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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Bens Place of the Week, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 95
1. 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

1 Comments on Review: The Grace of Silence, last added: 2/6/2013
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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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.
2 Comments on Mo-metheus, last added: 6/25/2012
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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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.

2 Comments on A Stranger Comes to Town..., last added: 6/26/2011
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8. 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

4 Comments on Sister Mischief @lauragoode - Review, last added: 7/20/2011
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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. Magic Under Cover

Yesterday, I reviewed Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore.

I made the deliberate decision not to talk covers, and to focus only on the text of the book. Which I really enjoyed, by the way! I loved how personal a story it was against a backdrop of bigger political issues.

But, to not talk about the Magic Under Glass cover could be seen as ignoring it.

So, if you don't known what I'm talking about and want a recap, or if you do know what I'm talking about and want a deeper look at the situation, read The Book Smuggler's essay on whitewashing covers, if you haven't already. Great stuff, including a look beyond YA.

And? I'm not sure I would have noticed that the original cover model did not match the physical description of the heroine. Maybe I would have, maybe not. I'm stating what is -- not right, not wrong. We can discuss over wine and cheese the many factors that would go into my not noticing: not paying attention to the cover after I'd begun reading. How many times the author mentions Nim's color. How quickly I read. That I'm white. Or, the factors that would have gone into my noticing. My finishing the book and sitting back and wondering if the cover "worked." How many times the author mentions Nim's color. How carefully I read. That I'm white. A combination of all or none of these. And none of this matters, really.

To me what matters is not whether or not I would have noticed the cover discrepancy on my own. Or, even, what I think about covers in general.

What matters is that enough people are saying that what is on the cover matters to them, as a reader. That this was noticed, spoken about, changed. And, that it makes me more aware than I may have been to notice it the next time.

I've read several times the idea that "covers don't matter to me," said in the sense of "I would pick up a book with a person of color on it, it's the publisher's fault." No issue this big is ever one person's responsibility, one person's fault. I have to agree with much of what Ari says about this (whose eloquence and patience on this subject is all over the blogosphere, but check out the Book Smuggler's essay for her words). Covers do matter; people do notice; it does impact them. And to say "but it doesn't impact me" does not change the fact that another person is telling you it impacts them. And if it impacts one person -- in this case, Ari -- there are hundreds and thousands more Aris who aren't online, aren't advocating, aren't speaking out in this forum.

I like to match numbers with beliefs. So I turned that on myself. In other words, it's not enough for me to say and believe "but I do read books by/about people of color." What does the blog show? Now, my blog is a bit hard to judge in the sense that I did not blog any 2008 titles and didn't really get back into reviewing titles until April. So, my numbers are a bit skewed. Also, in counting posts I totally ignored my posts about race and books and covers when looking to see what I had actually blogged about as opposed to what I thought I had blogged about.

Looking at my numbers from the twelve months of 2009, on average, my reviews of books by/about people of color was two a month. Since at times I reviewed as little as one a month, or as many as 18, that is good or bad or neither. I don't think there are magic numbers of how many titles a person "should" read. But I think it's a valid question to wonder, what does what I review say about me? Does what I review meet the goals I have set for myself? Does what I review meet my audience needs and wants? (For those who just review online as a purely personal matter, this doesn't matter so much. Though you all know that I think that once that purely personal

7 Comments on Magic Under Cover, last added: 3/7/2010
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14. Kane Chronicles 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

I got a Greek-God-lovin' kick out of Rick Riordan's first series for kids, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and so I was pretty amped to pick up the first book in The Kane Chronicles, Riordan's new series. This time, Riordan places his focus on Egyptian mythology, which is awesome, since not only am I interested in it, but I get requests from kids all the time for books about it, and I can usually only pass them The Egypt Game (which is awesome!) but does not really sate the want for action.
But, good gods, does The Red Pyramid have action. So much action, in fact, that sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed by the explosions and underwhelmed by the characters who, of course, have learned that they have the power of gods within themselves. Being that the conceit of this novel is inherantly more complicated (the Egyptian notion of divinity is a bit more complicated than the Olympian) there was a lot of expository dialogue in which things are explained. Which was probably a necessary evil. As intrepid kid reviewer Clare pointed out, it's hard to introduce people to a whole new spectrum of Gods and monsters without being a bit expository, and she's totally right. There was a lot to take in here. But even with that in mind, I felt myself rolling my eyes during some of the more didactic passages, which to be fair, were NEVER boring. Ever. And I must admit, I did rather like the talking baboon.
I wonder, though, if perhaps Riordan bit off a weency bit more than he could chew when he decided to make his lead characters mixed-race. Being hapa myself, this is always something of great interest to me, and so I am a bit more critical of any material covering this topic than the casual reader. But I felt like the way in which Riordan calls attention to race felt neither organic nor necessary. The way that the characters discuss their race in their interior monologues felt a bit belaboured, and I couldn't help but wonder if Riordan was forcing himself to try and reach another demographic.
But none of these things that I've griped about here will stop me from recommending this book. It's an awesome primer for Egyptian mythology, just the way Percy was for the Greek pantheon. It's got enough action to keep even the most reluctant reader involved. It's got enough tough female characters to make Tamora Pierce proud. It's got enough pithy dialogue to keep the chuckles coming as fast as the explosions. It's got everything it needs to go blow for blow with Percy. Which I hope it does. A sly mention of the "other Gods" that live in Manhattan tells me this is happening in the same universe as the previous series. Battle of the Gods, anyone?

3 Comments on Kane Chronicles 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, last added: 5/20/2010
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15. The Tortoise and the Hare

I ran a race less than two weeks ago and it was one of our hottest days yet. The race was only a 5k (3.1 miles) and I have run this distance many times before, but I'm coming off physical therapy for an injury and my asthma has been acting up. So, my expectations for the race were to finish and finish alive. Actually, that's my expectation for all my races including the half-marathon.

I try to keep a consistent pace on my runs, adjusting for heat and asthma symptoms, but for the most part I'm a fairly steady runner, if a bit slow. Well, on the day of the race, there were a number of folks - old, young, in-between - who did the walk/run method. I've done this myself in the past but what caught my attention were the young women, much younger than me, who would sprint out then fizzle and walk and then would see me run past them so they'd sprint out again, fizzle and we would do this again and again. Guess they didn't want an old lady passing them. I did finish the race before several of them which probably surprised them. I usually do better or as well as the sprint/walk folks.

I also try not to compete with others while I'm running the race because as I push myself I don't listen to my body and my asthma tends to flare up and get the better of me. That's what happened at the end of the race. A woman about my age had passed me and then maintained a short distance in front of me for most of the race. Then just after mile 2 she stopped and then walked. about 1/2 mile from the finish line she caught up with me and paced herself off of me. Well, that's when I got a little competitive and picked up my pace. Not far from the finish line my asthma flared up and I reached for my inhaler while continuing to run, albeit at a slower pace. I fumbled with the darn thing, almost dropped it, finally took a whiff and resumed a faster pace. She came in seconds before me. I didn't see her bib number so I don't know if she was in my exact age group or not. Like most races, this one allowed for age group placing.

There was also a 10 mile race at the same time - yes 10 miles. I've run this distance before as well but I just knew I couldn't handle that yet. One of my VFW buddies ran that distance so I waited for him so I could cheer him on. While I was standing on the sidelines I heard the race officials annoucing the 5k results and low and behold I placed third for my age group. Understand that while I do okay given all my special circumstances, this is the first time I've actually placed in a race. I had mixed feelings because it was also one of my worst times ever.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, I've noticed over the years that there are lots of folks who think that writing a book is easy and that once they complete it, they will be able to sell it and make a whole bunch of money. They're like the sprint/walkers I saw on this race. My impression was that many of them didn't truly prepare for the race and thought just because they were young and slim, they would do great. The writing analogy is that just because you have a great idea or a cool visual image in your head, doesn't mean you're prepared for all the hard work and challenges of actually completing and selling a written product, especially fiction.

Well, writing like running, takes preparation, training, perseverance and so many other qualities that come with committment to the event. Back to the literary analogy above, sometimes slow and steady really is a better way to go.

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16. Reflected Faces

Want to read something awesome?

Click over to Reflected Faces by Tanita S. Davis at Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College of Fine Arts journal of the arts.

Davis writes about the "very distorted mirror in which I saw myself as a young adult", where African Americans appeared in history books as victim and never in literature.

While noting that today's classroom is (hopefully!) different, "Present day high school students don’t face quite this same disadvantage. The multicultural landscape has flowered, and varicultured characters have flowed into the mainstream. Young adult fiction has benefited from this largess in the form of characters who have charmed, disgusted, amused, and informed us, and widened our reading world. And yet…. Yet, it still seems as if young people with brown skin are acceptable to ignore, at least in the marketing departments where the Powers That Be have determined that Brown doesn’t equal Buy."

And Davis concludes: "We must discard the assumption that the presence of a minority on a book will confront YA’s with “issues” which they find boring, unpleasant and inconvenient. We must abandon the idea of a “minority issue” as something trivial and strange that has nothing to do with them—or us. Worlds overlap; a true mirror reflects a humanity which shares a commonality of experience regardless of color."

I include so much in case, well, you don't click through. But you really should.

I want to shout: brown on the cover does not mean "minority" issue and does not mean "other." A TRUE MIRROR REFLECTS A HUMANITY WHICH SHARES A COMMONALITY OF EXPERIENCE.

For librarians with communities with brown faces, it's easy: have books which offer that mirror.

For librarians with communities that are white faces, it's easy: realizing that books with brown faces on the cover also offer a mirror.

And for readers.... I say the same thing. Do not assume that minority = issue = boring = nothing to do with me. You know what? I say it's OK if you do think that because we are the sum of our lives and I don't think shaming ("you're WRONG") ever works. What I hope is for the reader to catch themselves as they think that ("oh, THAT'S what they meant by assumptions") and pick up the book they almost passed by and read it. What IS wrong is to continue to have that assumption; to read Davis's essay (and other essays) and to not recognize that assumption is being made.

Disclaimer: I've never met Davis in real life; we are friends online. I am thankful for this essay because it's eloquent; but also because it introduced me to Hunger Mountain which I've never read before.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

1 Comments on Reflected Faces, last added: 6/11/2010
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17. Writing about race for kids

Back in January, bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle and I had a conversation about white privelege and issues of race in children's publishing and children's literature, two topics that had been much on our minds.

Elizabeth kept pondering and talking to people in the industry and has now published a post called "The Elephant in the Room," complete with illustrations by a bunch of artists.

I hope you all read the article and check out the links.

After you do, come back here so we can continue the discussion. What do you think of what she said?

In a similar vein, a children's literature scholar recently reviewed CHAINS. In the review (which was positive) she said she found some anachronisms, which made my heart stop. I wrote and asked her what they were. She graciously responded; she had not found true anachronisms, but was unsure about the historical validity of some of the choices I made. I wrote back and explained my sources.

The original review and short discussion thread are a great example of how authors, reviewers, and readers can connect to discuss story in a constructive way. I was honored to see that Debbie Reese was following the discussion. (Be sure to check out her blog if you haven't yet.) If you have any thoughts on that, I'd love them, too!

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18. One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Last time I had a book in hand on the train to ALA, it was Grace Lin's Where The Mountain Meets the Moon.  This time I took along One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and was pleased as punch when I closed the book upon arriving at Union Station.

Delphine is trying to keep her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern calm as they jet through turbulence on the way to go meet their mother Cecile in California.  Delphine has an inkling of the turbulence she and her sisters may be in for once they get to Oakland.  She has vague memories of being with Cecile in their kitchen in Brooklyn while she wrote on the walls and muttered to herself.  She also knows that Cecile left soon after Fern was born.  After that, Big Ma moved from down South to Brooklyn and took up right where their mom left off.

Now the girls are about to spend their summer with Cecile, just because Daddy says it's time.  Cecile didn't send for them, or ask about them, but they are coming anyway.  When they finally land, the stewardess hands them off to Cecile -- a strange woman in a pair of man's pants, gigantic sunglasses and a scarf.  Not one for affection, she tells them to follow her and strides off.  After a commute that involves a particular taxi and a bus ride, the girls enter into Cecile's house.  It's more than the girls thought it would be based on all of the talking that Big Ma had been doing.

But it's not quite homey.  The girls are banished from the kitchen, and are told to head to the back bedroom that they would all be sharing.  There's no food in the house, no television, and it becomes obvious quite quickly, that the girls won't be depending on Cecile for any entertainment this summer!

The morning after they arrive, Cecile directs Delphine and her sisters to the People's Center to get some breakfast.  She tells them that it will be easy to find.  After all it's "black folks in black clothes rapping revolution and a line of hungry black kids." (p. 57)

This sets the stage for the slow reveal.  The story is one of family, of politics, of race and friendship.  Williams-Garcia has seemingly effortlessly woven in the feel of the time period (1968), and allowed a window into Oakland and the reality of the Black Panther movement; whether it be senseless arrests or educating children.  There are enough jumping off points to bring on a study of the time period, but the story never veers into message territory.  Delphine is the epitome of the 11 year old.  She's a responsible first born who is trying to figure her mother out, while finding her own self at the same time.

I was amazed upon finding the reality of Cecile's existence.  All of the characters in this book are multifaceted, and remind the reader to look a little deeper.

A must read.

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19. Booklights, and a Question of Race in Reviews

Today I’m sharing thirteen of my favorite picture books about summer over at PBS Booklights. I worked hard to make a list that showed the many different ways that kids enjoy summer, even though I found I could easily find that many books on the beach alone. As a beach lover, I worked against instinct to include only two, maybe three choices that covered the shore. Maybe the next list will be all beach books.

I also worked to incorporate diversity into the list. I had a number of books in mind that featured children of color, and at the same time I still wanted to show a variety of summer settings. I did come across an issue that I’d like to put up for discussion. With a one-sentence summary to work with, should every book that features a child of color be identified as such? On the one hand, I’d like to make sure that people know that there are books showing African American children. On the other hand, I don’t label all the other books as featuring Caucasian children. What makes sense to you?

In one book, I reference the Spanish words in the text, which fairly implies a Hispanic family. Another book shows a visit to India, which establishes a multicultural title. But I handled the three books about African American children differently and without knowing which is most correct. In one book, Come On, Rain! I didn’t mention it at all other than that it was an urban setting. In Think Cool Thoughts, I didn’t mention race, but I did include a picture of the cover. In Summer Sun Risin’, I did say that it was an African American family because I felt like people might not expect that in a book about a farm.

So my question to you is how do you think race should be addressed in a quick review?

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

7 Comments on Booklights, and a Question of Race in Reviews, last added: 7/12/2010
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20. Race

What’s the last race you went to?

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21. One Crazy Summer

One Crazy SummerOne Crazy Summer Rita Williams-Garcia

This one's already received a lot of well-deserved hype. In 1968, Delphine's father sends her and her sisters from their home in Brooklyn to Oakland, to spend the summer with the mother that walked out on them. Everyone says Cecile was crazy. Delphine remembers the words and poetry she used to draw all over the walls of their apartment before she left. Now Cecile has a printing press in her kitchen and won't let the girls in. Cecile's changed her name to Nzila. Cecile doesn't make a secret about the fact she doesn't want her daughters there. The girls are forced to spend all day at the summer camp that Cecile's friends, the Black Panthers, run.

While Delphine's grandmother worries the girls will make themselves a Grand Negro Spectacle, the camp shows Delphine a very different side to the stories she's seen on the evening news.

But, while this is a story of the Panthers and of Delphine's changing race consciousness, it's also a story of a girl who's tried to take care of her younger sisters way too long, trying to make sense of why her mother left and what she has become. It's a story of three sisters and their changing relationship. It's a story about poetry and family and finding a new community.

Such a beautiful story that was better than the hype made it out to be. I'll add my voice to those who like to mention this book and Newbery in the same sentence.

Book Provided by... my local library

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22. Black Youth, the Tea Party, & American Politics

Yesterday, Cathy Cohen published an article with the Washington Post titled, Another Tea Party, led by black youth?” In it, she shares,

In my own representative national survey, I found that only 42 percent of black youth 18-25 felt like “a full and equal citizen in this country with all the rights and protections that other people have,” compared to a majority (66%) of young whites. Sadly, young Latinos felt similarly disconnected with only 43 percent believing themselves to be full and equal citizens.

In the video below, Cohen further  discusses the involvement of black youth in American politics.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Posted with permission. (c) 2010 University of Chicago

Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics and co-editor of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader. Her most recent book is Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics.

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23. '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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24. 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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25. 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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