In addition to writing this blog, I am co-host of a jammin’ ass literary podcast. Chances are if you’re reading this you already knew it, but if not…you might wanna get in on the ground floor. We’ll eventually be poppin’. Search for and listen to BetterThantheMovie wherever you listen to podcasts (iTunes/Stitcher/etc.). In my capacity as cohost to this fine show I’m responsible for keeping my finger to the pulse of what’s hot in these literary e-streets. There’s one top in particular that is sizzlin’ on the bookternet and online lit communities. Everyone is talkin’ bout the big D.
…wait, not that D, ya perv. DIVERSITY. It’s the buzzword and has been since at least…2013. Let me let that sink in for you. Literature been around as long as humans have been in existence, but it took until were two thousand plus years into life after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for our sins for people to say “Hey! Books are written by more than just #DaWhites, perhaps they should be published at equal rates, too!” Or at least that’s what I thought the Diversity in Literature movement was about, but the more I see people talking about it, the more I’m not so sure what the hell we’re doing here.
So I’m in the process of writing (& eventually self-publishing) a romance novel. In this process, I’ve become pretty plugged into the romance writer community via social media. At least three times a day, I see someone decrying the plight of “writers of color” and the traumas they face within the romance genre as a whole. Publishers only sign a certain number of “of color” writers. Some imprints don’t accept submissions from “of color” writers at all. “Mainstream” Romance readers don’t want to read about “of color” heroes or heroines. Books by “of color” hero and heroines aren’t shelved with the “mainstream” books.
Now go back into that previous paragraph and replace all of the “of color” jargon with Black. And “mainstream” with White. Now because that’s what I am and what I know, that’s all I can speak to when talking about diversity. That’s all I read (when it comes to romance). That’s what I write. That’s what affects me on a personal level. Reading about the lack of diversity in publishing would lead you to believe that there are very few good books written by Black folks out there, honestly. Because a book is only deemed “good” if it is accepted by a “mainstream” audience. As if the data and statistics don’t show that you should probably be marketing your book toward Black women because we’re the most likely to read/buy the books. Also of note in that linked article is that Black people read more of every type of book. *gasp* Imagine that!
Earlier this week I tweeted that I believe that the “we need diverse books” movement is more of a “pick me, choose me, love me” movement. If you watched Grey’s Anatomy, you’re familiar with the back and forth between Derek and Meredith in the early seasons. The linked clip is a seminal moment in their relationship. She was fighting for his love. She wanted to be valued and validated by Derek. Now let’s make some of the “diversity” warriors Meredith and “mainstream” publishing Derek. Now Meredith shouldnta been chasing behind Derek because in her own right she was a brilliant young surgeon on the cusp of greatness. But the need to feel she like meant something to someone outweighed her professional aspirations. This need that some “of color” authors feel like they ain’t truly made it until they get white readers is ridiculous and disheartening.
I feel like spending time fighting for a seat at a table that ain’t clamoring to include you is pointless. Would that time not be better spent building your own table? And inviting others who are like you to share that table? And climbing on top of that table with a megaphone to let people who are looking for you and your ilk that you’re right here? So they can slide past the salad bar and come get the fried chicken?
This has gone a little off topic and has capacity to go even further away, so I’m just going to end this here with a simple question. As my friend Tahmeka always says, am I alone on make sense island?
I do this thing fairly often where I lament about a Thing that’s not in my life to the point of annoying my own damn self. But THEN…when an opportunity is presented for me to get closer to actually obtaining The Thing, I pussyfoot around. I come up with a million and one reasons why I don’t *really* need The Thing. I complain about the parts of life that put me on the path to ascertaining The Thing. I decide that The Thing isn’t really something I truly need or wanted in the first place. The opportunity passes for me to ascertain The Thing. Later, I see someone else with The Thing and the cycle begins all over again with the lamentations.
Lame as fuck, right?
I’m finding that the older I get, I’m more cognizant of how the universe works in concert with desires that you project. Let me be clear. I’m not saying The Secret is real. Because that “all you gotta do is visualize some shit and it’ll come true” spiel is malarkey. But! Fate has a way of placing things on your path that will aid and assist you along the way…should you actually do the fucking work.
A girlfriend of mine has been talking about being an adjunct professor since she got her master’s a few years ago. I think this has been a continuous topic of conversation for at least the past two years. She got an opportuity to interview with a university here, made it to the second round, and now she’s waffling about whether or not it’s something she wants to do because she has to now create and teach a lesson plan from scratch. My response to her was “WHAT? Why not? Isn’t this what you wanted???” She’s pondering the idea was her response. Now, all of a sudden, the Thing she desired so greatly has less value because there is work that she feels incapable or unwilling to do. And I can’t even be mad at that. Because I’ve done the same thing hundreds of times.
The doing of the work is where many people say “fuck that noise, I’m out.” Because the work (not to be confused with The Work™ *waves to Ashley*) isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t quick. It doesn’t instantaneously bring The Thing to you.
As a reply to my above tweet, the homie Ashley sent me this quote that I felt was most apropos and quite frankly emblematic of this entire conundrum.
All of the back and forth and wimping out is rooted in fear. Fear of not being smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, bold enough, diplomatic enough…or simply just enough. It’s much easier to play yourself small and be boxed in. Stretching outside of your comfort zone and doing The Thing(s) can be overwhelming. And difficult. And stressful. And just plain shitty.
But the result of the work to attain The Thing is glorious. And rewarding. And worth so much more than the shitty grueling toiling you had to do to get to it. You just have to be willing to get to it though. And that’s where I struggle. But I am a work in progress who is yet willing to try to sacrifice to get ALL OF THE THINGS. Because like Momma Dee…
So I didn’t have a post for Friday. And am finding it increasingly difficult to just come up with something. So here’s a rambling ass voice note that ends with me yelling at drivers on the road. *snerk*
Heh. This title is also a great book by Zadie Smith. You should get into it if you haven’t already read. I didn’t plan this post. Or this title. I wasn’t going to post anything at all today because I feel like ass, but I didn’t want to ruin this run I had going over a stupid recurring sickness, so I’m pushing forward. Prolly gonna be short, but at least there’ll be words.
This morning I’ve seen this tweet watusi down my timeline about 4-5 times:
How many of y'all grew up self-conscious of your black features, e.g. big nose, lips, etc…?
And it caused me to think. Have I ever particularly been self-conscious about any of my prominent black features? I don’t think I have, honestly and I think that’s because I never grew up feeling…beautiful. So when you’re pretty meh about your features as a whole, singling out one to be an issue never quite crossed my mind.
It’s interesting to me because I felt that my parents did a wonderful job in helping me build my self worth as a kid, but our focus was always more on highlighting my intellect rather than physical attributes. It wasn’t until puberty was in full swing and I was consistently passed over for my gorgeous best friend that I began to feel negatively about my physical appearance. I was always the ugly friend. And for a great while, it fucked with me. I let what other people thought of me dictate how I felt about myself. Paid for it with some painful experiences that I won’t go into here.
Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that and can recognize my unique beauty (most of the time), but it was not an easy process by far. I am loathe to call anyone ugly solely based on the physical. Not to sound all Pollyanna or whatever, but everyone possesses some form of beauty that may not be visible to me, but is a flashing neon sign to someone else.