This has been a difficult week: BEA was mostly a bust, I suffered a serious wardrobe malfunction (curse you, cute shoes!), and got a harsh reality check regarding my job prospects. Still, things ended on a positive note yesterday—my students wowed me with their artwork/performances and I got to connect with some AmazonEncore friends. Today I’m taking it easy, ignoring the stack of grading and the mound of laundry silently glaring at me from the corner. I found this interesting article on the Ms. blog: “Where Are the Girls in Children’s Literature?” The conversation in recent years has focused on the neglect of boys in kidlit (or YA lit, more specifically), yet this study shows that in the last century, girls suffered from “symbolic annihilation” due to the gender disparity in children’s picture books. Last week I was thinking about Elizabeth Bluemle’s search for “non-race-driven” multicultural books—what would it mean (or how would I feel) if a man asked for “non-gender-driven” books about girls? Books where gender is taken for granted, and doesn’t become the focus of the story? How many books would make that list?
I’ve been asked to contribute to an anthology about bullying and other forms of oppression, and I’m trying to convert one of my short plays into a short story. It’s about two teens held in protective custody: one was rescued from a suburban brothel and the other ran away from a polygamist cult. It’s definitely a gender-driven narrative, but I don’t suppose anyone would have a problem with that. No one would ask for more stories about girls “just having fun” and being “ordinary people.” Next on my reading list? This Vanity Fair article about sex trafficking in the US and another article from the Ms. blog about a young woman brutalized by her pimp and fellow sex workers:
When a young woman in Atlanta tried to escape her pimp in April 2010, his retaliation was swift and brutal. He ordered four other sex workers to beat the runaway until her eyes swelled shut and a bottle pierced her head.
Then the pimp locked the 21-year-old woman in a 3-by-5 foot dog cage overnight, bragging about her debasement by texting photos of the caged woman to other pimps. Police, tipped off by someone horrified by the photos, found the woman alive in a hotel and arrested the pimp and prostitutes.
Sometimes girls “just wanna have fun,” and sometimes that’s not remotely possible. Here’s to “keepin’ it real,” whether you’re writing about race, gender, or talking back to Beyonce (who’s also featured in a new trailer for the film, Dark Girls).