- Daniel Handler, Racist Jokes, and the Disclaimer – No one should have to grit their teeth and endure casual racism while accepting a major book award.
Last night the African-American author Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for the work, Brown Girl Dreaming. She thanked people for changing the world.
Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, then made a joke about watermelon.
For Handler, the disclaimer and humor, the wink that he knows he’s on dangerous ground, functions to excuse a joke linking to a long racist history of associating black people with watermelon. Handler is a smart guy (I went to college with him, but never really knew him), he knows this history, and he thinks that because of his disclaimer, this is funny.
It’s not. Woodson can make that joke about herself. But for a powerful white author to make a watermelon joke when handing out an award to a black author, the message is – no matter what you write, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, you will always be a BLACK author, not just an author.
- Jacqueline Woodson On Being A ‘Brown Girl’ Who Dreams – If you’re like me and had never heard of Woodson before, here’s a wonderful interview with her on NPR’s Code Switch.
The first time author Jacqueline Woodson says she really understood poetry — and loved it — was after reading Langston Hughes in elementary school.
“Until then, I thought it was some code that older white people used to speak to each other. I didn’t know what was going on with the line breaks and the words,” Woodson recalls. “Once the floodgates opened, they opened.”
Woodson has made a career out of breaking down that “code” for young readers. She’s published 30 books, and won three Newbery Honor Medals and a National Book Award. Her latest book, Brown Girl Dreaming, is a memoir in free verse. It is under consideration for a National Book Award for young adult literature.
Her stories, often told through poems, confront issues like faith, race, sexual identity, alcoholism and even sexual abuse; they aren’t what kids and teens usually see on shelves.
- Reviewing race – I’m not sure this post really nails the argument, but it tries to make a case for mentioning the protagonists’ race or culture when reviewing children’s books.
GREAT question, and one reviewers are asking themselves all the damn time. The sub-query about misidentifying the ethnicity of a character is easy to answer (don’t do it and DON’T GUESS), but we are always trying to figure out where and how to mention ethnicity, especially in reviewing books in which skin color plays a part only in the illustrations and goes unmentioned in the text.
ON THE ONE HAND: if a story is about some universal experience unrelated to race, why even bring it up? ALL readers should be able to empathize with a story about, say, moving to a new neighborhood and making new friends. True enough, but . . .
ON THE OTHER: . . . by not identifying the ethnicity of a non-white protagonist, the review runs the risk of failing to catch the interest of the book buyer who is looking specifically for stories about non-white kids whose race plays no part in the story, and who might skip over the book assuming it was about white kids. Ms. magazine, for a few issues, identified all subjects by race including whites, who were labelled “European-Americans.” But that didn’t last at Ms. or elsewhere, and, however deplorable it may be, American readers of all colors tend to assume a character is white unless told otherwise.
- Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More – Today is the annual Trans Day of Remembrance and this article asks that we pay more attention to trans women while they’re still alive.
There’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the past few years. The names of trans women of color will be in the mouths of the queer community after they’ve been murdered, but support for us while we are still alive is sporadic at best. Trans women are pushed out of queer spaces by cis people, dfab genderqueers, and trans men, just to name a few. Women’s spaces are frequently hostile to us because we aren’t “real women” but trans men almost always get a free pass. And I’ve seen more than one cis queer say that trans women are “appropriating” the gay rights movement, totally ignorant of the fact that we started the damn thing. I have seen more than one cis queer say that we have nothing in common with them, that our issues are completely unrelated. We have a hard time finding dates, finding support, finding community. And when we dare to call people out for their transmisogyny, we are labeled crazy, hysterical, divisive. I have been called Austin “queer scene’s” number one enemy. All for daring to share my thoughts on the world around me.
- Black Grantland’s Old White Guy To Black People: Do What I Tell You – Deadspin’s Greg Howard goes in on Mike Wise and his paternalist whitesplaining.
Yesterday, news dropped that Jason Whitlock was about to make Mike Wise, an oldish white Washington Post columnist and proud champion of liberal causes, his second official “black Grantland” hire. That’s interesting not just because of what he is—this is supposed to be a site bursting with young, up-and-coming minorities, and Wise is the precise opposite of that—but because of what he does.
Wise, you see, just can’t seem to stop showing his ass. Over the last year, he has attempted to engage in a dialogue on race in America, and specifically the word “nigger,” that has consisted mainly of him lecturing black people about how they should listen to him and do as he says. It has not gone well.
- A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA – This is a chilling in-depth look at how UVA denies rape victims the justice they deserve. TW for a graphic recounting of violent rape.
We walk the curving length of tree-lined Rugby Road as they explain the scene. The women rattle off which one is known as the “roofie frat,” where supposedly four girls have been drugged and raped, and at which house a friend had a recent “bad experience,” the Wahoo euphemism for sexual assault. Studies have shown that fraternity men are three times as likely to commit rape, and a spate of recent high-profile cases illustrates the dangers that can lurk at frat parties, like a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee frat accused of using color-coded hand stamps as a signal to roofie their guests, and this fall’s suspension of Brown University’s chapter of Phi Kappa Psi – of all fraternities – after a partygoer tested positive for the date-rape drug GHB. Presumably, the UVA freshmen wobbling around us are oblivious to any specific hazards along Rugby Road; having just arrived on campus, they can hardly tell one fraternity from another. As we pass another frat house, one of my guides offers, “I know a girl who got assaulted there.”