Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Picking On Me?

So I’m sitting in my car and waiting for the DD to get out of dance and I'm wondering what to blog about for today. Should I go with pictures of my Christmas tree? Yeah, that would be nice. Besides, I have been doing a decent job with posting nice sweet posts lately. I’m proud of myself especially with so much to be annoyed about with Tiger and all his tigresses on the prowl and all.

Image from here.




And then there was suddenly talk on the radio about Ashley Dupre getting her own advice column in the New York Post. You know Ashley? The hooker from the Governor Spitzer scandal. Now, I’m not normally one to knock anyone's hustle, but please. There are folks laid off all over the place and I need a paying job bad (preferably one where I write, but reading would be good too) and she gets an advice column? Dang. Makes it hard to write about that Christmas tree.



Now so sorry for the bad transition but then I go decided to check twitter. Darn you tweets! There’s all this talk about this controversial PW cover. Hmm... At first I thought I hadn’t read the article. But guess what, I did. I just didn’t know it since they didn’t correlate. The article talked about the economy and the upcoming downward trends in publishing. Ok, sad, but tame.

The cover is a 1999 art piece by Lauren Kelly from the book Posing Beauty on the representation of African American beauty from 1890’s to the present. Which on its own looks like a pretty good book. But this for a PW cover on African American literature I think is a huge fail. You can read the senior news editor’s response over here at Galley Cat.




As I said in a blog comment, this just further widens the already segregated shelves. It's a shame. As a Black writer writing multi-cultural romance and finding it so hard to break in and find a spot on the shelves this is upsetting. And I know some will say just lighten up, but no. Sorry.

An earlier agent that I had and later broke up with didn’t get my writing. He wanted me to make it more of what he considered urban. Spice up the language to I don’t know what, but I do know it was something I wasn’t and couldn’t do. Now I'm not saying this is the only reason I'm not published yet but it may be part of it. This not fitting into a preconceived box. Why do we have to fit these boxes?

All I wanted and all I can do is write what I feel and write what I live, which is a multi-cultural life. I’m a Black woman from New York now living as a sort of suburban failed housewife in a not at all black town just outside of New York.

I write books where the Black Women have White and Black friends or Asian or Hispanic friends because that’s just who she is. That is also me. And I’m starting to feel like I may never find a publishing home.

One of the best compliments that I ever got was from a good friend of mine and chic knitting buddy. Me: Black woman from Harlem. Her: Jewish woman from the Bronx. I had her read sample pages from a detective story idea that I have working on. I pitched it Lethal Weapon meets Thelma and Louise. There are two main characters one is Black and the other is White. Well, I was so thrilled when my friend told me that, one it was funny and sexy, but what she liked the best was that I just write real women and it didn’t matter what color they were because I showed real situations that all women could relate to.

That’s the problem I have with this cover. It somehow makes African-American writers different. Very different. Foreign even and therefore not the norm. It reinforces a stereotype that we need to drop. As art it’s beautiful, but as a message to the industry I think it says give these books their own section in the bookstore, if you buy them at all and pray a select few will wander over. I say it sets up failure.

If you look at my post below from yesterday you’ll see that I put two pretty hot guys up for my romance obsession, Denzel and Richard Armitage. Hot is hot. It really doesn’t have a color to most Black or White women for that matter and not so hot is, well, not. That’s just how it is.

It’s time to work on bridging this divide. Mixing up the shelves and just focusing on good books.

Oh and Christmas tree pics to come soon:-)

Best,
Kwana

15 comments:

Frau said...

I glad you have stayed true to who you are. You will be published some day. Your super talented and your time is soon. Have a wonderful day!

Kristen Painter said...

You'll find a publishing home. Have faith.

Deidra said...

Kwana - I'm glad you said it. And you said it so well. I will read your book when it's ready for the masses and it will be a success. Stay true to yourself!

Joyce said...

Yahoo... I didn't realize you had some pages written for your book and it sounds like you are on your way for a book tour. I can't wait!! I am with you on mixing it all up. I look forward to seeing the tree too. xo

Keira Soleore said...

Kwana, superb blog here. And I agree wholeheartedly. We write stories about people. People matter, not their outer trappings.

I'm glad your former agent and you parted ways. Clearly, he wanted you to slant it in a more niche-y way.

Keira Soleore said...

Kwana, superb blog here. And I agree wholeheartedly. We write stories about people. People matter, not their outer trappings.

I'm glad your former agent and you parted ways. Clearly, he wanted you to slant it in a more niche-y way.

Legallyblondemel said...

Enjoyed reading your perspective on this. As others have commented, what ultimately makes a story compelling (to me, at least) is character, not preconceived notions of race or socioeconomic status or whatever. Good on you for fighting the good fight!

Beth Yarnall said...

I think good stories written well will always find their way to the shelves. So hang in there Kwana.
I'm a white woman living in The (very multi-cultured, majorly ethnically diverse) OC (That's Orange County, CA). My herione has friends who are Hispanic, Black, Asian and gay (& that's just scratching the surface). I couldn't imagine dumbing down those charaters or hanging stereotypes on them. Good for you for changing agents & staying true to your stories.
I have enjoyed many stories where the hero & heroine were Black and aside from their initial description, I forgot about the color of their skin & just enjoyed the stories (I'm thinking of one smokin' hot story in particular where the couple went to Conception Island-a retreat geared toward conceiving couples... *fanning myself at the memory of it*).
Where was I? Oh yes, segregating the book shelves. Dumb, just plain dumb. I love reading stories about people-Black, White, Green or Sparkley doesn't matter to me, just make them good & I'll buy them.
Thanks for the thoughtful blog post and again, good for you for staying true to your characters & stories. That's when good literature is born!

Anita3 said...

I can understand how you feel, almost. I've completed my book, but still working on the polishing. I haven't sent out any query yet.
I believe you will make it, you've come this far!
If you get a chance, drop by my blog and let me know what you think.
Anita

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I hate the fact that in Borders, they stick all the AA novels, whether they are urban, romance, mystery, fiction, all in one place way in the back so that no one can find them. I think that books should reflect the world of the writer and the characters that she is writing. We live in a multi-cultural world, where people inter-marry between faiths and religions, and I think fiction should reflect that. I totally believe you will find an agent and a publisher who feels the same way. Just keep the faith and keep writing.

Mizwrite said...

Hi, Kwana! Great post. I know this is a big issue, and we often talk about it at #litchat on Twitter -- should booksellers do more "grouping" of books to help those looking for them, or should they just step out and lump everything into "fiction"?

@deberryandgrant recently wrote an interesting piece on African-American shelving in particular (in their "open letter to Oprah" post), which was very good, but they also posted articles like "Why I Don't Want to Be the Next Amy Tan" to indicate that all cultures deal with this same issue. Writers want to write about the human spirit -- love, loss, friendship, faith, pain, time, things that extend well beyond culture -- and to lump books into cultural-specific shelves is so frustrating when the message is so universal.

Hang in there, and stay true to your heart!

And now I'll be looking for pics of your tree! : )

Mizwrite said...

And hello to fellow OC writer Beth Yarnall! I'm in your same neck of the woods. ...

Anita3 said...

It's Anita again,
Have you heard of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award? This is only their third year doing it. The winner of the Award get a book deal with Penguin Publishers. Your book is complete. It wouldn't hurt to enter the contest. They start accepting manuscript submissions from Jan 25,2010 to Feb 7, 2010. Go to Amazon.com for more details and contest rules to enter. I plan to enter also. Let me know what you think.
Anita Mann
Take Care!

Kwana said...

Thanks for all your comments and encouragement today. Much appreciated. Yes, I'm still on the agent hunt so I'm still in the game.

Thank you, Anita. I have heard of the Amazon contest. I entered last year. Thinking about it for this year but I'm not sure yet. Best of luck to you though! Great.

Millie said...

I'm so with you on this Kwana. I can't believe its nearly 2010 & we're still having to deal with such stupid pre-conceptions that silly folk have stuck in their heads. You would make a kick-ass Publisher, you just get it girl.
Millie ^_^

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