Book Review: The ‘R’ Word by Kurt Barling

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-03-17 01:39Z by Steven

Book Review: The ‘R’ Word by Kurt Barling

The LSE Review of Books
London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom

Amal Shahid

As the newest edition to the Provocations series from Biteback Publishing, The ‘R’ Word challenges the idea that we have entered a ‘post-racial’ society in which race no longer represents a significant obstacle to opportunities. Drawing upon his own personal experiences, Kurt Barling questions the often paradoxical prevailing discourses surrounding race and racism in contemporary society. Although Amal Shahid suggests that the resolutely autobiographical nature of the account is occasionally inhibiting, she finds this book a lucid, accessible and effective engagement with issues surrounding racism, written with journalistic flair.

If you are interested in this book, LSE alumnus Kurt Barling will be speaking at an LSE alumni event, ‘The ‘‘R” Word: Racism and Modern Society’, on Tuesday 26 April 2016, alongside Provocations series editor Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, LSE academic Dr Caroline Howarth and LSE’s Student Union Anti-Racism Officer, Jasmina Bidé.

The ‘R’ Word. Kurt Barling. Biteback Publishing. 2015.

Many believe that the society we live in today is a ‘post-racial’ one and that race is no longer an impediment to opportunities. And yet, over the course of the year to April 2015, out of all people stopped and searched by the Metropolitan Police in Britain, about 38 per cent were people of ‘Black appearance’ and approximately 14 per cent were of ‘Asian appearance’. Of these, around 21 per cent of the former and 16 per cent of the latter were subsequently arrested. This implies that the rates of stop and search as well as arrests were significantly higher for non-white subjects, even as recently as 2015 (113)…

…The major strength of the book lies in the particular issues that it addresses, some of which find parallels in several contemporary societies. For instance, Barling demonstrates how over time there has been a denial of racism in public discourse. The growing multiculturalism of Britain has led people to believe that racism in its rudimentary form no longer exists. On the other hand, a parallel discourse has emerged that argues for a White English victimisation. This sense of majority victimisation has become a part of many diverse societies, ranging from the USA to India…

…Being of mixed race himself, Barling makes the question of ‘who speaks for whom’ less controversial…

Read the entire review here.

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Mom Writes Book, ‘Bad Hair Does Not Exist!’ For Daughters

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-21 21:19Z by Steven

Mom Writes Book, ‘Bad Hair Does Not Exist!’ For Daughters

NBC News

Maya Chung

Bad Hair Does Not Exist/Pelo Malo No Existe! is a Children’s Book by Sulma Arzu-Brown.

Bad Hair Does Not Exist!” is a new bilingual book that encourages young Black, Afro-Latino, and multi-racial girls to see themselves, and their hair, as beautiful.

Sulma Arzu-Brown, who calls herself a “Garifuna” woman or Afro-Latino from Honduras, was inspired to write the book after her three-year-old daughter’s babysitter commented that little Bella Victoria had “pelo malo,” which is a Spanish term for “bad hair.”

She knew then that she could either be angry or be a part of the solution, so she chose to write a book.

“The book is a tool of cultural solidarity and a tool of empowerment for all of our little girls,” said Arzu-Brown whose daughters are now 4 and 11. “The term ‘Bad hair’ or ‘Pelo Malo’ is divisive to both community and family, and can contribute to low self-esteem.”…

Read the article here.

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Review ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ follows Misty Copeland’s incredible rise in the ballet world

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-09 02:33Z by Steven

Review ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ follows Misty Copeland’s incredible rise in the ballet world

The Los Angeles Times

Mary McNamara, Contact Reporter

Misty Copeland in the documentary “A Ballerina’s Tale.” (Oskar Landi / Sundance Selects)

If you think #OscarsSoWhite, consider the world of elite ballet. And if you want to understand why the current conversation over the lack of diversity among this year’s film academy nominees is just one thread of a much larger tapestry, watch Nelson George’s documentary “A Ballerina’s Tale: The Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland” on PBS on Monday night.

Watch too if you are a dance aficionado or a woman, if you have a daughter or for that matter a son, if you are a Southern California resident or just a thinking member of a culture that is changing, with various degrees of resistance, in almost every area.

It won’t take long, just 90 minutes that include several exquisite dance scenes, Copeland’s now-signature friendly frankness and none of the crazy-girl “Black Swan” pathology we have come to expect from tales of the dance world…

…”I think that people think that sometimes I focus too much on the fact that I’m a black dancer,” Copeland says in the film’s opening moments. “There’s never been a black principal woman … in the top companies of the world. In New York City Ballet, in New York City. I don’t think people realize what a feat it is, being a black woman. But that’s so much of who I am, and I think it’s so much a part of my story.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Permanent Exile: On Marie Vieux-Chauvet

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2016-02-07 15:52Z by Steven

Permanent Exile: On Marie Vieux-Chauvet

The Nation

Madison Smartt Bell, Professor of English
Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland

Marie Vieux-Chauvet (Anthony Phelps)

In Love, Anger, Madness, Marie Vieux-Chauvet explores the choking fear of life under “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

For the last thirty years of the twentieth century, Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s Amour, colère et folie was legendary for being lost. Published in France by Gallimard in 1968, this triptych of thematically linked novellas soon caused alarming ripples in the author’s native Haiti, where the Vieux-Chauvet family had already lost three of its members to the regime of state terror erected by François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, beginning in 1957. Warned that the book would almost certainly provoke serious reprisals, Vieux-Chauvet persuaded Gallimard to withdraw it, while she went into permanent exile in New York City, where she died in 1973 at 57. Her husband, Pierre Chauvet, made an emergency trip to Haiti, where he purchased as many copies of the book already in circulation there as he could recover–in order to destroy them. Remnants of the Gallimard edition were discreetly sold by Vieux-Chauvet’s children, in very few venues, until the stock was exhausted in 2000, and a pirated edition made a shadowy appearance in 2003. But otherwise the book was virtually impossible to find until its republication in France by Zellige in 2005.

Is the artifact worth such a weight of suffering and struggle? Whether any work of art can ever be worth even a single human life is a question that will never be settled–but this book is surely a masterpiece. Within the community of Haitian writers and writers of the Haitian diaspora it has been prized not only for its rarity but also for its great literary power. In her succinct introduction to the present edition, Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat ranks Vieux-Chauvet among a “multigenerational triad” of the greatest Haitian writers (including Jacques Roumain and Jacques Stephen Alexis) and dubs the trilogy “the cornerstone of Haitian literature.” Backed by such accolades, and now available in both French and English, Amour, colère et folie can take the central place it deserves in late-twentieth-century Haitian letters. If Duvalierism is the central political experience of the end of the Haitian twentieth century, the psychology of those oppressed by it has never been more compellingly rendered than here.

The three narratives that compose this volume have no continuity of plot from one to the next and no common characters. However, they reflect one another in tone, mood and theme sufficiently to integrate the book as a larger whole–a continuum describing the reactions of different classes of people to a generally similar experience of invasion and oppression from without their households, and a suffocating claustrophobia within. Love is the longest and most realistic narrative; Madness is more surreal and much shorter. Standing between them, Anger (which might have been translated better as “Wrath”) has the structure and feeling of Greek tragedy without echoing any particular Greek play in terms of specific characters or plot lines.

Love is set within the community of “aristocrats,” to which Vieux-Chauvet belonged: a comparatively small group of mixed European and African blood, which, since the Haitian Revolution ended in 1804, has preserved, as if in amber, the eighteenth-century French acculturation it received during the colonial period. These milat, as they are called (a term that derives from the uncomplimentary “mulatto” but in the Haitian context conveys wealth, education and social standing as much or more than pigmentation), have in reality always been a thin, fragile, creamy layer floating uneasily at the top of the vast black Haitian majority. For most of Haiti’s history, the often but not always light-skinned elite has been able to concentrate a great deal of the country’s wealth and a disproportionate share of political power; but in Love its position is felt to be threatened by the rise of a movement based on black power, which resembles nothing so much as the Duvalier regime, though Chauvet does make the faint self-protective gesture of setting the story in 1939, eighteen years before Duvalier took the presidency…

Read the entire review here.

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A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, by Richard Dunn

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2016-01-25 17:47Z by Steven

A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, by Richard Dunn

The English Historical Review
Volume 130, Issue 547, December 2015
pages 1575-1577
DOI: 10.1093/ehr/cev299

Trevor Burnard, Professor of History
University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, by Richard Dunn (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 2014; pp. 540. £29.95).

When Richard Dunn wrote a preliminary essay, published in a major journal, comparing the lives of enslaved people working on a large sugar plantation called Mesopotamia in western Jamaica between 1762 and 1834 with the lives of slaves on a large tidewater grain-producing estate in Virginia between 1808 and 1865, he concluded that the experience of slaves in Virginia was better than that of slaves in Jamaica. To his chagrin, a local newspaper summarised his article as if the competition somehow validated Virginian slavery as being not that bad, considering how it was in Jamaica.

That was nearly forty years ago. Since then Dunn has moderated those early opinions so that he now has a much more nuanced view of slave life in the English-speaking Americas. As he says, with characteristic dry humour, taking forty years to write a book is ‘not a recommended modus operandi for historians’ (p. 1). The result, however, is a magnificent and deeply humane evocation of two deeply disturbing worlds of slavery, neither of which exceeded the other in dreadfulness, and in both of which man’s inhumanity to man is ever present. One great advantage of the length of time taken..

Read or purchase the review here.

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Review ‘Democracy in Black’ is a bracing call to action for African Americans

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-01-25 03:21Z by Steven

Review ‘Democracy in Black’ is a bracing call to action for African Americans

The Los Angeles Times

Kiese Laymon, Professor of English
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul (New York: Crown, 2016)

“We laud our democratic virtues to others and represent ourselves to the world as a place of freedom and equality,” Eddie Glaude writes of the U.S. in his unflinching new book, “Democracy in Black,” “all while our way of life makes possible choices that reproduce so much evil, and we don’t see it happening — or worse, we don’t want to know about it.”

Glaude’s “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul” is as narratively unrelenting as it is thematically percussive, calling for black Americans to take dramatic action in our lives, voting booths and on the streets to contend with a “value gap” that has left African Americans behind socially and economically.

On Jan. 13, Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, delivered a boastful State of the Union rooted in American exceptionalism, the importance of political cooperation and predictably, what we have, will, and can do to our enemies with our big American guns. Eight days earlier, Obama had held a press conference during which he cried over the murders of 30 American children and countless others victims of citizens wielding small American guns.

I watched both political spectacles, knowing that while the violent, often racist American weight on President’s Obama’s back has been so terrifyingly heavy, the violent, exceptional American weight that he and all American presidents must abusively wield is heavier. “Democracy in Black,” one of the most imaginative, daring books of the 21st century, effectively argues that this weight — rooted in American exceptionalism — impedes a national reckoning of how the racial “value gap” in our nation sanctions black Americans terror while providing systemic unearned value to white Americans.

The book asks us to reconsider not simply what presidential tears for systemic violence initiated and condoned by our nation might look like, but what can a revolution fueled by politically active black Americans wholly disinterested in presidential tears, speeches or “post-racial” policy actually accomplish. In this way, the book is not just post-Obama; it is post-presidential…

Read the entire review here.

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Preview of DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN by Wendy Cheng

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-01-19 20:23Z by Steven

Preview of DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN by Wendy Cheng

2Leaf Press: A Small Press with Big Ideas!
New York, New York

Wendy Cheng, Assistant Professor
School of Social Transformation Faculty
Arizona State University

A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths.

In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships. The book is particularly good in detailing these costs as experienced by women and children, most vividly in cataloguing the life and emotions of Cloyd’s mother, and of Cloyd himself as a child and young man.

In incident after incident of military violence, sexual violence, social ostracism, intrafamilial cruelty, self-harm, and bullying, Cloyd shows how the social conditions created by war reverberate in our most intimate relationships. At the same time, Cloyd and his mother are never just victims: Cloyd’s spirited mother in particular defies stereotypes of Asian women and war brides as passive and silent. Throughout, Cloyd also traces moments of friendship and communal support among women and children of other mixed-race military families, as they navigated the conditions of multiple societies and cultural norms…

Read the entire preview here.

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Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America [Brunsma Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2016-01-16 16:27Z by Steven

Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America [Brunsma Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 39, Issue 3, 2016
pages 492-494
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2015.1095308

David L. Brunsma, Professor of Sociology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia

Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America, by Edward Telles and the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 320pp., $29.95 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-4696-1783-1

In the inaugural issue of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2015) in laying out what he saw as the most necessary theoretical developments in the sociology of race and ethnicity wrote:

… racial theory should have been rooted in the experiences of the first peoples who experienced racialization, but that was not the case… Even when Latin American and Caribbean writers have written about race, they have relied mostly on American or European theorizations. We would be in a better explanatory position today to understand not only race in the world system, but even developments in the United States and Europe, if we were to go back and … ‘begin at the beginning’. [r]ooting our racial theory on the historical experiences of the oldest racial regimes in the world. (79)

Those oldest racial regimes are located in present-day Caribbean and Latin American countries. For over five years, the 12 scholars who make up the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) have been working on the conceptualization, pilot studies, and, ultimately, groundbreaking data collection effort to comparatively ‘illuminate how race and ethnicity play out in Latin America’ (31). Edward Telles, eminent sociologist of race and ethnicity at Princeton University in the USA, has coordinated this amazing effort, resulting in Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America. This book begins to fill major gaps in the empirical, and, given time, ultimately, the theoretical development so necessary to understand inequalities and experiences of race and racialization. Equally important, this study introduces researchers in Europe and the USA to a set of scholars and scholarships that have not typically made it into the theoretical and empirical canon of studies of race and ethnicity (e.g. Mexico’s Regina Martínez Casas, Columbia’s Óscar Almario, Peru’s Juan Carlos Callirgos, and Brazil’s Graziella Moraes Silva, to name just a few). PERLA, formed in 2008 and concluding data collection by 2013, has given us the first cross-national, representative surveys of race and ethnicity in Latin America—the sheer scale of the project is breathtaking…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Book review: Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2016-01-13 15:29Z by Steven

Book review: Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe

The Scotsman: Scotland’s National Newspaper

Roger Cox, Arts Editor

Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (London: Chatto & Windus, 2015)

DOUBLE takes haunt poet Sarah Howe on her return to memory’s fragrant harbour, writes Roger Cox

In her poem Sirens, Sarah Howe writes “I had one of those blurrings – glitch, then focus – / like a put-off optician’s trip, when you realise / how long you’ve been seeing things wrongly.” This sinuous, shimmering, mirage-like debut collection is littered with such moments of sudden realisation, and also haunted by the suspicion that there must be more to everything than meets the eye.

In Sirens, the blurring occurs when, reflecting on a line in a poem by Theodore Roethke, Howe suddenly twigs that a description of a girl’s “sidelong pickerel smile” is not a reference to juvenile pike, as she had always supposed, but to a small wading bird.

She knows she must now update her mental image of the girl from fish to fowl, yet try as she might she can’t shake the original image of the girl’s fishy grin. Could both images be right? Did the poet intend the double meaning?…

…Howe was born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and a Chinese mother, and moved to England as a child. She still has vivid memories of her time as a schoolgirl in Hong Kong – as demonstrated by the wonderfully evocative poem Islands, in which she recalls the girls at her boarding school sleeping three to a bed shelf, “like dumplings stacked in steamers” – but this collection is billed as a voyage of discovery, a journey in search of her roots…

Read the entire review here.

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The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television by Zélie Asava (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-01-12 01:15Z by Steven

The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television by Zélie Asava (review)

Black Camera
Volume 7, Number 1, Fall 2015 (New Series)
pages 267-270

Isabelle Le Corff

Asava, Zélie, The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television (Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien: Peter Lang, 2013)

The Black Irish Onscreen makes an original contribution to the field of Irish film studies. Author Zélie Asava has gone to great lengths to confront the political hierarchies of black and white in Ireland and question the links between visual culture and social reality. Pointing at Ireland’s long history of cultural and ethnic heterogeneity, the general introduction shows how, although Ireland has shifted from a land of emigrants to one of immigrants, it continues to consider foreigners as people who come to work rather than to settle permanently, the immigrant probably reminding the nation of its own migrant past and present.

Challenging the idea that “being Irish is still often seen as a question of being the product of two Irish people descended from a long line of Irish ancestors,” Asava describes her familial and cultural roots in Ireland and explains that her politics as a heterosexual mixed-race woman have been deeply influenced by the cultural productions of Ireland. As an Irish woman with dual citizenship, her experiences of misrecognition have framed her intellectual interrogation. She can thus assert that the personal is highly political, and stress the importance of using art to challenge socioeconomic and cultural norms.

Since the emergence of the Celtic Tiger and mass immigration as a new phenomenon, there have been enduring problems of racism and acceptance in Ireland. Asava ironically observes that Irish identity now expands to include the seventy million of the diaspora but still excludes non-Europeans living in Ireland, the majority of whom are African. Questioning the link between reality and onscreen representations, she insists that despite a marked increase in the visibility of gay, lesbian, minority-ethnic, and socially excluded characters on the Irish screen, it is still extremely difficult nowadays to find images of mixed-race or black people in Irish visual culture, and the existing representations are frequently stereotyped and prejudiced. Asava cherishes the hope that, with more focus on commonalities than differences, the black and hyphenated Irish may come to be seen as part of the nation rather than as a fractional ethnic group defined as “Other.” Being critical of the way Otherness may be referred to in cultural products is imperative. Different aspects of Irish public culture are pointed out as a means of de-legitimizing the Irishness of anyone who isn’t white or the product of Irish ancestors. Such aspects range from the constant media references to the men of 1916 to the focus on parochial origins, which inevitably position all hybrids as foreigners, albeit foreigners born and bred on Irish soil. Asava’s book is the first in Irish film studies to consider Ireland as a black mixed-race country and explore manifestations of Irishness which challenge the concept of Irish identity as a static, homogeneous ethnicity, seeking to produce a more inclusive and far reaching vision of Irish identity. It complements Debbie Ging’sGoldfish Memories? On Seeing and Hearing Marginalised Identities in Contemporary Irish Cinema,” published in 2008.

The Black Irish Onscreen is divided into six chapters. The first chapter is devoted to Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game (1992) and Breakfast on Pluto (2005), two Irish films featuring mixed-race protagonists. Jordan’s work was among the first to explore racial narratives in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and to draw parallels between the political situation in Northern Ireland and interracial and queer/trans* love. His film Mona Lisa (1986) is also cited for starring Cathy Tyson and comparing mixed-race Great Britain and white Ireland. In this chapter Asava briefly refers to Diane Negra and Richard Dyer’s pioneering works on racializing whiteness and showing how representations of gender, sexuality and race have been shaped by the film industry. Sexuality and race are thus equated as alien in an Irish screen culture characterized by major gender imbalances, male directors and male protagonists dominating an industry that favors historical and gangster genres.

The second chapter focuses on black or mixed-race women on Irish television. Different television programs such as Prosperity (RTE, 2007), Love is The Drug (RTE, 2004), and Fair City (RTE, 1989–) are considered for the way they portray black or mixed-race female protagonists. While…

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