I’ve had several conversations with people about how difficult it is to keep up with so many online events. A benefits to many people is that these virtual events can easily be recorded and stored for later viewing. Most notable for me last week was Olugbemisola Amusashonubi-Perkovich interviewed Kwame Alexander for the Brown Bookshelf. It is just real talk without all the hyperbole around Alexander’s upcoming release, One Two Punch, a biographic novel of Cassius Clay’s childhood co-authored with James Patterson. Clay later became know as Muhammed Ali. I suppose the irony here is the calm of this backstory around someone who brought flash and excitement to us through his boxing career. The conversation is about 18 minutes long and can be viewed on the BrownBookshelf’s FB page https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=251179419614594 The video should be available to you even without a FB account
In the interview, Alexander mentions how much research he conducted for the book even though it’s not intended to be completely factual. He was fortunate enough to be able to access primary sources to learn about Clay’s early life. I’m sure there will be many people who will leave the book assuming everything in it is true even though that’s not Alexander and Patterson’s intention.
There’s a saying “paper doesn’t reject ink”; whether it’s fact or fiction, it will be printed. It’s up to the reader to negotiate truth. That’s intellectual work and that type of work is essential to a democracy. When people have the freedom to speak out, to vote and to be part of the governing process, that democracy only works when people take the time to ask questions, to parse out the truth and to vote. This has always been the case, “fake news” is nothing new. We’ve got the myth of the Mayflower that wants us to believe the Native Americans and Pilgrims had one big happy dinner together on that day in November when the retelling of their story throughout US history is continually repurposed to fit the needs of the teller. There’s the misinformation that has us believing all enslaved Africans in the Americas were on large plantations in the southern part of the US and all the myths surrounding that scenario, most notable is that the first people of African descent to come to the Americas were here as explorers with the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th century. Photos that have become iconic in US history were altered as early as the 1860s. And, it takes work to find the original source, if not the truth.
What work do you do to get stories you can trust? I’ve been researching my paternal grandmother recently and in the research have been looking at the Mayflower. No, she wasn’t on it, but I’m looking at the indenturing of British children. It takes digging to find the ages of children on that ship. It’s looks like about 1/3 of the ship’s passengers were servants. Not surprising when you realize those who could afford the journey would have been wealthy enough to afford servants. But, indentured servants were also on that ship, most under the age of 21. Britain began deporting children as indentured servants in 1618.
I’m on the edge of a rabbit hole!
We’ve somehow missed the details of the huge number of indentured people who were present when this country occupied itself on this land and the ways they were (not) represented in the formation of government. The ways Blacks and Native Americans were discounted is more obvious, though ignored just as well. And, what we end up with is a fictional biography of our own history; an ever presence of fake new.
It really helps to know who wrote or who is presenting a news item. What is their intent with this information? What language are they using to influence us and where is their original source.
It also helps to step away from the news and all the busy happenings, to realize that what really matters is right there in front of you.
I did catch some news in print this week that is worth mentioning.
I was really happy to see another Black woman blogger, Melody Simpson, focusing on marginalized voices in YA lit. Melanin in YA will officially launch on 4 January 2021. She’s financing her sight through a GoFundMe, something I’d not considered but her idea to use the funds for book giveaways is brilliant. We need more voices doing this work.
Truly lifting up the voices is Nicola and David Yoon in their new YA Romance imprint, Joy Revolution, with Random House. The couple will soon announce an editor.
I may be engaging even less online this month. I’m celebrating my birthday! I’ve always believed in celebrating My Day and this year, I’m looking for unusual ways in these unusual times to release a little joy. And, my Highlights workshop begins this week to a sold out crowd. I’ve gathered an amazing crew and I think we’re primed to learn a lot.
And, I have the list of October releases to curate.
This Week’s List: Relevant Today
- Running by Natalia Sylvester; Clarion Books
- The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (Hyperion)
- Shuri vol 1-5 by Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire (Marvel)
- Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott (Disney Hyperion)
- Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (Katherine Tegen Press)
Be well and do good!