Archive for the ‘interview’ Category

Ari’s got some awesome posts up, including an interview with Japanese Canadian author Hiromi Goto at Color Online.  I especially loved this response, which made me want to read ALL her work:

I’m a woman of colour writing out of North America. I’m an immigrant living on colonized land. This awareness effects, absolutely, how I write, because I’m not writing out of a historical vacuum. In literary historical terms, the writings of women of colour and indigenous women has not been widely published in North America for so very long. I’m talking about air time. It’s been dominated by white male writers, and when I look at the winners of major literary prizes, it still veers toward them. This tells me something about long-term systemic racism and sexism. I believe that it’s still vital and necessary, for the good of all, that diverse and politicized women of colour and indigenous women writers continue to roar, take up space, and challenge the normative. That readers need, and are hungry for, diverse stories. Sometimes our bodies and minds are starving for other stories, but we do not know it, because we are full-up on Wonderbread.

Don’t forget that Ari’s running a series—Elated over Eleven—to introduce you to debut MG/YA authors of 2011.  Today’s author is Danette Vigilante, author of The Trouble with a Half Moon.  Previous interviews include Sarah Jamila Stevenson and Christopher Grant.

Nnedi Okorafor’s got an update on her blog about her forthcoming YA novel, Akata Witch. And her adult novel, Who Fears Death, is making a lot of “best of” lists, so consider giving it as a gift for the holidays…

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Most readers know Derrick Barnes as the author of the popular Ruby and the Booker Boys series.  He’s also the author of the YA novel, The Making of Dr. TrueLove.  But did you know Derrick has a middle grade novel that just came out last month?  If you’re thinking of buying books for holiday gifts, you should consider this new release for the boys in your life.  Here’s a summary from the Scholastic website:

Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching.

I borrowed a copy of the book from the library—does your library have a copy yet?  Take a moment to find out and ask for it to be ordered, if necessary.  Then support your local bookstore and get them to order some copies, too!  Derrick took time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of my questions:

More and more I’m realizing just how diverse boys are and because of this diversity, there really isn’t one solution for the problems boys face.  Tell us about your decision to represent a range of black boys–and a range of responses to school violence/bullying.

I always start from two points of reference or points of motivation.  I must: 1) attempt to tell stories and create characters that are not currently present, demographically or culturally, and 2) counter the negative or incomplete images that exist in children’s lit or popular culture.  As an artist/author that feels extremely blessed to have this opportunity, I take my social responsibility very seriously; I have the ability to create the Robeson Battlefields and Pacino Claptons of the world that will debunk the one dimensional negative imagery of Black boys and present us as real-life sons, brothers, nephews, scholars, gentlemen, dreamers, doers, and compassionate difference-makers.

It’s the holiday season and lots of people are buying books as gifts—who’s the ideal recipient of your book?

I wrote WE COULD BE BROTHERS for Black boys. Midway through the manuscript it became evident to me that the two universal themes from this book are social responsibility and brotherhood, themes that could be beneficial for anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or race.

I wrote this book for the parents and educators who are constantly searching for literature that uplifts the spirit, that stimulates positive thinking, and presents Black boys as the protagonists/lead characters that they can identify with.

I also wrote this book because I am humbled by the literary legacy of authors like Walter Dean Myers and Julius Lester who, through their books, give boys, especially African American boys, the gift of learning to read and loving to read.

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Amy Bodden Bowllan has changed the name of her blog to remind us of the importance of LISTENING.  Tell your story at the Brooklyn Public Library:

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There’s a great new YA site in the blogosphere—check out Em and Nora over at Love YA Lit.  Emily and I met at the Hudson Book Festival this past spring, and she was kind enough to interview me in advance of her review of Wish, which will go up next week…

This is an interesting blog that focuses on the history and experiences of black people in Europe.  This particular post only includes images of black men (Ignatius Sancho, below), but I’ve already got a novel in mind about African-descended women in London…

Queen Charlotte (below), wife of King George III, is considered by some to be a woman of African descent—which means Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II also have African ancestors.  I’m not really invested in the project of tracing our roots to royalty, but also wasn’t impressed by this reporter‘s assessment of the value in claiming black ancestry:

The suggestion that Queen Charlotte was black implies that her granddaughter (Queen Victoria) and her great-great-great-great-granddaughter (Queen Elizabeth II) had African forebears. Perhaps, instead of just being a boring bunch of semi-inbred white stiffs, our royal family becomes much more interesting. Maybe – and this is just a theory – the Windsors would do well to claim their African heritage: it might be a PR coup, one that would strengthen the bonds of our queen’s beloved Commonwealth.

Or would our royal family be threatened if it were shown they had African forebears? “I don’t think so at all. There would be no shame attached to it all,” says the royal historian Hugo Vickers. “The theory does not impress me, but even if it were true, the whole thing would have been so diluted by this stage that it couldn’t matter less to our royal family. It certainly wouldn’t show that they are significantly black.”

What does it mean to be “significantly black”? or, conversely, “insignificantly black”?  I’m storing up all these problematic ideas for the novels yet to be written…

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If you missed my interview with poet/performer/publisher DuEwa Frazier, you can listen to the entire segment here.  It was a great conversation!

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Later on today at 5pm I’ll be a guest on DuEwa Frazier’s web radio show, Rhymes, Views & News—feel free to call in!

I didn’t sleep well last night; was up late poring over my mother’s family tree and corresponding with her first cousin, Carolin, up in Ontario Alberta.  If you watched Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. you know that family histories aren’t always factually accurate.  We’re trying to compare notes and come up with an exact date—I have 1820 in my head as the year my African American ancestors left Philadelphia and migrated to Canada.  According to what my grandmother told me, two younger brothers of Bishop Richard Allen bought their freedom and went north.  But wasn’t slavery in PA mostly over by 1820?  Now it seems there’s another, more plausible version, which is that my ancestor (John Allen) was actually the son of Bishop Allen’s eldest brother, John.  It doesn’t help that they keep recycling all the family names—endless Richards and Johns and Sarahs.  I stayed up til midnight then succumbed to a headache and went to bed.  Couldn’t fall asleep, of course.  Now I’ve got this photo (above) of my great-grandfather (Richard Allen) pinned to my bulletin board.  He looks about 8-10 years old in this photo, and you can see his older sister Annie is quite fair.  Family legend says that their father, James Henry Allen, wouldn’t allow his photo to be taken because he felt his descendants would one day be ashamed of his “dark skin.”  Even if that story’s true, I find it hard to believe that James was dark-skinned; even with a very fair white wife, he couldn’t likely have produced so many children who could virtually pass for white.  So what did James Henry look like?  We’ll never know, probably.  This is a photograph of his wife, Ellen.  She and her sister married two Allen brothers in the 1850s and were effectively cut off from their family—some relatives even changed their surname to avoid being linked to black people!  When I write my novel about my family, I will take no prisoners…I won’t worry about offending Canadians’ delicate sensibilities around race.  I’m so grateful for Cousin Carolin and all my other white-identified relatives who refuse to stand with white supremacy…

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These young women were just the best—I felt so honored to have the chance to speak to them, and then they graciously agreed to be filmed.  And FINALLY I found some readers who are on Team Judah!  Mary and Kafela are part of the Sister Sol Rites of Passage program—it’s an amazing group run by Cidra Sebastien, Associate Director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (you go, girl!).  They’re always hosting great parties and fundraisers, but accept donations as well—do check out all the great work they do at their website.

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A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Summer Edward; she kindly agreed to review Wish, and then opened my eyes to the challenges facing members of the children’s publishing industry in the Caribbean.  We’ll spend the next couple of days getting to know this blogger/scholar and her views on Caribbean children’s literature…

Introduce us to Summer Edward—who are you, and how/why did you start blogging?

For the purposes of this interview, I’m a writer, blogger, Caribbean children’s literature scholar/activist, and aspiring children’s writer from Trinidad and Tobago. I’m also a Masters student in the Reading, Writing, Literacy program at the University of Pennsylvania where I’ve studied international children’s literature and illustration under Dr. Laurence Sipe.

I started blogging to bring awareness to the existence of Caribbean children’s literature, its history and highlights, but also its deficiencies and dilemmas. So many people want to know more about Caribbean children’s literature (Who writes it? What does it look like? Where can I buy books? Why isn’t there more of it? What is a Caribbean children’s book anyway?) but don’t know where to turn to find out or simply haven’t been able to because there isn’t much information out there, scholarly or otherwise. I also started blogging because I think we Caribbean people should ask, and have a right to ask ourselves why it is, at this stage in our history and development, we still cannot walk into a bookstore (whether it is in the Caribbean or elsewhere in the world) and find quality children’s literature by Caribbean people about Caribbean experiences well-represented on the shelves.

I understand that there are people out there (like myself) who want to see Caribbean children’s literature become more mainstream, respected, dynamic, relevant, bona fide, affordable, accessible, functional and yes, lucrative. No one writer, illustrator or publisher can make this happen; we need to come together as an interest group and network and support each other, and I thought that a blog was one way to do that. Finally, I started blogging to advocate for the importance of reading throughout childhood and of culturally-relevant, personally meaningful literacy experiences for children and young people.

Tell us about your online magazine, Anansesem, and describe your “dream submission.”

Anansesem is a first-of-its-kind online magazine of Caribbean and related writing and illustration for children by adults and children. Along with myself, the Editorial Board consists of June South-Robinson, Carol Mitchell, Anouska Kock, Sandra Sealy. We are currently accepting material for our inaugural issue, due in September (See our Submission Guidelines.)

Our “dream submission” would be a couple of things. First, we hope that people will pay attention to and closely follow the instructions outlined in the Submission Guidelines. Aside from that, we’re hoping that we will get submissions from Caribbean (and some non-Caribbean) individuals with serious aspirations of writing and illustrating for children. In terms of submissions from kids, we’d honestly love to see anything Caribbean children have written, drawn, painted or made. On our Facebook page, I recently posted a link to the winning pieces from last year’s UNESCO International children’s painting competition. Although we’d love to see that kind of highly artistic kids’ work in our magazine, we understand that not all children paint or draw like that, so of course we want a range of work.

Most of all, we want age-appropriate writing and illustration that authentically reflects the values and attitudes of Caribbean people. Writing that considers Caribbean children (and their parents and teachers) as the primary audience, yet is accessible to “cultural outsiders.” We’re looking for illustrations that daringly interpret the Caribbean picture book aesthetic, showing awareness of traditional Caribbean artistic expressions, but also innovative integration of styles of children’s illustration drawn from other cultures. We’re looking for Caribbean children’s literature that builds upon the past while speaking to the present and the future, that critiques and informs, and that avoids stereotypical presentations. Send us some stories about real-life Caribbean children living in actual social and historical circumstances. Words and plots that evoke childhood in the Caribbean. Ultimately, we are looking for pictures and narratives that Caribbean children will love and see themselves in.

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Coming up on August 8th I’ll be a guest on poet/publisher DuEwa Frazier‘s web radio show, Rhymes, Views & News.  I first met DuEwa a few years ago when she accepted a couple of my poems for her anthology, Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees.  The book went on to earn a nomination for an NAACP Image Award!  Do check out more of DuEwa’s books from her press, LitNoire Publishing.

I’m working on a book of poems for children, and that means I spent most of yesterday sifting through dozens of haiku that I’ve been collecting for YEARS…not all are suitable for kids, and that means I need to head over to the garden today and write some new kid-friendly haiku.  I want to have something I can share with children since most of my poetry is for teens or adults.  I sometimes use haiku to help me overcome writer’s block—what do you do?  Stop by Crazy Quilts to hear how Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich defines her mission as a writer.

Lastly, I’m getting a lot of love from Brooklyn this week!  Many thanks to Nostrand Park for reviewing A Wish After Midnight!  And if you’ve never heard me read before, check out Brooklyn the Borough–they’ve got video footage of my June reading at Franklin Park…

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Yesterday I was interviewed for an upcoming film, For Our Daughters.  When the producer, Eric McKay, asked me to participate—I tried to get out of it!  I’ve never been in a film, and after watching the above clip with its reference to the matriarchy MYTH, I was pretty sure my opinion as a black feminist wouldn’t really be valued.  But Eric persisted, and I finally agreed, and the lovely Deloris McCullough offered us some space in the beautiful youth wing of the BPL’s central branch.  I seem to have this problem whenever the camera starts rolling—as soon as something leaves my mouth, I forget just what it is I’ve said!  This happened on the C-Span panel, and it has happened on other panels—either I blank out right in the middle of answering a question, or I answer it, leave the stage, and have no recollection of what I said.  Is it nerves?  Just another reason to stick to my notes!  I know Eric asked me to talk about colorism among teens, and somehow I started out talking about Genna and Wish, but wound up talking about my grandmother who could pass for white…I was all over the place, and we talked for more than an hour but only about 5 minutes will be used in the film!  I’m glad he’s going to be editing all that footage and not me!  I did talk about my wall of ancestor photos, and he asked me to send him a photograph for use in the film, along with photos of the places I’ve visited in my travels.  Should I include a shot of me pony-trekking in Wales?  Maybe not…

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