Saturday, December 26, 2015

Day 1: Umoja

I'm back!! And it's the first day of Kwanzaa, which means that it's the first part of this new blog series I'm going to try out. There are a few things that you need to know beforehand: 

-Kwanzaa doesn't have any religious connections to it. I mean, I guess it could if someone wanted to? But overall, the holiday is about celebrating principles (Nguzo Saba) and family and our connection to Africa as a whole, basically. 

-Habari Gani is Swahili for "What is the news?" If someone greets you that way, you're supposed to respond with the Nguzo Saba of the day. Someone told me that people who aren't of African descent just say "Joyus Kwanzaa," but if you know the Nguzo Saba, I don't think it matters.

As for today....

The Nguzo Saba is Umoja, meaning unity! 

Yay! When my mom gets home, we'll light the black candle on the kinara (the candle holder), because that always goes first. On the first day, my family usually decorates, even though we should probably do that before. We make bendera (Kwanzaa flags), lay out the muhindi (ears of corn for each child), and mazao (fruits representing productivity, which I eat when no one looks.) 

We also sit around and discuss the principal of the day and what it means to us. 

This year, when I think of unity, I think of my friends and family and how they have held me up. It seems like years ago that I went to the hospital because I wanted to die, but it was really just this February. My friends encouraged me to go, and basically held my hand after I was released. 

The social worker at school encouraged me to go. A girl from our peer support club told me that it wouldn't be that bad, that I would get better. Even while I was there, the other girls sort of helped (despite the fact that no one wanted to be there.)

I think of unity when I think about protestors and Black Lives Matter. 

I think of unity when I think of my friends also in publishing, DMing and texting behind the scenes about how crazy we go. 

I think of unity when I think of my mother always getting things done, no matter what odds are stacked against her. 

To me, unity means people coming together to help someone. And that's hella rad. 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

let's talk about sex baby (with Ayesha Curry)

Really quickly: Ayesha Curry tweeted some things about modesty and clothing and trends today. Some people are getting upset, but from what I've seen, more people are getting upset that people are upset. Does that make sense? I think I've seen a lot of people laughing about this being a thing.

ANYWAY. The tweets: 

So. You know what I'm going to say. But a lot of people on Twitter have just said that she was expressing her preference, or that she was just taking notice of the world, or that "attacking" her is anti-feminist. 

First of all. I don't understand why some people automatically view critiquing as attacking. Ms. Curry posted something on Twitter, which means she knew that people were going to see it. Once you post something on Twitter, people are going to have opinions. Full stop. That's a thing. 

Second, I want to direct you all to this lovely Tumblr post about telling women that they aren't real feminists. I'll quote my favorite parts:
"Feminists can be racist. Feminists can be classist, ableist, transmisogynist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, whorephobic, homophobic, intersexist, terrible people and still be feminists. It makes their feminism tainted and flawed and oppressive and not very useful, but it doesn’t erase it.
Pretending that only people completely free from bigotry are “actual” feminists gives us an excuse to not address the very real problems happening in our movement, by people who are very much a part of it, or even leading parts of it.
To say bigots “aren’t really feminists” allows us to ignore the white supremacist and transmisogynist histories of Western feminist movements, allows us to be self-congratulatory about our own imaginary lack of ingrained prejudice, and neatly absolves us of taking responsibility as a movement for bigotry happening within that movement.
So yes, let’s acknowledge that people can be shitty feminists. But to imply that their shittiness neatly removes them from the movement is to deny the harm that they’re able to do as part of it. And that’s not helpful."
I personally feel that Ayesha was making a dig at women who "don't wear clothes." Yes, she was expressing her preference, but she implied that her preference was the "right way." Particularly the point where she says that she'd rather be "classy than trendy." 

Women are classy when they are wearing clothes. Women are classy when they aren't wearing clothes. We have different definitions of classy, which is fine. The issue is that being classy means you get respect. Being classy means that people treat you better. When society overwhelmingly believes that women are only "classy" when they dress a certain way, there's a problem.

Women are deserving of respect no matter what they decide to wear.

Anyway, Ayesha obviously has her preferences. I have mine. I wish it were easier for me to disagree with her without it becoming some sort of feminist war. People on Twitter are laughing and mocking feminists about getting upset, while feminists are moving in some sort of retaliation, I guess. 

I honestly don't care what Ayesha decides to wear. My issue occurs when it is implied that only certain types of women should get respect. That being, women who "save themselves" for their husbands. I mean, some women don't have husbands. Some women like to only show off to their husbands. Some just want to have sex.

And sex is totally fine. Women should have as much, or as little, sex as they want.

I think the thing we have to remember about feminism is that it's about supporting one another. We are going to have disagreements and differences. Some of us are going to get angry at each other, because we all have internalized prejudices. The important part is that we have discussions with each other.

There's this weird culture, particularly in the United States, where things happen and we don't talk about them. We don't talk about internalized racism or homophobia or anything. We don't talk about events after they happen, even though they still affect the nation.

I don't want feminism to be like that. When everyone on Twitter is fighting about Ayesha Curry, I want to talk about why. I want my anger to be valid, just like I want the girl I was arguing with on Twitter to be valid. 

The best way to do that is to talk.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

ode to my ancestors: a thanksgiving day treat

Since Thanksgiving is about family (and also killing Native peoples with smallpox), I thought that I would include a little blog post for my homies who aren't going to eat pie with me this week. It actually makes me sad, because they seem awesome.

Great Great Great Great Grandpa Andrew:
Oh my gosh. You were born into slavery, and by the time your life ended, you were a free man. I'm still trying to find out more about you (other than the fact that you had awesome penmanship), but I'm already in awe of you. I hope the strength that you must've had, not only to escape, but to make a new life, is somewhere in my blood.

I think that you should be the one to get the turkey. You deserve it, big guy.

Grandpa Lorenzo and Grandpa Cora:
You had ten kids! And a farm! Wow. I also don't know a whole lot about you guys, but the fact that you maintained a gigantic family and a farm at the same time is something to be proud of. Also, you survived racism. Which must've sucked. 

Mashed potatoes for you guys, I think. 

Grandpa Vincent: 
I've been trying to find a picture for you for the longest time, and I won't stop looking until I do. My mom and her siblings loved you, but are still hella bitter that you never bought a DeLorean when you had the chance. You sound like you were really cool, like a character from the 80s who wore leather all the time. 

I'd totally name a kid after you.

(I mean, I'd give your name to a random cherub I see walking through the streets. But the heart is still there.) 

Frederick Douglass: 
How I wish that you were somehow related to me. I'm in love with almost everything that you've written. I feel like you were so ahead of your time, from the ideas you expressed in your writing to your fabulous hair. I wish that you were still here, just so I could meet you and start crying. 

Happy Thanksgiving, guys! I hope that you use this time to hang out with family, no matter who is part of it. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I'm not changing my Facebook icon

This post is going to be triggery, I think. Some people also might not like what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway, because I think that it's important. 

We're weird about terrorism, here in the United States. Whenever something happens outside of the country, we jump up to "stop it." However, there are conditions on this. I'm fifteen, but from what I've seen, we're the quickest to jump when the people involved in the violence are brown.

What happened in France was horrible. I'm glad that people are grieving alongside the country, because they need the extra support during this time. However, I've noticed that there are many, many people blaming Islam, even though ISIS is not a Muslim group. In fact, they've killed many Muslims, which is why there are Syrian refugees. 

The refugees are being blamed, even though this is the type of experience they experienced daily in Syria. The type of violence that did not get a hashtag or an option to change your Facebook icon to the colors of the Syrian flag.

Even though France wasn't the only place to experience violence from ISIS (Baghdad and Beirut were also targeted within the same twenty four hours), I only see people talking about France. At the Democrat Debate, there was a moment of silence for France. On Facebook, there's an option to change your picture to the colors of the French flag. 

France. France. On Facebook, it's all people talk about. People Magazine and the Huffington Post have posted countless articles about it in the last day or so. 

It's not a problem that everyone is talking about France. The problem is that we're only talking about France.

Why isn't there an option to have the flags of Baghdad or Beirut as my Facebook icon? Why is it that there are only a select few number of articles written about these other countries? Why is it that hatred of refugees and Muslims is being condoned? The fact that we, as a society, are quick to grieve along with France but not Baghdad or Beirut says something about what we think.

We think that the lives in France are more important. Why? Because it is a Western, and some would say white country.

Although many people don't want to admit it, we don't seem to care about victims when they're brown. The people who suffer in the Middle East are a bunch of nameless, faceless people to us. Many of us don't know what's going on, besides the fact that we're in a state of constant war. 

It's easy to jump on the issue when the violent ones are brown. When they're the victims, suddenly, we are jumping away. Just recently, with the protests occurring at universities such as Yale and Mizzou, there was the threat of terrorism against black students.

The reaction? Scorn. Even after the tragedy in France occurred, there were people mocking the protesters at these schools. The protesters who feared that something similar could happen to them because of the color of their skin.

Why wasn't their fear valid?

While I was on Twitter today, I saw people linking to a tragedy where 147 students were killed in Kenya  and was quick to note how no one was talking about it. However, this tragedy occurred in April. The point that the posters were making was that there hadn't been a national outrage over this tragedy.

I don't remember hearing about this, and neither did the hundreds of people who retweeted. This, and other tragedies such as the disappearances in Mexico, are tossed around for a few minutes before we forget about them. 

What about bringing back our girls? Does anyone remember that?

I asked some of these questions to my followers on Twitter, and one very smart woman said that many emphasize with the tragedy in France because it reminds them of 9/11. That makes sense - I've seen so many people compare France's support of us during 9/11 to our support of them now.

But again, the common tropes: brown people initiating the violence, white people being among those who suffer. Is that why we care so much? Are we only able to care about a tragedy when we've experienced something similar? Some might say that it's a basic human trait, to be able to connect to someone who has experienced similar issues as us.

But why can't we recognize this? Why can't we say that our vision has been clouded since 9/11, which is where the knee jerk reaction comes from, but that we will also grieve for others who have suffered from violence?

Why don't we ever discuss the fact that we don't care about brown people and their suffering?

I could give many examples of this. There's the fact that there was a huge uproar and Europe about taking in Syrian refugees. Many people didn't want to do it, despite the large amount of suffering that these refugees faced. Their response was that there wasn't enough money.

After 9/11, no one mentioned money. We went to war. Even now, when people start discussing the chance of another war, no one is talking about the trillions of dollars of debt that we're in. Obviously, this isn't amount money.

Or I could bring up the Charleston shootings earlier this year, and how there wasn't an option to change our Facebook icons for that. Dylan Roof was not treated like a terrorist. This tragedy wasn't treated like a terrorist attack, even though this man expressed ideas shared with the KKK, a terrorist organization.

They bought him lunch. They escorted him nicely.

Instead of the national grief, all of the people posting on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, there were debates. Debates over whether or not this had to do with race. I honestly don't remember people caring the way that they care about France. No other countries expressed their grief about this event that "shook our nation." 

Is it because the victims of the Charleston shootings were black? Because the terrorist was white?

Another point that was brought up on Twitter is that the attacks in France ruin the idealistic vision we have painted, as a society. In movies, commercials, books, everything Paris is the city of lights, of love. The streets sparkle, and the Eiffel Tower shines down on you. Paris was everything we hoped to be. 

Charleston, within our own borders and attempting to sweep institutional racism under the rug, was something that we were trying so desperately to ignore. 

In turn, while I urge you to continue to pray for Paris, I remind you that stories of violence and terrorism are delivered to us in a prepackaged container. We, as Americans from a Western country, see brown people as disposable and violent. That's the way the story will be framed to us. If a story doesn't fit the container, it isn't told.

So, no. I will not be changing my Facebook icon. I will grieve for France, but also for Kenya, for Baghdad, for Beirut. I will grieve for all of the people affected, including the Muslims and Syrians who will now be targeted even more so than before. 

Because, ultimately, pain doesn't care about color. We're the ones who do.

no, atheism is not guaranteed to make the world a better place

I'm tired of stupid comments about religion on Facebook. Radical Christians and radical atheists and generally people of any sort who think that killing in the name of religion is okay bother me. 

Mainly, though, this post is written in response to Tommy Wallach, a lovely author who has basically says a lot of weird things. He, being the extremely smart white dude who must always give an opinion on something (I do the same thing, but I digress), tweeted that the world would be a better place if more people weren't religious.

(I could've linked to the tweet, but Mr. Wallach deleted his account, you see..)

Okay, here's the deal: tragedy happens all of the time. Sometimes more people pay attention to it because of who is involved, and sometimes people ignore it because of where it happens. Tragedy is always going to happen. Even if we get rid of religion. 

That's basically my entire argument right there. 

I understand (sort of) the knee jerk reaction to say that, without religion, there would be less murders and horrible events happening. But there are just so many things wrong with that. 

1) It's such a lazy, general statement: Look, I'm agnostic. I know that religion doesn't do anything for me. I'm guessing that the world would be a better place without radical religion, but that's not what you said. Religion, itself, is a word that includes so many things. There are hundreds of religions (maybe thousands? I don't even know) all over the place. 

Not everyone murders in the name of religion. Full stop. 

2) You're usually talking about one type of religion: Okay, seriously getting deep here. White people usually say this when something happens with Islam, or people who claim to be Muslim, or people they assume to be Muslim. 

 (I say this because the recent events were because of ISIS, which is not a Muslim organization and has, in fact, killed many Muslims, which is why there are so many refugees. But I digress.) 

Whenever the KKK comes out and does something painful/disgusting/stupid, I hear people saying that they're horrible and stupid. But no one says that all religion needs to be abolished then. 

Or, you know, when annoying Christians in the GOP say that gay people shouldn't be able to get married. Or that women shouldn't be able to get abortions. When stuff like that happens, we all get angry and rightfully annoyed and we usually come up with better things to say than "the world would be a better place if you guys were to give up your faith." 

3) You ignore the fact that religion works for others: I'm really into learning about my ancestors, and I know that religion helped many of them get through slavery and their generally hard lives. I know that religion helps people grieving for their loved ones. 

Religion isn't always inherently bad. Just because I can't believe in it, and you don't, doesn't mean that there aren't people who totally feel connected to a deity or several. The fact that you're an atheist doesn't mean that atheism is what will keep the world going round.

4) Atheists have done horrible things: If people are horrible and disgusting, they'll commit horrible and disgusting things, regardless of religion. Stalin killed more than 20, 000, 000 and he had the same idea: he made everyone atheists! By force! And things got so much better in his country! 

(Actually, they didn't. They got worse. Spoiler alert, I guess.) 

Okay, bonus round! Three things our friend Tommy is able to get away with (and also still be a NYT Bestselling author) because he's a white dude: 

1) Saying that he's a feminist because his mom is a pilot: 
I legit quote: 

I might just be an extremely bitter young girl, because of the racism and sexism and whatnot, but I don't really care if a guy (who does not experience/might not even SEE sexism) feels that women pointing out that Andrew Smith made a sexist comment is a "witch hunt." 

I always hate when white people tell me that getting upset about little things cheapens the anti-racism movement, or when guys tell me that getting upset about little things cheapens the feminist movement. Like. Who made you the voice of reason? Just because you were raised by a hella awesome mom doesn't mean that you're automatically qualified to tell women 
a) what sexism is 
b) how to handle it

2) Throwing a hissy fit because a black woman said that his black character wasn't written well/kinda sorta racist: I can't even provide a link for this, because this was basically something that happened on Twitter. A black female author (whom I love, so I'm a bit biased) pointed out some things that were weird/potentially racist about the black character in Tommy's book. Here's my version of how things went: 
BH (Black homie): This book is racist. The character isn't well written. Here is why.
BH: Well, I'm black. But also -
BH: I have actual criticism about why the representation of this black girl is an actual issue -
Tommy and his homies: OMG WHAT AN ANGRY BLACK LADY
BH: What
Tommy: *deletes account*

3) This: This comment about religion.

I honestly get on authors' cases so much because they have such a big impact. They really do, especially those with NYT bestselling books. When you do something, people (especially teens), notice. You know what else they notice? The reaction to what you did. Whether or not you apologize afterward (how you apologize, how long it takes, etc.) If you seem to be learning at all.

I have his book under my bed and sometimes I read it and I'm like eh whatever. Your black character bothers me, but who am I to judge? But then I think about the other black girls reading this book, getting excited because there was a black character (like I did), and ultimately feeling let down.

That's why I wrote something about this tweet.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

fanfiction is amazing!!! some people just suck

I'm trying not to only write blog posts when I'm angry about things that happen on the Internet, but I can't help it. I usually need inspiration, and this new "article" on Teen basically did it for me. If you don't want to read it, basically the lady who wrote it wrote about "Nasty AF Teen Wolf Fans" who wrote slash fic. 

Now, for the non fanfiction readers/writers out there - (and seriously, how have you not read fanfic before?) - slash fic is basically a story where the characters are queer and most likely have sex. In the stories this woman spoke about, the dude characters were loving on each other. 

I have so many problems with this. 

 1) Why the hells was this woman snooping through fanfiction? She obviously has the right to look, if she wants, but the fact that she then went and wrote an article "exposing the nastiness" is just so weird to me. It's probably because fanfiction feels like a safe space, at least for teenagers. I feel comfortable saying that because I know so many teens who love writing fic, have made friends through it, etc. I started seriously writing because of the comments I received while writing fanfiction.

I don't know how I would've reacted if someone did this to me. I'm already angry that this lady used other writing for this article. 

2) It's not like the stories were about the actors: I've seen people write fanfic stories about real life actors, speculating what's going on in their sex lives. I think it's really weird and invasive. But...the stories included in this Teen article were about fictional characters. 

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like once characters are tossed out into the world, there's a part of them that belongs to the fans. It's like a weird custody agreement - the creators get them half of the time, and the fans get them the other half. 

3) WHY DID SHE PICK THE GAY FANFICS? For some reason, I can't imagine that the author of this piece would've had the same reaction if she stumbled across heterosexual sex in fanfiction. She picked the slash fic - the gay fic. She's labeling stories about gay characters as wrong. Actually, she's labeling them as "nasty AF," but you know.

That alone is enough to make me want to drop kick someone.

4) THE SHAMEEEEEE: When it comes down to it, teen girls are shamed for whatever they do. We're shamed for liking boy bands, or regular bands ("omg why are you wearing a Nirvana shirt do you even know what that is???"). We're shamed for the shows we like and the movies we watch and the books we read. No matter what teen girls do, we're screwed.

Fan culture is a really cool thing, sometimes. Tumblr and AO3 can spark friendships or goals, but can just be regular release from life. Fanfiction is an escape, like books or movies. The difference is that girls get to control what they consume with fanfiction, and there's actually diversity.

The fact that teen girls write slash fic isn't a big deal to me. If anything, it helps them express their sexuality in a way that isn't hurting anyone. Writing about two fictional characters making out (or - gasp - having sex) isn't hurting anyone. But shaming girls for doing this can hurt girls.

Just like shaming us for everything else can. 


Sunday, October 11, 2015

this is how the industry lives now: five signs that you might be suffering from white privilege

Hey! It's been a bit of a while since I last wrote a blog post, but this was very much needed. I often write about issues that are in the young adult literature community, meaning that a lot of people don't know about them (besides my peeps on Twitter, anyway.)

But the discussion of writers from the majority and their privilege has come up again. 

So, basically, many people on Twitter are upset with Ms. Rosoff's response (including myself), and I'm going to analyze her white privilege in both this response and how she is handling the backlash.

(First, I want to thank Laura Atkins for being super cool. Because I probably wouldn't started making sarcastic backhanded insults, and she stayed cool.)

1. "Good literature expands your mind:" Okay, but good literature expands your mind by teaching you about other people. We've been solely talking about white people and their issues for hundreds of years. No one is saying that you should stop doing this, but why do we ONLY need to talk about white people? I read so that I can learn about the world, about other people. Not to get a comprehensive backstory on one type of person.

2. "There are thousands of books:"Where? Do you know any of them? Do you know that there are thousands of books about white people, and yet, we're still expected to read them? In the past, white books were all that were offered. Racial minorities are just beginning to have their stories told. Yes, there have been many success stories, but for each of those, there are about ten authors being shot down.

PS: Stories about racial minorities written by white people don't count. 

3. She's writing a book about a black boy who falls in love with a Native American woman fifteen years older than him! Imagine that! So, you know, obviously she can't be racist. Because she's going to write a black boy (who will probably be horribly done) (not trying to hate but it's true) being abused by an older Native American woman! People who do that definitely aren't racist. 

4. Her first book was white as Vermont in the winter. Seriously: I'm fifteen, so there are lots of authors who wrote books way before I was old enough to read them. But I can say, with total honesty, that I didn't know about Meg. She's actually a pretty successful writer, but her books were published when I was still in elementary school. 

Her first book, How I Live Now, won a Pritz Award and was made into a movie. I've never read it, so I don't know if I would like it...but I do know that it's sooooooo white.  Sigh. I guess that explains some things?

5. She has blocked everyone who opposes her on Twitter (pretty much everyone.) This isn't something that you can google to figure out, but I promise that it's true. Just ask...anyone on Twitter who openly disagrees with her. It's funny to me, because the white people who need to hear these conversations usually are the ones who don't want to listen. 

Plus, I don't understand who she expects to buy her books, but alright.

Bonus round: 
I'm going to include five instances of white privilege that is ingrained in the publishing industry (but also many other media industries, such as the film industry or even the news industry): 

1. Racial minorities who write stories about themselves and are vocal about the fact that they aren't heard are branded as having some sort of agenda, when all they want to do is tell stories. Ava DuVernay has spoken about how she wishes that she would be asked about her film and technique instead of just asked to talk about the racism over and over again in the industry. 

It gets exhausting. Once you talk about a problem, you're expected to only talk about that. Or even worse: some people, like our buddy Meg, might think that you're pushing some sort of "agenda." Whatever that means. White people who tell their stories are just story tellers. 

2. "I'm uncomfortable when everything is not about me." This is a major white privilege thing, and it's basically how I describe white authors who get upset about more books being written by racial minorities. It's often (not) a subconscious thing, where white authors are happy to write "diverse" characters but become hostile when "diverse" people write these characters on their own. 

3. White mediocrity: This is more of a concept, but I'm happy to explain. While there are white authors who are amazing and fantastic and produce great works, there are also white authors who...are just okay. Or even bad. But they're celebrated and given awards and praise for being mediocre. 

(This isn't just a thing with books, by the way. I see it all of the time with films, TV, and music. But I digress.) 

Meanwhile, people of color are held to actual standards (that sounds rude, but whatever.) They have to work to be good, and sometimes that isn't enough. Basically, white authors can get on the NYT Bestseller List for being "okay." A Hispanic author has to be "fantastic" to get the same thing. White authors have to be "fantastic" to win a National Book Award. Black authors have to be "outstanding" to be considered.

Do you get what I mean? 

4. White authors will get recognition for writing racial minority characters that are horribly done. This is just a step up from the white mediocrity. When the industry/readers of young adult started calling out for more diversity, I guess many people assumed this meant that the white people were supposed to start writing characters of color.

That's....not exactly what we mean. 

Because, while this has led to some really cool books, this has also led to some (excuse my language) lazy ass authors writing people of color through their white eyes. That' That's not how it works. By writing people of color the way white people see them (through a racist lense, to be honest, because of institutional racism but that's a story for another day), an actual character isn't being portrayed. A stereotype is. Usually an insulting one.

BUT. White authors get praised for this! I've seen it happen so so soooo many times. We're expected to be happy that we're included, even if it isn't done well. And then, if a white author writes an insulting black character and we call them out for it, the white author throws a fit.

(I'm thinking of a specific example, but I digress.)

5. White people are angry about racial minorities writing their own stories (and being good at it), because now they actually have to work hard. My personal theory is that white people are on the defense, because storytelling as they know it is coming to an end. They can't avoid these "diverse" characters, or even write half-assed versions of them, because a minority will blow them out of the water. They're realizing that white mediocrity won't hold up forever, so their solution? To keep racial minorities from telling their stories in the first place. 

Don't let them. This is how the industry lives now: diversely. 


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I'm Angry That Viola Davis Made History

“The only thing that separates women of color from anything else is opportunity.” 

Viola Davis is an inspiration. 

I am totally in love with her and her work. Her speech was phenomenal. I was so excited when she got up to that stage, and every single thing that she said was so on point. You guys don’t know how much I love this woman. 

But I’m angry. I’m angry that I saw this woman, up there, crying as she became the first black woman to win the Emmy for best actress in a drama. I’m angry as hell. There are so many black women with talent, and they’re barely recognized. Are the Emmys trying to tell me that there has only been one black woman, in all 67 years, that deserved this award? 

Some people will try to tell me that this is about talent. To that, I scoff, clench my fists, and try not to scream. 

Let’s talk about the fact that, according to a report from the Writers Guild of America, only 13.7% of television show staff writers are minorities - and this figure was taken of both women and men. Let’s talk about the fact that the amount of women of color in writer’s rooms actually decreased this year.

Let’s talk about how only eight black women have won Oscars, and how no black woman has ever won the award for Best Director. We can talk about how this isn’t about lack of talent: a big example is from March, when HBO held a contest for “diverse” female and male writers of color, allowing eight winners to receive training and support to help them produce a TV pilot. How there were so many applicants that the site crashed. 

And if you still need some proof, we can talk about how Nancy Lee Grahn said that the Emmys are not “a venue for racial opportunity” and that Viola Davis “has never been discriminated against.” You know, even though she’s a white lady and has never been a black woman. We can talk about how, during her apology, she said she “never expected every black Twitterer to attack.” 


For a black young woman who wants to be in this industry, this is heartbreaking. For crying out loud, this is disappointing for black women everywhere. The fact that black women are still made to feel inadequate, even while they have the same talent as white women. This is why it’s so important to have women of color as film studio executives and producers, so that they can pull other women up with them. 

Patricia Arquette brought up important issues about women in Hollywood, about women in all industries. Why can’t Viola Davis do the same for women of color?  While feminism is trying hard to make things better for women, we have to help all women: brown women, Asian women, trans women, queer women. You can’t leave half of us hanging. 

I’m not angry about Viola’s win. She deserved it, and I will vouch that from the rooftops. But black women shouldn’t have had to wait so long for recognition. Don’t forget about us. We have just as many stories as we do. 


Friday, September 11, 2015

questions about 9/11

I don't remember September 11th. I was a year old when it happened.

I remember going to school and listening to survivors in the sixth grade. I remember watching documentaries on TV when I was eleven, the small stories that older family members gave me when I was thirteen. But I don't actually remember it. And that's why, whenever someone says to never forget, I feel guilty. Really guilty.

Because, even though I wasn't there and can't empathize completely, I still get the fact that a lot of people lost their lives. That this was an action of hatred. Innocent people did not deserve the things that happened to them. People didn't deserve to lose family members or be absolutely terrified.

But...I can't connect to it the way that most adults can. I just can't I don't get why this one day, over all of the other days where many Americans lost their lives, has a gigantic cloud hanging over it. Why every channel blocks out several hours dedicated to it. I don't mean to be disrespectful - the opposite, really. I want to understand why so that I might be better next year.

Memorializing 9/11 in school isn't a bad thing at all. But it's always made me feel weird. I know that I should feel bad. I should feel so horrible and remorseful when we watch videos of people jumping out of windows, and buildings falling. And I do. But I feel like it isn't enough. I want to do something. To have discussions. To try, with all of my power, to prevent this from happening again.

When I think of 9/11, I think of the War on Terror. I don't know if I'm supposed to or not. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel or what I'm supposed to think on this day.

Because I didn't live through the event, I don't think I have the ability to separate it from everything that came after.  In history class, we are taught that most events cause a reaction. The Middle Ages caused the Renaissance (some might say.) The dropping of the Atomic Bomb ended World War 2. People say that everything changed after September 11th.

How? Why?

I feel weird about 9/11 because we don't really talk about it, and it's probably because "everyone" remembers. We talk about how we were impacted - we as in those of us who are not Muslim, or look the same way as the attackers. But I never hear discussion about how our country moved ahead afterward. People tell me that the country changed, but how?

This is the only United States that I've known. I want to know how it used to be.

It's hard for me to separate the hatred and prejudice against Muslims from this event. It's hard for me to separate advanced security protocols and all of the war that happened for most of my childhood from 9/11. All of the war and hardships that followed after seem to be linked to what our country did after 9/11. We don't talk about that.

Yes, 9/11 was horrific in so many ways. So many people were hurt or harmed and still suffer today. But. I feel like everyone memorializes for hours each year, and we don't actually talk...well, about anything? Do we need to? I guess not.

I realize that this might be because it all happened not too long ago. We don't have the same context because we're too close to the event for this to be taught the way I learn about European history at school. But I wish that people would just say that. I wish that I could ask questions and have discussions about this. Whenever I see it happening, people are usually told to be quiet.

We talk about the immediate aftermath, like how firefighters were down in the city for weeks and weeks. How they kept looking. How the entire country was grieving, as one. I've been to the memorial, and I've seen all of the names. I've watched people grieve, and have along with them.

I think that it's so confusing for me because I can sort of see 9/11 objectively. I don't have many ties to it, since I don't remember anything about the day, and didn't really learn about it until these past few years. It's easy for me to say that it's weird that we memorialize 9/11 when we bomb other countries because I wasn't bombed.

It's easy for me to think about this in all sorts of different contexts, to think of questions that no one really answers:

Why don't we commemorate other days, like Pearl Harbor, the way we do 9/11?

Why are we never to forget 9/11, but not the Holocaust or slavery or the Trail of Tears?

Why do we seem to move on from shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook, but never forget 9/11?




No one really has answers.

I feel like we only speak about 9/11 from one viewpoint every year. The events were done in hatred, but the people who did them thought they were doing right. When we kill people in other countries, we do it in the name of freedom, but they probably see it as an act of hatred. I don't understand.

That's not to say that the lives lost don't deserve to be commemorated, because they absolutely do. It just confuses me, and I want answers. I want to make sure that something as horrible and awful as this never happens again. And, if there's any chance that it would, how is my generation to respond?

Is talking about how our country changed, how we moved forward, disrespectful just because it makes people angry? And, if we can't talk about it because it's disrespectful, how will we know how to avoid/handle a situation like this if it ever happens again?


Monday, September 7, 2015

about ray

This movie isn't even out yet, and I'm still sort of disappointed about it. No, wait. I'm very disappointed about it. 

I've had a lot of discussions about diversity in film, books, etc. with a lot of people. Even though it's super important, it's also really important that diverse people can tell stories about themselves. It's especially important, because if that doesn't happen, stuff like about ray does. 

I've basically made it a policy not to post links on here, but there's an interview that the director of the film did. One that made me really freaking upset. In case you didn't know, the film is about a young transman and his journey through transition. 

But, like, he's portrayed by Elle Fanning, who is a cis female. (She's actually been pretty respectful in all of the interviews that she's done about the film so far, but that's besides the point.) And honestly, all the director does is refer to Ray by his incorrect pronouns. 

She also kept calling him a girl. And said it's not a story about a trans person, just a confused girl. Which is really freaking annoying, actually. I know that I'm not trans, so this isn't really my space to talk about. But I at least wanted to bring light to the situation. 

Basically, the director said that they used Elle Fanning so that the movie would make a certain amount of money. She also said that the movie was originally about three generations of women, which I actually think she should've done.

I guess it's possible for cisgender actors and directors to create stories about trans people, but I don't know how authentically they can do it. Obviously, the director doesn't know much of what she's talking about. In this situation, you can tell that she decided to focus on a trans character because it would be "cool." 

Or, you know, seem progressive and hopefully make a lot of money that way. 

Basically, don't make movies about people whose lives you have not lived unless you want to do the work. I figured that was common sense, but I guess not.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

to this bitch who was talking about Halsey in the press the other day, Maggie what's good?

Warning: I have totally reverted to my fifteen year old self in this post, as you can tell by the title. I'm angry and pissed off, and will probably regret this later. Proceed with caution. 

The publishing industry, like many other industries, is filled with white saviors. Basically, we knew this already, but I was sadly reminded of it when I woke up this morning and saw that Maggie Stiefvater wrote something about why she accepted an invitation to sit on a panel about the "other."

I'm honestly so appalled that I'm not even sure what to say. First of all, the fact that she mentioned something about "unpopular" races is just...I can't. That alone is full of white privilege. So basically, all other races are boring until a white person writes about us. Right?

I have no idea how this woman has not experienced racism or anything else that comes with being a racial minority, but presumes to sit on a panel and "educate" about it. Bullshit.

Second, she said that, even though she doesn't know what she's talking about, she's qualified to sit on the panel. Right. Because, you know, there has to be a token white author up there to validate everyone else's words. That's what she basically is saying, right?

Also, this is just a bunch of issues with the publishing industry in general. Publishing seems to be this super white industry, even though there are campaigns to get more diversity. The thing is, though, now that there is a call for diversity, white people (and other majorities) think it means that they can make a lot of money/get a lot of recognition if they write diverse characters. 

(Sort of like how cis actors like Eddie Redmayne portray trans characters because of the recognition they hope to get, but I digress.)

Look, sometimes white people write good characters of color. But the idea is that we don't want them writing all of them. We want to write our own stories. And, since YA has this weird thing where they fixate on about five authors for ten years at a time, I have a feeling this is what will happen:

Say John Green decides to write a book about a black kid. The kid is well written, I guess, but there are black authors writing black kids from their actual experience. John Green gets film adaptations and awards and NYT spots. 

Black authors sometimes don't even get agents. 

And, since publishing (like a lot of entertainment industries) is still ruled by mostly white people, there's this weird...thing where people of color can't talk about these things. We can't bring them up or call people out. Because then we might look like "trouble to work with." I've seen black authors who are just painted as angry all of the time.

People have told me that you have to be this approachable butterfly for white people to pay attention to you. Even if your writing is good, you have to be this docile flower for the right editor to get your book and the right agent and the right author to blurb your book.

It's absolute bullshit, and I don't care if I never get published for saying so. 

But then there was this drama with Halsey. Maggie has basically been making fun of Halsey, a singer who is probably way more qualified to sit on this diversity panel, for a while now. She basically uses her as a weird joke/parody thing, and also made fun of her break up. 

Maggie was like "Ohhhh, I didn't think that you would see so basically it's okay." 

1. It's not fucking okay. 

2. She legit tagged Halsey in the tweets where she made fun of her. Maggie has 67k followers. And tagged Halsey. Rule number one, you don't tag someone if you don't want them to see the tweet. That's like, basic Twitter logic. Two, you have a lot of followers. You're somewhat of a public figure, and didn't think this would be seen? Okay. Sure. 

3. This is partially me being bitter about the John Green Tumblr thing that happened a little while ago, but still. Basically, someone on Tumblr wrote an offensive post about John Green. They didn't think he would see it, because they were a tiny little blog and he is this big author famous person.

But oH NO. He found it and called her out and so did Maggie. She said the fact that this original poster didn't think John would see it wasn't an excuse. She JUMPED on this person about it, and wrote something about all the negativity on social media or whatever.

But, now that Halsey is calling her out, the fact that "Maggie didn't think she was going to see" is valid. Hmm. Now is it because Maggie is a white woman? Because she is the "voice of the youth" or something? 

Or is it just because she's the exception to every rule?


Thursday, September 3, 2015

chat with Nicola Yoon

Imagine being grounded - not being able to leave the house, see your friends, or visit your favorite places. Now imagine living that sort of life for eighteen years. In Nicola Yoon’s new young adult novel, Everything, Everything, this is the story of main character Madeline’s life.
Allergic to literally most of the world, Madeline has only known her sterile house, mother, and nurse. Until a new boy moves next door. I chatted with author Nicola about the book, love, and taking risks:
A fun question I like to ask is about the books or stories they wrote before the one that got published. How many books did you write before this one?
I actually wrote one book before, which I might come back to one day, but it just isn't ready for anyone to see at all right now. It's pretty awful. But I still like some of the ideas in it, so one day. Hopefully.

What are some of the themes of Everything, Everything?
For me, it's really about all of the risks you take for love and whether or not those risks are worth it, whether or not love is worth it. Because, I feel like, everyone has been in love or loved someone or something just so much that it takes over your life. But then the question for me is always what if you lose it? Then, you know, how does life continue? Are you able to continue?

I think that first started worrying about it when I met my husband, because I'm totally, totally in love with him. I'm crazy about him. And when I first met him, I was like ‘oh my gosh, this is the one.’ And then I started wondering what would happen if he got hit by a car or something terrible happening. And then we had our daughter and things were even worse, like ‘holy cow, now I have the two of them.’

I love them way too much, and you sort of wonder. The risk of losing love could be devastating. I definitely think that's what the book is about. Love in all of its forms, and the risk that you take by being in love and whether it's worth it.

I know that when (spoiler) happened, I started screaming. I took the book to my sister's graduation today, because I thought I could finish it in a day, and I kept screaming. Especially when I got to the end. It was awesome.

Yay! I'm glad you like it. I mean, I started writing when I first had my daughter and I was totally worried about everything with her, like ‘Oh, she's gonna get a cold, she's gonna fall down,’ so I really related to the parts with [Maddie's Mom].

So what types of stories would you like to see more in YA over the next few years?
I'm a part of We Need Diverse Books, so one of my sort of personal priorities is just getting stories with more diverse characters and all sorts of characters. I feel like there are two types of books that we usually see when it comes to diverse characters: issue books and non-issue books.

I feel like issue books are super important and save lives like if you were struggling with race issues and sexuality issues and read that book and that helps you, then it saves your life.

But I feel like, for non-issue books, that don't talk about it explicitly, are also just as important. I feel like we need to see the world as it is right now, because we are a diverse world. You know, everyone doesn't wake up worrying about whatever issue or whatever label the rest of of the world puts on them. I feel like Harry Potter could be black or Mexican or gay and most of the stories wouldn't have to change. That's my sort of big thing, in terms of books in general.

So you sort of already said it, but do you think that organizations like We Need Diverse Books help get more stories out?
I think they do. I think there are lots of ways to do it. I mean, not only do we need diverse characters in books, but diverse authors and diverse editors and diverse copy editors. I think that we just need publishing to reflect the numbers in the worlds. There are lots of black people and lots of Asian people and I don't think that publishing quite reflects that and it needs to.

How did you give Madison agency over her own story, even though she was stuck in her room?
This was actually hard for me at the beginning when I started writing it because, at first, she's pretty well adjusted in her house. She's accepted her fate, and that's the agency that I gave her. I thought it would be easy to be just miserable, because it's a miserable situation, but that would be a terrible way for her to live. So her agency is to try everyday, like ‘I'm gonna try to make the best of it. I'm going to take the world.’ That's why she draws the world, it's her way to understand it. The agency that she has is to try to be happy in the situation.

Why did you decide to include Carla [Maddie's nurse] as a character? I loved her.
Maddie needed a nurse [in general], but she needed someone to help her see the world beside her mom. So it was practical, because her mom needed work and she needed someone to be there, but also, you know, show another perspective.

OLLY. Did you outline him, or did he sort of just come to you as you went on?
I had a pretty good idea - I don't like to outline that much. But Olly, I pictured the type of person who would fall in love with Maddie and that's how Olly came about. He's sort of attracted to her because he has such a dark home life and is kind of cynical about that. Here is this girl who has every reason to be cynical and miserable, but she's not. I think that's what attracts him to her in the first place.

So Olly really started out as who would fall in love with Maddy, who would find her charming. But no, I didn't write an outline because, I mean, I knew he was so cute and he wore all black. There are a lot of super cute boys who wear all black.

Well, exactly. How much research did you have to do on Maddy’s disease and all of the medical aspects involved with that?
So I did do a lot of research, but it's not like a medical book. I didn't enough research to know enough about it to know what she could and could not touch, the sort of practical things, but the book is really about living and not being sick, so all of the medical stuff doesn't really come into great detail. It's about what it means to be alive versus living.

I like that. Are you working on another book at the moment?
I am! I'm actually on deadline for my next book right now. I actually can't say that much about it, but there's love in it.

That's the most important part.
There's love, and yeah, that's what I get to say. [laughs]

Awesome. Thank you so much!
It was great talking to you!

Everything, Everything, out September 1st from Random House, has been honored as a Book Expo America Young Adult Buzz Panel selection, Indies Introduce Debut selection, #2 Indie Next Autumn 2015 selection, and starred reviews from Kirkus reviews School Library Journal.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

this song will save your life

this. book. 

Okay, so I just finished reading it a couple of days ago. And it was absolutely amazing, dudes. I didn't think that I was going to like it, at first, because it seemed to be pretty popular and I don't always get along with popular books.

but this one...was just completely brilliant. It was so good that I don't even know how to come up with the words for it, if you can believe that. Maybe it was just that it was so relatable (in some ways more than others.)

The main character, this girl, Elise, was never popular. She has these two friends because it's better than being alone (I feel) and is totally bullied by a bunch of these kids/ignored by everyone else (I feel) and is totally bitter about this girl "betraying her confidence."

I guess that I usually find YA main characters to be annoying in situations like this. Usually, really popular books have got these characters who don't sound like teenagers at all. So either Leila Sales still remembers being a teenager (rare), or has just jumped inside the brain of one (more likely.)

I loved the way that her "romantic interest" went down, and I just...I loved this. Finding your passion, finding yourself. That one thing that actually makes you realize that you can be happy, that all of life is not high school. It's important to talk about the sad things and this book did it while being hopeful.

I really don't have anymore words to describe how much I loved this book.

But as for being problematic... 
-I don't think the self harm aspect of the book was handled badly, but it did trigger me at first. I would be careful of that. 

-I actually don't think that the author mentioned the ethnicity/race of the it's always weird for me when authors do that, but it also wasn't a big part of the book. Sort of so that everyone could see themselves in it?

(More on that: The only black/gay person, with those two things specifically stated, was Mel. So I suppose that we're supposed to assume that everyone else is white, because she never specified with any of the other characters? Anyway. That was kind of annoying.)

-This book is about a girl who wants to be a DJ, and she's constantly being let into a club with her other underage friends. I guess that's problematic, but I didn't really care. 

Yeah. I just really loved this book.