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1. Oh Dastardly Key Fob

Who would have thought a 5k race could nearly lead to an arrest? I guess if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ve figured out I can blunder my way into anything.

So it was Sunday when I ran a 5k for a benefit. The issue was not the run, I breezed through that with a typical mediocre time. The problem was that my daughter was one of the benefactors of the event and we needed to stay a long time after. A run on humid day for one who sweats profusely can lead to smells that disgust even my dog. I needed a change of clothing before I could reenter society.

Unlike most of my life, I planned ahead and brought a few towels along with a change of clothes. The race was held in an upscale shopping center that didn’t seem to accommodate porta-potties or any other proper facilities for a sweaty runner to disrobe. I couldn’t traipse through a fine dining establishment, dripping along the way and my planning stopped just short of a reconnaissance walk to find a bathroom.

Here’s where things went awry – the only thing I could think of was the back seat of the mini-van. No problem, I had towels that could allow me to be properly covered the entire time. When I got in the backseat, I looked around and noted I was in full view of the patio of three crowded restaurants. Again, no problem, the windows are tinted.

My problem? The key fob. Some people butt-dial and make innocuous phone calls. Not me. No, that’s not nearly stupid enough. No, I butt-press both sliding doors to the van open while I’m well into the disrobed portion of the clothes change. Fortunately, my posterior wasn’t into multi-tasking and didn’t hit the panic button.

There I sat, wide-eyed under a towel wondering why my display coincided with the dismissal of church leaving a sea of blue-haired ladies waiting for tables at the nearby restaurants. Members of the local fire department, who were standing by in case of a race emergency, took note of me also and began speaking into their radios. The police couldn’t be far behind.image


I fumbled for the elusive key fob, cursed myself for laying it on the seat, and closed the doors. In a matter of seconds, I threw on my new set of clothes and wound my way through the gaggle of old women with my head held high. During the rest of the afternoon, I kept a paranoid eye out for the long arm of the law that was sure to be clamped on my shoulder at any minute. But it never came. The firemen must have been phoning friends to laugh about my situation and not alerting the police.

In today’s day and age, these things aren’t ever over. Someone could have been fast on the draw with video and my hiney might be splattered on Youtube. Until then, let me give you some advice – if you are doing something dicey in your car, know where your key fob is at all times. Those things are evil!



Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on Oh Dastardly Key Fob, last added: 10/15/2014
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2. African encounters in Roman Britain

Hadrian’s Wall has been in the news again recently for all the wrong reasons. Occasional wits have pondered on its significance in the Scottish Referendum, neglecting the fact that it has never marked the Anglo-Scottish border, and was certainly not constructed to keep the Scots out. Others have mistakenly insinuated that it is closed for business, following the widely reported demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. And then of course there is the Game of Thrones angle, best-selling writer George R R Martin has spoken of the Wall as an inspiration for the great wall of ice that features in his books.

Media coverage of both Hadrian’s Wall Trust’s demise and Game of Thrones’ rise has sometimes played upon and propagated the notion that the Hadrian’s Wall was manned by shivering Italian legionaries guarding the fringes civilisation – irrespective of the fact that the empire actually trusted the security of the frontier to its non-citizen soldiers, the auxilia rather than to its legionaries. The tendency to overemphasise the Italian aspect reflects confusion about what the Roman Empire and its British frontier was about. But Martin, who made no claims to be speaking as a historian when he spoke of how he took the idea of legionaries from Italy, North Africa, and Greece guarding the Wall as a source of inspiration, did at least get one thing right about the Romano-British frontier.

There were indeed Africans on the Wall during the Roman period. In fact, at times there were probably more North Africans than Italians and Greeks. While all these groups were outnumbered by north-west Europeans, who tend to get discussed more often, the North African community was substantial, and its stories warrant telling.

Birdoswald Roman Fort, Hadrians Wall (8751341028)
Hadrian’s Wall, by Carole Raddato. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the most remarkable tale to survive is an episode in the Historia Augusta (Life of Severus 22) concerning the inspection of the Wall by the emperor Septimius Severus. The emperor, who was himself born in Libya, was confronted by a black soldier, part of the Wall garrison and a noted practical joker. According to the account the notoriously superstitious emperor saw in the soldier’s black skin and his brandishing of a wreath of Cyprus branches, an omen of death. And his mood was not further improved when the soldier shouted the macabre double entendre iam deus esto victor (now victor/conqueror, become a god). For of course properly speaking a Roman emperor should first die before being divinized. The late Nigerian classicist, Lloyd Thompson, made a powerful point about this intriguing passage in his seminal work Romans and Blacks, ‘the whole anecdote attributes to this man a disposition to make fun of the superstitious beliefs about black strangers’. In fact we might go further, and note just how much cultural knowledge and confidence this frontier soldier needed to play the joke – he needed to be aware of Roman funerary practices, superstitions, and the indeed the practice of emperor worship itself.

Why is this illuminating episode not better known? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply uncomfortable about what could be termed Britain’s first ‘racist joke’, or perhaps the problem lies with the source itself, the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta. And yet as a properly forensic reading of this part of the text by Professor Tony Birley has shown, the detail included around the encounter is utterly credible, and we can identify places alluded to in it at the western end of the Wall. So it is quite reasonable to believe that this encounter took place.

Not only this, but according to the restoration of the text preferred by Birley and myself, there is a reference to a third African in this passage. The restoration post Maurum apud vallum missum in Britannia indicates that this episode took place after Severus has granted discharge to a soldier of the Mauri (the term from which ‘Moors’ derives). And has Birley has noted, we know that there was a unit of Moors stationed at Burgh-by-Sands on the Solway at this time.

Birdoswald eastern wall
Hadrian’s Wall, by Midnightblueowl. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, Burgh is one of the least explored forts on Hadrian’s Wall, but some sense of what may one day await an extensive campaign of excavation there comes from Transylvania in Romania, where investigations at the home of another Moorish regiment of the Roman army have revealed a temple dedicated to the gods of their homelands. Perhaps too, evidence of different North African legacies would emerge. The late Vivian Swann, a leading expert in the pottery of the Wall has presented an attractive case that the appearance of new forms of ceramics indicates the introduction of North African cuisine in northern Britain in the second and third centuries AD.

What is clear is that the Mauri of Burgh-by-Sands were not the only North Africans on the Wall. We have an African legionary’s tombstone from Birdoswald, and from the East Coast the glorious funerary stela set up to commemorate Victor, a freedman (former slave) by his former master, a trooper in a Spanish cavalry regiment. Victor’s monument now stands on display in Arbeia Museum at South Shields next to the fine, and rather better known, memorial to the Catuvellunian Regina, freedwoman and wife of Barates from Palmyra in Syria. Together these individuals, and the many other ethnic groups commemorated on the Wall, remind us of just how cosmopolitan the people of Roman frontier society were, and of how a society that stretched from the Solway and the Tyne to the Euphrates was held together.

The post African encounters in Roman Britain appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Diverse Fall Shows We’re Looking Forward to:

This year’s Emmys had an unfortunate lack of diversity. But, never fear! Fall 2014’s TV season is about to start and there are some amazing diverse offerings on the horizon.


Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes’s medical drama returns for its eleventh season.

Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, returns.

Sleepy HollowSleepy Hollow normalizes POC characters as leads in a fantasy-world setting, in which their POC-ness isn’t an “issue” but definitely a part of who they are as characters. It tackles historical issues like slavery head-on (for example, Ichabod’s reaction to Abbie being a cop), and it centers Abbie’s experience as the hero of this tale.

Ultimately, it’s epic and funny and fascinating—it tells a good story.

Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s political thriller, returns with Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.


Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. There are 18.9 million Asian Americans in the US. It’s time to see some positive representation! Fresh off the Boat

The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore will replace Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, follows a middle-class African American family in a mostly-white neighborhood.

Selfie looks fun and funny, a fresh take on My Fair Lady, with a nicely diverse cast across the board.

Cristela, “in her sixth year at law school, is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. However, she’s a lot more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

How to Get Away with MurderHow to Get Away with Murder stars two-time Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, as “the brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating, who gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.””

Jane the Virgin is a retelling of Venezuelan soap-opera Juana la Virgen staring Gina Rodriguez.

Survivor’s Remorse, produced by LeBron James, follows Cam Calloway, a young basketball prodigy who is thrust into the limelight after getting a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team in Atlanta.


Honorable Mentions:

Galavant is about a dashing hero, determined to reclaim his reputation and his “happily ever after” from the evil King Richard. Karen David stars as Isabella. It’s unclear from the previews what role Isabella will ultimately play overall, but Karen David is the top-billed woman in the cast, so we have hopes her character will be important!

Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney

Gotham, WB’s new origin story on Batman and several villains, will have Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Fish Mooney. Zabryna Guevara will star in the role of Sarah Essen.

Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments what diverse shows you’re looking forward to this fall!

Filed under: Diversity, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Race Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, diverse television, diversity, fall 2014, Multiracial, new tv shows, Race issues, television, tv

7 Comments on Diverse Fall Shows We’re Looking Forward to:, last added: 9/5/2014
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4. Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources

The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:

image from BirdIt’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.

From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books and better representation is urgent. Poor representation doesn’t just damage self-esteem and confidence of children of color, it also perpetuates a skewed version of society as a whole. How can true equality ever exist if we are literally not even on the same page? Promoting diverse books is about creating a safer space for all children.

There are no easy ways to teach children about what’s happening in Ferguson, but here are couple links we’ve come across that help illuminate the issues and, perhaps, let us find teachable moments:

The Murder of Sean Bell: From Pain to Poetry

What did you tell your kids after the Zimmerman Verdict?

5 Books to Instill Confidence in African American Children

A Dream Conferred: Seven Ways to Explore Race in the Classroom

10 Resources for Teaching About Racism

America’s Racial Divide, Charted

The Case for Reparations

Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting

We’ll add more links as we find them; meanwhile, please do share your favorites in the comments.

Filed under: Dear Readers, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources Tagged: Ferguson, race, Race issues, racism, teaching about race

2 Comments on Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources, last added: 8/22/2014
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5. Ferguson, Missouri, USA

Faith Rally
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Tactical officers fire tear gas in Ferguson
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
Media preview
(It never was America to me.)
Embedded image permalink
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
Media preview
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Media preview
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
Embedded image permalink
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
Media preview
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Violence again in Ferguson
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Tear gas Fired in Ferguson
The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
Tear gas shot at protesters
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Police Fire Tear Gas, Clear Streets in Ferguson
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

(The words above are from "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes, born in Joplin, Missouri. The pictures  are ones I saw last night on Twitter that particularly stuck with me; a few I discovered this morning. Most were uncredited on Twitter. The ones I do know come from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and are by J.B. Forbes, David Carson, and Robert Cohen.)

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6. Snowpiercer: Total Cinema


Press Play has now posted my new video essay with a brief accompanying text essay about the great new science fiction action movie political parable satire call to revolution Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, a filmmaker I am especially enamored of. (Memories of Murder is easily among my favorite movies of the last 15 years, and back in 2010 I defended Bong's previous film, Mother, from the criticisms of Richard Brody at the New Yorker.)

As a little bit of extra, below the fold here I'll put some thoughts on elements of the remarkable ending of the film...

First, for some information on the background and references of Snowpiercer, see Scott Tafoya's piece at RogerEbert.com, and for a good analysis of the revolutionary ideology of the film, see "Smash the Engine" by Peter Frase at Jacobin.

The audacity I see in the ending of Snowpiercer comes not just from its framing of revolution as something that must smash the logic of the system, but also from the way it shows that system to be not just hierarchical in terms of class, but of also being fundamentally racialized.

First, there is the inescapable fact that most of the people who have been saved from the apocalypse are white and English speaking. Even the people at the back of the train, though more diverse than the people in the front, are predominantly white and English speakers. All of the positions of highest power in the train are positions held by white English speakers, and the ultimate positions of power are held by white men and passed on to white men (Wilford to Curtis).

As Curtis moves closer and closer to the front, the white supremacy becomes obvious. There's the classroom, where the vast majority of students are very white (and often blonde), with a few Asians in there (the pre-apocalypse notion of Asians as educational high achievers is thus replicated in the train), and one black girl (at least that I saw). The overall effect is of lily-whiteness, with a few special people added.

The people at the dance party are almost entirely white.

The people who apparently stepped out of The Great Gatsby are white. 

The women getting their hair styled are white.

It's worth noting, too, how so much of what we see in the front cars evokes the old white world, a world of the 1920s-1950s — an America before the successes of the civil rights movement, of women's liberation struggles, of gay liberation, etc. (The car where everyone is taking drugs evokes even earlier ideas. It's like an opium den, a powerful force in the orientalist imagination of the yellow peril in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a setting with plenty of cinematic history.)

Early in the film, Curtis tells Edgar that once they get to the front of the train, things will be different. "But how different, really?" the film asks at the end. "Know your place!" Mason (Tilda Swinton) tells the rabble. Curtis learns what his place is from Wilford: the place of the white patriarch.

That system cannot be reformed. It will do no good to have somebody else in charge of the engine. The logic of the system must not be reformed, it must be defied and destroyed.

And thus the ending, which stops the train's circular journey and potentially annihilates the last remnants of humanity.

The system is so corrupt, so incapable of reform, that what is known to be left of humans is worth destroying rather than continuing along the same tracks.

If there is to be a future for humanity, it looks like this, the new Adam and Eve:

They might be destroyed by the cold, white world. They might be a meal for the white polar bear. But maybe, somehow, they will survive and discover or create a new world, a world where humans are on a different journey, subject to a different system, not oppressed by the cold, unbearable whiteness.

Bong leaves it to us to imagine their fate.

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7. if we want to see more diversity in literature, we have to buy the books

school library journal graphic

School Library Journal came out with their Diversity Issue a few months ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile since then. Their lead article Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? tells a depressing tale of under-representation of black children in US children’s books (they are the only ethnic group mentioned, I am presuming this goes doubly so for groups with smaller representation in the US) and ends with a call to action for librarians to make sure they are creating a market for these titles to encourage more books by and about all kinds of people.

I grew up in a Free to Be You and Me sort of world where my mother actively selected books for me to read with a wide range of ethnicities represented. I had dolls representing many backgrounds. My mother wrote textbooks where there were strict rules about being inclusive and representative and, living in a small town, I assumed this was the way the rest of the world worked. Not so. Reading this article drove home the point that while I may have been a young person during a rare time of expansion of titles and characters of color, that expansion slowed and the situation is still stagnant even as the US is becoming more diverse than ever. Another article in the Diversity Issue highlights research which indicates that “the inclusion of these cross-group images encourages cross-group play“. Sounds like a good thing. We should be doing more.

2 Comments on if we want to see more diversity in literature, we have to buy the books, last added: 7/20/2014
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8. "America never was America to me"

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
I thought of my favorite Langston Hughes poem, "Let American Be America Again" while reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's extraordinary new essay at The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations" (for which we should just give Coates the Pulitzer right now):
If we conclude that the conditions in North Lawndale and black America are not inexplicable but are instead precisely what you’d expect of a community that for centuries has lived in America’s crosshairs, then what are we to make of the world’s oldest democracy?

One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s rendering has meaning to us. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If Thomas Jefferson’s genius matters, then so does his taking of Sally Hemings’s body. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge.
Read the whole essay. If you're a U.S. citizen, or even not, it's unlikely you'll read anything more important today.

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9. We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

nurture shock 331x500 We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?For my birthday my husband picked me up a copy of the bestselling book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  To be frank, I hadn’t heard of it.  Though its been called “The Freakonomics of child rearing” and lauded by reviewer after reviewer it’s from the world of adult books.  I traipse there but rarely.  Still, I’m great with child (ten days away from the due date, in fact) and this promised to be a fascinating read.  Covering everything from the detrimental effects that come with telling a kid that they’re smart to aggression in the home I settled down and devoured it with pleasure.  In doing so, one chapter in particular caught my eye.  Chapter Three: “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better of or worse?”

Culling several studies together, the book makes the point that while, “Nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75% of the latter never, or almost never, talk about race.”  Studies that required that parents do so with their young children saw white parent after white parent balk at the idea.  There’s this notion out there that children are little innocents and that pointing out race will somehow taint their race blind worldview.  Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.  Anyone who has ever had a kid will know that they like to categorize themselves and their friends into groups.  Race is the easiest way to do so, so from a very early age the children will be prone to “in-group favoritism”.

I thought this through.  My kiddo attends a daycare here in Harlem.  In her Preschool A class she is only one of two children who are not African-American or of mixed race.  It’s a great place and certainly it assuages my white guilt, having my kid in such a diverse environment.  But according to NurtureShock it isn’t enough to just plop your child in what you assume will be a color-blind environment.  As the book says, “We might imagine we’re creating color-blind environments for children, but differences in skin color or hair or weight are like differences in gender – they’re plainly visible.”

And as I read this I realized that I myself have done the exact same balking at race references as mentioned in the book.  I’ve an amazing personal of library of diverse children’s books accumulated through my job and the donations of friends and family members alike from over the years.  My job in giving my child a sense of diversity and multiculturalism is therefore done, right?  Not so much.  Take the case of Busing Brewster by Rich Michelson.  This is a book that years ago appeared on the New York Times Best Illustrated list (whose committee, full disclosure, I served on).  It’s an older picture book, and one that I’d probably recommend for the 4-7-year-old crowd.  Still, it’s a picture book so one day the small Bird picked it up and asked to be read it.  She is, I should point out, two-years-old.  And as I read it to her, I found myself softening the harsh elements.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, in this book two boys are integrated into a new school in the 1960s.  In doing so they face outright racism varying from yelling protestors to bricks thrown through their school bus windows.  Was my two-year-old ready for this?  I figured probably not, but watching myself edit the book for her level turned out to be a strange pastime.  I wasn’t just editing out the hatred but was also failing to explain why the kids were moving to a new school at all.  It was as if I was afraid that mentioning race to her would cause her to say embarrassing things at daycare the next day, something I wanted desperately to avoid.  An understandable reaction, but the right one?  I’m not sure about that at all.

Going back to the book, the more I read the more I realized that if we want parents to have serious discussions about race with their four and five and six-year-olds then we need to have books that help to do this.  So as I read I kept a particular eye out for moments when the authors would mention using literature with kids to drill home various points.  Though they never come out and say that children’s books can be useful in this regard, there are several incidents recounted that name check various books.  One such title is Twas the Night B’Fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Benson Rosales.  Originally published in 1996 the title was criticized for its use of colloquial language.  As the Horn Book Guide said at the time, “Painful dialect (‘The stockin’s was laid / by the chimney wit’ care, / For the chil’ren hoped Santy Claus / soon would be there’) and garish illustrations make this ‘African-American version’ seem more like an unintentional parody of Clement Moore’s 1822 poem. So why isn’t anybody laughing?”  In NurtureShock the book was used to combat children’s stereotypes of whether or not Santa was black or white.  For the same thing, one would probably turn these days to the Rachel Isadora version instead.  Disappointingly the only other time literature is mentioned is when a study is recounted where kids read historical biographies of Jackie Robinson.  Still, one gathers that these were not from books but rather textbooks or printed bios made specifically for the study.

What we can take away from this are the ages at which kids need to learn about race.  At one moment a study was conducted between first graders and third graders.  At the end we read, “The researchers found this worked wonders on the first-grade children.  Having been in the cross-race study groups led to significantly more cross-race play.  But it made no difference on the third-grade children.  It’s possible that by third grade, when parents usually recognize it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.”

With that in mind, I decided I needed to find a booklist that would best help parents frame a discussion of race or other cultural factors with their younger children.  Which was about the time I realized that finding such a list was incredibly difficult.  I’m not saying it doesn’t exist.  I’m sure there must be some out there.  I just couldn’t figure out where they were hiding.  Even lists like SLJ’s recent Culturally Diverse Books list and subsequent Expanded Cultural Diversity booklist place the bulk of importance on books for older children.  Books for younger kids almost never mention race specifically in any context.

So I decided to do what librarians do when they can’t find the resources they need.  I made a book list that people could use to discuss difficult subjects with younger kids.  And to my amazement, it was incredibly hard to create.  Not too long ago I had written a post about Casual Diversity in children’s literature.  Well, apparently Casual Diversity is a very easy concept to put in a book for kids.  In fact, as I’ve gone through list after list of diverse works of children’s literature, what I keep finding is that the tendency is towards just making a character one race or another without discussing what that means (a criticism of “casual diversity” that cropped up at the time of the post itself).

In constructing this list I also tried like the devil to include books that could be used to discuss their individual issues without lapsing into painful didacticism.  No mean feat.  For the most part, books about race or religion or alternative lifestyles will either make the situation seem completely normal (which is good, and which we also need) or they’ll slap some sappy “message” all over the puppy making it essentially useless as a piece of literature.

The final result is below.  If I were to say the ages this was for I’d go with 4-8 or so.  I figured it didn’t make sense to necessarily limit it to race, since discussions of race and alternative lifestyles would also apply.  NurtureShock includes the fascinating fact that a lot of white parents feel perfectly comfortable drilling home the fact that boys and girls are equal, while ignoring the issues of race entirely.  So I’ve eschewed gender equality books (which are fairly prevalent anyway) and limited this to other “differences” a kiddo might pick up on. If you have titles you’d add to this, do let me know what they are.

A Picture Book Reading List for Discussing Race, Religion, and Alternative Lifestyles with the Young

SheSangPromise 500x394 We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader by Jan Godown Annino, illustrated by Lisa Desimini – Finding picture books about Native Americans is hard to begin with.  Now try finding some that actually discuss the prejudices and lives they’ve lead.  I looked through Debbie Reese’s recent list of Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians but was unable to find much of anything for young ages that could discuss the prejudice faced by Native American children (or their trials historically) for the picture book set.  Insofar as I can tell, you have to turn to real world history to get anywhere near that subject.  With that in mind, I decided to go with Annino’s amazing bio of the too little known Betty Mae Jumper, the first female Seminole Tribal Leader.  In the course of this story kids learn about the prejudices not just facing the Seminoles historically but also within their own tribe and towards women nationally.  There are just loads of jumping off discussion points to be plumbed here.

SoccerFence 500x420 We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope, and Apartheid in South Africa by Phil Bildner, ill. Jesse Joshua Watson – Picture books that deal with historical racism tend to be preferred by teachers, and there are reasons for that.  In NurtureShock the study where kids were given different texts on Jackie Robinson ends with this rather fascinating selection: “She notes the bios were explicit, but about historical discrimination. ‘If we’d had them read stories of contemporary discrimination from today’s newspapers, it’s quite possible it would have made the whites defensive, and only made the blacks angry at the whites’.” Hm. Well, certainly finding contemporary picture books about racism towards African-Americans is remarkably difficult.  Sometimes authors find that even setting the books in America can be hard.  Sure you have books like A Taste of Colored Water from time to time (which I have included on this list), but anything recent is eschewed.  So for authors that want to include more recent kids, South Africa has proven ripe for books like Bildner’s here.  Initially this book reminded me of the well meaning but ultimately flawed Desmond and the Very Mean Word: A Story of Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu.  Tutu’s book, however, simplified the issue of race to a watered down non-point.  As NurtureShock says, lots of parents use vague terms like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same” to talk about race.  That’s what Tutu’s book did, even when telling the story of white and black characters.  Bildner’s book isn’t perfect and it verges on the idealistic in terms of different races coming together, but after a couple rereads I came to the decision that ultimately it’s a mighty useful tool.

TasteColoredWater We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner – I remember when this book first came out.  It got starred reviews from places like Kirkus but I wasn’t particularly interested in it.  The premise, as you might be able to tell from the cover, involved two kids who heard the term “colored water” and misinterpreted it literally.  Faulkner (who currently has the graphic novel Gaijin: American Prisoner of War about a mixed-race kid in an internment camp out on shelves) isn’t the kind of author afraid of shying away from a difficult subject.  In many ways this remains his best known work.

BeGoodEddieLee We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia M. Fleming – I dare you to find me a book more recent than this 1997 title that discusses Down Syndrome in such a straightforward context.  Books that discuss kids and disabilities are few and far between.  It got great reviews when it first came out (and Floyd Cooper did the art!).  It also has the guts to have a character who says things like, “God didn’t make mistakes, and Eddie Lee was a mistake if there ever was one.”  Recently publishers have been doing better when it comes to books about autism, but it’s almost as if they think we can only handle one disability at a time.  Publish books on more than one issue?  Insanity!  Only Albert Whitman Books really tries to do quality issues but even they haven’t touched on Down Syndrome.  It’s almost as if it was a big issue in the 80s and 90s and then disappeared from the public conversation.  Now it’s all peanut allergies and ADD.

LaylaHeadScarf We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Layla’s Head Scarf by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Ronald Himler – We get close to didactic here without ever quite tipping over.  Finding good books about contemporary Muslim kids isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy to do.  And books that actually talk about what people wear in school?  Rarities.  This one was very young and did a good job (though, alas, it referred to the head scarf as simply a head scarf and not by the proper term “hijab”).

10000dresses We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray – As it turns out, finding a book about gay parents that actually discusses the issue does not exist.  Or maybe it does and I just missed it entirely.  Instead, what I was able to find were a couple books about boys that wear girls’ clothing.  Long before that atrocious My Princess Boy hit the shelves, Ewert wrote a book where a boy honest-to-goodness identified as a girl.  This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only book I’ve encountered to go the distance in that respect AND it had a story above and beyond its message.

JacobsNewDress We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case – And this is the most recent boys-in-dresses book (though the art of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is quite lovely as well, so check out the Seven Impossible Things posting on Gender-Nonconforming Picture Books if you get a chance). What I really like about this book, though, is how instructional it is to parents.  When Jacob specifies his preferences for dresses his mother and father definitely have to pause and think about how to handle the information but their responses are really quite grand.  Jacob doesn’t identify as a girl, but his desire to wear dresses makes him stand out.  No doubt.

BigRedLollipop We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall – As I mentioned before, Muslim kids in picture books are few and far between.  And for the most part this book is just an example of Casual Diversity rather than any overt lessons.  But skillful parents and teachers could certainly place the book’s story in context.  Talking about immigrants to America and how there are different rules and mores in one country vs. another.  Plus it’s one of my very favorite books of all time and any excuse to post it is good enough for me.

GoinSomeplaceSpecial We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney – To be honest, there are a fair number of historical picture books like this one that discuss historical racism.  I figured I’d put a couple on this list, but one the best may well be McKissack’s here.  Here we have a kid who actually faces racism firsthand.  There’s a reason schools assign this one every single summer for summer reading.  As the Kirkus review put it, “Every plot element contributes to the theme, leaving McKissack’s autobiographical work open to charges of didacticism. But no one can argue with its main themes: segregation is bad, learning and libraries are good.”

busing brewster We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Busing Brewster by Rich Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth – Part of what I like so much about this book is that it’s not just a case of discussing racial differences.  The book’s concentration on busing and integration is an essential part of American history that simply cannot be ignored.  Add in the fact that the white bully in the book is seen getting essentially indoctrinated into his particular brand of racism by his father, and you’ve a darn good book on a difficult subject.  As I mentioned before, reading it to my two-year-old proved difficult, but at the very least I should have given it some historical context.  Next time.

FirstDayGrapes We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez, illustrated by Robert Casilla – I ran into the same problem with Latino characters that I found with Native Americans.  Unless we’re talking about specific historical people who faced challenges, books with Latinos often eschew controversial aspects.  This was one of the very few I could find that talks about contemporary migrant kids.  There are a couple others (Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson comes to mind) but I think I liked this one best.  The didacticism is low-key and the storyline doesn’t exist solely to support the message.  That Pura Belpre Honor on the cover ain’t there for nothing.


FavoriteDaughter We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say – I’m listing these books alphabetically by author but if I were to list them in terms of importance then I might have considered making this one of the first on the list.  I did think about adding My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits and/or The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi to this list but Say’s book is just so much gutsier in so many ways.  Yuriko gets teased in school about her name and hair (she’s blond with Asian features) and faces other examples of prejudice.  Her response is to change her name to “Michelle”, a move that gives her father reason to guide her back to her roots, so to speak.  It’s a book done almost entirely in dialogue (rare in and of itself) and so smart.  You could also add Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley or Yoko by Rosemary Wells to this list of titles too, by the way.

Sneetches1 We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss – Well, why not?  Seuss was the lesson man back before it was cool.  And when I mentioned this post to my husband he pointed out that when we were in school, The Sneetches was the gold standard for talking about prejudice and race.  Sure it’s a great big green starred metaphor, but if we feel like it no longer has a place in our schools then we’re just not paying attention.

SeparateNeverEqual We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh – I first heard Sylvia’s story last year when I reviewed When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis.  As I mentioned before, Latino fictional stories are tricky.  Historical notes are rare, though, and this story is absolutely beautifully done.  The discussion isn’t just of race but shows how skin color really affected people’s prejudices during this time.

IWillComeBackForYou We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids?

I Will Come Back for You by Marisabina Russo – Well, if we’re talking about race then are we also talking about the Holocaust?  It’s a legitimate question.  Marjorie Ingall recently wrote a very smart piece for Tablet Magazine about whether or not young children need to learn about the Holocaust where she name checked this book.  Her post ties in beautifully with the NurtureShock chapter, in that she points out that if you do not provide the lesson for your kids they’re just going to pick it up somewhere else in a form you probably don’t approve of.  This book puts you in the kids’ shoes (and NOT in a concentration camp).  Just good for opening discussions.

Definitely there are books that could fit on this list.  So list ‘em!

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10. and another...

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11. Review: The Grace of Silence

by Michele Norris. Pantheon, 2010. (nook ebook) I am posting about a book for grown ups today. Known as one of the hosts of NPR's All Things Considered, Michele Norris is a journalist who has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. She set out to write about her family after learning, almost by accident, that her father had been shot in the leg by police

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12. Kate Tenbeth is "Unlucky"

My friend, and author, Kate Tenbeth has an exciting new release! Here is the official story from her publisher:

Hello everyone! GMTA Publishing has a new YA novel set to come out on October 1st by Kate Tenbeth! Here's your first look at the amazing cover by UK artist Elizabeth Eisen!

About the book: There are always high stakes to play for in the world of gambling, but it’s a world 15 year-old Holly Maddon knows nothing about until her step-mother tries to kill her. The race is on as she tries to discover what her step-mother is up to and whether her father was murdered. She comes up against gangsters, multi-million pound land deals, treachery and deceit, she’s kidnapped, shot at and loses just about everything she loves – it’s a rollercoaster of a ride and Holly's intent on turning the tables.

About the author: I live in Essex with my son, who is studying at University, and my two cats, Puzzle and Bud. I’ve always loved writing and in January 2011 I got together with some friends and set up a writers’ group at our local library. One of our first guest speakers was a young lady called Penelope Fletcher who talked to us about self-publishing – I was so inspired I went back home, found some stories I’d written for my son when he was young and started the process of learning how to self-publish. I published 3 books in the Burly & Grum series and then in July 2012 was lucky enough to be signed up by GMTA. I’ve enjoyed every single second of my journey so far, learnt an incredible amount and I’m looking forward to the future!

About the artist: Elizabeth Eisen is a 23 year old freelance illustrator from North London. She graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA Hons in Illustration in 2011 and has since worked on commissions ranging from album artwork to editorial. Further examples of her work can be found at www.elizabetheisenillustration.co.uk

Get Unlucky Dip by Kate Tenbeth today! 
ONLY $3.99 on Amazon Kindle 
(FREE to Prime users)

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13. Happy 4th of July!

The Fourth of July is a big event in a former hometown of mine, Seward Alaska. Every year, the little town of approx 3000 expands to approx. 30,000 to celebrate this holiday. The main reason for this is the annual running of one of America’s oldest footraces, The Mount Marathon Race®.

Mount Marathon Seward Alaska

Mount Marathon Seward Alaska ©2012 Patricia Foldager

Runners from all over the world participate in the running up and down of the 3022 foot mountain. As a former racer, I can tell you that it is one of the most exhilarating things I have experienced in my life.

Here is a map I did of Seward for They Draw & Travel:

They Draw And Travel Seward AK

Good luck to my sister, brother-in-law, twin nieces, and friends as the race this year! Be safe and have a happy 4th!

*Note* for those that would like to view the race via livestream check out Ktuu.com’s site for full coverage of the race which starts at 930 am Alaska time, July 4th. To learn more about the Mount Marathon race, visit the Seward.com website.

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14. Mo-metheus

I had no intention of ever writing anything ever again whatsoever about Prometheus, or even mentioning the movie ever again in my life, but I just read two great pieces about it, so can't resist sending attention to them. (One links to the other, in fact.)

First, Elaine Costello's amazingly rich, provocative, nuanced, thoughtful, beautiful stream-of-theoryness wonderings about the film — about its economies and genders and races and religions, its unsaid saids and said unsaids. ("...which reminded me that the spaceship is a military-industrial [and so imperial-colonial] apparatus...") Here's just a tiny taste of an extraordinary tapestry:
What I wonder about is this: if David really can be read as an anti-colonial and anti-corporate saboteur, why does this progressive message, this transgressive messenger, still have to wear the most Aryan body imaginable? I’m aware that casting an actor of color as the android character would have made the slippages that David animates, between subordinate-saboteur, product-producer, and particularly colonial-colonized, perhaps more difficult to represent. (Though not necessarily; you can have Idris Elba imitating Peter O’Toole, why not? I would have watched the hell out of that, actually, can you imagine how fucked up and interesting that would be, the commentaries you could make on the reversal of racial drag, etc.) What I’m trying to say is that it is still impossible for mainstream Hollywood film to imagine a person of color in a role as potentially complex and subversive as David’s. A character of color who could be plotting to destroy the imperial-corporate complex he was created within, and is forced to work for? That would be too radical. Which is to say, that would be too real.

Idris Elba once said himself, “Imagine a film such as Inception with an entire cast of black people – do you think it would be successful? Would people watch it? But no one questions the fact that everyone’s white. That’s what we have to change.”
Subashini at The Blog of Disquiet picks up on some of Costello's ideas, and others, offering particularly interesting interpretations of the movie's use of body horror, its apparent nihilism, and Idris Elba as the One Black Dude:
I do think that having acrimonious feelings towards the film is the actual point—the film seems to be a stand-in for a certain segment of humanity and its imperialist, ruinous ambitions, though like most films coming out of Hollywood this seems to coexist with its appreciation of capital, technology, and involuntary/reproductive labour. That in itself doesn’t make it inherently unlikeable, not at all. But as Susan Sontag wrote in “The Imagination of Disaster,” “Science fiction films invite a dispassionate, aesthetic view of destruction and violence—a technological view,” and perhaps it’s the nihilist technological determinism of Prometheus that is inherently unsettling. Perhaps it’s this utter lack of meaning in the movie that is its meaning, and consequently the source of my loathing. Maybe a part of me just wants machines and people to get along? I’m not sure.
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15. Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

A black boy was shot dead in Florida.

His killer is known, but the police refused to arrest him.

The police said they had no probable cause to arrest the killer, who claimed self-defense.

The killer was a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. He saw a black boy walking in the rain. He called 911. The dispatcher told him not to follow the boy. But he did. He approached him. They wrestled. Witnesses called 911.

Trayvon Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

A black boy was shot dead in Florida. His killer walks free.

More information:

1 Comments on Trayvon Martin (1995-2012), last added: 3/19/2012
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16. Review: Chocolate Me

ChocolateMe Cover 244x300 Review: Chocolate MeChocolate Me by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Review by Chris Singer

About the author:

Taye Diggs is an actor whose credits include motion pictures (How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Chicago), stage (RentWicked), and television (Private Practice). He lives in Los Angeles and New York City with his wife, the actress Idina Menzel, and their son.

About the illustrator:

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of numerous award-winning books for children, including Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson, and Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. He lives with his wife and daughter in Kansas City, Missouri.

About the book:

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

For years before they both achieved acclaim in their respective professions, good friends Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans wanted to collaborate on Chocolate Me!, a book based on experiences of feeling different and trying to fit in as kids. Now, both men are fathers and see more than ever the need for a picture book that encourages all people, especially kids, to love themselves.

My take on the book:

I love the title and cover art of this enduring children’s book. To me, “Chocolate Me” and the boy’s open arms grabs your attention immediately and invites you to dive right in. The illustrations are fantastic and the story involves an important message both kids and parents can relate to.

I give a lot of credit to Taye Diggs for writing this book. As I learned when I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Taye, this was obviously based on some deeply personal experiences. While I got caught up a few times in some awkward wording in the story, I still enjoyed the creative and compassionate manner in which the story was shared.

All in all, a nice book for parents, teachers and librarians looking for a story with a worthwhile message to share with children and their families.


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17. Alternate History

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Ron Paul's insistence that "compensated emancipation" would have prevented the Civil War:
We are united in our hatred of war and our abhorrence of violence. But a hatred of war is not enough, and when employed to conjure away history, it is a cynical vanity which posits that one is, somehow, in possession of a prophetic insight and supernatural morality which evaded our forefathers. It is all fine to speak of how history "should have been." It takes something more to ask why it wasn't, and then to confront what it actually was. 
For more, see his first post in this series.

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18. Suffrage and Race

Over at Daily Kos, Denise Oliver Velez has posted a helpful overview of the complex history of civil rights struggles in the U.S., particularly the 19th century.

Just as the abolition movement spawned a struggle for women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement was the impetus for both second wave feminism and LGBT rights, the historical role of black women in the context of the suffrage movement is a key to understanding the founding of black women's clubs, sororities and political organizations. That history also explains the roots of the racial contradictions of second and third wave feminism and the development of black feminism.
She goes on to discuss the rift between Frederick Douglass and some of the most prominent white women's suffrage activists after black men were enfranchised, as well as some of the later conflicts and complexities -- a history that had some eerie resonances during the 2008 election (for a good account of which, see Rebecca Traister's Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women [a book far better than its hyperbolic subtitle might suggest]).

I was particularly interested to discover, via Velez, a review by Rebecca Edwards of the PBS documentary Not for Ourselves Alone in The Journal for Multimedia History. In the Feminism in America course that I sometimes teach, I use a few of the resources and documents from the program's website, but not the documentary itself because of exactly the limitations Edwards points to -- the oversimplification of complex and contradictory historical figures. The history is more interesting than Not for Ourselves Alone shows.

Over the past couple of decades, a lot of good work has been done to add complexity and nuance to our view of the struggle for suffrage. I'm particularly fond not only of the book Velez draws a lot of information from, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote by Roselyn Terborg-Penn, but also such books as White Women's Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States by Louise Michele Newman (pretty academic and bit tough going at times, but worth the effort -- I don't know of another book that shows the connections between racism and imperialism in the suffrage struggle so well), Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves by Deborah Gray White (among other virtues, this provides plenty of challenge to the naive view that black women somehow all have the same opinions about everything), Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull by Barbara Goldsmith (spiritualism, free love, utopia, drugs, internecine struggles -- this book has it all!), Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings (a comprehensive biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, which is to say: a really fascinating book), and 1 Comments on Suffrage and Race, last added: 8/23/2011
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19. 'Whip My Hair': A Rally Cry For The Next Generation?

It's been a big month for black hair. Last week, "Sesame Street" debuted a new song encouraging black girls to love what they've got on top, whether it's up, down, in cornrows, dreadlocked or completely natural. (The story behind the writer's... Read the rest of this post

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20. Cleopatra’s True Racial Background (and Does it Really Matter?)

By Duane W. Roller

Racial profiling and manipulation have been around for a very long time. It has become an issue in contemporary politics, and over 2500 years ago the Greek historian Herodotos wrote that ethnicity was regularly turned to political ends. Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt and a woman of great ability, is often a victim of racial profiling, as today people can be more interested in her racial background than her many accomplishments. Such concerns have recently come to the forefront with the announcement that in at least one of the several Cleopatra movies currently planned, a white (instead of black) actress would play the role of the queen. It is hard to imagine that race would be more important than acting ability, but clearly others disagree.

It has been suggested – although generally not by credible scholarly sources – that Cleopatra was racially black African. To be blunt, there is absolutely no evidence for this, yet it is one of those issues that seems to take on a life of its own despite all indication to the contrary. What follows lays out the evidence for Cleopatra’s racial ancestry, but one must not forget that this is of little importance in assessing the legacy of the queen in world history.

Let us consider exactly the evidence for Cleopatra’s racial background. It’s a little complicated, so do follow closely! She was born in early 69 BC as the descendant of a line of Egyptian kings in a dynasty that went back 250 years. Her ancestor Ptolemy I, a companion of Alexander the Great, founded the dynasty in the late fourth century BC. Ptolemy was Macedonian Greek in origin (he grew up at the royal court of Alexander’s father in Macedonia, the northern part of the Greek peninsula), and established himself as king of Egypt in the convulsive years after Alexander’s death. The descent passed through six successor Ptolemies until it reached Cleopatra’s father. So Cleopatra was no more than eight generations away from being pure Macedonian Greek.

But what about the mothers? Women are always difficult to find, even in royal dynasties, and it is here that questions of her racial background have been raised. For the first six generations the wives of the ruling Ptolemies also came from the same Macedonian background as their husbands. So until the time of Cleopatra’s great-grandfather, the ethnic makeup of the dynasty was still pure Macedonian Greek. In fact two of her ancestors married their sisters, thus reinforcing the Macedonian ethnicity.

It is with Cleopatra’s grandfather that uncertainties develop. Although he had two wives of traditional Macedonian background, he seems to have had at least one concubine of uncertain origin, who may have been Cleopatra’s grandmother. But this is by no means clear, and some sources indicate she was her husband’s sister, and thus pure Macedonian.

Assuming, however, that Cleopatra’s grandmother was not from the traditional Macedonian Greek stem, the question arises as to just what she was. Sources suggest that if she was not Macedonian, she was probably Egyptian. So by the time of Cleopatra’s grandparents, there may have been an Egyptian element in the racial stem.

Cleopatra’s father also had several wives. One was his sister, but again there is evidence that some of his five children had another mother. Yet the geographer Strabo (one of the few contemporary sources for the life of Cleopatra) wrote that all the wives of her father were women of significant status, which rules out any slaves or concubines, and makes it possible that Cleopatra’s mother was of the traditional Macedonian Greek stock. But this may not have been the case, so

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21. Ypulse Essentials: 'Glee' Goes To The Super Bowl, 'Jersey Shore' Spinoffs, Multiracial Youth

"Glee" star Matthew Morrison's (debut album gets a thumbs up from his costars, who compare his musical style to Justin Timberlake's. Fox is planning heavy "Glee" promotion during the Super Bowl, with Lea Michele performing at the game and a new... Read the rest of this post

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22. Explaining membership in the British National Party

By Michael Biggs and Steven Knauss

The BNP’s membership list was leaked in November 2008 by a disgruntled activist who had been expelled late in 2007; he has since admitted responsibility and been convicted. The BNP never challenged the list’s authenticity, merely stating that it was out of date. The list is apparently a complete record of membership at November–December 2007. Of the 13,009 individuals listed, 30 were missing a current address, 138 had a foreign address, and 41 lived in Northern Ireland. Of the remaining members, 12,536 (97.9 per cent) can be precisely located in Britain using the postcode field of their address (Office of National Statistics, 2004, 2008). Postcodes provide exceptionally fine resolution, down to the street level.

The distribution of members diverges significantly from the distribution of voters.  The correlation of votes with membership, across the 628 constituencies in Britain, is surprisingly modest (r ¼ 0.46). The party contested only one in five seats, but the correlation is scarcely higher in those alone. Voting also gives a misleading impression of the national distribution of the party’s support. Wales and Scotland provide over three times the proportion of members compared with voters.

Members must be matched with a population denominator. Data come from the 2001 Census, conducted in April. The great majority of members on the leaked list had joined since this date, as the BNP had 2,173 members in November 2001 (Copsey, 2008: 137). The BNP recruited only ‘indigenous Caucasian’ people (Copsey, 2008: 238). We count adults who defined their ethnicity as ‘White British’, including ‘White Scottish’. The proportion of white British adults belonging to the BNP was 0.032 per cent across Britain.

For statistical analysis, we use the finest geographical unit defined by the Census, the ‘output area’. This is a very small neighbourhood; the median covers an area of 6 hectares and contains 280 people. There are 218,038 neighbourhoods (as they will be termed) in Britain: the BNP was present in 10,165 (4.7 per cent) of them. Most of those had a single member; 11 was the maximum. The highest proportion was 5.7 per cent.

We begin with independent variables capturing economic insecurity. These are measured ecologically, as the fraction of people in the neighbourhood with a particular characteristic, though they are proxies for individual characteristics predicting support for the BNP. Education is divided into three categories: no qualifications, qualifications below university degree, and degree (denominated by people aged 16–74 years). Class is divided into five categories, from routine and semi-routine to managerial and professional (denominated by occupied population). The unemployment rate is also measured (denominated by the economically active). Alongside these sociological staples, housing is included because the BNP promotes the myth that foreigners are given privileged access to public housing. Housing tenure is divided into three categories: owned or mortgaged, rented from the local authority, and private rental (including other arrangements). Overcrowding, as defined by the Census, is also measured. (In both cases the denominator is households.) We expect, then, that white British adults are more likely to belong to the BNP in neighbourhoods with lower education, lower social class, higher unemployment, more private renting, and greater overcrowding. Control variables are entered to reflect findings that BNP voters are disproportionately male and middle aged (Ford and Goodwin, 2010; Cutts et al., 2011). Additional controls are population density and the proportion of people living in communal establishments like prisons.

For Hypotheses 1–3, we defin

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23. IF: Beginner

These little guys are about to take their first solo flight.

I will be inking it for my weekly coloring page and then adding color to add it to my portfolio. So it's also what I'm working on.

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24. A Stranger Comes to Town...

Via Tempest Bradford I read the call for stories for a proposed anthology called Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations. The title and description are utterly screaming out for submissions filled with casual, ignorant, and textually-inherited exoticization and racism.

The "lost race / lost civilization / lost world" story derives from an imperialist history and view of the world, but at its most benign it's a version of the old "a stranger comes to town" story, with the stranger as the explorer and the town as the "lost" place. ("Lost" only to the stranger; to the inhabitants, it's been there all along and this "lost" talk is very odd, though maybe helpful if you're seeking to build a tourist industry.)

On Twitter, Cheryl Morgan wonderfully suggested, "What you need is an anthology full of brown people discovering the lost society of the USA. Gods of Mt. Rushmore?" David Moles said he'd already written that story with one of his Irrational Histories: "9th baktun, 9th katun, 2nd tun (AD 615)". I piped in suggesting Zakes Mda's Cion, a marvelous book about a South African who comes to the U.S. in 2004 and discovers it to be full of strange rituals and bizarre, fascinating people.

And then I thought of a few more such stories, and came up with a potential and vastly incomplete reading list for potential contributors to Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, should they desire to try to avoid unfortunate implications in their stories. So, in addition to David's story and to Cion, I would suggest...

Lists can get overwhelming, so I'll stop there, with five books of fiction and five of nonfiction. Any one of those books would be informative for somebody trying to write about strangers and towns, I think, and a few of them together might create some interesting resonances.

I'm pretty ignorant of Asian fiction and histories, so that's an obvious lack in the list.

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25. Sister Mischief @lauragoode - Review

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
Publication date: 12 July 2011 by Candlewick Press
ISBN 10/13: 0763646407 | 9780763646400

Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover (Also available on Kindle)
Keywords: Hip hop, GLBT, suburbia

Alethea's review:

I can't do a better blurb than the one that's already on the jacket, so here it is, from goodreads.com:

A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.
Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.
I cried about 6 times in 360 pages, and I laughed about 30 times or more. Esme's voice is so vivid that I felt every twinge of hurt and every sweet burst of joy she experienced. I loved that she's a booklover, and a biker, and a writer. I loved the way she thinks! Though I have to admit, at times some of the lyrics sounded weak to me (this, from a brain mostly hardwired more for showtunes than hip-hop--I'm no expert, is what I'm saying) they got progressively stronger throughout the book. And anything I might have found lacking in the lyrics, the prose made up for in spades.

This novel struck me as vastly educational: I loved how Goode worked in not just poetry and music theory (and the history of hip hop, of course) but also religion, law, ethics, gender/race issues--even chemistry. The author clearly loves language, as do the mischievous sisters. They speak and sing in praise of intelligence, creativity, courage, freedom, and love. Think Sister Act 2, set in the suburbs but easy on the cheese and with a little more Lauryn Hill.

One of the other things I like about this book is how there's no outright villain (ok, Ma

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