Category: Female Authors

Brooklyn Museum to Celebrate Toni Morrison on her 89th Birthday

Following her death on August 5, 2019, the world has felt the absence of literary legend Toni Morrison. Known for being a leading novelist in writing about the black experience in America, Morrison remains one of the most renowned American authors. On today, what would have been her eighty-ninth birthday, the Brooklyn Museum is dedicating an entire festival to the legendary author and celebrating her contributions to the literary world. 

 

image via eventbrite

 

 

Ohio-born Morrison earned her B.A. in English from Howard University and later her Masters in American Literature from Cornell University. In the late 1960s, she became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House. Her first novel The Bluest Eye was published in 1970 and remains one of her most celebrated works. Her third novel Song of Solomon, published in 1987, earned her the National Book Critics Circle award. She was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved in 1988. In 1993, Morrison became the first and only black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature for her collective body of work. In 2012, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Toni Morrison died on August 5, 2019 in New York City due to complications of pneumonia. She was mourned by many and remembered for her great contributions to the literary world.

 

image via the New Yorker

 

In honor of what would have been her eighty-ninth birthday, the Brooklyn Museum is hosting a festival titled The Toni Morrison Festival: Alive at 89. The festival will take place today, February 18, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Brooklyn Museum. This festival will not only highlight Morrison’s storied legacy, but also touch on the ongoing lack of diversity within literature, note festival founders Magogodi Makhene and Cleyvis Natera Tucker. The event will feature guests and performers such as Sandra Guzman, Tyehimba Jess, and Mitchell S. Jackson, among others. Event organizers say the festival seeks to “reimagine our literary history today by centering Toni Morrison as one of many diverse thinkers.” Tickets are available via Eventbrite, with the first 100 tickets free and following at ten dollars a ticket.

 

 

Featured Image via Vanity Fair

 


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You Need to Read this Woman’s Experience at Uber

CW: Sexual harassment

In an article by Time, former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler opens up about her blog post describing the sexual harassment she faced while working at the company. Her report came after a manager was talking about sex on an open chat in the company app. Fowler took a screenshot of the conversation and reported it to HR. After her blog post, which can be read here, Fowler published a book called Whistleblower, detailing her fight for justice in the events during and after working at Uber.

 

image via time

 

To make matters worse, Fowler experienced constant harassment outside of work after she reported the sexual harassment. She found out people were digging for information about her, even going so far as to follow her. Fowler was told by friends and family that they were being asked by strange people about her, some that Fowler hadn’t been in contact with since she was a teenager. It’s really disturbing.

 

 

Fowler notes that eventually, private investigators were trying to get in touch with her. Fowler received a call from someone she didn’t know but decided to answer it. On the other side was a woman claiming to be working on a case against Uber, and she wanted Fowler to help her. Fowler declined and did her own research. It turned out that the woman worked for a firm that was hired for past cases working to discredit victims of sexual misconduct!

 

Fowler also notes instances of her social media being hacked, her phone ringing constantly to alert her, her email being hacked and combed through, and her sister’s accounts being hacked into. Although not directly correlated, it seems that Uber was retaliating against Fowler for speaking up, but she persevered.

 

 

 

In an interview with NPR News, Fowler speaks with David Greene about what happened after she filed the report. Fowler describes that the work culture was toxic, full of misogyny, bullying, and harassment. She’s had what she calls, “surreal encounters with an HR department that refused to take action.” She noticed a culture of destruction and rule-breaking, and was often yelled or berated at during meetings.

 

It’s really disgusting to think that this happens in workplaces, but it’s important to know that change can occur, which is what happened after Fowler left. The company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, along with twenty other employees, were fired after investigations were held.

 

image via amazon

 

If you’d like to read about Fowler’s experience (and you should!), you can get her book on Amazon, linked just above.

 


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5×5: Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Black Romance Authors

Five authors. Five questions. One fight to the death. I’m kidding. We are in the business of uniting these five wonderful authors, not pitting them against one another.

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. With each installment, we’re changing up the topic and today we’re talking Valentine’s Day. That’s not all though, it being Black History Month, our romance authors are all authors of color and esteemed members of the Black Romance Authors Network.

We’re speaking to Synithia Williams, founder of B.R.A.N., and her friends and colleagues Sharina Harris, Cheris Hodges, Vanessa Riley, and Jacki Kelly. According to their page, BRAN was created as a place for Black Romance Authors to connect and collaborate in their writing and appreciation of romance novels, encouraging one another in the romance publishing industry. With this 5×5, we’ve got an amazing insight into what this does for them as writers, along with their thoughts on love, what it means to be a Black Author, and much more.

 

 

Why did you choose romance as your genre?

Synithia: I’ve read romance novels since I was in middle school. I love the genre and knowing the story will have a happy ending. I decided to write romance because I wanted to write stories about black people falling in love. There aren’t many portrayals of black couples having their happily ever after on television or in movies. I like to think I’m providing examples of stories about love, trust, healing, and forgiveness with black people.

Sharina: When I was a pre-teen, my mother’s friend gave me two big garbage bags full of romance novels and since that day, I was hooked. I quickly went to the library and stores to feed my addiction! However, I grew tired of reading about people who didn’t look like me. Then, I discovered Donna Hill, Carla Fredd, Francis Ray and Brenda Jackson! I so desperately wanted to grow up to be the intelligent, beautiful heroines these wonderful authors had written. One day I realized I wanted to write those heroines, too! Now it’s my mission to make my readers fall in love with my characters. But more importantly, I want people to feel empowered to find their happily ever after.

Cheris: Romance actually chose me. My parents, who have been married for over 50 years, were married on Christmas Eve. Talk about the ultimate love story. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and he proposed to my mother before he went into service. He married her while on medical leave after he was shot in the war. I lived their love story and I wanted to write about that kind of love. I also wanted to read about people who looked like me falling in love and getting a happily ever after. It’s not a far fetched idea to see Black people falling in love and being happy.

Jacki: I’m drawn to stories with happy endings, stories that don’t involve so much of what I hear and see in the news every day. When I read, I want to relax and escape into a world where the outcome is always positive. What better way to do that than romance? 

Vanessa: I believe that love is important as well as the promise that love survives everything. Romance is the literature of hope. I want to add hope to the world.

 

via GIPHY

 

What does being part of a community of authors of color like BRAN provide for you as an author? 

Synithia: I started the Black Romance Authors Network to give black romance writers a safe place to network, discuss the business of romance writing and share information. For me it’s been great to watch the members interact, branch off and start their own projects, and get together for meet ups. Writing can be lonely, and BRAN is a place where black romance authors can come together and realize they aren’t alone.

Sharina: BRAN is like your been there, done that sister, your wise auntie and your optimistic best friend rolled into one. As a black romance author there are so many things that we experience differently from our counterparts. Having this safe space to ask a spectrum of authors just about anything is super valuable. We brainstorm, we critique pitches, we motivate each other and celebrate each other’s success. And in industry in which black romance authors are often overlooked, underpaid and underappreciated, BRAN is vital.

Cheris: Being a part of BRAN allows me to interact with other writers who understand being a Black woman in the romance industry. There are things that we experience that other writers don’t  face. Also, BRAN is an amazing safe space where you are celebrated. Where you get that kick in the pants that you may need from time to time and a place where you can gain knowledge of the industry. What is most important about BRAN is the support. There is nothing like being in a group where people have your best interests at heart.

Jacki: It’s a place where I can share information or ask for help where I don’t feel judged or that doesn’t require a lot of situational explanation.

Vanessa: The sense of community in BRAN is so important. It can be an isolating life being a writer, with nothing but computer screens and characters chatting in your head. Having a place to get encouragement and sound advice is a blessing. Bran serves that purpose.

 

 

image via B.R.A.N. Facebook

 

What is your take on the fact that many romantic leads in novels and adaptations of those novels aren’t people of color? 

Synithia: It’s frustrating because I’d like to see more adaptations with people who look like me, but there are so many phenomenal writers creating romantic stories with people of color that I don’t have to only consume books with characters who don’t look like me. If Hollywood is too lazy to look at books by authors of colors for adaptation and continue to leave money on the table then that’s their loss.

Sharina: I just binged the documentary, They’ve Gotta Have Us that celebrates black cinema and boy do I have opinions and BIG feelings on this subject. Long story short, publishers need to acquire stories which are centered and who are written by people of color. In the Ripped Bodice State of Diversity in Romance report, 18 out of 20 publishers have 90% or more of their books written by white authors. It’s all systemic. We need more editors of color, marketing and sales etc. in the publishing industry. Editors are acquiring what is comfortable to them and what they think will sell. Films like the Black Panther has created another groundswell and thirst for content by black creators because 1: It made lots of money. 2: Black people were vocal about wanting diverse stories. In the past, Hollywood seemed to only focus on stories rooted in struggle and pain. The publishing industry feels so very slow. The ship is turning, but its taking a long time. I think publishers are starting to realize that there is a market and they can make a lot of money when they invest in us. I mean, The Atlantic reported a few years ago that the most likely person to read a book is a college-educated black woman so… yeah. Go figure.

Cheris: Representation matters. The sooner the industry starts seeing people of color as people and not other, the better. How none of the gate keepers learned from the success of Black Panther is baffling.

Jacki: It’s saddening. It’s almost as if our stories don’t matter. But there are so many writers of color that are putting our stories out there. We need more publishing houses or media moguls to recognize that there is a whole segment of people that want and needs stories about themselves, and movies about themselves and television program about themselves. And not just the stereotypical stories, because people of color fall in love too.

Vanessa: Romance is the language of possibilities. For a long time, people of color have been excluded from telling their stories. We are now at a point where people are seeing that diversity is something to embrace. The doors are being opened for more stories to be told with more characters of color. In the near future, my hope is that you’ll see more adaptations looking like real life. I write historical romance. I think as more learn of the hidden history of women and men of color having greater agency than slavery, of brothers and sisters being explorers, shrewd entrepreneurs, and leaders, you will see more sweeping portrayals of our ancestors.

 

 

What is your love language and does it influence how you write your characters?

Synithia: Hmm…my love language is quality time which does come through in my writing. I try to put my main characters together as much as I can and focus on the growth of their emotional connection.

Sharina: Yes! My love language is words of affirmation, which is entirely convenient for big black moments and the ah-ha, I-love-you moments.

Cheris: My love language is physical touch. This definitely influence how I write my characters. It gives me a chance to make a hug or the touch of their hands meaningful to what’s going on in their relationship.

Jacki: My love language is demonstrative. I want to be shown you love me by the things you do and say. I think in most of my books the characters do the same thing. Although I try to incorporate all five of the love languages, I do lean heavily on the physical side. 

Vanessa: My love language is “doing”. I know that love is being shown in the giving of time for someone. My characters are willing to sacrifice for the person they love. Big feat, small act—it doesn’t matter as long as they are “doing” in love.

 

If you could rewrite one classic romance novel with characters of color, which would it be and what would you do differently?

Synithia: I wouldn’t. They are what they are and since taking my last English class in college I don’t read the classics. (Sorry, not sorry) I’d much rather enjoy books by authors of color, past and present, or read a new take on an old idea than rewrite one. I’ve considered doing that, but always toss out the idea to focus on something new.

Sharina: I would love to do an afrofuturism version of The Princess Bride. I can have so much fun with the landscape. I think I would maybe set it in space and Westley is a space pirate. I’d also tweak the whole save the princess thing. I’d likely have them save each other. And my Buttercup isn’t going to take much of Wesley’s ordering her around—she’s going to be a beautiful badass! Important to note: I’d keep the black mask.

Cheris: There isn’t a classic romance novel I’d rewrite because I have too many of my own stories to tell. 

Jacki: Oh, this is a tough question. Because so many of the “classic romance novel” did not contain people of color, I did not read many of them. Of the few that I have read, I’d pick Romeo and Juliet, simply because I’d like the world to know that love in the black community is as passionate and important and all-consuming as what we see in that book. But of course, neither Romeo nor Juliet would die at the end. Their families would have a change of heart. 

Vanessa: I would do Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the Darcy character changed into an heiress from the Caribbean and the Elizabeth character, now cast as Edward, one of five sons of a crass country vicar. This movie would offer a diverse cast and a sweet reversal of fortunes. Nonetheless, I think we would still need a lake scene with the buffed Edward arising from the waters ala Colin Firth.

If you want to read more from these incredibly talented women, be sure to check out their websites below. We hope your TBR list has just gotten longer, steamier, and far more diverse.

 

Image via Bookstr

 

Synithia Williams

Cheris Hodges

Vanessa Riley

Jacki Kelly

Sharina Harris

 

Featured Image via Bookstr


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The Best Romance Novels of All Time!

It’s the week we celebrate love, and it’s also the week we read lots of romance. There are so many different romance novels in the world, that it’s hard to choose which ones to read, so what better place to find that great romance read, than by reading up on some of the most romantic books of all time.

 

1.Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Image via Amazon

Gone with the Wind, is classic tale about a young woman named, Scarlet O’Hara who tries her best to fight her way through poverty. She is also very spoiled and the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner. One of Scarlet’s most prominent characteristics is her inner conflicts with her heart and how she must choose between her feelings or her behavior for a woman of her class and age. Throughout the novel she ages from 16 to 28 and has three husbands.  Her first two husbands die, the first one, Charles, dies just a few weeks into the war due to measles. Her main love, her star crossed love, and her third and final husband is Rhett. It’s been said that the love story between Rhett and Scarlet is one of the best ever told.

2. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Image via Amazon

It Ends with Us, tells the story of Lily and Ryle, and this novel isn’t your typical romance novel because it deals with physical abuse. Lily just moved to Boston and is about to start her own business. Then Ryle makes his way into her life, a gorgeous neurosurgeon. Ryle has his reservations about dating and even has a no dating rule, but Lily seems to be the exception and she can’t figure out why. She also can’t get past memories of her first love, Atlas out of her head either, especially when he suddenly appears, which makes her relationship with Ryle even harder. This novel mainly focuses on how the people you love the most can hurt you the most.

3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Image via Amazon

Me Before You, chronicles the relationship between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. Louisa is Will’s nurse and companion because Will is wheelchair bound due to an accident. He is a paraplegic and hates that he isn’t the man he used to be. Louisa, learns that Will is planning to end his life so she tries her best to convince him that he can still be how he used to be, regardless of his condition, she takes him out the house and tries to get him to live his life again. As she takes him on these adventures, Louisa begins to realize that Will’s happiness is more important to her than she thought, but her main goal is to keep him from following through with his plans, she must stay on task and not let her heart get in the way, but of course that’s never easy.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Image via Amazon

Pride and Prejudice, is one of the most beloved classics of all time. This novel follows the Bennett family, a family that has five daughters and Mrs. Bennett is very eager to marry off all of her daughters. The main focus of this novel is the relationship between the second eldest Bennett daughter, Elizabeth and a young man named Darcy. Or as he is well known as, Mr. Darcy. Upon their first meeting, Elizabeth is less than impressed with the man, however they are slightly intrigued with one another, which forms the basis of their relationship. Over the course of the novel Elizabeth lets her pride and prejudice cloud her judgement when it comes him, and it takes awhile for her to let her guard down and realize that Mr. Darcy is a decent man, especially when he helps her family out in a big way. That’s when Elizabeth is able to admit her admiration towards him.

5. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Image via Amazon

The Thorn Birds, spans over the course of five decades and three generations! It’s quite a long tale that chronicles the love between a catholic priest named Ralph de Bricassart, and his relationship with the daughter of a sheep station owner, Meggie Cleary. At the beginning of the novel Meggie is only four and Ralph is already a young man. He takes a liking to her when he befriends the family and the novel follows the life of the Cleary family over the five decades, but of course the main focus is the forbidden love story between Meggie and Ralph. It is quite a tale, considering how young Meggie is when they meet and how their love grows as she grows older.

 

 

Featured Image via BeFunkyCollageMaker

 


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Alice Walker Quotes To Inspire Your Wednesday

Alice Walker, the critically acclaimed author of The Color Purple, is certainly an inspiring presence in the literary world. Her moving stories speak to the fragility of the human experience and her colorful writing encourages us to find the beauty in every moment.

This Black History Month, we celebrate the men and women who have greatly shaped history by providing indispensable contributions to countless dimensions of society; Alice Walker’s literary talents and accomplishments are nothing less than extraordinary. Here are seven of her poignant quotes that will inspire you this Wednesday.

image via the new yorker
  1. “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

2. “I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.” – Revolutionary Petunias

 

 

3. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”    – The Color Purple 

4. “The more I wonder, the more I love.” – The Color Purple 

5. “Part of what existence means to me is knowing the difference between what I am now and what I was then.” – In Search of Our Mothers Gardens 

 

 

6. “Keep in mind always the present you are constructing. It should be the future you want.” – The Temple of My Familiar 

7. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.”

8. “I believe in movements, collective action to influence the future.” – You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down 

9. “Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.” – Revolutionary Petunias 

Featured image via imgur

 


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