"CNN recently published an article on diversity in Young Adult literature that asked, “Where is the Mexican Katniss?” In the Hunger Games novels, Katniss isn’t white, so let’s also ask: Where are the publishing industry players who will take a stand to make sure literary characters of color become big screen characters of color? And let’s go back even further. Octavia Butler gave us Lauren Olamina in 1993. Nalo Hopkinson gave us Ti-Jeanne in 1998 and Tan Tan in 2000. Where were the mass-marketing resources, multimillion dollar ad campaigns and spin-machines when Parable of the Sower, Brown Girl in the Ring and (my favorite) Midnight Robber dropped?"
Daniel José Older, Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing, buzzfeed.com
(I just want to add to this that I am really glad Midnight Robber exists as a book, even though I haven’t had the privilege of reading it yet. It not only sounds like a brilliant piece of speculative fiction with a black girl at the fore, written by - I’ve heard - an adept Caribbean writer in Nalo Hopkinson; but it’s so uniquely Trini that it astounds me that I only heard about it so late in my life. In my teens I would have loved to come across a book that was so richly steeped in a heritage I felt connected to.
I heard about that book in my early twenties. I can’t find a copy to buy except online; I literally can’t recall ever seeing it in my public library; and of all the high schools I’ve visited last year for my spoken word poetry tour, I’ve only seen it in three. My alma mater, Trinity College East, didn’t have it, as far as I could have seen.
Now, think of all the other people of colour who desperately long to read stories about themselves doing great things in magnificent circumstances.
Now, imagine how easy it’d be for them to find as much of it to even count one-tenth of the swaths of white boys slaying dragons and solving murders and learning magic and shite.
And it’d do us well to remember that the quote above rightfully notes that the collective imagination of readers have yet to protest the fact that Katniss Everdeen is not white. They couldn’t even give us the girl on fire.
That’s why this OP is on point.)
"We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves."
I am not strident,
neither am I agrarian;
there’s nothing magical about me,
and there’s less that’s real;
I am always offbeat.
I mean something, but
what do I mean?
A loved one may tell you,
'he's about unrequited desire,
or else he’s about manhood,
or else he’s about this really strong drive
to remind you where drumming came from;
oh, and if there’s been a song in
his head for the past few days,
one he loves, one he hates, you
better be sure it’s going to be his refrain’.
Maybe they’ll call us the Worst Indeed school,
because that’s where we ate lunch and lamented
the glare of the sun against the window of humanity,
that’s where we had all our meetings, all our fights,
a few of our first kisses; our convictions have been
stuck under all their food court benches.
But what does that mean?
I danced on the other side of Agostini Street and
I danced under the trees by the parking lot and
University Drive has been signed with the bottom of my sneakers and
maybe that should mean something by itself,
but everyone else planted a universal ideal.
Something grander than ‘here are words
and I want you to have them because they’re
more precious than their causes
or my causes or the First Cause or
you. I don’t ever want to make something
that says it’s good just because I wasted a
couple shades of graphite; I want meaning to
be its water and its seed, and I keep looking for
good seed, and people have them, Whitman does,
and Dickinson, and Atwood swims in good water
and has her feet pressed against good soil,
they won’t stop growing.
Am I a weed? Only weeds
don’t know what they mean, only
weeds don’t have petals of a certain shade.
I guess I can even do with being violet or blue, pink
would be nice, even, but what colour am I?
Am I a weed?
With everyone abuzz over this summer’s release of “The Fault in Our Stars,” there’s no question that Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), the one-legged dreamboat who forms one half of the movie’s central couple, has officially become the new favorite fictional boyfriend of basically everyone on earth.
But after a new clip from the film debuted earlier this week — the one in which Augustus clenches a cigarette between his teeth while explaining, “It’s a metaphor. You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to kill you!” — a small but vocal contingent of people aren’t feeling the love anymore.
It’s an opinion most elegantly expressed by one tumblr user who called this moment, “the single most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Of course, if that’s how you feel, and if you want to break up with your fictional boyfriend over this one regrettable moment, then hey, do what you gotta do. But after seeing the same few complaints about Augustus pop up again and again over the past several days, we’d like to make a case for keeping the love alive, by addressing the criticisms one at a time.
When people on the internet equate the words of a writer’s protagonist with the words of said writer, I wonder if they actually do read critically. And it thoroughly depresses me and makes me want to finish this work-in-progress and bind it in leather and hide it because its protagonist is literally a boy who spends five chapters frustrated by the fact that his space tries to convince him that an anti-black hate crime is his business, and that means that, by Tumblr’s twisted logic, I believe that youth of the African diaspora should never be asked to take stock of the racist status quo’s effects on their lives.
Which is silly.
I wish Tumblr didn’t so often mistake ‘this person did something wrong on purpose’ and ‘this person tried to have a nuanced conversation about human beings and their arguably mistaken actions in relation to each other’ for the same thing.
So the above - a basic, quickly-scribbled comic script - was on my mind a few hours ago, and I scribbled it out in part because I wanted touyarambles to see it. Not because it’d be great work or anything (although I think it would be, I dare say). But because it’s something that has been on my mind, and I think I’ve ideally captured one of the things I think he’d say.
Thoughts about this, in brief:
- Once upon a time, if I can share this, Touya and I toyed with the idea of a webcomic. It didn’t work out how he wanted, and as a result never came to fruition, and that was totally my fault. In part, in hindsight, that was because I didn’t know where to start. I had this screwed-up notion in my head that if I just started with a good punchline in the first strip, eventually it would just organically cascade into a well-developed story. Which is not how I write anything else, so why the hell did I make that mistake here?
- So I tried figuring out what it would have had to be about, long after we had already agreed that it probably was never going to happen again no matter how badly we wanted it. And I wanted all the characters we imagined to have some central theme of some sort, some general interpersonal conflict that represented itself in different ways for each of them, that they wrestled with both solo and as a team, and that their attempts brought them closer together and closer to an answer, even if they hadn’t exactly solved all of their problems.
- Randomly, that notion came to mind today:
adulthood. Responsibility. Identity. Purpose. Desire. Drive. Combating the fear of failure, staving off debilitating self-doubt, loving oneself wholly and unashamedly. Because adulthood is hard. If we could all just curl up in bed for months without consequence, we probably would. Sometimes we hate the work we make for ourselves, and sometimes we hate the others we make work for. Sometimes we just want to be kids again. Sometimes we don’t know what to do about something people just expect you to be able to figure out once you’re over eighteen. Sometimes you find yourself in a mess you wouldn’t have even imagined in high school. And worst of all, you eventually kind of realize that all you want is the same no matter what age you are - to be appreciated. And you feel like that’s hard work to pull off. There are no ‘do you like me? y/n’ checkboxes for adulthood.
I like that, I think. Trying to talk about the kinds of fears we have about the responsibilities of adulthood.
Not like that’s something we can tinker with now. I don’t think we have the time. I wish we did. We have other, just as awesome things in store, though - things I have no intention of screwing up.
But I guess I’m really sharing this with Touya for two reasons:
- hey Touya I’m sorry I fucked up and I know I’ve probably killed this idea dead but I think I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it; and
- hey. Touya. This thing here - about making something worthwhile, about being proud of what I make, about sharing it with people I love - is something I learned in part from you. And I value that lesson a lot. Thanks.