Ever since Downton Abbey wrapped up in February, I’ve been missing the Sunday night teas I hosted at my apartment. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one experiencing “Brit flick” withdrawal, and so last night “the girls” reconvened at my place to watch the conclusion of Great Expectations on PBS. I missed Game of Thrones, but found that two of the characters in GE were in Season 1 of GOT. And at the end of the day—when our post film discussion wrapped up at midnight—I realized that our gatherings aren’t really about whatever’s on TV. The three of us are writers and professors; we’re all trying to finish our respective books, and we all find ourselves—as women of color—having to stop what we’re doing to educate others about race. At one point, one of my guests said, “Sometimes I just think people SUCK!” And I laughed because I’d had the exact same thought earlier in the day. I declined an invitation to attend my friend’s church and instead went to the park to enjoy the sunshine and blue sky and excited chattering of birds building nests high up in the trees. On my way to the park a seagull swooped down from above and I smiled to myself because the night before I purchased my ticket to Nevis. In mid-June I’ll spend one week researching my family roots and plotting out my first adult novel since One Eye Open (tentatively titled The Hummingbird’s Tongue). Seeing seagulls in Brooklyn always reminds me that we’re on the sea—that despite all the concrete, I live on an island, too, so perhaps my return to Nevis won’t be quite so jarring. I circled the park, immersed in my own daydreams, trying to block out the animated conversations of other Brooklynites. “So many people,” I thought to myself, “I wish they’d go away.” But you can’t avoid people on the weekends. So I headed home and then my heart sank as I spotted a pair of wings on the ground. I didn’t let myself stop because it was clear that someone had ripped the wings off a toffee-colored pigeon—the wings themselves were lovely, but then I saw the tufts of flesh clinging to the exposed bones and made myself walk on. Who does that? And why? I went home and stayed sullen for most of the afternoon. Made myself start work on the latest academic paper (“No novel-writing for you, missy”), and then baked cookies for my guests. Drizzled honey over some strawberries and washed the teapot, cups, and saucers. I took something to ward off a gathering headache and then my friends arrived and we dove into a recap of our respective weeks. At 11pm I changed the channel to HBO but found our conversation too compelling and so hit mute after the theme music for GOT had played. Somehow we started talking about being confrontational and I reminded my friends that I’m conflict averse. They laughed. “You’re always telling people off!” I wasn’t indignant, but I was genuinely surprised. I *hate* conflict. I don’t even like people all that much, and I certainly don’t want to spend my limited social time bickering with idiots. I believe in “strategic silence” but I know that if you always back down, the people who tear wings off helpless birds will run things. And that’s not the world I want to live in.
If you haven’t seen it already, check out this Atlantic article on “The Greatest Girl Characters in Young Adult Literature.” As many of the commenters pointed out, half the books are technically middle grade novels, but my main concern is that not ONE of the characters listed is a girl of color. Yasmin and Erica interviewed me last summer about whitewashing in YA lit, and their fantastic article has been published in the latest issue of Teen Voices. You can subscribe, or check it out at your local library. I sent the link to the author of the Atlantic article. Why not send her your comments and suggestions, too?