Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2018-05-19 22:54Z by Steven

Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

The Guardian
2018-05-11

Lisa Allardice, Editor
Guardian Review

Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’
Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, had a tough childhood in Mississippi, survived Hurricane Katrina, and became the first woman to win two US national book awards for fiction

If Jesmyn Ward’s fiction tends towards the epic, that is maybe because her life has been marked by monumental events. “I fought from the very beginning”, she says. Born prematurely at just 26 weeks, she was badly attacked by her father’s pit bull as a small child, her younger brother was killed at 19, and, along with several generations of her family, she sheltered from Hurricane Katrina in a truck. Yet today she is the first woman to win the US national book award for fiction twice, hailed by a leading reviewer as “one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country”. And on the morning we meet, it has just been announced that she has been shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward’s subject is what it means to be poor and black in America’s rural south, where “life is a hurricane”. Modern Mississippi, she says, “means addiction, ground-in generational poverty, living very closely with the legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow, of lynching and of intractable racism”. In her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds (2008), she felt she “protected” her characters from these brutal realities, because she knew and cared about them too much: “So I kept pulling my punches. And later I realised that was a mistake. Life doesn’t spare the kind of people who I write about, so I felt like it would be dishonest to spare my characters in that way.”…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , ,

The Markle effect: black women see the royal wedding as workplace inspiration

Posted in Articles, Economics, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2018-05-12 17:31Z by Steven

The Markle effect: black women see the royal wedding as workplace inspiration

The Guardian
2018-05-12

Rory Carroll, Shenelle Wallace and Edward Helmore

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Westminster Abbey in London on 25 April.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Westminster Abbey in London on 25 April. Photograph: Eddie Mulholland/AFP/Getty Images

As the royal wedding approaches, some are hoping it will lead to a greater acceptance of African American women in business

As final arrangements are set for the wedding of the US actor Meghan Markle to Prince Harry Windsor, hopes are mounting among some that the Markle effect will have unexpected impacts, including improving opportunities for African American women in the workplace.

“It’s exciting for black women, and I think it’s going to be inspirational,” said Camille Newman, a 38-year-old Brooklyn entrepreneur. Newman expressed deep-felt enthusiasm in the union as a symbolic marker for the acceptance of black or biracial women in society and said other women of color she knew felt the same way.

“We’re claiming her for a black woman’s right to be in there like everybody else,” she said.

One anticipated spin-off, she told the Guardian, could be the greater acceptance of black women across all sectors of society, including business. “As an entrepreneur I face so many challenges to find funding for my business. We’re going to claim her and look to her for inspiration as an African American entrepreneur,” she said…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-12 02:07Z by Steven

A Long Way from Home, Peter Carey’s 14th novel, uses the story of a light-skinned Indigenous Australian who has been brought up white to address the country’s brutal history of racism. It seems strange at first that Carey – surely Australia’s greatest living novelist, even if he hasn’t dwelled there for decades – has taken so long to get around to the subject. In a recent interview in the Australian, he said that he’d always felt that it was not the place of a white writer to tell this tale. Then something changed: “You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”

Alex Preston, “A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades,” The Guardian, January 15, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/a-long-way-from-home-peter-carey-review.

Tags: , , ,

Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-11 20:15Z by Steven

Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

The Guardian
2018-02-10

Kit de Waal


‘A writing career never entered my head.’ … Kit de Waal. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Reading at school was agony. A slow, child by child rotation around the class, six pages each. Great Expectations. Vanity Fair. The Mill on the bloody Floss. The boys with their flatline monotones. The girls, careful not to stumble and be humiliated. English was my best subject, so this process was painful. I wanted to race ahead and get to the end of the story. Yet the idea of taking that book home to read later and finish, that never occurred to me. Not when we owned the ultimate big novel: the Bible. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses and three times a week we’d sit in a draughty hall on the backstreets of Sparkbrook in Birmingham, wrapped around a paraffin heater discussing the 66 books that made up the Old and the New Testaments. I’ve read it cover to cover at least five times.

Leviticus and Numbers were hard going, all that counting and recounting, all those laws and exhortations, but there were very beautiful passages, too. The Song of Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs. The Gospels, too, four different takes on one big adventure. They had the ingredients of a good thriller with a hero, a call to arms, a savage tragedy. Without realising it, I was learning what you had to do to write well, how to characterise, how to keep your reader turning the page without the threat of eternal damnation as an incentive.

But writing as a career? That never entered my head. The only writers I knew were dead. And apart from Enid Blyton, they were dead men. And white. And posh. Even when I began to read widely in my 20s, it was still a case of: if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. No one from my background – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. It just wasn’t an option…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

Phoebe Collings-James: the artist and model taking on tokenism

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-01-30 01:05Z by Steven

Phoebe Collings-James: the artist and model taking on tokenism

The Chain
The Guardian
2017-11-14

The British artist’s paintings, video and sculpture explore desire, sexuality and violence. She’s the second link in The Chain. Scroll down to see images from her day

British artist Phoebe Collings-James grew up a poster girl for teen-zine, mixed-race models. But rather than being the break-out star, she broke out of the industry. She was 18 and increasingly uncomfortable with the casting process and lingerie shows under the male gaze. “As a model, I have often felt very conflicted as a reluctant acceptable face of blackness,” the Hackney-born, Goldsmiths graduate in fine art told Nylon magazine last year. “I have been used as a token black woman purely because I am ‘not too dark’.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Oceania, Passing on 2018-01-25 04:32Z by Steven

A Long Way from Home review – Peter Carey’s best novel in decades

The Guardian
2018-01-15

Alex Preston

The acclaimed writer’s 14th novel is a nuanced story of racial identity set in postwar Australia

Writers are by nature chameleons, with each new character a new disguise to take on, a fresh skin to inhabit. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that racial passing has such a rich literary history. Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing, is a near-forgotten classic, telling of two mixed-race women, Clare and Irene, who identify as white and black respectively. More recently, we’ve had Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, in which the African American Coleman Silk attempts to pass for a Jewish academic. Then there’s Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill, whose concluding revelation about one of the characters’ racial identities does what all good end-of-book twists ought to, shedding new light on the entire novel.

A Long Way from Home, Peter Carey’s 14th novel, uses the story of a light-skinned Indigenous Australian who has been brought up white to address the country’s brutal history of racism. It seems strange at first that Carey – surely Australia’s greatest living novelist, even if he hasn’t dwelled there for decades – has taken so long to get around to the subject. In a recent interview in the Australian, he said that he’d always felt that it was not the place of a white writer to tell this tale. Then something changed: “You can’t be a white Australian writer and spend your whole life ignoring the greatest, most important aspect of our history, and that is that we – I – have been the beneficiaries of a genocide.”…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , ,

My resolution for 2018 is to trace the family who don’t yet know I exist

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-01-22 02:48Z by Steven

My resolution for 2018 is to trace the family who don’t yet know I exist

The Guardian
2017-12-30

Georgina Lawton

Two years ago I discovered I was not related to my white father. Now, I intend to find out the origins of my blackness

When it comes to setting new year’s resolutions, I am not that bothered about losing weight, exercising more, or becoming more productive (although it would be good to finally get a grip on all those things). Instead, I have decided to make 2018 the year in which I make a serious, wholehearted attempt to trace a family who don’t yet know I exist, and to find out once and for all, in as much detail as I can, the origins of my blackness.

No one realises the difficult nature of this task more than me. As I have previously written, I was raised by two white parents who always assured me that I was related to them both, which led me to identify as white until I was about 15.

The nadir of my life came almost two years ago, when my dad died and a subsequent DNA test confirmed my deepest fears, which had wrapped themselves around my life like the tendrils of a poisonous plant. I was not related to my fantastic father; my mother had been unfaithful with a man she knows little about. It had never been spoken about…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-11-27 21:28Z by Steven

When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever

The Guardian
2017-11-27

Afua Hirsch

Don’t underestimate the symbolism of a royal marriage. From now on, it will be impossible to argue that being black is somehow incompatible with being British

Almost two decades ago, during the heady first months of the new millennium, an unruly baroness named Kate Gavron made a shocking suggestion. Prince Charles, she said, should have married someone black. It would be, she imagined, a powerful symbol of the monarchy’s commitment to racial integration and multiculturalism.

Gavron’s comments were not well received at the time. As is so often the case with race and the royals, far more interesting than these remarks themselves, were the media reactions to them. Some suspected this was merely a clandestine attempt at “getting rid” of the monarchy, erasing their heritage through interracial marriages. Not so much revolution, as racial dilution.

Others assumed that for the Prince of Wales to marry a “black girl” – as the hypothetical person was described – would be to return to the loveless, strategic marriages the royals were once so famous for. It was obvious to commentators at the time that marrying a black girl, and marrying someone you actually loved, were both antithetical and mutually exclusive. After all, you couldn’t expect an heir to the throne to actually be attracted to such a person…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Celeste Ng: ‘It’s a novel about race, and class and privilege’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-11-05 05:11Z by Steven

Celeste Ng: ‘It’s a novel about race, and class and privilege’

The Guardian
2017-11-04

Paul Laity


Celeste Ng … ‘I have an interest in the outsider.’ Photograph: Robert Gumpert for the Guardian

The books interview: the bestselling US author on family, fitting in and giving a voice to those without power in her new book, Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng’s first novel Everything I Never Told You opens with 16-year-old Lydia Lee found drowned in a lake. She was her parents’ favourite, the opposite of a troublemaker, an innocent. How did it happen, who was responsible for her death? And can the family survive?

The mystery of Lydia’s fate propels the narrative, which is tightly focused on one couple and their mixed-race children in 1970s suburban America – the secrets that have been kept, the hopes dashed, the sense of not fitting in. A page-turning literary thriller that is also a thought-provoking exploration of parenthood and family life, the novel enjoyed huge success – critics’ accolades, big sales and selection by Amazon editors as their 2014 book of the year.

Ng’s follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere, also begins memorably, with a large, elegant house on an affluent street in flames. It belongs to Elena and Bill Richardson, a picture-perfect married couple with four teenage kids. “The firemen said there were little fires everywhere,” one of the children reports: “Multiple points of origin. Possible use of accelerant. Not an accident.” Another mystery: who did it and why? On the same day, bohemian Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, who have become closely entangled with the Richardsons, pack up and leave town…

…Ng’s husband is white; they have a biracial son, and her first novel is interested too in the idea of feeling “other” even within one’s own family – how two parents can view the same events in contrasting ways. There are occasions when Ng and her husband are still brought up short by the realisation they have “lived in two different worlds”. At moments of tension – one incident at airport security, for instance, or another while getting their son a passport – he assumes he’ll be given the benefit of the doubt, she says, whereas “my understanding is that you have to toe the line or you’ll be in trouble”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Black Tudors review – hidden lives revealed

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-11-04 21:40Z by Steven

Black Tudors review – hidden lives revealed

The Guardian
2017-10-15

Anita Sethi


Miranda Kaufmann: black Tudor lives matter. Photograph: Rosie Collins

Miranda Kaufmann’s account of the lives of 10 black people who made their homes in Tudor England sheds new light on our island’s story

Why and how did they come to England? How were they treated? What were their lives like? These are the questions that Miranda Kaufmann perceptively probes in Black Tudors. This account of people of African descent in Renaissance England overturns misconceptions, showing that “it is vital to understand that the British Isles have always been peopled with immigrants”. She concentrates on 10 individuals, ranging widely in social class and location, from cities to the countryside, including a royal trumpeter, a porter, a silk weaver, and an independent single woman. Meticulous research draws on sources from letters to legal papers, and Kaufmann also reflects on the challenges: “Fleshing out these biographies from the meagre documentation that remains is not easy, but it is a mission that must be undertaken if we are to reclaim their stories”. The detail she unearths brings to life those absent from the pages of history…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,