I’m just going to let this (fantastic) title speak for itself:
Go get it, guys! It’s only available THIS WEEKEND!
It isn’t Black History Month, but I’m like 90% sure it’s okay to talk about Black History even if it’s not February. (/sarcasm)
So I’m reading Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis* and in the back she writes, “I was poking through military records to find information about my grandmother and I discovered an America I’d never seen. After slavery and the Harlem Renaissance, there’s a jump in the history we learn at school to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. What happened before the mighty river that was the civil rights movement is that little streams started trickling. I never found out about my grandmother, but I found others like her. This is the story of their time.” and I was like, “That is SO damn true. One would think that that Black history (in America) goes like this:
forever ago – 1865 – SLAVERY. Damn, this sucks.
1865-1920 – No slavery, so everything was probably okay for Black people, right?
1920-1935 – Harlem Renaissance! Who knew Black people were artistic? (Aside from spirituals, of course!)
1935-1955 – Nothing big happens, just a fuzzy sort of racism. Plus segregation!
1955-1968 – Civil Rights Movement! MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the end of segregation, etc.
1968-now – No more racism! Phew!” **
There and you’ve got it! Black History. Except… what about those big gaps? Like before the Civil War, in between it and the Harlem Renaissance, and then again in between it and the Civil Rights Movement. Black History isn’t just about those big movements. (And of course, let’s not forget that the Civil War, unlike the other two, was not fought by Black people*** and was also not fought for them. Banning slavery was a political move, a side effect of other goals.) What about Frederick Douglass? What about the great debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington about how best to secure the future of Blacks in America? (There’s a great alternate history novel there, I’m sure of it.) What about the millions of other stories and experiences that I can’t even mention because I don’t know about them? And it made me wonder, reading Davis’ words, how much of that history we could fill in through fiction, poetry and biographies. I can think of four novels and a couple of autobiographies off the top of my head to start filling the timeline in and will add more as I think of them.
Books in this color are historical fiction.
Books in this color are not. (That is, they were written around the time the book takes place.)
1775 – 1803? - The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume I: The Pox Party and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
1815 – Kindred by Octavia Butler
First half of the 1800s? - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
1818-1845 - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
1850s – Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
1863 - A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
1900 – The House Behind the Cedars by Charles W. Chesnutt
Early 20th century – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
1930s – Native Son by Richard Wright
1940s - Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
James Weldon Johnson
Nonfiction that I’m not including on the timeline for whatever reason
W. E. B. Du Bois – The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
Zora Neale Hurston – Mules and Men (1935)
SO HERE’S THE PROJECT: We are going to fill this timeline in! Going as far back as we can, and going up until the Civil Rights Movement (because I feel that there is plenty of literature for that time period, plus I have to cut off the window for historical fiction as some point… If I’m wrong, let me know!), let’s collect fiction, poetry, and biographies (because we’re interested in the people of these time periods. However, if there’s is non-biographical nonfiction that you think should be included, go ahead and suggest it! The one request I have regarding nonfiction is that it be very readable and accessible to the average reader.) chronicling the history of African Americans. (I’m specifying African Americans, but should we open it up to include the histories of the whole African diaspora? A similar project for other minorities would be totally awesome, but I’m going to hold onto my Ambition Hat here and just limit it to Black history.)
This is more important than it may seem. Part of the horror of being a slaves and other displaced/repressed person, or descendant thereof, is that your history is lost. Only rich, privileged people had time to write, whether autobiographies, novels, or histories. That is why the trend of slaves and ex-slaves writing narratives in the middle of the 19th century is so rare and wonderful and why historical fiction written from the viewpoint of POC is also rare and wonderful. Any book that highlights these unique, mostly untold stories, deserves and needs to be spotlighted and applauded. (Sorry for all the bold, I just feel like that whole paragraph is damned important!)
Now it’s your turn. What books do you know of that will help us fill this timeline in?
~Here is a link to the page I made for this project. Please comment either here or there with your own comments, additions, and suggestions!~
*Tanita Davis is a native Californian who lives in Scotland, according to her jacket copy, with a baker! I have the one part of that that you can’t retcon (being a native Californian), so can I please request from the universe a baking Scottish boy who will fall in love with me and come take me away? kthxbai
**Please note that that is a very sarcastic timeline, espousing views that I absolutely do not hold to.
***There were African American soldiers, but I mean that the impetus for the movement was not from within, but from without.
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg,
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.
I am not usually a big fan of ekphrastic poetry, but there are a few poems that take my breath away. Charles Wrights’ “Homage to Paul Cézzane,” Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “Poem” to name a few. I am also crazy about this O’Hara poem. I hadn’t had the opportunity to read it before this week in my Contemporary Poetry class, but now I am happy to add it to my list of poems I love about the visual arts. Interestingly, Mark Goldberg does have a painting “Sardines” (shown below). What I really love about the poem is it’s playfulness in lines like “‘You have SARDINES in it.’ / ‘Yes, it needed something there.’” that so concisely suggest how ineffable the artistic process can be. And then, of course, the best part is that the painting by Goldberg is primarily orange and does indeed have sardines in it. Also, O’Hara really does have a squence of poems titled “Oranges” without any explicit reference to oranges. But, alas, it does not live on the internet as far as I can see and so I cannot link to it.
If you’d like to read more by or about Frank O’Hara, I recommend the Poetry Foundation’s page about him, though I kind of hate their new format.
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Robert Hayden is an amazing poet, one I’m only beginning to appreciate. This past week in my contemporary poetry class we spent almost a whole class on “Middle Passage,” which is an intensely sad poem in its own way, reimagining the Amistad through high modernism and the voices of the slavers on board. IF you’d like to read it, it’s available online through the Poetry Foundation. While this particular poem doesn’t really have anything to do with race, Hayden was an African American poet, the first to be elected as Consultant of Poetry to the Library of Congress (now referred to as Poet Laureate).
I picked this poem for this week because it came to me by fate. This week, the UVA libraries had a “poem in your pocket” day. They had bowls of little poems wrapped and tied into scrolls, which were free to anyone in the library. I picked this one! This is a poem that I read while I was at UNC, that I loved, and that I haven’t really thought about in two years.
If you’d like to hear this poem read out loud by the poet, click… here!
Sorry for the lack of updates from me… Perhaps I should call this poem of the fortnight not poem of the week! :(
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I suppose this one. I know I keep whining about being tired, it’s just that I really am! :P
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I think having a graphic novel or book of short stories on hand is a great idea, as a sort of a palette cleanser or short break from reading longer works, while still giving you the satisfaction of finishing something!
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope!
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I loved a lot of the mini-challenges, and on a more personal note, doing it with a friend, in person, really helped me motivate and stay up this far!
5. How many books did you read? I only finished one, but I read parts of three books. (Plus one short story that Mia read aloud to me.)
6. What were the names of the books you read? Charlotte Sometimes, Rain, and A Fire Upon the Deep
7. Which book did you enjoy most? It’s hard to say! They’re all fabulous in different ways. I suppose Charlotte Sometimes, as it is the one I finished.
8. Which did you enjoy least? Rain by V.C. Andrews. I definitely have enjoyed reading it aloud with Mia, but it’s also incredibly bad and, in many ways, quite a painful read.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’ve only been a reader and/or cheerleader in the past, so it might be fun to host a mini-challenge. That said, it really depends on what is going on, how much time/energy I have to prepare for the Read-a-Thon both before and during the actual event.
I’ll end with a couple of quotes I really enjoyed from Charlotte Sometimes, which I may end up repeating in a week or so when/if I do a proper review:
“Perhaps we never look at people properly, Charlotte thought. She remembered looking in a mirror once and trying to draw herself, how after she had been staring at them for a little while her features seemed no longer to make her face or any face. They were just a collection of eyes and nose and mouth. Perhaps if you stared at anyone like that their faces would disintegrate in the same way, till you could not tell whether you knew them or not, especially, of course, if there was no reason for them no to be who they said they were.” (pg 73)
“But when she put her fingers in the water and pulled a marble out, it was small by comparison with those still in the glass, and unimportant too. It was like the difference, for instance, between Arthur’s image of war and his experience of it. It was like other times, her own and Miss Agnes’s proper childhood times, that seemed so near to her memory and yet so far away. It was like everything that made you ache because in one sense it was so close and in another unobtainable.” (pg 155)
It’s hour 24! How can that be? (Of course, it’s really like hour 20 for us, but I just really can’t stay up until 9am…) Without further ado, the end of event mini-challenge survey:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
These last couple have been a bit tougher…I’d say hour 23 was pretty daunting, since I got back into Rain and even in all its glory it has started to wear on me a little bit.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I’m not sure what “high-interest” means, but I think that Sweet Valley High books are definitely a terrible-but-good and quick-read way to go. Good stuff.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Some of the hourly-update posts had link errors or missing links, which made it hard to find the mini-challenges to do or to check up on ones I’d done a couple of hours before. I appreciate all that the hosts do over the course of the Read-A-Thon, but double-checking the links and all would be a big help.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Lots of fun challenges! I really enjoyed participating in them and getting little breaks from reading my books.
5. How many books did you read?
Four, I think?
6. What were the names of the books you read?
SVH: Mystery Date, by Kate William; American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang; It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry, by Joey Comeau; and Rain, “by” V.C. Andrews
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
In which sense of the word enjoy? SVH was amazingly tacky; American Born Chinese was a boldly-drawn and interestingly wound graphic novel; It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry was a collection of deftly-written and disturbing short stories; and Rain…was a thing. Will continue to be a thing. Will haunt my nightmares. SO MANY DAYS OF RAIN.
8. Which did you enjoy least?
Well, I started reading The Lady in Red, by Hallie Rubenhold, but it was kind of dry so I gave up for the time being. Other than that: SWEET FANCY JESUS I HATE RAIN SO MUCH. She’s so painfully sanctimonious and reminds me of Elizabeth Wakefield. Urgh. But the book is so beyond the pale that I just can’t turn back now.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn’t, but I can say I really appreciated all the cheering that the cheerleaders did! It helped a lot and kept me going.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I would definitely like to, especially if I can meet up with Jessica, or at least someone, because I think I would definitely have a harder time keeping on track by myself. I might try hosting a challenge next time, but I am also lazy and poorly-organized, so who knows.
Oh mah gah, y’all. Less than 45 minutes to go. Almost halfway through with Rain. Will I continue wanting to stab myself in the eyes from the overwrought and mystifying prose? Probably. But I’ll make it through this dark patch (OF RAIN) somehow.
What ho, fellow readers! Are you all just so JAZZED to be up past your bedtime? Or up sometime in the daytime, if you live somewhere other in the world than where I am and therefore are on Space Moon Gibberish Time? Me too! Oh yeah.
Anyway, I just finished Joey Comeau’s It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry, which I will probably write a review for sometime later this week because it definitely is deserving of its own post. This hour’s mini-challenge, the Picturiffic Mini-Challenge hosted by Memory over on her LJ account, directs you to find a picture that is representative of something in the book you are reading. Since It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry is a book of short stories, I picked one sort-of at random: “Where Are You Off to Now?” I don’t want to spoil the story, because it is excellent and messed up (like all the others), so suffice it to say that my picture is of a city bike tour (although of Vienna, not Nova Scotia):
I would credit the photographer but there doesn’t appear to be one listed, so just know that I ganked the image from this website. You know, in case you want to book a city bike tour of Vienna. I’ve only been to Salzburg, but I hear it’s lovely.
Jessica appears to be crashing on the floor; perhaps I shall read more Rain aloud to try and encourage her to get up and read something, anything else. I hope everyone else is holding up well!