Who’s Allowed to Tell the Tale? (And Which Tales Should They Tell?)

There’s a game I like to play when I walk into a bookstore. Based on the the title, cover and store placement I can always interpret the marketing intention for a book meant for an black American audience. The best part of this game is that the books will, typically, fit into the following categories (they are, in no particular order):

1. Black Pathology or “What’s wrong with Black people?”
2. The literature of “sistah gurl”
3. Christian-oriented fiction/inspirational
4. Street-Lit or Hip-Hop fiction
5. The Slave Novel
6. The Civil Rights Book (This also includes Black Nationalism)
7. The extraordinary rise from street life/poverty/welfare into the middle class.
8. Poorly styled celebrity memoir, or well researched and documented hagiography
9. Black Queens and Kings
10. Hip-Hop analysis
12. The “Black” version of some mainstream topic (For example: “Black Girl’s Guide to Fashion; “Black Families’ Guide to Wealth;”) Guides will include slang, bright colors, and inevitably the phrase “the legacy of slavery.”
13. The Classics: Harlem Renaissance 101 and/or The Black Arts Movement. Toni Morrison.
14. Contemporary Classics or Literary Fiction (Mostly woman, mostly diaspora authors)
15. Non-black author writes really compelling story about black person(s); story gets awards accolades, lots of press and movie deal.

These topics produce wonderful books and poorly written books. They often represent a compendium of the black American experience, and just as often, they are simply a reflection of what publishing thinks black people read.

In a recent Washington Post op ed, author, Bernice L. McFadden wonders about the nature of books that would fit into number 15 on my list.

“Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, published by a Penguin Books imprint, sold 1 million books within a year of publication. Her novel has gained accolades and awards, including the prestigious South African Boeke Prize. The Help is being adapted for the screen; at the helm of production is the Academy Award-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg. Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel The Secret Life of Bees, also published by Penguin Books, is another story set in the South with African American characters. Kidd’s novel garnered similar fame, fortune and recognition. Kathryn Stockett and Sue Monk Kidd are living the dream of thousands of authors, myself included. But they are not the first white women to pen stories of the black American South and be lauded for their efforts.”

Continue reading

Ridiculous Moments in R&B, Part 2.

It took 12 years, but here we go again! Ridiculous Moments in R & B, part deux! In no particular order, the winners are:

1. Who let your drunk uncles in the studio?? I have no idea how ‘Float On’ by the Floaters came about, but I’m guessing it went something like this:

Larry: Ay! Ay y’all, this where my nephew Ronnie J come in here and do his music shit at…I think he got some beer in a fridge here somewhere down here since Paul done drank up all the everythang.

Paul: You cain’t put that on me, man! You know I don’t drink no beer if it ain’t malted anyway, you hear me??! *pimp runs around the room*

Charles: WHERE THE ‘YAC AT??!

Ralph: Shut up, fool! Hey Larry, what you say Ronnie ‘nem do in here? Music? Aw, shit, we could do that! We can make somethin’ for the ladies, man!


Larry: Yeah! Say, man, that ain’t a bad idea! There’s this redbone that work at the Snackin’ Shack I been tryin’ to get at for the longest!

Ralph: Awwww yeah! I’ma get on that microphone, talkin’ bout some “I’M A SCORPIO! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEAN, GIRL??!” *inappropriate hip gyration*


Gotta hand it to ’em though. The foot action is *crazy* and this song is better than ANYTHING that Trey Songz will ever do in the history of his life.

Stumping for Marriage: Bundles of Joy?

In a recently published study, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers  assessed the subjective happiness of women and found that despite greater opportunities, higher wages and increased education, their perceived feelings of well-being have decreased steadily over the last 35 years. In addition they identified a widening gap in the levels of subjective happiness experienced by men and women.  This finding touched off a flurry of responses and rebuttals, in the attempt to determine whether we really are unhappy and if so, why.  Among the popular hypotheses for female misery was the stress of motherhood due to the disproportionate role of women in child-rearing, along with the lack of supports within society for those who are struggling to balance parenting and careers.

Did all this depress you? Need a pick me up? Then maybe you should forget everything you just read and go pop out a baby instead of popping pills.

Continue reading

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Go Away, not Rogue

Dave Weigel for the win on Twitter this afternoon: “Weird, Oprah has some unemployed conservative blogger on today”:

For a second, I was confused. I thought he was talking about Lou Dobbs.

Regardless, once I finish this round-up, I’m putting together a proposal to make our next book-of-the-month selection “Going Rogue.” I hear all the kids are reading it:

1. The NYT’s Michiko Kakutani reviews Sarah Palin’s much-hyped memoir. “Just as Ms. Palin’s planned book tour resembles a campaign rollout — complete with a bus tour and pit stops in battleground states — so the second half of this book often reads like a calculated attempt to position Ms. Palin for 2012. She tries to compare herself to Ronald Reagan by repeatedly invoking his name and record. She talks about being ‘a Commonsense Conservative’ and worrying about the national deficit. And she attempts to explain, rationalize or refute controversial incidents and allegations that emerged during the 2008 race.” (G.D.)

2. By now, you’ve heard that Sept. 11 co-conspirator Khalid Shaik Mohammed and four others will face trial in New York for their roles in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Glenn Greenwald, Juan Cole and Amanda Marcotte offer their takes on the completely predictable right-wing whining about the Obama Administration’s failure to indulge totalitarian notions of justice. (Blackink)

3. Nearly half of all the country’s homeless vets are black. (G.D.)

4. More about vets: Tara McKelvey uncovers how Bush-era officials substituted pop-Christianity for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders and depression. “God doesn’t like ugly,” one political appointee told Paul Sullivan, an analyst in the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration, in a clumsy attempt to reduce the cost of caring for psychologically traumatized veterans. “You need to make the numbers lower.” (Blackink)

5. 538 echoes the point that geographically-compact districts leave Democrats underrepresented in Congress and state legislatures. (Blackink)

6. As campaigning for the 2010 Senate race cranks up in Florida, the state GOP is on the verge of civil war. Hopefully, they’ll all secede when it’s over. (Blackink)

7. Leigh does the math on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of D.C.’s threat to shutter programs aimed at helping the city’s poor if its lawmakers decide to move forward with same-sex marriage. Shani’s take is over at The American Prospect and Jamelle’s take on the Church’s politicization is at Spencer Ackerman’s spot. (G.D.)

8. Speaking of Shani, she put in serious work last week over at TAPPED. We salute her and her efforts. A link to the Web site is here.

9. Also, the FANTASTIC (emphasis is Shani’s) Majora Carter – will be blogging there for the next two weeks. Here’s a sample.  (Shani-o)

10. So chocolate milk is good for you. Now all we need is an excuse to lace it with vodka a la Roger Sterling. (Alisa)

11. Speaking of Roger and the gang – WANT. (Alisa)
12. Steven D. at Booman Tribune has a righteous rant about the epic fail of abstinence-only sex education. (Blackink)
13. Residents in a rural Maine town (really, is there any other kind?) are opposing a multifamily housing complex that would expand housing options for immigrant laborers. The aforementioned Dobbs would be proud. (Blackink)
14. The Philadelphia-area swimming pool that was embroiled in controversy during the summer for allegedly discriminating against minority campers has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (Blackink)

15. John Cho on race and acting. (G.D.)

16. Over at Bitch Ph.D., M. LeBlanc has an interesting post about pseudonymity and sexual shame. “I look back and think, man, if I were writing under my real name, would I ever have written any of those things, all of which I’m proud of? I know I wouldn’t have. But why?” (Blackink)

17. Why Amanda Hess hates “I love women.” Chris Brown and Wendy Williams are involved. (Blackink)

18. Double X will be absorbed back into Slate. Can’t say I’m that sorry when good pubs like the Washington Blade are dying. (Shani-o) *Ironically (if that’s even the word, this item was a last-second addition to the round-up. I initially had the NYT Magazine’s profile on Megan Fox here. Guess I still do).

19. It’s a given that 50 Cent is always badly in need of attention. Now he seems to want some from Jay-Z. (Blackink)

20. For those of us who couldn’t make it or weren’t invited, here’s Spencer Ackerman’s abridged account of the Cold Drank Summit. Blog sis Alyssa also talks about her trip to Howard with Shani. (Blackink)

21. If you watched last night’s epic renewal of the Patriots-Colts rivalry, you should know that the math agreed with Belichick. (Blackink)

22. A new study shows that cynicism and negativity may actually enhance the experience of the game. No wonder I love football so much: I grew up rooting for the Oilers.  (Blackink)

23. Would football be safer – i.e. prevent more head injuries – without helmets? Possibly. (Blackink)

24. Milwaukee Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings on the challenge of the NBA: “‘Sometimes it feels like Oak Hill (Academy) out there,’ he said. For Jennings, the NBA is already akin to high school. Rookie dominance seems assured. Stardom is the next stop.” (Blackink)

25. And finally, on a much more somber and tragic note, I want to learn a lot more about Shaniya Davis than Sarah Palin over the next couple of days. But not really. If you all know what I mean.

Until the next time, stay up.

Book of the Month Discussion: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. [Sticky Post]

The story of Michael Oher’s intellectual development is also the story of his body type. Michael Oher is rare. Huge. A freak of nature. He’s also an anomaly of nurture and it has taken a village to raise him. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis chronicles Oher’s turbulent childhood, his unlikely ascent into professional football and the importance and evolution, largely monetary, of the left tackle position in the NFL. The position Oher would come to play in college for Old Miss and, currently, the Baltimore Ravens.

Using a mixture of stark language and deftly placed insight, Michael Lewis describes the evolution of the left tackle with the language and rationale of free market capitalism.  In the early nineties, the N.F.L.’s  free agency system meant that teams could “buy the players they needed,” but as would soon become obvious, not all positions were created equal. “The price of protecting quarterbacks was driven by the same forces that drove the price of other kinds of insurance,” Lewis writes. “It rose with the value of the asset insured, with the risk posed to that asset.”

The person charged with protecting that million-dollar golden boy needed strength, speed, agility and bodily bulk— a massive butt and legs as well as long arms—to give the quarterback a few extra seconds in the pocket was unlike the other offensive lineman. It’s rare for someone to have all these specific physical traits, and for the players who had them, the price was high. Very high.


Friday Random Ten.

This weekend, in the District of Columbia, there will be the long-awaited meeting of The Families. The Grape Drink Mafia and the Juicebox Mafia.

The Cold Drank Summit.

The Internet should be very scared.

I’m sure there will be lots of talk about health care reform, “30 Rock” and good hair, which neither blacks nor Jews are credited with having much of. And there’s really not much more that can be said in this space.

But if we had a seat at the table, and say, Alyssa or Jamelle or Adam turned on the iPod, this is what they would probably play:

1. Gin and Juice by Snoop Dog (Quadmoniker)

2. Sippin’ tha Barre by Paul Wall (Jamelle)

3. Drink to Me by Johnny Cash (Quadmoniker)

4. I’m On It (Kryptonite) by the Purple Ribbon All-Stars (G.D.)

5. Only When I’m Drunk by Tha Alkaholiks (Blackink)

6. Drink with Me by Mairus and the rest of the revolutionaries in ‘Les Miserables.’ (Brokey)

7. Juice (Know the Ledge) by Eric B and Rakim (Blackink)

And we have to do Shani’s submissions in order, lest you all miss the joke:

8. Sugarwater by Cibo Matto (Shani-o)

9. Don’t Drink the Water by Dave Matthews Band (Shani-o)

10. Purple Rain by Prince (Shani-o)

Get it? Anyone?

Eh … just be glad I couldn’t find a video for “Love 40.”

Until the next time, have a great weekend. And pour out a little liquor for those of us who couldn’t make it to D.C.

Nostalgic and Disappointed in My Office Kitchen.

Am I the only person who didn’t know that Carlton from Fresh Prince was hosting a lame-looking show  on a network I’ve never heard of? I caught a brief glimpse of a commercial for it when I went to my water cooler and, frankly, wish I didn’t even know. Though for a minute I thought he was just in the commercial, and  that was even more sad.