from this morning, you'll notice a natural yin-yang . . .

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To Be Or Not To Be . . . Political, That Is

Fellow Deb, Sarah Ockler, put up this beautiful review of SHINE on the YA blog, The Contemps. It brought tears to my eyes because Sarah contextualized SHINE within the recent controversy surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque" and Quran burning hoopla. And this resonated, especially, because I've been noticing, clearly stated on some agent sites, that those particular agents prefer not to work with authors who have "political" blogs, or who write "politically polarizing" posts on their blogs.

But here's the thing. For some people, being "political" is not a choice. Stating that racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc., exist - to some folks - is simply stating a reality, while others have the luxury (privilege) to choose not to address it, engage with it, or even acknowledge it. I'm not really sure what a polarizing political post is - maybe a call to action? But I do think it's good for agents to state their preferences, just as I think it's good for writers to continue stating their views. Because, really, there are no apolitical views.  The political runs through our day-to-day lives, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Choosing not to write political posts IS a political act. Choosing not to see "colour" or race IS a political act. Choosing not to engage in discourse around power and privilege is exercizing that very privilege, and it is most definitely a political act.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Since they don't sell butter tarts here in the US, the only thing a Canadian can do when in urgent need of buttery goodness is to make them herself. Which I did! (See pic below for proof). And they SO hit the spot. For those of you who don't know about them, butter tarts are sort of like pecan pie without the pecans. And they are delicious with a cup of tea . . . YUM.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Faith in Revisions

There is a great article in Poets & Writers, called Revision as Renovation, by Benjamin Percy. It's definitely worth a read. He draws parallels between revising and home renovation. And, while I knew the article was about the importance of revision, I couldn't help but focus on these paragraphs:
"I had sold my novel, The Wilding. My edi-
tor at Graywolf Press, Fiona McCrae, told me how excited
she was about the manuscript, but wondered if I might be
amenable to some changes. Of course, I said. What did
she have in mind? 'How about let’s start with the point of
view?' she said. 'Might we shift it from first to third? And
in doing so, with the freedom afforded to the characters,
perhaps we could add five interlocking plotlines all com-
ing to a head at once?' The book had good bones, in other
words, but it needed some renovation."
and then this:
"It took me a year to rewrite The Wilding, to change from first to third person, to free up those characters and braid together their stories. And when I handed it in to Fiona in March 2009, she said . . . 'Fantastic. Exactly what we wanted. Now, would you mind cutting several of these sub-plots? And maybe we could add another in a female perspective? And while we're at it, how about let's rethink the ending?' And, and, and."

All I could think was, "Wow! An editor acquired a book that needed ALL that revision? She waited a year for revisions, and then asked for more?" I was left shaking my head in wonder. As a writer, all I could think was how amazing, validating, affirming it is to know someone has that kind of faith in your work; that much love for just the idea of what you're writing! That's the kind of excitement and enthusiasm you want for your writing!

I'm grateful to articles like these because most authors don't know what it's like for other authors. We are an isolated bunch, but reading others' experiences gives us great insight into our own, and to the industry in which we are investing so much time, energy and heart, with no promise of any kind of return, save for our love of the craft.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Links for This Week

Love this Sandip Roy piece on Alternet about Eat, Pray, Love:
Now, I don’t want to deny Gilbert her “journey.” She is herself honest, edifying and moving. I don’t want to deny her Italian carbs, her Indian Om’s or her Bali Hai beach romance. We all need that sabbatical from the rut of our lives.

But as her character complained that she had “no passion, no spark, no faith” and needed to go away for one year, I couldn’t help wondering where do people in Indonesia and India go away to when they lose their passion, spark and faith? I don’t think they come to Manhattan. Usually third-worlders come to America to find education, jobs and to save enough money to send for their families to join them, not work out their kinks.

On the other end of the film spectrum, here's an interesting tidbit--megastar Bollywood actor, Amir Khan, who starred in and co-produced the Oscar-nominated Lagaan some years back, has produced a political film about farmer suicides in India. It's a satire that cuts very close to the truth:
Khan knows that he's taking a risk by producing such an explicitly political film in a country where reasonable expectations say it'll find a niche audience, at best. But he's come to believe it's his job to make movies with a message.
"I don't know who else will do it," he says. "When I come across material which excites me — which not only is engaging and entertaining, but also has something to say, or hopefully sensitizes people or makes you think — I'd like to be a part of that." 

And in publishing industry news, Barnes & Noble is for sale:
I know exactly when B&N lost me as a customer. Some years ago, to compete with Amazon, B&N began offering free same-day delivery in Manhattan if you placed your order over the Internet by 11 a.m. I did so several times -- and not once did the books arrive when promised. Everything I have ordered from Amazon has arrived on time or earlier. Then came Amazon's game-changing Kindle, and instant delivery. Nothing I've read about B&N's belated rival Nook has tempted me to try it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Happens If

The South Asia Solidarity Initiative has put forward a response to this TIME Magazine article titled, "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan." With the strong emotional response an image like that of Aisha on the cover of TIME elicits, it's especially important to read other takes on the issue. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by strong emotional responses (and the image of Aisha certainly draws justified rage and sheer devastation), that we don't take the time to see the full picture.

Certainly read TIME's post, if you feel so inclined. But then go and read the response to it -- here is an excerpt:
The August 9, 2010 issue of TIME magazine featured a striking cover photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan woman, Aisha, who was disfigured by the Taliban last year.  The cover title read, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.”  While Aisha’s story and the stories of many other women like her may depict some part of the reality of women’s lives under the Taliban, TIME’s conclusion that continuing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is necessary, is highly misleading and troubling. [. . .]

For the last decade, the occupying forces of the U.S. and its NATO allies have nourished warlords and supported a corrupt government, leading many to join the Taliban and increasing their influence across Afghanistan. Increased civilian deaths, a fundamentalist resurgence, and deadly bombing raids have led to a devastated country and a Taliban stronger than ever before. TIME’s claim to “illuminate what is actually happening on the ground” falsely equates the last decade of occupation with progress. The occupation has not and will not bring democracy to Afghanistan, nor will it bring liberation to Afghan women. Instead, it has exacerbated deep-seated corruption in the government, the widespread abuse of women’s rights and human rights by fundamentalists, including Karzai’s allies, and stymied critical infrastructure development in the country. The question should not be “what happens if we leave Afghanistan,” the question should be “what happened when we invaded Afghanistan” and “what happens if we stay in Afghanistan.”
Racism and Misogyny are often used against one another, to justify the existence of one over the other. In this case, "protecting the women" seems to be the guise under which US racism and imperialism justify their presence. The truth is that both racism and misogyny go hand in hand. Where there is one, the other always lurks nearby.

Read the rest of SASI's response here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Importance of YA

I love this audio interview with S.E. Hinton (thanks to Mitali Perkins for the link!), author of The Outsiders, and Patrick Henry Bass, senior editor of Essence magazine. Ms. Hinton was one of the authors who made me want to write YA lit, by the way, when I was thirteen. I especially love the part in this audio where they talk about the fact that Hinton was one of the first to address class, i.e. she was writing about the tension between the "greasers" and the "socs" when most authors of her time were writing about prom kings and queens -- and how that hasn't changed all that much today . . .

Friday, August 13, 2010

On Security

Olugbemisola tweeted the TED site today for a revisit of Adichie's "single story" video. While there, I also ended up watching Eve Ensler's talk on security. It's very interesting and not super long. Check it out . . .

Friday, August 6, 2010

Feminist Sci-Fi; Links

The Rejectionist is having feminist sci-fi week on her blog and my guest post is up. Swing by there and add your thoughts.

Also, because of Le R's femscifi week, I have discovered author Clare Bell. I was intrigued by her comment on one of the comment threads. Although I have never been a "talking animals" fan per se, since my romance novels feature shapeshifters I went to her website to poke around. I stayed up way later than I intended, reading Ms. Bell's publishing history (it is in ten parts) which, while being heart-wrenchingly devastating, was also incredibly inspiring. *If you have any interest in publishing, sci-fi/fantasy lit, the writer's journey . . . go read Ms. Bell's path to publication*. As an author, all I could say when I finished was a stunned, "Wow." Lucky for readers, Ms. Bell is still getting her work out there and fighting for the fans who adore her characters. Do check out her website and read the first chapter in the series.

And, if you haven't checked out Ari's amazing letter to Borders, why the $%^& not??? You are hope and inspiration, Ari.

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last Dance

There were only one woman and one person of colour left on SYTYCD tonight (out of four - not bad in itself, but if you watched the whole thing, you know there were all kinds of issues this season). And with Jose gone, and Adechike voted off, I don't know if I'll watch the rest. Okay, I probably will. I do love the all-stars from previous seasons--Twitch, Ade, Comfort, Dominick . . . . Still, Adechike (who hails from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, by the way) had a rough road from the beginning with the judges - and he is an awesome dancer. He will, without doubt, go on to have an amazing career, maybe even with the Ailey company, which is what first inspired him to dance. He will be sorely missed, at least by me.

But last night, the performance that got me all choked up was Kent and Neil's piece, choreographed by Travis Wall. What they said on the show was that the story was about two "friends", but hello--am I the only one seeing a lovers' break-up here? Those two seem way closer than a couple of buddies. Either way, it was an incredible routine . . .

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Terminology

I've seen the word "Caucasian" used to describe white people often enough that I feel compelled to do a post on it.

First off, here is the term as defined by
"Anthropology. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, marked by fair to dark skin, straight to tightly curled hair, and light to very dark eyes, and originally inhabiting Europe, parts of North Africa, western Asia, and India: no longer in technical use."

The above definition, and this one on wiki which corroborates it, would mean that I would, technically, be considered Caucasian. As would Morrocans, Algerians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Indians, and many other peoples of colour. It's obvious to me that most of the references I've seen to "Caucasian" are not intended to include myself, or any other people of colour. My guess is that in these instances, the writer actually means to say "white folks". This seems to be a very North American usage of the term. If you read the above-linked wiki entry, and any other info on the topic, really, you'll get a sense for why the term "Caucasian" is problematic, and how it has been rooted in racist and racially-motivated designations (that have nothing to do with reality).

The term irks me, in particular, because I am always reminded of the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind case whenever I see/hear it. As anyone who has ever taken an Asian Studies class probably knows, this was the case of Bhagat Singh Thind, a Punjabi Sikh man, who argued with the US courts that, because he was technically Caucasian and Aryan, he was entitled to become a naturalized citizen of the US, according to the 1790 statute governing naturalization.*

As you might imagine, this threw the courts in a tizzy and all kinds of new findings were brought about, and stuff was re-worded to make it abundantly clear that when the word "Caucasian" was used in the 1790 statute, the writers WERE NOT referring to brown people. According to wiki, "The Court found that the authors of the 1790 statute probably ascribed to 'the Adamite theory of creation' and understood 'white people' in its popular, and not scientific, sense."

After the Thind decision, not only was he not allowed to become a naturalized citizen, all Indian-Americans who had become citizens before that point had their status retroactively revoked. They were stripped of their land, rights, and citizenship. More than half of the Indian-Americans, who had settled on US soil as land-owning citizens, at that point left the US.

So, the term is a loaded one, and dotted with racial/racist history. I know many folks use the term "Caucasian" to mean white people, particularly here in the US. I don't know if it's supposed to be more polite than saying "white" or if it somehow sounds more like a technical (therefore, more valid?) term, akin to "African-American" or "Asian-American" (but then why not "European-American"?), but it is one that I, personally, cringe at every single time I read it or hear it.

*The complexities of why he should choose to argue this at all is for another post.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fangirl Crush

I love Sheila Chandra. Her story is inspiring, her voice is magic, and she has this total earth-mother-goddess vibe. She has no classical training in music and, as a child, she practiced singing so that her voice would be ready when the opportunity came. This is from the bio on her website:
"Born in South London to a South Indian immigrant family, Sheila Chandra discovered her voice at the age of twelve and whilst at Theatre Arts school. From this moment her chosen path was to be a singer. Lacking any real contacts or access to the music business, she nevertheless honed her vocal skills as a labour of love, spending up to two hours a night throwing her voice into the tall, draughty and uncarpeted stairwell of the family home: 'I didn’t know how to manufacture an opportunity, but I was determined that when a chance came my way I would be ready.'"
Don't you just love that? She is an artist's artist - constantly scrapping everything and starting from scratch, transforming herself and her art, and stitching new styles together as she goes along. *Very* inspiring.

I just came across this early video of her beatboxing, in the ancient, Indian style . . . 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Radio Silence

I can't believe how quickly this summer has blown by. August is around the corner and I feel like I've been doing a zillion-and-one things, but it seems I have nothing to show for it.

I've been keeping an eye on what's going on with Arizona's immigration bill, also known as SB1070; I'm waiting for romance number two to release (next month), and revising romance number three; I've written a few short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction, which should be out and about soon; been keeping up with Hell's Kitchen and SYTYCD (both Fox shows, which I am loathe to acknowledge. Sadly, though not surprisingly, the latter has been on a downward spiral); planning school visits and conferences I'm scheduled for in the fall; and I've been run ragged by the kids.

In between all that, I'm trying to enjoy the summer. The pool is a huge blessing (uh, that we *pay* for) and a refreshing jumpstart on those soupy humid days in the ninety-degree-and-above regions. So I've been trying to get as much solitude by the water as possible before Labour Day sneaks up, and re-reading as much Marion Zimmer Bradley novels as I can.

Also saw an interesting film, featuring time travel, called Happy Accidents. I streamed it through Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. I love Marisa Tomei (since My Cousin Vinny, which I also loved) and the film's premise piqued my interest. It lagged at points, but I was ultimately glad I watched it. I'll probably go back and watch it again, just to see what I might have missed the first time around. If you get a chance to see it, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



My friend, Maria, posted this on her Facebook wall and I just had to share. What would the caption underneath this image be?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Harlem Book Fair Panel on C-Span

Definitely check out this video of a panel during the Harlem Book Fair, on C-Span. The panel features Jerry Craft, Cheryl Willis Hudson, Venesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Nick Burd and Zetta Elliott . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Couple Things

First, a hearty and happy blog-a-versary to Ari at Reading in Color!! She's giving away a copy of His Own Where by June Jordan, so go over there and do what needs to be done to get it.

Second, my apologies for being a sh*tty blog host. I am not doing much blogging, but I am getting a ton of research done (LOVE RESEARCH), so it kinda evens out in the end. And fear not, I have been busy and you will soon see evidence of this in the form of links and outpourings and whatnot.

In the meantime, think: women warriors. And air conditioning.

Friday, July 2, 2010

There Goes the Neighborhood

In case you missed it, this article by Joel Stein in Time magazine, called "My Own Private India", has pissed off many Indian-Americans. Here's an excerpt:
"For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.

Eventually, there were enough Indians in Edison to change the culture. At which point my townsfolk started calling the new Edisonians "dot heads." One kid I knew in high school drove down an Indian-dense street yelling for its residents to "go home to India." In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if "dot heads" was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose."
Lovely, no? In response to some of the outrage, Mr. Stein had this to say on his Facebook page: "Didn't mean to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing."

Can we squeeze any more stereotypes in there? Way to satire, Mr. Stein! Clearly, Indian-Americans were not the target readership for this essay. Perhaps he thought PoC don't read?

Sandip Roy wrote a great response in the Huffington Post. Here's an excerpt from that:
"Dotbusters, for those who missed the 80s, were street gangs who attacked South Asians in places like Jersey City where many immigrants had moved . . . One of those immigrants, Navroze Mody, died after being bashed with bricks. Another, Kaushal Saran, a doctor, was beaten and left unconscious on a busy street corner. Homes were robbed. Women were harassed. [...]

The problem was the smart ones brought in their less smart cousins ("merchants") and the merchants brought in "their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor." This is immigration reform in a nutshell. Give us your engineers, but not your cabbies and Dunkin Donut-wallas. Except those cabbies and 7/11 owners and motel proprietors work damn hard for their little piece of the American dream.

I think in a way the Indian community is also so obsessed with its presidential scholars and spelling bee champs, with its Indra Nooyis (Pepsico head) and Dr. Sanjay Guptas, it gives short shrift to the little guys, the ones that run gas stations on baking highways in the middle of nowhere, take classes during the day and work graveyard shift at the 7/11. They are the muscle and sinew of our community. But to Joel Stein, they are just so much litter strewn all over his old hometown. That's his problem -- too many Indians."
Satire is only good when it is funny. Stein's essay may be funny to folks in support of bills like Arizona's SB 1070 (also known as the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"), but it's not funny for most Indian-Americans and other immigrants, particularly those who've been on the receiving end of name-calling, harassment, bullying, or violence stemming from views much like the ones expressed in Stein's piece. He may chuckle over his own wit, but there are some who will take essays like this as evidence to bolster an already simmering rage over the "brown hordes flooding" America's borders. Stories are powerful, indeed.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Links

Check out Nnedi's post on FGM and her right to address the issue in fiction - even while some argue she has no such right because she is not African "enough", or that she is a witch, or that she has never experienced it herself or witnessed a ceremony. Some of the comments make interesting points - my comment is somewhere near the bottom, shortly after a post-racialist one, arguing that because we have Obama, and the likes of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Clarence Thomas, racism in the US has essentially been stamped out. Ha. I did not have the energy or inclination to respond to that one.

And here are a few links to articles about what's going on in Toronto around the G20/G8 summit riots. It pains me as a Torontonian to see these, but they're no different from what's going on everywhere. Here's an article with more info from CBC Canada; and here's one from Xtra!. And here's a video with commentary at the end. The interesting stuff, for me, was before the reporter's commentary :P . . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Links & SYTYCD

Here are Kiera Cass's answers to the self-publishing questions she was asked on Adventures in Children's Publishing. Please note that she just landed a three-book deal with HarperTeen for her second novel (whoa!!).

Check out the latest WAGW post up at Chasing Ray. We're talking about non-fiction we wished we'd read when we were teens.

Also, go read Ari's beautiful review of HIS OWN WHERE, by June Jordan.

I am going deep underground with edits this week, but I will leave you with this awesome video of Lauren Froderman and Dominick Sandoval from SYTYCD. The story is about a woman in an abusive relationship who fights back. Beautifully danced and one of my faves from Wednesday (next to Comfort kicking @$$ in the krumping routine!).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honouring June Jordan

In honour of the re-release of HIS OWN WHERE, which I reviewed here, I'm going to put up quotes from the inimitable June Jordan. These are quotes that meant a great deal to me when I first read them. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Jordan in the early 1990's, when she visited Toronto and did a reading for Sister Vision Press - a feminist press started and run by women of colour for "challenging and provocative" works written by women of colour. I was young and learning and seeing so many things for the first time. Jordan awed me and blew me away. Her passion, her sense of rhythm, and her absolute, radiating love was what drew me in. I'll never forget that reading. The call for action and change that rose through her depths and made it's impact in that room full of women and men, white and PoC, het and LGBTQ was critical for me during my formative years as a writer and activist. You are greatly missed, Ms. Jordan, but your legacy lives on.

"My life seems to be an increasing revelation of the intimate face of universal struggle. You begin with your family and the kids on the block, and next you open your eyes to what you call your people, and that leads you into land reform into Black English into Angola leads you back to your own bed where you lie by yourself, wondering if you deserve to be peaceful, or trusted or desired or left to the freedom of your own unfaltering heart. And the scale shrinks to the size of a skull: your own interior cage. And then if you’re lucky, and I have been lucky, everything comes back to you. And then you know why one of the freedom fighters in the sixties, a young Black woman interviewed shortly after she was beaten up for riding near the front of the interstate bus––you know why she said, ‘We are all so very happy’? It’s because it’s on. All of us and me by myself: we’re on."
-- from the foreword to Civil Wars, 1980, by June Jordan

"Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

[. . .]
And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea:

we are the ones we have been waiting for."

Go to for more info on Ms. Jordan and her work. Also, look for posts this week by Ari of Reading in Color and on The Rejectionist blog featuring quotes and reviews of HIS OWN WHERE.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Okay, I'm a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance. It's one of the few shows on television that has lots of talented PoC on it. I have my favourite choreographers (Sonya!) and it was the first show that did a massive, mainstream Bollywood number (Katee and Joshua ROCKED) that had me out of my seat and jumping around like a fool.

I've had my problems with the way Mia Michaels handles some of her criticism (the two times I've taken exception happen to both be when she was critiquing the performances of black dancers), to be sure. At the same time, I have to admit she is a brilliant choreographer. And Nigel definitely grates on my last nerve with his ancient gender crap.

But I'm so excited about this season because there are so many dancers to love! Alex Wong, Jose Ruiz, Cristina Santana, and Robert Roldan, just to name a few of the ones I'm on the edge of my seat for. Here's one of my favourite pieces from last night, featuring some of my all-time fave SYTYCD dancers:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Earnest Plea

OMG, everyone go read this post. This kid rocks. His post reminds me of Ari's passionate and heartfelt plea.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Adventures in Children's Publishing is featuring a YA author who self-published her book with success. She now has an agent and is shopping her book to more traditional houses. Go on over there to add your questions for Kiera Cass. Her answers will go up next Tuesday.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Music Videos: Whose Fantasy Is It?

ETA: I seem to be experiencing #bloggerfail. Some people are not able to view the trailer for some reason, so here's a link to where you can watch it. It's definitely worth watching. If you're feeling squeamish, please keep in mind that these are mass media images. Music videos are the common language of young people, and children as young as nine and ten years old are watching these images, digesting them, and incorporating them into their ideas of who they are and how relationships are constructed.

Okay, EVERYONE WATCH THIS TRAILER. Then get every high school/college/university teacher you know to purchase a copy and screen it for their students. I had to watch the whole thing on Youtube because the price was a bit steep for me, but if your school or organization can purchase it, it's WELL worth it to get young people thinking critically about what they're consuming - and how those images/messages shape their ideas of who they are . . . If you're having trouble seeing it here, go to this link. The video was written and directed by Sut Jhally, Ph.D. Dr. Jhally is a professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation.

Since I'm having trouble embedding the trailer, here is part one (of seven) of the video . . .

Friday, June 11, 2010

More on Race

There's a thoughtful post on race in children's publishing here. I really am glad these discussions are now taking place on blogs and forums where folks with decision-making power might pay careful attention. I also love that more and more editors are looking for work by authors of colour. It's certainly a step in the right direction.

However, I've heard more than one editor say that, while they've thrown their doors wide to submissions by PoC, the work they're receiving seems to be sub-par, not polished, or in need of more work than they have time for in this highly competitive business.

I have a couple of thoughts on that. PoC have not had the same opportunities and privileges that white folks have had for hundreds of years in many parts of the world. To expect equal results from white writers and writers of colour when there has never been a level playing field in terms of economics, social and political power, representation and privilege, is to set oneself up for disappointment and to perpetuate the dynamics already in place.

When I was a more idealistic version of who I am today, I went to work at a women's shelter. I felt strongly about domestic violence and I was a young feminist and I wanted to help. I had never grown up around domestic violence so I was unprepared for what I'd encounter. And it wasn't pretty. I had to learn a whole lot, FAST. It was eye-opening, it was brutal, and it was excruciatingly painful to see just how deep misogyny and patriarchy run in our world. But it was necessary. It showed me the Truth. And the Truth is one of the most solid tools you can have in navigating through life.

If you are a publishing decision-maker who wants to do the right thing by publishing or selling more titles by authors of colour, brava!! But you have to know that there is work to be done. The way the system is currently set up, writers of colour must bend and distort our work so that it is recognizable and appealing to white editors. Editors are not required to bend their reality or lens so that they can understand and relate to the styles, traditions, and aesthetics of PoC. So our work is always judged through a white lens. And the work is read and judged based on whether it will appeal to a white readership. The default assumption is that only brown folks will want to read work written by brown folks. And that white readership is the goal. This is problematic on so many levels.

If you want to create true, lasting change, you can't go in thinking you can keep doing what you've always done, only now it will be with brown faces. Dr. Phil (sorry) says the definition of insanity is to keep doing what you've always done and hope for different results each time (what can I say - my mom is a devoted watcher). It's not the same. There are very real differences between white writers and writers of colour, heterosexual writers and LGBTQ writers, writers who've grown up with lots of money and those who've grown up with without - differences that have painful histories behind them, and sometimes the results are not pretty.

This is the same discussion feminists were having years ago when men ran and owned all publishing houses, and women's writing was not taken seriously. It was too "emotional", it was too "flowery", women didn't write about "serious" things, and women weren't getting published. Men were viewing women's writing through a very male lens and never had to bend or shift their perspective. It was out of this that feminist presses and women's presses began sprouting and taking root. They showed that women could write and there was a market for that work and that it sold. Eventually, these small presses began dying out because the larger publishers began publishing more work by women. AND because there were now spaces for women to write, to nurture and cultivate their careers, there were grants and financial support for women who wanted to take writing seriously. In other words, there were larger, societal changes *in addition to* well-meaning editors. AND, here's the key, there were more women editors.

The children's/teen publishing biz has a whole LOT of women editors now. And two of them are women of colour. Ha, just kidding. It might be five. But the same needs to happen now. This is a subjective business. Editors and booksellers can like whatever they like. Let's just get more - including those who understand and value different aesthetics and traditions, and those who aren't necessarily looking for a polished, refined, brown version of Twilight or Harry Potter or Gossip Girl. Let's think outside of the publishing box we've all been shoved into. Let's get representation of ALL children and their histories/stories. Even if it means taking a little more time to nurture a new writer or new voice, or reading everything you can in a particular genre by authors from different backgrounds and literary traditions.

These are important and necessary changes. Painful, eye-opening ones, too. They might show some of us just how deep the roots of racism run in this country. But they may also show us something more important: the Truth. And that is invaluable in all of our journeys.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Discussing Hybridity

Growing up bi-cultural and/or raising bi-cultural/multi-cultural kids. What is lost in the hybridization of cultures; what is gained? This Saturday, June 12th, from 2-4pm, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I'll be reading from my book and having a discussion on that very topic. If you're interested in joining us, please email me for details.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Lately, I've had several conversations about reviewing books. How one should review a book, whether one should review a book, and if one does happen to review a book, how balanced should it be, etc.

I do not review books. I offer my thoughts and impressions about books primarily by and about PoC (Debs Blog tour notwithstanding). I do this because it is important to me to shine the spotlight on writing by and about PoC (especially by). I do this because PoC do not get published in the numbers that white writers do, we usually don't get lead title status, we are lucky to be picked up by large chain bookstores, and we struggle to get second, third, and fourth books published far more often than our white contemporaries because we first must prove that people other than those who look like us actually want to read what we write.

For that reason, I tend to look for what I like in books written by PoC. A famous person (I don't remember who) once said, "when new shoots poke through, you must shelter them so they can become strong." Or something to that effect.

Authors of colour generally don't get editors and publishing houses saying (or exhibiting behaviour to the effect of), "that's okay - you grow. I'll shelter you until you are strong." If you look at the histories of some of the white authors we celebrate today, a significant chunk were nurtured until they found their readership and built a following. Here are a couple of quotes from this post, by children's author Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE):

About Where The Wild Things Are, "I knew, I knew, I knew it would cause a lot of trouble. And my editor knew it and all she did was encourage me. 'Go for it, go for it. Don't worry about anything or anybody'."

About his editor, "Her name was Ursula Nordstrom. She made me who I am. She gave me a book every year. She kept me working. I mean, can you imagine mentorship from a publishing house? She intended that I should be an important illustrator. She knew I could be. I had bad habits, I never went to art school, I drew in a clumsy fashion, but she could see beneath that."  [Emphasis mine]
As a new author, it's important to be allowed to find your audience, to be able to build a following, to find your style and voice and unique contribution. Most publishing professionals are quick to tell authors of colour that there is no audience or market for our work. And it becomes almost impossible simply to begin that journey.

So, if you come here to read my thoughts on books by authors of colour, you're going to find a whole lot of support for them - those young shoots breaking through the earth and doing their best to survive. That doesn't mean there isn't work to be done, or that the books are without flaws. And I will, without hesitation, call out PoC on homophobia, class and race issues, gender, etc. But it doesn't mean I have to cut them down just as they're (we're) beginning to grow.

Besides, somebody had to love Twilight despite its (numerous) flaws. If you read a book wanting to love it, you find a way to forgive its shortcomings (see aforementioned Twilight reference).

When I see new works (or reprints) by authors of colour, I read them knowing something about the journey of the author on the other end. And I offer whatever kindness and generosity I can. This path, I know, has not been an easy one for any of us.

If you want "critiques" of these works, you'll no doubt find them in abundance elsewhere on the internet. Especially if these works break new ground, are experimental in any way, or simply offer a perspective not often seen. But here, on my blog and in my space, you will find me with my hands around the new shoots, saying, "Grow."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The "White Mind"

ETA: the link to O'brien's article should work now - sorry about that.

Here's an interesting post on the concept of "White Mind" (as relates to children's writing/publishing) by Anne Sibley O'brien. The article is in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Here's a quote:
"We belong to a field full of well-meaning people who care about children. If asked, most would surely agree with poet Lucille Clifton (Some of the Days of Everett Anderson) that “the literature of America should reflect the children of America.” I have never met an aficionado of children’s books who I can imagine wanting those books to misrepresent, marginalize or render invisible whole groups of our nation’s children.
So how can it be that in 2010, this is where we find ourselves:
  • The percentage of published children’s books featuring characters of color is far smaller than - perhaps less than half - the percentage of people of color in the U.S. population, and the majority of these books are still created by white writers and illustrators.
  • Many of the most popular book series, particularly in fantasy, have no significant characters of color at all.
  • Cases of “whitewashing” book jackets, of editors requesting that an author erase a character’s ethnicity so that a book “can reach a larger audience,” of booksellers or librarians passing on certain titles because “our community doesn’t respond to those kinds of books,” suggest an assumption that white readers won’t respond to characters of color."
 And then this:
"[White Mind is] part of the explanation for how scores of thoughtful white writers could create so many books with no significant characters of color, or how so few manuscripts by and about people of color get accepted. It’s one of the reasons why our children’s book conferences and conventions are overwhelmingly white, and why I might walk out of a bookstore or library with a stack of picture books, not even noticing that not a single one of them starred children of color.
From writing and illustrating to hiring publishing staff, editing and marketing to selling, buying and reviewing, White Mind affects children’s books today. Unless we become aware of and develop strategies to directly challenge these patterns, white norms will continue to prevail." [Emphasis hers.]
The article reminds me just a bit of Peggy McIntosh's brilliant essay, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" but is specific to children's publishing. Worth a read.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wiscon Pics

It was amazing. Here are a few pics . . .

Here I am with Guest of Honor, Mary Anne Mohanraj. I first met Maryann over six years ago when we were both panelists at a South Asian women's lit fest. That was before she was a mom - still a powerhouse, but not yet a mom ;).

Haitian SFF writer, Ibi Zoboi, is sandwiched between me and Nora (N.K. Jemison). Apparently, "N" names are very popular among women of color - at least at Wiscon - Neesha, Nora, Nnedi, Nisi, Nalo . . .

Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor with Ibi and I after our lunch on day one of the con. I was both delighted and relieved to discover that Nnedi and I share similar (unpopular) views on Avatar, sheltering children from violence, and roles of creation versus destruction in the universe.

Here is my Wiscon roommate, Hiromi Goto, author of the incredible HALF WORLD. She is a brilliant mind, a warm and connected spirit, and a generous, creative soul. She is also a fellow Canadian, fellow child of mushroom farmers, and fellow fierce author of color.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer, Summer, Summertime . . .

sea shells Pictures, Images and Photos

Have a wonderful, safe, joy-filled first weekend of this lazy and delectable season!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last night, I met one of my closest friends - who was in from San Francisco for the book expo - for dinner. We sat in the meat-packing district near her hotel and stared in utter dismay at the scene around us. It was a TUESDAY, people. And women were out in full Saturday night gear, with super-short, super-tight miniskirts, clutching the arm of their partner or bff as they hobbled around in shoes like these:

Yes, friends. Stipper-chic seems to be the hottest trend right now on the runways and in the streets. Ah, progress. Obviously, discussions of feminism in today's world are as obsolete as discussions of racism in a post-racial US (/sarcasm).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sheltering Children

This Friday, I head off to Wiscon for three panels. One of them is called "Should Children be Sheltered from Violence?" In a previous post, someone asked me what my views were on this subject. I started to respond to her, but soon realized I'd need to write an entire post. So here are a few quick thoughts . . .

I grew up in a home where no one was allowed to talk about sex . We all acted like it didn't actually exist. I couldn't even say the word b-o-y without someone interrogating me for a good month or two afterward. We (my brother and I) couldn't date, and we couldn't be seen in public with anyone of the opposite sex. And yet, no one ever considered sheltering us from the violence we watched on a regular basis on television. My parents let us watch everything - evening news, horror films, all kinds of violent and bloody epic battles on TV.

It got to the point where I started self-censoring the images I consumed because they would flash through my mind constantly, and I was in a perpetual state of anxiety. I was afraid to be alone in any room of the house, even the bathroom. To this day, I have to cover my eyes when the scary music comes on at movies. There have been numerous studies about the long-term effects of violent media images on children. Nancy Carlsson Paige has an entire site devoted to the subject, and makes some interesting points about the relationship between deregulation of the entertainment industry in the '80s, and increased marketing of violent films directly toward children.

I know "protecting children" is the official line of most censorship boards, but to me censoring is NOT the same as protecting. Censoring is about control. It is a blanket prohibition of all things related to the material considered offensive, rather than looking at the context of the material and the possible benefits of exposing young minds to said material. Sheltering/protecting, however, connotes providing guidelines, looking at material with young people and having thoughtful, honest dialogue during and/or afterward. "Sheltering" (I'm sure there's a better term), in my view, is more of a response to caring about the emotional and psychological health of young people - not wanting to control or contain them.

The censorship of books like Judy Blume's, Chris Crutcher's, J.K. Rowling's, Ellen Hopkins', and a whole list of others is more about the fear of the adults doing the censoring - not about what kids can handle. Reading those books never damaged me as a child, and children reading them today are not being subjected to long-term emotional or psychological damage caused by the content within their pages.

Then I think about the MIA video I blogged about earlier and how shaken up I was by it. It depicted brutal violence at its most graphic. I'm glad I saw it because it really is a remarkable statement about the fallacy of using violence to "end" violence, and the whole concept of profiling terrorists, but I couldn't eat for the rest of the day after I watched it. The images made their way into my dreams and I was jittery for days. And I would NEVER watch it again.

I don't think children should be kept away from what is real and what affects them in their daily lives. Things like cursing (there are words a hundred times more painful to hear than some curse words), poverty, racism, sexuality, gender issues, etc. are around us all the time and should be honestly discussed - not hidden, softened, or prettied up. Children aren't dumb and selectively blind. They see things, hear things, are highly sensitive witnesses. They want and deserve the truth. They need to understand and we, as the adults in their lives, are their primary source of information.

At the same time, witnessing acts of extreme violence and brutality can be traumatizing to adults, never mind young people. Within the context of a film or television show (or music video!), the viewer is expected to suspend his/her disbelief. Children do this far more readily than adults. When you suspend your disbelief, you immerse yourself in the narrative. You become part of the emerging story. And if that story is violent and scary, you actually LIVE it. You experience it fully. It's why we're on the edge of our seats and our hearts are in our throats as we read a book or watch a film.

Ultimately, I think we have to know what children are seeing and/or reading (especially since children tend to read "up" from their age/grade level), we have to be prepared to talk about it and answer the tough questions, and we have to be comfortable with the discomfort.

I have a lot more to add on this topic - particularly from the perspective of writers and artists who create work about (or that includes) violence, but I will save it for the panel at Wiscon. If you have thoughts you'd like to add, I'd love to read them.

I will do a post after the conference, too, so hopefully I can cover more of the discussion points then.