History is full of old men telling new adults that they should never save children from making what they do not know are mistakes. The newest is an angel I met with concrete on all his limbs, every wing clasped in solid grey, his legs of light twisted and his face no longer of glory but of stone. He said I was lovely, that he had come right from the office that said I was lovely, that he had come to let me know because their files said I didn’t know yet so he had come right from the office to kiss me on the lips like wet sweet truth and now he wasn’t sure if he was lovely either and I said, ‘that’s what the earth does to you, it’s lovely itself in all its treachery, it is a sight, it is a magic all its own, and that’s why we stop to watch it, but it can take your self-love from you long enough, if you stare at it through you and not at you through it’. I wanted to see his light. I wanted to see his light so bad and feel what holiness would feel like against the s(k)in, would it feel like nicotine and joy and being tipsy enough to disappear through the touch but sober enough to remember it? God, I wanted to see his light, was that sinful, to want to kiss an angel? I cried, I wanted it so badly. He cried, too, the kind of cry that watered little seeds in his new-stone face til I could see his pupils become daisies. He said he wanted to see my light too, God, he wanted to see my light too, was that sinful, to want to kiss God’s own image, the bodyguards of space? God, look upon your creation with pity at how our skin whimpers with want, how could you put us in a place where love is so addictive and then lock us out of twenty-four/seven love and watch the withdrawal shakes take us?
Hey, yes, I’ve seen you. And then there is an absence, a kind of apophasis with our projections of lost time held inside them. We haven’t spoken in a while. Who knows how many things we’ve buried then, and how deep, and why and who was wrong. If you heard a lie from an old wound before you met me here in this cafeteria, what do I do? Play it straight? Bow gracefully and draw the line or the bulls-eye softly til you notice? Do you remember my name? Do you need to? How’s life been? Have you been winning all its trials? Do you need to count all my losses and ties? Does it matter? You know I’m alive, and between that and you is a kind of apophasis. We nod, you stare into the space I momentarily fill. Exactly an hour from now you will never hear from me again one more time, forget the reason why, never notice the quiet, stare into it with no effect.
“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?”—
(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.
“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.”—Langston Hughes, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (via ethiopienne)
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.
Looking at some of the music albums coming out in May for an article I’m writing, and I’m legit up right now at past two in the morning whispering to myself, “I’m so disappointed right now… so disappointed…”
16: when dark-skinned girls have to vape in a video just to think Chris Brown is worth shit enough to stick around in the gotdamn video (These Dawgs Ain't Loyal)
(Someone tell Lil Wayne buy a vowel and stop calling me ‘baby’)
When a rude nigga want ya and the rap game can’t do nothin’ for ya these dawgs ain’t loyal (don’t know) these girls still royal
Trying to stay the same I could opt out of the game I could make a thug nigga tame but all these thug niggas lame
tried to teach a dawg but go figure that if you call Chris Brown ‘hitta’ he’ll get hype if you say ‘Jigga’ shading all circles from ‘thug’ to triggers
he wanna get love (get love) Chris just want a hug (a hug) but he done screwed up getting stood up at the club
they think they can dance in quick paces to get back into queen’s good graces but there ain’t no footwork enough to forget fists, right? tough…
come on, come on, man, why you frontin’? brutha, you ain’t nothin’; suit and tie don’t mean you there yet, all the lyrics won’t make us forget; come on, come on, man, why you frontin’? brutha, you ain’t nothin’; you done tried to hide your wicked but you still want a girl to kick it?
ladies, when a rude nigga want ya and the rap game can’t do nothin’ for ya these dawgs ain’t loyal (can’t see) these girls still royal…
“With no hesitation, Khalil played the offensive. He dashed into me and kept trying basic combos, chipping away at my damage. I tried jumping out of range, but he capitalized on my movement, and soon enough he had me in a near infinite combo loop. I didn’t know if this was because I was feeling nervous, or because he was perfectly fueled by rage, but I was barely getting anything in. Khalil wasn’t even using any Blockbusters. He was simply punching, with no real reason or plan. And here I was, floundering, because his pressure wouldn’t give me a chance to make a hit. Round one was over in less than a minute, his Eliza the victor with just her fists.
“Again,” I heard him mumble. The second round started, and before I could prepare for it, his Eliza pressured me again, dashing in and landing solid punches, and a few kicks, on my blocking Valentine til I tried to escape, then charging through the empty space I made, with no resistance. Perfectly, just basic moves by the half dozen til the round was over. I could hear Khalil growling softly as the round played out, as if Eliza was a stand-in for him, and Valentine was just a mask over something he himself really wanted to hit.”—
So there was this time once when some friends and I went to an anti-gay event at the UWI campus held by one of their religious groups, and there is this moment I remember totally vividly. Touya was sitting to my left, and he was getting so gradually incensed by their pure betrayal of logic and factual education that, in the middle of the event, in order to calm his nerves, he rested his laptop bag flat on his lap, pretended it was a fighting game arcade stick, and started playing. In his mind. Totally through his mind’s eye, he was playing Ryu in Super Street Fighter IV, the event’s misinformation was his opponent, and he was lighting his rage aflame with a well-timed Metsu Hadouken.
I imagine Khalil’s doing the same in this scene - enacting his rage artificially, through simulated violence, because if he can’t he’d probably resort to real physicality, and he knows that’s wrong. But he’s mad as hell and nothing’s easing that up.
I don’t think that’s the healthiest - after all, the refusal to talk about what’s going on is acting on him and my protagonist in really uncomfortable ways, and while I don’t think my protagonist is ready to talk about anything yet, Khalil should at least air something. But this is still a whole lot healthier than shouting, I reckon. I dunno.
So that’s where this scene comes from. Also, I still feel like every time I describe their nerdier pursuits - the play-by-play of a trading card game or a platform fighter, for instance - my descriptions rob the scenes of the real tension they have IRL. I’ll fix that, but that’s what it feels like.
they can’t tell that I didn’t write this bit immediately after that one
the six months where I ignored the manuscript are not visible to the naked eye
the bit where I put my head in my hands and muttered “I have no idea what I’m doing” takes place in the single space between the period and the next capital letter.
As soon as I shove that character in, she has always been there
and someone will probably say that she’s the emotional center
and the book couldn’t have been written without her
and nobody will know that I thought of her three thousand words from the end and scrolled up and shoehorned in a couple of paragraphs near the beginning because, for whatever reason, the story needed an elderly nun
she was almost the cook
and for about ten minutes she was the earnest young village priest
and now she has been there since you started reading.
I am sanding down the places where my editor found splinters
kicking up a fine dust of adjectives and dropped phrases
(Wear a breath mask. Work in a well-ventilated area. Have you seen what excess commas can do to your lungs?)
and eventually it will all be polished to a high shine
“Back in the day, before our time, comics were about people being lucky to be born with a superpower or lots of money or something. Sure, maybe some of them hated it, but at least they had it to hate, unlike us who have real life to deal with all the time, without invisibility or flight or super strength. But Shadowgirl did it all with no gadgets, no radioactive spiders, nothing. Just a lot of hard work, wanting to do the right thing, and a spy for a grandmother.”—
Literally text. I hate all my words from today, but I am too tired to even attempt to edit. Also, I know I want to do something with Shadowgirl (an analog of Kamala Khan plus some drops of The Question and a serious consideration about the value of unaided superheroism over powers or gadgetry?)
Also, my protagonist and his friend are such nerds. Most everything they’ve done all book is play games and talk about their favourite hobbies. I’m not sure if that’s a detriment yet, but it actually pleases me greatly.
I’ve been writing most of today’s word count literally running on fumes. I need to sleep, ASAP.
For anyone who may be curious: I’m really sorry, but at least for a little while, How Many Cecils will be taking a hiatus. Feel free to still send whatever Cecil fanart you can find, in your own time and if you are able, but I won’t be making a chart at least until the end of April.
I do apologize for the inconvenience. I know a few people around here really appreciated them, and for those people’s input and cooperation I thank you all. I just have a good deal more on my plate right now, and I’m hoping that by the time I don’t there would be such a change in the fandom that either the safe spaces that are PoCecil and Cecilos will be respected, or that we can trust the WtNV fandom overall to be respectful, accepting, and considerate. Til then, I think taking the extra time to count white Cecils up to my ears won’t make me feel better about that.
Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While all this mainstream interest in diversity is to be applauded for bringing more people into the ongoing conversation about diversity, they still largely fail to tackle the problem of how we can change the status quo.
We at Diversity in YA obviously don’t have all the answers, and we aren’t the first people to talk about these issues. This conversation has been going on for decades. What we do have are ideas for how you can change the status quo right now. If you’re an ordinary reader, you don’t have to wait to show your support for books that show the world as it is. Here are five ways you can help make positive change right now:
1. Look for diversity.
Make a conscious effort to seek out books to read that feature characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. They may not be front-and-center at your local Barnes & Noble; you may have to look around a bit or go online to find them.
2. Support diversity.
Support the diverse books that are published today by buying them, by checking them out at your library, or by requesting that your library buy them.
3. Recommend diversity.
If you use Goodreads, Facebook, social media, or have a blog, talk up the books you love that happen to have diverse characters. Tell your friends! Word of mouth is still key in bringing awareness to books. And remember: You don’t need to recommend them solely for their diversity — they’re great books to enjoy, plain and simple.
4. Talk up diversity.
When discussions around diversity in literature occur online, join in the conversation if you can to express that you do want more diverse books to read and that the issue is important to you.
5. Don’t give up.
There will always be people who dismiss “diversity” as meaningless. They are the reason we must keep fighting for representation. We’re all in this together.
* * *
Want a list of diverse YA books you can get started reading right now? Here are a dozen YA books of all kinds (contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery — something for everyone!) that happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters.