Category: Fiction

2018 American Book Awards Honor Cultural Diversity

This combination photo of book cover images shows “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965,” by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, from left, “The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits,” by Tiya Miles and “South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s,” by Kellie Jones, which are among this year’s American Book Award winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity. (University of North Carolina Press, from left, The New Press and Duke University Press via AP)

via seattletimes.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Books on human caging, early Detroit and African-American culture in Los Angeles are among this year’s winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity.

The American Book Awards were announced Monday by the Before Columbus Foundation, founded in 1976 by author-poet Ishmael Reed.

Winners included Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965 and Kellie JonesSouth of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970sTiya Miles was cited for her history The Dawn of Detroit.

Other recipients were Victor Lavalle for The Changeling: A Novel, Valeria Luiselli for Tell Me How It Ends, Tommy Pico for Nature Poem and Rena Priest for Patriarchy Blues.

Author-filmmaker Sequoyah Guess was given a lifetime achievement award. The poets-musicians Heroes are Gang Leaders were cited for oral literature and an Editor/Publisher Award was given to the late Charles F. Harris, who championed the works of Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni and other black writers.

Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/american-book-awards-honor-cultural-diversity/?

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to Star in Adaptation of Nella Larsen’s Harlem Renaissance Era Novel ‘Passing’

The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that Ruth Negga (“Loving”) and Tessa Thompson(“Sorry to Bother You”) will star in a film adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novel “Passing.”

Larsen’s novel explores the practice of passing as a race different from one’s own. “Passing” focuses on childhood friends, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, who reconnect in adulthood. Kendry passes as White, but longs for connection with Redfield and her life in Harlem’s Black community. The friends’ obsession with one another pushes their lives together in ways that prove risky for both women.

The critical acclaim that “Passing” earned after its 1929 publication cemented Larson’s legacy among the most celebrated authors of the Harlem Renaissance.

Thompson, who is of Afro-Panamanian and Mexican descent, and Negga, the daughter of an Ethiopian man and Irish woman, will portray the pair at the center of the story. Rebecca Hall, a British actress of partial Black ancestry, will direct.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/tessa-thompson-ruth-negga-star-passing-adaptation

University of Pennsylvania Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas Offers List of Children’s Books That Accurately Depict Slavery

U Penn Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (photo via penntoday.upenn.edu)

by Greg Johnson via penntoday.upenn.edu

Children in the U.S. are often introduced to America’s troubled and cruel history through movies, television programs, and children’s books. Historical fiction is frequently the means by which children learn about atrocities such as the enslavement of African Americans, racial segregation, Japanese-American internment, and the genocide of Native Americans.

Discourse about these topics in children’s literature can be difficult in light of the books’ overall function to inspire, transmit values, and spark young minds. But an omission or inaccurate portrayal of the crimes and suffering can do lasting societal damage to readers and how they see the world.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, has for the past decade been exploring representations of slavery in children’s literature. Over the last six years, she and her research team have compiled a database of 160 children’s books covering slavery that were published between 1970 and 2015—almost half of all the children’s books on slavery published in the 35-year period, many of which are no longer in print.

An expert on children’s literature and the teaching of African-American literature, history, and culture in K-12 classrooms, Thomas says parents, teachers, and educators must consider questions of readership, ethnicity, class, gender, story, background, intended audience, and difficulty when selecting books for their students.

Thomas supports the criteria put forth by scholar Rudine Sims Bishop that children’s literature about slavery should, in part, celebrate the strengths of the black family as a cultural institution and vehicle for survival, and bear witness to African Americans’ determined struggle for freedom, equality, and dignity.

A page from Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.”

Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” is a book Thomas points to as one that successfully gives an accurate depiction of slavery, humanizing African Americans held in bondage while also conveying the truth and difficulty of slave life.

“I recommend this book. What you’re getting here is 11 slaves’ lives and dreams that are being brought to life by this author,” she says. “[Bryan] is representing their complexity in the illustrations, his writing of the poetry. I highly recommend this because it balances humanizing enslaved African Americans, but he’s also showing the complexity of their lives.”

On top of her 160-book database on slavery in children’s literature, Thomas is conducting reader response surveys in Philadelphia public schools, and has published two articles on representations of slavery in children’s books.

Thomas also praises “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom” by Shane W. Evans; “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson; “Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown” by Sally M. Walker; “Almost to Freedom” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; “The People Could Fly: The Picture Book” by Virginia Hamilton; and “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand.

Additionally, she is working on a book about slavery in children’s literature tentatively titled “Reading Racial History,” and she serves on the advisory board of Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History project.

Thomas says children’s literature is a prime site for social reproduction, and an unexamined site of social progress, regress, and/or transformation.

“If you have children’s media that’s regressive, and the children of today are going to be the adults of the mid-to-late 21st century, if we don’t change the children’s media that they’re being fed by, just like we still remember and talk about ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and other fictions of the long-ago Victorian and Edwardian eras, they’re going to still be influenced by these current writings—from ‘Harry Potter’ to problematic books about slavery—deep into the 22nd century.”

Read more: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/representing-slavery-childrens-literature

Author Octavia E. Butler Honored with Google Doodle

Illustration of Black woman in multicolored clothing in front of dark blue skies outlined with neon and brown books with blue characters in front of white background
Screenshot of the Google Doodle featuring Octavia Butler, taken from Twitter on June 22, 2018.

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Octavia E. Butler’s name trends on Twitter today (June 22) in recognition of what would have been the late science fiction and fantasy author’s 71st birthday. Google celebrated Butler’s influence on literature by featuring her likeness on its homepage Doodle.

Per biographies on her website and Google’s blog, Butler was born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. Social anxiety prompted her to spend a lot of time in the library, where she developed an appreciation for science fiction. She began writing when her mother bought her a typewriter at age 10 and carried her passion into her education at Pasadena Community College, UCLA and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.

Butler, who wrote in various fiction formats, is best known for novels and short stories like “Kindred,” ”Bloodchild,” and the “Xenogenesis” trilogy. Her canon uses otherworldly scenarios to tackle racism, sexism, class conflict and other forms of real-world oppression. Fans cite her development of fictional alternative communities with Black leaders as a key influence on Afrofuturism. Her legacy lives on, well beyond her death from a stroke in 2006.

“Our family is grateful and honored by the opportunity to invoke the memory of Octavia E. Butler,” her family said in a statement on Google’s blog post. “Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised. She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/google-doodle-honors-octavia-e-butler

Langston Hughes Documentary, ‘I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled’ to Explore His Life & Work

Scholars and directors of I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled, Darren Canady, award-winning playwright, and Randal Maurice Jelks, award-winning Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, recently spoke with Black Perspectives about their forthcoming film, which is slated for a 2020 release.

“Our film project is built off the work that my colleague Maryemma Graham did back in 2002 at the University of Kansas (KU),” Canaday and Jelks said to Black Perspectives contributor and University of Kansas PhD candidate, Imani A. Wadud. “At the time, she organized the Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration, a conference that featured many distinguished writers, scholars, and actors, including Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and Farah Jasmine Griffin.”

“As a fellow Kansan, I’ve always believed that Hughes desperately loved everyday Black folks,” Canaday, Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas, said when asked about how Hughes workmanship in relationship to the black public. “You see it time and again in his writing; who he spoke to and for, who he moved among during his everyday life. He loved regular Black folks. Sometimes we forget how revolutionary it still is to focus time and energy on the Black working class.”

Jelks added that I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled is also ushered by music from hip-hop, blues and R&B.

Also, Black Perspectives contributor and PhD candidate at Brown University, N’Kosi Oates penned an excellent review of Wallace D Best’s Langston’s Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem, which examines how religion affected Hughes literary work.

Read both, Wadud’s and Oates articles over at Black Perspectives by clicking here and here, respectively.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/06/langston-hughes-i-too-sing-america-langston-hughes-unfurled/

Idris Elba to Direct, Produce, and Star in “Hunchback of Notre Dame” Adaptation for Netflix

Idris Elba

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Get ready to suspend all disbelief and witness true acting talent, for, according to hollywoodreporter.com, Idris Elba has signed on to star as the Hunchback of Notre Dame for Netflix.

Golden Globe winner Elba will also direct and produce Hunchback under his Green Door production company, and will also be producing original music for the feature, which is being described as a “sonic and musical experience.”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a 19th century gothic romance novel originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831, follows Quasimodo, a hunchback, who tragically falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda. Hunchback has been adapted to film more than seven times over the years, most notably the 1956 version starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollabrigida, and the 1996 Disney animated adaptation voiced by Tom Hulce and Demi Moore.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Elba’s latest foray into directing, having made his directorial debut this year with Sundance drama Yardie. He also created and will star and executive produce comedy Turn Up Charlie that was ordered straight-to-series by Netflix.

Michael Mitnick, the screenwriter of The Current War and The Giver, will write the modern day re-telling of the Victor Hugo classic. Fred Berger (La La Land) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Midnight Special) will produce for Automatik, along with Elba and Green Door’s Ana Garanito.

A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores; Numbers No Longer in Decline

Mahogany Books opens in Washington D.C. (photo via publishersweekly.com)

by Alex Green via publishersweekly.com

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

Opening the bookstore is also a homecoming. Derrick’s grandmother lived in Anacostia when he was a child, and he frequented the neighborhood’s black-owned bookstores. He later worked at the black-owned Karibu booksellers with Ramunda. Speaking about himself and Ramunda, he paid tribute to those earlier stores: “We were both kind of nurtured in that way. We both made an effort to be mentored and to understand the experience that readers want when they come into a bookstore.”

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said. With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

In Brooklyn’s rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood, a general bookstore is as far from what Afro-Latina owner Kalima Desuze and her Caribbean husband, Ryan Cameron, wanted to open when they launched the Afro-feminist Cafe Con Libros in late December. Desuze, a retired U.S. Army JAG corps member with master’s degrees in social work and public administration, grew up in Prospect Place and credits her trajectory in life to reading feminist African and African-American authors.

“A lot of the reason why I opened up the store is because feminism has not always been the province of women of color,” Desuze said. “Part of my challenge as a black woman, calling my bookstore a feminist bookstore, is that some black women do not identify with the word feminism. But if they took the time to explore they would discover that they are already living it.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/76545-a-new-generation-of-african-american-owned-bookstores.html

Malachi Jones, 17, Wins Prestigious $10,000 Scholastic Art & Writing Award for 2018

Teen Wins Prestigious Writing Award That Stephen King, Capote, and Other Famous Writers Won
Malachi Jones (Charleston County School of the Arts Middle & High School)

Malachi Jones, the 17-year-old wunderkind who is heading to Columbia University this fall, has been awarded a Gold Medal Portfolio, the highest honor of the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards presented by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The high school senior, who attends the Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, says he greeted the news, which he received by phone, with a “loud silence.”

“I felt like a siren was going off inside my head, but I was speechless,” Malachi is quoted as saying in a Charleston Chronicle article. “I had been submitting work to Scholastic since 7th grade, so it is insane to me to think an audience outside my family and peers wants to read and appreciate my work.”

The honor includes a scholarship of $10,000.

Malachi has joined a prestigious group of former youth winners, now all household names, including Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King, according to the Post and Courier website.

None of them, however, have grappled in their writing with the constraints of race in the arresting way Malachi has. According to the Post and Courier, Malachi has rejected the trope of the stereotypical black man and instead chosen to forge his own way of being black in the world.

The article states, “Jones’s award-winning work—a collection of lyric essays and free-verse poems—revolves around his experience as a black teenager struggling with and finally coming to terms with his identity.

“In a poem titled ‘Pantoum for my Mother,’ Jones writes, ‘Stripped of my blackness, / uprooted by judgement. / I was never dark enough for you / or for the ones who called me whitewashed.’

“It’s about the questions and judgment he endures from both his white and black peers for not fitting the stereotypical ‘formula of a black male.’”

According to the Poetry Foundation, a pantoum is a Malaysian verse form.

To read more: http://www.blackenterprise.com/17-year-old-wins-prestigious-writing-honor-10k-scholarship/

Scholars Lorna Goodison, John Keene, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Suzan-Lori Parks to Receive $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes From Yale University

via jbhe.com

Lorna G (photo via tallawahmagazine.com)

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University has announced the eight winners of this year’s Windham-Campbell Prizes in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Each winner will receive a $165,000 prize at an international literary festival at Yale in September.

Four of the eight winners of this year Windham-Campbell Prizes are Black. Three have ties to academic institutions in the United States.

Lorna Goodison, a winner of a poetry prize, is a professor emerita at the University of Michigan, where she served as the Lemuel A. Johnson Professor of English and African and Afro-American studies. She currently serves as poet laureate of the nation of Jamaica. Professor Goodison has published 13 collections of poetry including Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, 2013).

John Keenes (photo via vice.com)

John Keene, a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark is the recipient of a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category. He is the author of the short story collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015) and the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995). Professor Keene received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master of fine arts degree from New York University.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (photo via lareviewofbooks.com)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a native of Uganda who now lives in England, won a prize in the fiction category. Her debut novel Kintu (Transit Books, 2014) tells the parallel stories of the fall of a cursed bloodline—the titular Kintu clan—and the rise of modern Uganda. Dr. Makumbi earned a Ph.D. in African literature from Lancaster University in England. She has taught creative writing at several universities in the United Kingdom.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks won an award in the drama category. She is a professor of creative writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Parks is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She is a former MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” winner. Professor Parks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her play “Topdog/Underdog.” In addition to her plays, Parks is the author of the novel Getting Mother’s Body (2003).

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/03/four-black-scholars-to-receive-165000-windham-campbell-prizes-from-yale-university/

Taylor Richardson, 14, Raises $17,000 To Help 1,000 Girls See “A Wrinkle In Time”

Credit: Getty Images

by J’na Jefferson via vibe.com

Taylor Richardson, a 14-year-old aspiring astronaut from Jacksonville, Fla., exceeded her goal of raising money to send 1,000 girls to see the upcoming film A Wrinkle In Time. As of press time, her GoFundMe page for the goal has raised $17,455 of her $15,000 goal.

“This campaign is so very important to me because it will give me the opportunity to change not only girls perception of STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] and space exploration but boys as well,” explains Richardson in her original post about her goal.

A Wrinkle In Time stars Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon, and is directed by Ava DuVernay. The story tells the tale of a young girl, her friend and her brother, who are transported through time and space to a new world to rescue the girl’s father, a scientist who is being held prisoner on another planet.

Richardson was recently named a member of Teen Vogue’s Class of 2017 21 under 21 for girls who are changing the world. The self-proclaimed “STEMinist” recently attended the publication’s first ever Teen Vogue Summit in Los Angeles, and also spoke on the panel of TEDxFSCJ [Florida State College at Jacksonville] Salon: Rediscovering Space. Last year, Richardson raised money to have 1,000 girls see the science film, Hidden Figures.

“This campaign [“Send 1,000 Girls To Wrinkle In Time”] means a lot to me because it shows a female protagonist in a science fiction film,” she wrote in her most recent update. “Girls will know that the possibility of going into space, exploring other planets, being rocket scientists, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts for them is not that it is limited but limitless!”

A Wrinkle in Time is based on the 1962 science fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/02/a-wrinkle-in-time-gofundme/

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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