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 characters...so 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.