Watson And Holmes by Karl Bollers and Rick Leonardi

Two black men stand in a dark alley, on the left a short haired man holds a gun, beside him a long haired man in a hat and suit coat rests his hands casually in his pockets

I picked up issue one of Karl Bollers and Rick Leonardi’s Watson And Holmes at Comixology. Karl Bollers was new to me. I’d try another book by him but I don’t think I’ll be back for more of Watson And Holmes. There was a lot I liked about the issue. Watson is reimagined not as an experienced doctor but as a younger man. He’s still a veteran and a medic but this Watson is younger, more agile. I liked the visual concept of Watson, who had almost a Richard Roundtree feel to his presentation. We meet Watson on a challenging night, the sort of night where not everyone can be saved and you’re not even sure why they had to be. It’s an evening in the ER that could break a man. A black man in scrubs takes a moment in a busy ER before being called to the next patient.

Holmes arrives in a true Sherlock fashion. He’s slightly impatient with the lack of insight others provide. What keeps me from moving forward with this series is how much Holmes reminded me of Willy Wonka. This Holmes isn’t weary or tired by the idiocy of others, he’s energized. He leaves clues for Watson to puzzle out and waits to act until Watson is well snared. I didn’t emotionally connect to Holmes. The guy is basically in a Miami Vice suit and a fedora on the cover. In the pages, he’s wearing a suit and vest combo with a professor plaid scarf. Visually I didn’t get Sherlock Holmes off that. There’s a standard women in peril situation left as a cliffhanger. This Holmes isn’t terribly interested in her survival, he just wants to play the game. That’s fine for him but I felt Watson deserved more.A black man with long hair and a close trimmed beard strolls out of an ER confidently, wearing a cap, vest and suit jacket.

Bollers and Leonardi do an excellent job of translating other standard aspects of the Holmes world into modern Harlem. The street children Sherlock is known for are still here, as is his adoring yet overly involved landlady. If this series were called Watson I’d be up for another go, but Holmes is too off-putting to command more investment from me. A deeper initial mystery would have gone a long way to overcoming my Holmes aversion. The situation may flip in issue two, but I’m well past Woman In Danger as my introductory plot line.

Final Assessment: Great art, wonderful Watson, but Holmes is a snooze. C+

Source: Purchased Copy

Links: Friday, July 25th

A panel from a comic book done in muted tones of blues and greys. Two white men are in a rundown kitchen. A blond man stands while drinking from a milk carton. A brown-haired man sits in a wheelchair and speaks to the blond man. The word bubble is blank.One of Marvel’s Avengers Turns to Sign Language

  • Award­ winning Romance Editor, Latoya Smith Joins Samhain Publishing as Editorial Director; Launches Two New Lines – My Twitter TL was split on whether separating African-American romances and LGBT romance out into new lines is a step towards increasing their offerings or ghettoizing them, but I’m cautiously optimistic that this might broaden the market a bit.

    Samhain Publishing® announced today at the annual Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio, Texas that Latoya C. Smith, formerly an editor at Grand Central Publishing, has been named Executive Editor of Romance at Samhain where she will be overseeing the publication of the erotic romance line.

    In addition, Samhain will launch two new lines under Smith’s direction including an African American line of romances showcasing voices of color as well as a romance line with love stories told by and for the LGBT community.

    “Samhain has always been a leader and innovator in the romance industry,” said Latoya Smith. “I am thrilled to have this chance to create not one, but two lines of books and this is a great chance to be part of romance’s future.”

  • History of underwear highlighted in Victoria and Albert Museum collection – This post about underwear is completely fascinating. I’d love to see the bit about lovers writing messages on corset busks to show up in a romance.

    In historical romance novels, heroines’ breasts heave under their corsets. That’s because they were flattened under whalebone stays and spilled out over the top. By the late-Victorian period, however, the introduction of the S-bend corset led to the Pouter pigeon look, giving women a protruding monobosom. In the 1920s, women were flat-chested thanks to bust confiners designed to create a straight boyish figure and in the 1950s, the brassiere lifted and separated the breasts and made them conical and pointy.

    All this shape shifting was produced by foundation garments. ‘Underwear has been used to create the ideal body shape throughout the centuries; pulling in the waist, kicking out the hips, padding or reducing the breasts,’ says Eleri Lynn, author of Underwear: Fashion in Detail. ‘It’s a very recent phenomenon that women haven’t been wearing underwear as a means of body shaping.’

  • What Is Public? – Anil Dash has a great post on Medium about the forces behind the ever-expanding web of which information of ours is public.

    Most media outlets routinely take semi-public, gray-area conversations, and the information implicitly or explicitly revealed in them, and consider them to be fodder, with no need for approval from the creators of the messages. We see the exact same behavior happening from online harassers and activists, both of whom have a name for the act: doxxing.

    The phenomenon of doxxing (revealing personal information about a person online) has made clear that public information exists in a context of power and consent, and we must construct our ethics in that context. We can’t do that if we are still pretending that taking information that was merely available and instead making it easily accessible is an act without any moral or ethical consequences.

  • Black Teen Records Himself Being Followed By Store Clerks – If it wasn’t so wrong, this would be hilarious. He’s in small-town, true blue Minnesota, and yet…

    After realizing that he was being followed around convenience stores, one teen decided to take matters into his own hands by calling the store clerks out and capturing the exchange on camera for brief Vine videos. In two clips, the teen, who goes by the name Rashid Polo, appears to be catching the store workers following him around the store and keeping an undeniably close eye on him. Eventually, Rashid points at the camera and says:

    “There she goes! She thinks I’m stealing!”

    The startled employees then seem to realize that he has noticed he’s being watched and they scurry away. To date, Rashid’s videos have attracted hundreds of thousands of views.

  • No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry – We all know it’s bad out there for women in gaming, but this story really goes into detail. It’s hard to believe this is really the fault of a “small but vocal minority.”

    The Reality: If you are a woman in the industry with a critical opinion, you will get a disproportional amount of criticism, hostility, and scrutiny compared to men.

    “Anita Sarkeesian once reblogged a Tumblr post of mine and it ended up on Reddit. I got so much hate mail from dudes that I left the internet for three days,” Nina said.

    “They filled my Tumblr mailbox with the usual anon posts like, ‘Die, you fucking cunt!’ And, ‘You’ll know when I rape your mouth hole, bitch!’ When I turned off anonymous messages, they made new Tumblr accounts and continued to spam me. Later, they discovered the link to my personal webpage and sent hate mail through there. I still get an occasional random hate message through my website.”

  • My son has been suspended five times. He’s 3. – As this story and the reception the undocumented immigrant children have received shows, “childhood innocence” is not for all children.

    At the party, the mothers congregated to talk about everyday parenting things, including preschool. As we talked, I admitted that JJ had been suspended three times. All of the mothers were shocked at the news.

    “JJ?” one mother asked.

    “My son threw something at a kid on purpose and the kid had to be rushed to the hospital,” another parent said. “All I got was a phone call.”

    One after another, white mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. Some of the behavior was similar to JJ’s; some was much worse.

    Most startling: None of their children had been suspended.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

A battered pickup truck makes it's way down a derelict one stoplight road in a small townWhat happens when a roller coaster author stops delivering that giddy can’t-believe-you’re-still-reading thrill? A DNF at page 123. I generally tear through a Charlaine Harris book in a few hours, reaching the end with the same unsettled feeling I get after inadvertently eating an entire pint of ice cream. Three weeks into Midnight CrossroadI feel like I’m on the last five spoonfuls. I don’t want more. I’m eating because there’s too much to throw out but not enough to save. It’s soupy, I hate myself, and I’m questioning why I can’t do anything right ever. Like the ice cream, the first few bites of Midnight Crossroad were amazing. Charlaine Harris opens like a BOSS with the best acknowledgement ever.

Paula, I really appreciate your reading the hate mail so I don’t have to wade through it. – Charlaine Harris, Midnight Crossroad

Rage away, Sookie Shippers. Ms. Harris has the insulating power of Paula plus stacks of money to muffle your screams. From the opening hit, I’m ready to adore Midnight Crossroad. A young internet psychic moves into a sparsely populated town with the unofficial motto MYOB. There’s a creepy Carnivale style preacher, a New Ager with a few cats, some teens at the gas station, a young couple manning the diner, and a pawn shop. Let’s do this thing! Then everything goes to hell. Oh, Harris is trying. She’s got a gay couple. (Of course one is flamboyant and carries his dog, but overall she’s trying hard.) Everyone is Hispanic or mixed or described as diverse in an attempt at diversifying her character pool. (There’s no Palomino moment in the first 123 pages.)

Midnight Crossroad falls apart because Harris tries to create a family out of strangers. There’s no reason for the intensely private citizens to instantly bond with their new arrival. Harris quickly makes it clear that all of her books are interconnected, which means the mystery shifts from what could be happening to how will it affect these characters we just met and don’t care about. That’s a big shift. Further removing the reader from the experience is the deployment of Sookie specific morality. Murder is only bad if it’s not committed by a good guy. I skipped ahead to the end of the book to confirm that I was reading the narrative properly, and to explain my point I need to drop a major spoiler.

Vampires Always Stand Their Ground.

Harris has the usual number of facepalm moments in Midnight Crossroad. She describes a chair as being from the turn of the century (which makes it about 14 years old) and yet it has all the hallmarks of a Victorian piece. Her young adults think and act like 40 year old shut-ins. Flipping through the unread pages there’s some really stunning slut shaming of another murder victim. This bit comes after finding out the dead woman was a flirt.

“So she… her behavior led to her own death?” Fiji was scrambling to absorb this. “Just because she threw out the dare doesn’t mean someone should have picked it up, ” he said. – Charlaine Harris, Midnight Crossroad, page 222.

Sit with that for a moment. The woman allegedly made overtures to multiple men and Fiji automatically decides it’s justification for her murder. (At this point in the book it’s already clear that the murder was not a result of domestic violence.) I just can’t with that. I found it difficult to write this review as boring is one thing but blaming a flirtatious woman for her own violent death makes me unable to form coherent sentences. Midnight Crossroads is a book about terrible people doing terrible things while justifying them as being morally acceptable. I don’t want to to spend another second of my life with these characters and I’m pretty sure Harris and I can break up now.

Final Assessment: The sin of boredom is eclipsed by the sin of moral relativism. DNF and F

Source: Library Copy

Links: Wednesday, July 23rd

Lego blocks are arranged on a grey background to form three figures. 1. an orange cat wearing boots and a feathered hat, standing on two legs and pointing a sword. 2. A grey cat with a white belly and pink nose. 3. An orange box with a question mark above it.Famous Cats Of Pop Culture Recreated With LEGO Pieces

  • Authenticity in Romance; or, The Land of 10,000 Dukes – This discussion about dukes and other tropes that have come to dominate certain sub-genres gives me feelings, but I can’t quite articulate what exactly. Emma Barry has some interesting observations about authenticity and romance to add to the mix.

    Yesterday, Kaetrin wrote an essay on Dear Author about the problem of accumulation. She explores how the overrepresentation of certain kinds of people in romance shapes the genre by pushing writers toward certain tropes. There are by a factor of a thousand to one more dukes in romance than there were/are in real life, but if you’re writing, discoverability is a real issue–so do you choose to write the millionth duke romance or do you write a romance set in a Shaker community in antebellum America? Probably the duke.

    It’s not an apolitical question. In the land of 10,000 dukes, lots of people are unrepresented or unrepresentable–and that matters in terms of who is being written out of history and for whose story seems to have subjectivity in the present. As Kate Sherwood pointed out in the comments, there’s a magnifying effect because readers and writers learn through their reading. They learn the tropes, thus making certain ideas de rigueur, but I think they also probably learn the worlds too.

  • NSFW: Queer and Sexy Resources for Authors of Romance and Erotica – A helpful guide for writers looking for resource material and anyone else looking for masturbatory material outside the cishet mold.

    The trick for me is that most sex ed, and most artist representations of sex acts focus on cishet people. Sometimes, especially when it comes to sexual education books or articles, there will be a little nod to the information being applicable to same sex couples but in general the information is delivered with cisgender bodies and heterosexual couples in mind.

    In a lot of ways this is a problem for me because the number of cishet people I’ve written about is exactly zero. Sometimes though I can just tweak the information a little bit and let my imagination do the rest. Still it’s nice to have some research to use that at least acknowledges the existence of people like me and the characters I write about.

    Here is a, in no way comprehensive, list of some of the resources I use that don’t assume that the people having sex with nessisarily be cishet.

  • Books on wheels: On the road with the librarians who deliver – This Australian program sounds absolutely wonderful for the quality of life for elderly and disabled residents. I wonder if there are any US programs like this.

    Almost all of the public libraries in NSW have a Home Library Service, and many of them have been around for as long as Stanton’s (30 years and counting). Its 110 current members pay no fees, and the library doesn’t issue fines for overdue material, as it is understood that members might be hospitalised unexpectedly and unable to return books on time. The Stanton librarians do three delivery runs a week, spending up to half an hour with each member. They also manage the volunteers who visit members to have longer chats about books and help with bits of life admin, such as feeding a dog or figuring out how to send an email.

    Cathy tells me she is often the only person a member sees in a day, or – worse – in a week.

  • 39 Pieces Of Advice For Journalists And Writers Of Color – Does what it says on the tin.

    For people of color, the writing industry can seem an especially challenging space, particularly for those just starting out. We spoke with 20 established writers of color – cultural writers, investigative reporters, broadcast journalists, and freelancers – and asked them three questions about the advice that they’d give beginning writers:
    • What piece of advice would you, as a writer of color, give to burgeoning writers/journalists of color?
    • What do you know now about being a writer of color that you wish you’d known when you first started?
    • Is there anything you did as a writer starting out that you now regret?

  • Burn it All Down: Wiscon’s Failure of Feminism – Kameron Hurley has some WORDS for the decision makers behind the feminist SFF con Wiscon and their awful mishandling of harassment complaints.

    That’s why the jaw-dropping “decision” of the concom (or, at least, those with “decider” power within the concom) to continue to allow a serial harasser who’s been a problem in the field for over 20 years – who, last year, resigned due to public outcry over said behavior – to attend the convention, with only a short ban of a few years, is so bizarre and horrifying. No, he’s not permanently banned. In fact, right up until Wiscon rolled out this year, he was still on the preliminary programming. One wonders what someone would have had to do, then, to get permanently banned from Wiscon – harass people for thirty years? Why this oversight? Was no one paying attention? And then once people were paying attention, how the fuck could you ban someone for just a couple years who’s been a serial harasser making women feel unsafe and reducing them to hunks of meat for twenty years, pending “good behavior”?

    Good fucking behavior? What the fuck is a concom, a fucking parole board? And how the fuck does he demonstrate “good behavior” – by coming into con spaces and *not* leering at women who are already moving to different rooms to avoid him?

    How in the fucking world did a feminist convention come to value the hurt feelings of a serial harasser over the safety of its membership?

  • What is it like to be blind in Gaza and Israel? – I’m really enjoying this BBC blog (as you may have noticed.) Thinking about what challenges disabled Palestinians in Gaza face on top of the enormous challenges non-disabled Gazans face is utterly frightening.

    “The sounds that come are different”, says Dalal Al-Taji, a blind Palestinian woman from the Gaza strip. She lived through three previous wars, one in Lebanon and two in Gaza, prior to the current troubles and has become used to the noises of war. “I know when the bombings are coming from the sea,” she says, “And I know when bombings are coming from planes because it’s closer, high above your head.

    “Another thing we have are drones. We call them zannana in Arabic because they go zin, zin, zin. I can hear them all the time.”

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

A white woman with brown hair wearing a huge royal blue ball gown looks over her shoulder at the viewer in one of Courtney Milan's signature cover stylesFile under: Finished at 4 a.m. because OMG. The Suffragette Scandal is a new Courtney Milan book and therefore the reviewers of Romanceland are swooning like Directioners at a meet and greet. Let’s not pretend I’m above that. Do we even need a review? Can we go now? Ok, fine! Free has replaced Smite as my new favorite Courtney Milan character. (She didn’t do much for me in her earlier appearances.) I really, truly, deeply wanted her to be a lesbian because in my head she was perfect for Violet Waterfield. Stupid writers and their stupid visions. Fine Courtney, write YOUR story. God.

Free is kind of awesome, actually. She’s the sort of self sacrificing activist that I roll my eyes at in everyday life. I mean, yea, sure, she’s right but her entire world is focused on her beliefs. She self harms to give a voice to the voiceless. She’s like, Wendy Davis or something. (Well, if Wendy Davis was a romance heroine and not a complex human with all the messy turns that a human life requires.) Free grinds out her daily newspaper on a press she cares for more than her own life. She knows she’s fighting a war she can’t win, but ceding the battle is unthinkable.

Edward is well versed in defeat. Where Free charged into trauma a willing volunteer, Edward was drafted and detained. He’s come out of it determined to lead a fully examined pragmatic life. Edward knows anyone is capable of anything, given the proper inducements. If he was a college student today he’d be reading Camus in the original French and walking directly through the center of the protest circles on his way to class. He’s absolutely lovely. He’s a whimsical cynic. Edward falls for Free because she has something he’s lost, a faith that she will prevail over all obstacles. Edward is so defeated he can’t imagine anything better than peace. Free still sees victories on her horizon. This is the rare romance that creates a whole from two imperfect halves without filing the edges off either.

As always Milan’s leads exist in a community. Surrounding Free and Edward are his brother, her brother, and all of their friends. Edward’s brother is the villain of the piece. I found his motivation believable. Free is a threat to his entire sense of the world. Without a rigid social order his self justifications collapse. If Free is the book’s Wendy Davis then Edward’s brother is its Fox News. One of The Suffragette Scandal’s best scenes is between Free and her brother’s brother. Robert has always been a fragile character. His imprisonment in the world of his birth is illustrated again here. Robert is afraid to reach for the things he wants. He is so self contained that his desires can’t even be seen by those desired. (Robert makes me think Milan could do wonders with a troubled marriage book.)

Milan’s gift for writing beautifully broken people slips in a subplot involving Amanda, Free’s best friend. Amanda’s scenes feel tentative, with more off the page than on it. The careful pace of her tale feels different than the assurance Milan brings to the rest of the book. I felt like Amanda’s life needed more room to expand, that she was better suited to novella length than a secondary character. A surprise reunion (one of my absolute least favorite tropes) added to my Amanda sad. That said, the pairing she’s offered is one she’s well suited to and one that improves her life as much as Edward and Free improve each others. My other quibble with The Suffragette Scandal involves a late book grand romantic gesture. I’m not a fan of these in real life and I’m rarely a fan of the fictional variety so that’s not terribly surprising. It’s a minor, tiny point in a big swoony stay up all night read. Let’s spoiler tag it.

Won't Someone Think Of The Tailors?

Final Assessment: A heroine in firm control of her Big Girl Pants makes this a must read. A+

Source: Copy provided for review or squandering

 

 

Links: Monday, July 21st

Tall platform heels covered in thumbnail-sized romaance novel covers and glittery pink tape around the toes.Twinkle Toes: Bookish Shoes for Literary Feet

  • Romance covers … what’s wrong with them – Author Joanna Bourne wrote this a while ago but I just saw it today and it’s still relevant, sadly.

    Now let us look at Historical Romance, 32 romance books, shall we? These are all well-regarded popular books. Picking out some random covers… And we have a passel of women with their clothes falling off. Sometimes, men with their clothes falling off. Sometimes both.

    Forgettable covers. Essentially these are the same cover decked out in different colors.

    Don’t get me started on the trite, interchangeable, forgettable titles.

    What does this say to the world about Historical Romance?
    It says, “One Romance book is like another.” It says, “No story inside this book, Ma’m. Just pick one at random.”

    This is so much lack of respect.

  • Not Your Sassy Black Sidekick – I saw this on Dear Author and thought I’d link it here too. It might be preaching to the choir, but wevs.

    Though the sassy sidekick trope negatively affects all black women, the target group is usually dark-skinned black women. Used as the go-to “homegirls” for shock value, the popularity of white pop stars using these black women as accessories in their performances is one of the most recently done forms of the trope. Performers such as Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry are notoriously problematic in their performances as they only interact with the black women performing in their shows by reducing them to caricatures of what they think black women act like. The women are reduced to body parts and exaggerated gestures while said pop stars enjoy the spotlight and immunity from cultural stigma while being lauded by mainstream media as having inside knowledge on facets of black culture.

    We are not your accessories, and we are not your token black friend. Our feelings do not come second to yours and we are not your personal encyclopedia for all things black culture. The emotions and actions of black women are legitimate and should be treated as such.

  • Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” Video – It’s been kind of frustrating to see this song going around to uncritical praise. Not only is mean prescriptivism no way to teach people about language, but it makes a number of nasty, disablist inferences. As a “spastic” who often drools, I’m not super amused by being the butt of the song’s joke.

    But just as I’m thinking “Maybe I could love this,” he heads back into negative territory, beating on how he wants to kill people who use literally to mean “figuratively,” and generally insulting people. This is where he completely loses me:

    You write like a spastic.

    I hate these word crimes.

    ..

    Get out of the gene pool.

    Try your best to not drool.

    I could easily overlook the lack of subtlety in his grammar lessons. I don’t expect a music video to get into the details, but what I see is that he’s appealing to the base instincts that I’m tired to the bone of seeing: The call to feel superior and to put other people down for writing errors. Prescriptivism sells. Encouraging people to rant against the “morons who can’t spell” sells.

  • No more Mr Nice Guy: When disabled people get nasty – Comedian Laurence Clark (who, as someone with cerebral palsy, would be one of the “spastics” Word Crimes refers to so disparagingly) shares some of the times strangers’ attempts at “helping” without first asking what he needs and listening to his reply have sorely tried his patience.

    Although I’m a wheelchair user, I can walk up steps if I take my time and use a handrail. It may look like a horrific accident waiting to happen, but I’m actually quite steady. What gets in my way, however, is someone being spontaneously nice by grabbing my arm to give me support which can cause me to lose my balance and fall.

    If a total stranger accosted you and made you tumble down a flight of steps, you’d be justified in telling them where to shove it. But when they act nicely, with the best of intentions, supporting me because they’re worried I might fall. You can’t shout at them and feel good about it. Perversely, in some ways I find open hostility easier to deal with.

  • How My Social Justice Failed My Family – A black sociologist shares his feelings on not going into a higher-paying field and the guilt he feels for not being able to help his family financially.

    I was on track to accomplish all of the things everyone had set out for me. I was on track to save us, to end our struggles. But somehow along the line something happened. I failed to meet my end of the bargain.

    I didn’t lose my way in the kind of extravagant fashion that would make a good movie. I didn’t lose my scholarship because of a drug conviction. I didn’t even get anyone pregnant. My deviation was much more subtle. Rather than going to school to be an engineer or a pharmacist, or even a zoologist as I dreamed in high school, I chose to be a sociologist.

  • Red Wings Generously Agree To Accept Huge Sums Of Money From Public – So Detroit, where about half of the city’s residents have been threatened with having their water shut off, is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the multi-billionaire owner of the Red Wings to build a new arena. Just FYI.

    You might remember the uproar over the arena deal—which includes $284.5 million in public investment—when it was originally announced last summer. Isn’t this a terrible idea for a city wading through bankruptcy proceedings, people asked? (Yes, it is.) Couldn’t those tax dollars be better spent on other infrastructure improvements in the area instead of lining the pockets of a wealthy pizza magnate? (Yes, they could have.)

    The arena itself is estimated at $450 million, of which the city is paying $262 million—by way of tax increment financing (TIF)—for construction costs. That’s 58 percent, not including any cost overruns. The entire project, including the mysterious promise of ancillary investment within five years of the first puck drop, is pegged at $650 million, with $284.5 million of that coming from the TIF.

The Merits of Ethnic Tagging

Earlier this week I asked how we should tag books where both leads are considered white. (I say considered because race is a social construct.) Ridley and Rameau find the tags useful for finding non-white reads. (Beks didn’t weigh in as she was off doing productive things that will pay her.) Ridley followed up on Twitter. I soon wondered if I was asking the wrong question. Should we be tagging books with ethnicity at all? Is this the blog equal to the bricks and mortar African American Fiction shelf in the far back corner of the store?

Goals

  • Do not contribute to white as the default ethnicity in romance fiction.
  • Do not treat books with non white characters as other. 
  • Maintain useful search markers for the site. 

 

Options

  • Make no change.
  • Stop ethnic tagging.
  • Use a snarky tag for white leads, such as All White
  • Ignore supremacy overtones and tag White Romance.

On Twitter it appeared that authors don’t care for ethnic tagging but reviewers do. For the authors the issue seemed to be the same one that made me uncomfortable with not tagging white books in the first place. Why do we need to make a different area? Why is a contemporary romance either a contemporary romance or a contemporary romance featuring people who are not white? Does the tagging engage the reader who would not ordinarily step outside the white default or does it drive them away? Would the readers who want to seek out non white characters find the books just as easily if they were not placed at that remove from the other reviews?

Countering that, we don’t tag a book with ethnicity alone. We tag them the same way a default white book is tagged and add an ethnic tag to the list. By that measure adding a white tag does nothing, as readers are unlikely to use it as a sorting method. What does it mean when we add an ethnic tag? Our intentions may be good but do we inadvertently participate in the normalization of white as the correct ethnicity for a love story? (Well that was pompous of me. But no, really, do we?) Is part of rejecting white only as the standard definition for mainstream romance to stop tagging non white leads? Or should we be tagging white ones as well?

I’m still not sure what the answer is. I am sure that I don’t want to use the suggested tags Mainstream or Monocultural. Both of those contribute heavily to the concept that white is a default for both. What would a story about Cee-Lo Green and Andre Benjamin be if not both mainstream and monocultural? They’re famous black singers of a similar age from Georgia. There’s nothing white about Mainstream or Monocultural unless we accept the supremacist notion that either one should be. I could talk in circles about this all day so let me pass it over to the comments. Maybe we can figure it out there.

Links: Friday, July 18th

A group of unsmiling people of varying ages, genders and ethnicity all raise their left arms up and give the middle finger.The perfect reaction gif for your files.

  • This Month in Multicultural Romance – Alyssa Cole is at Romance at Random with mini-reviews for a half-dozen novellas that feature POC protagonists.

    Just about everyone I know has been crazy busy lately. Whether it’s dealing with work, family, weddings, or new additions to the family, time seems to be a precious commodity lately. But just because you’re swamped doesn’t mean you have to stop reading. Here are a few multicultural novellas that sate your craving for a well-told romance without the commitment of a full-length book.

  • Discussion #7: Warning Flags and Turn-Offs – This post at Disability in KidLit is a great collection of things to avoid when writing about disability, especially when writing jacket copy.

    What kinds of words, phrases, or situations used in book or character descriptions send up warning flags for you? We’re thinking of clichés, ableist language–anything related to disability that may be a turn-off.

    s.e. smith: Well, magical cure narratives, obviously. But if I’m casually looking at jacket copy, things I tend to look out for are ‘despite her disability’ or ‘overcoming adversity’ or ‘brilliant but [disabled]‘ or something along those lines, where characters are separated out from their disabilities. I’m also leery of anything that talks about disabled characters as inspirational, courageous, or amazing just because they’re disabled. Language like ‘wheelchair bound’ also makes me very uncomfortable, as it suggests the publisher isn’t in tune with disabled people, and that the target market for the book is nondisabled people, not people like me.

  • Nordstrom’s Features Wheelchair-Bound Model in New Campaign – Everything about the headline and lead paragraph is straight out of How Not To Write About Disability (which I had a nice chat about with the author last night) but I’ve always liked Mercado and I’m happy to see her in the spotlight.

    Nordstrom’s anniversary sale can often be enough to create some buzz around the Seattle-based retailer, but this time, one of their models is coming close to trumping the news. Wheelchair-bound blogger and editor Jillian Mercado is one of the faces of the July 2014 catalog. The 26-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology grad, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, is featured wearing a black leather jacket with Aquatalia by Marvin K moto boots and a spiky lavender-hued shag.

  • Prosecutors dismiss charges against Shanesha Taylor – While I don’t agree with forcing her to participate in a “diversion program”, I am super glad to hear the charges have been dropped and that she can be reunited with her children. I hope things look up for her from here on.

    The job-seeking Phoenix mother whose tearful mugshot spawned worldwide support after she was arrested for leaving her children in the car in Scottsdale will have her case dismissed if she successfully completes a diversion program, according to a statement from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

    Shanesha Taylor was arrested in March after police said she left her children in her Dodge Durango for 45 minutes while in a Farmers Insurance office in Scottsdale. Taylor told police she was jobless, without child care that day and had occasionally been homeless.

  • I Don’t Care If You Like It – Rebecca Traister goes in on the idea that women should be grateful for male approval or that their attention legitimizes what women have been doing.

    Last week, I got into a fight on Twitter with New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, whose work I respect, and it wasn’t about anything that either of us had written; rather, we were tussling over the merits of a piece written by Tom Junod, for Esquire, about how today’s 42-year-old women are hotter than ever before.

    There’s no need to linger over our differences: I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe, celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya-Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations; my primary objections to the piece have been ably laid out by other critics. Chait tweeted that he viewed the piece as a “mostly laudable” sign of progress: a critique not of earlier iterations of 42-year-old womanhood, but rather of the old sexist beauty standards that did not celebrate those women; he saw it as an acknowledgment of maturing male attitudes toward women’s value.

  • Lowe’s Employees Decided To Fix This Veteran’s Wheelchair After The VA Wouldn’t – I’m really not surprised by this story at all. Cheap-ass insurers do the least they can get away with and random people fall over themselves to try to help when they see with their own eyes someone who needs help. Disability is a societal problem, not an individual one. At least the VA was shamed into sending him a new chair.

    On the evening of July 7, my wheelchair fell apart again, while shopping at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in on Forest Avenue in Mariners Harbor.

    Three employees, David, Marcus and Souleyman jumped to my assistance immediately. They placed me in another chair while they went to work. They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me, “We’re going to make this chair like new.”
    I left 45 minutes after closing hours in my wheelchair that was like new.

    I kept thanking them and all they could say was, “It was our honor.”

Seduction’s Canvas by K.M. Jackson

A dimly lit scene focuses on the muscular torso of a black man wight he title in cursive across it.I’m giving up on K.M. Jackson books for now. Two DNF reviews in a row feels less like reviewing and more like piling on. I picked up Seduction’s Canvas because it’s in the third person. Jackson’s Bounce has a lot of strong reviews, but the first person didn’t work for me. Seduction’s Canvas didn’t either. I’m not connecting with her voice. The set up was perfect – wealthy artist from a prominent family looks for one last adventure before picking up the weight of her responsibilities. She’s had her eye on a bad boy biker and security specialist but been too shy to make her move. I made it to just over 33% in before bailing.

Samara is a teller, not a shower. The book opens with her trapped in her family’s limo while they discuss how her recent street brawl will affect business. Samara is vaguely ashamed the tabloids caught her in the act but also defiant. We learn that she doesn’t trust men, that her father dominates her, that she’s really into the biker next door, that her mother is submissive and nervous and that at least two events in her past have shaped her. The phrases “after what happened with Julian” and “what happened with Charles” are only a few lines apart. There was far too much information to sort out. Samara was dumping all this baggage on me before I cared that she had it.

Apparently something happened on an island because of Julian that led to Charles, who appears to be her brother, dying? IDEK. That might just have been the last bit of X-Men: First Class. I felt trapped and stifled by the opening section of the book in the same way that Samara feels trapped and stifled by her parents. Once she exits the limo she runs into Mark, the biker next door. I’m not sure why Mark becomes interested in her. Samara is 30 but she still relies on her parent’s money while also resenting that she does. She’s made life choices that treat her vocation as a hobby which gives her an air of arrested development. At 30, her parents should not be treating her life as a phase she means to move out of, nor should she be accepting their view of her career as her own.

I gave up. But because this is a second DNF in a row for me, I sought out a positive review for you. Little Black Dress Reviews appears to be on hiatus, but they enjoyed Seduction’s Canvas quite a bit.

Final Assessment: Early info dump kept me from caring when the action started. DNF

Source: Purchased copy.

Links: Wednesday, July 16th

A page from a comic book where a young Asian man argues with his mother about the green and gold superhero costume she made for him.On Illustrating Asian Characters

  • Why Race Matters When We Write – Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is at For Harriet talking about how an author’s race is anything but irrelevant when she sits down to tell a story.

    Not talking about race and dismissing the topic altogether is the same as saying that cultural perspective as it relates to creative writing is irrelevant. When in fact, more often than not, writers pull from the human experience. Some of the best stories written are those that reflect emotional truths; stories that are representative of our realities either directly or indirectly. To not talk about how our cultural experiences affect our writing would be a disservice to literary integrity. Even in the genres of fiction or speculative fiction therein exists some universal human themes. Take Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for example, on the surface the story is about a salesman who wakes up one morning and realizes that he has transformed into a huge insect, but in fact the story is full of metaphors and symbolism about the human experience.

  • Blogger Email Addresses Are Being Sold Without Our Consent – I get enough spam through our contact form, if I’d also made our email available and it was getting sold like this? I’d wave the white flag and give up.

    I clicked the link, and ended up on a website consisting of password-protected pages, but I didn’t need to look at them; I’d seen the homepage and a preview of some of the password-protected pages, and that was enough.

    The website in question is unprofessional. There are spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere, not to mention the design makes me want to stab my own eyes out. What else? It guarantees that authors paying for the ‘service’ will sell more than 1,000 books a month.

    I was already rolling my eyes, but then I scrolled down… and saw that the owner of the website was selling a list of 1,200 email addresses. Email addresses of book bloggers, to be exact. And did we consent to this? Were any of us even asked? I don’t think so. I certainly wasn’t, but maybe others were. Yet there’s a list of all of our email addresses – no blog link, blog name or genre preferences, might I add, just our full names and addresses – and the list is being sold to each author for $40.

  • I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” – I don’t understand this post, honestly. It reads to me like he’s seeing works he likes and doesn’t see as sexist described as featuring a MPDG and that means the term is bad.

    At the film site the Dissolve, where I am a staff writer, my editor has gently discouraged me from using the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in my writing, less because using a phrase I coined reeks of self-congratulation, but because in 2014 calling a character a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is nearly as much of a cliché as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

    And I don’t need much discouraging, even when writing about a fairly clear-cut instance of a Manic Pixie, like Charlize Theron’s impossibly perfect, sexy, supportive gun-slinger in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters. But I looked on queasily as the phrase was increasingly accused of being sexist itself.

  • On Public Speaking While Fat – Kameron Hurley has a great post about finding the courage to attend cons and speak in public and be a fat woman at the same time.

    I have done a lot of broken things trying to get back to that 220, including calorie counting, which ended disastrously. I lost 25lbs, sure, but the minute I stopped, I gained it all back plus 30 lbs, which is what’s put me over the edge with those airplane seats; my time at the treadmill desk and indoor bike desk is all about fighting to keep me under the weight at which I can no longer fly. I knew better than to calorie count like that, but was feeling the societal pressure to punch back down a size. That was a mistake.

    When people come to me about fears of public speaking while fat, about heckling, about online harassment, I feel it necessary to remind people that I got the same amount of harassment for being “fat” at 220 as I do at being “fat” at 290. As a woman, you are always going to be fat. People are always going to trot that one out to try and insult you, like taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do.

  • Marketing, Social Media, Books and Me – Liz’s post about the ways books are marketed on social media takes the words right out of my mouth. (Only, not really, since she’s much better with words than I am.)

    Here is what I think is missing in talk about social media and discovery. Knowing a book exists is a very small part of discovery. I mean, obviously it matters as a first step. But I will not click through to find out more based on a “TITLE is out today! [buy links]” tweet. Or a “The fab AUTHOR’S latest is out today! Buy it!” tweet. I see tons of these, despite pruning my feed. I don’t have time to click them all, even if I were minded to. (I do not get why readers do these tweets. Did you write a review that tells me why it’s great? Tweet that. Otherwise, your opinion has no value to me). I have to discover something about the book to make me click through and see if I want to buy it.

  • Boston radio bros have unsurprisingly terrible opinions on Erin Andrews – While I’m glad to see Boston sports radio’s Dennis & Callahan attract national attention for being terrible, I’m also frustrated that insulting a blond white woman, and not over a decade of naked racism, is what finally does it.

    It’s no surprise to me that Erin Andrews’ involvement in the Adam Wainwright/Derek Jeter controversy, and her interview with the Cardinals pitcher, has drawn the ire. Of course, the reasoned take on this is that Andrews — while obviously thrown in another terrible situation — should’ve challenged Wainwright on his backtracking. But then again, it his the MLB All-Star Game so who really cares? Andrews could’ve done better, but it’s not really a black mark on her career.

    That was not the take the bros of the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI and NESN gave this story. In their minds, Erin Andrews is “a gutless bitch” for not asking The Serious Questions to Adam Wainwright if his joke about pitching during a fake game was a lie or night. For the crime of not continuing to pursue this asinine story, Erin Andrews is “a gutless bitch” according to the show, particularly co-host Kirk Minihane.

  • When Leaning In Lands You In Jail: On the Criminalization of Being a Poor, Working Mother – This country, you guys.

    The truth is that the driving force behind these arrests and others like them goes beyond a concern for the safety of children (because seriously, if a child’s welfare is the main concern, then maybe don’t arrest that child’s mother and force the child into foster care?) and actually has more to do with the contempt that our society shows its most struggling members, as well as exposing the lack of choices that poor mothers—usually single—face every day. These are women who have been told time and time again that their difficult situations are nobody’s fault but their own and that all they need to do to succeed is find work and be diligent—lean in—and they will be ok. But the truth is that it’s impossible to lean in if you don’t know that there isn’t some protection guaranteed lest you fall flat on your face. For so many women around the country, there are no easy choices—sometimes there aren’t even choices at all—so they take their kids with them to work and hope that they sit quietly, or they leave them in the car for 20 minutes in hopes that they will get a job that can better all their lives.

  • In Touch: Blindness and bereavement – An interesting post from a blind man who recently lost his mother on how blindness colored his experience.

    Sighted people are able to look at old photos and letters to help the grieving process. My photography skills leave a bit to be desired, and Mum could see so didn’t write to me in Braille.

    I have ended up with: some old crockery, a couple of sound recordings and lots of memories. It doesn’t feel enough. Can my sighted friends and colleagues tell from my face when I am thinking of Mum, I wonder?