Tag: female authors

A Diversity How To

Barnes & Nobel was caught in a controversy about a week ago. To try and honor Black History Month, the company commissioned artists to redesign classic novel covers, like The Wizard of Oz, Frankenstein, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan etc. The company was quick to dole out apologies but the damage was done. They canceled the release of the covers and we are left with the mountains of tweets of people and authors of color trying make sense of what they did. Authors like Roxane Gay, Angie Thomas, David Bowles added to the conversation.

 

Image via The New York Times

 

All of this brings up ideas of diversity. How to do it successfully and how not to. An even bigger example than the Barnes & Nobel’s catastrophe is M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. I know what you are thinking, this movie, based on the very popular show and graphic novel series, literally came out ten years ago, why does it matter? One, because it deals with the subject of diversity and is a prime example of how not to do it but also because I want to gush about the original series because it was just that good. Good? Good.

So the adaptation of the Nickelodeon series was highly anticipated but it was helmed by Shyamalan, who has always had an interesting career and let’s leave it at that. Most fans and non-fans alike can agree that the movie was horrible for many many reasons. But I will be focusing on the story elements and characters, not the film making itself.

If you don’t know the original series, Avatar: The Last Airbender was about a young kid named Aang who is the Avatar, an individual who can wield all four elements. He’s the last air nomad because of a huge war the Fire Nation who started to wipe out all of the other benders and take over the world. Aang travels with Katara and Saka, a brother and sister duo from the southern water tribe. As Katara and Saka are brown skinned and the people from both the southern and northern water tribes are vaguely what we would consider native american today. They are brown, remember that for later. See below for reference.

 

Image via Variety 

 

Throughout the show, the three travel to different parts of the world so that Aang can master the other elements, water, earth, and fire. Opposing Aang are the fire nation. Leading the expedition for his capture are Zuko, the prince of the fire nation, his uncle, and eventually his sister Azula. The show is very diverse but it is clearly shown that the fire nation characters look Japanese. See below for reference (Zuko and his father, the Fire Lord).

 

Image via Avatar Wiki-Fandom

I don’t know who was behind the casting of the movie but that was one of my biggest problems with it. Aang was fine, he looked vaguely asian in the show and they cast a light skinned actor to play him. But they cast white actors to play Katara and Sokka and Indian and dark skinned actors for Zuko, Iroh, and basically the entire fire nation.  Do you see what I am getting at?

The villains of the show, that were light skinned, were turned dark while the heroes lost all of their color. They switched the races of the characters just like Barnes and Noble did. Changing the skin color of a character isn’t adding diversity. You are just making them diverse to be palatable to people of color.

The movie doubles down on the stereotype of making the brown or black characters evil while the light skinned folks are the heroes that stopped the terrible villains. The Fire Nation and it’s leader Fire Lord Ozai, did horrible things to the rest of the world. They wiped out every air bender, except for Aang, and tried to do the same to the water benders, putting earth benders into slavery. All of a sudden the dark skinned Indian people are doing all of this? It’s reaffirming the notion that people of color are to be feared and the light skinned characters get to run in and save the day.

The water tribes were a peaceful, seafaring people who left everyone alone because they were literally on opposite ends of the earth. They did nothing to the fire tribe except exist, yet the fire tribe attacked, which not-so-subtly refers to how Europeans traveled over the world and conquered folks of color.

 

 

While watching the movie, I was stunned. I first asked “Did no one watch the show?” Because watching the movie it seemed like someone had just given the director and the writers spark notes and they were good to go. My second question was “How does Shyamalan, as a person of color, feel about this?” There were, of course, many interviews during the press tour for the movie but one of the most famous was one in which he essentially stated that American audiences don’t get him and how he and his films have a European aspect.

Out of all the articles and his defense of the film, he doesn’t go into this side of things. How he doesn’t see the implications of the race switching confuses me. Wouldn’t he want to see dark skinned folks being the heroes in a huge fantasy setting? Or maybe he just saw an opportunity to make money and called it a day. Obviously, I don’t know that for sure, but the movie felt hallow, like they gave it to whoever wanted it.

When an artist, or musician or film maker is passionate about their project you can feel it. It’s hard to ignore when someone spends so much time on a project and they pour their heart and soul into it, it’s infectious. You feel it and even if it turns out bad you know that they put the work in and that they didn’t just take some company’s money and make a thing. It’s honestly baffling.

 

Image  Via The Brag

Barnes & Nobles gate shows they had some good intentions and Shyamalan wasn’t trying to be offensive but where were the other people of color on their teams? Did Barnes & Nobles even have any? Big decisions for a company are overseen by at least a couple of teams of people like design, marketing, research, someone must have thought this wasn’t the right move. Instead of promoting black authors or other POCs for Black History month you just re-brand old classics and not change anything about them? What does making Dorothy black do? What does making the monster from Frankenstein black do? What does making Peter Pan black do?

 

Image via The Guardian       

 

 

Image via The Guardian

 

Image via Business Insider

 

It’s an empty attempt at diversity and I’m glad they canceled the launch of the redesigns. A lot of these older books are notably racist as well and making the main character a person of color devalues the privilege they originally had to successfully end with an happily ever after. I hope they try this again because it’s a good idea. But they should do redesigns of classic works by black authors and asian authors etc. If they truly believe in diversity and champion for literature from everywhere and from everyone, they should try again, maybe in a couple of years though.

 

Image via Built In

 

So, in honor of these mistakes our fabulous graphic team have redesigned a couple of covers for you to enjoy. They are people of color representing what the true meaning of the book is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via Bookstr

 

 

                               

Images via Bookstr

 

Image via Bookstr

 

Follow our Instagram for more beautiful pieces of art and fun bookish posts.

 

 

 

Featured image via Mic

 


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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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New Female Authors Expand The Genre of YA

The face of YA has been changing for years now, and thanks to these amazing authors, it will keep changing for the better. In an upcoming issue of Elle, five authors will have their own spread in the magazine and online, of how their novels have helped readers and the world of YA. Those authors include Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Tomi Adeyemi, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Akwaeke Emezi.

 

Image via Theatlantic

If you aren’t aware, Angie Thomas is the best selling award-winning author of The Hate U Give, and On the Come Up. Both her novels have dominated the bestseller list since her debut book came out back in 2017. Nic Stone is best known for her novel, Dear Martin, and a few others such as Odd One Out, and Jackpot. Tomi Adeyemi is another best selling author of the fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone and the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengence, which was just released this past December. Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel, The Poet X has received critical acclaim and won several awards, and her newest novel With the Fire on High is a best seller as well. Akwaeke Emezi, and they are well known for their debut novel Freshwaterand their other novel, Pet.

 

Image via BooksandBooks

All of these amazing authors bring a new perspective that wasn’t present in the YA genre much before. They’ve talked about how much they loved reading growing up and about the lack of diversity books used to have. With their own revolutionary writing they are part of the shift in books, where young readers can pick up a book and see themselves. These fabulous authors also express admiration for each other, and support each other in their journeys as the new faces of the YA genre.

Thomas’s novel, The Hate U Give was adapted into a film and released back in the fall of 2018 to rave reviews and an average score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Her second novel will be hitting the big screen soon, with the director from the hit television show, This is Us, Kay Oyegun at the helm. Adeyemi has a movie coming out soon for her novels as well, and Oyegun, has also signed onto direct this project. Acevedo’s first novel, The Poet X won the 2018 National Book Award, and now this year Emezi is a finalist for the same award for her novel, Pet.

These authors are breaking barriers, and back in 2013, 3,200 children books were published and only 94 of those books featured women of color and then in 2018, those numbers quadrupled and they’re going to keep rising with these authors.

More kids are reading and are being inspired to read because of these authors. Representation matters more than people think and these authors are not only inspiring children to read, but also to become writers as well.

 

Featured Image via Bookstr

 


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Women Have Always Been Writers

Women have been part of the literary world for years, and this inclusion was thought to date back to the middle ages in the west. Now, a new finding shows that women started writing way before the middle ages even began, dating back to the eighth century. There is an eighth century abbess who is known to write the first surviving example of poetry that is known to be authored by an Englishwoman. Another woman, a nun, wrote a full length prose book in English. Unfortunately, her name was not explicit in the text.

Image result for woman writing medieval"

Image via Lisa Shea

 

Now a new history of women’s literature has been found to date back farther than expected. Earlier histories have deliberately excluded the contribution women have made to early literature. Some of the earliest female writers in Europe is Marie De France from the 12th century, and in the 14th century, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. According to a Professor at the University of Surrey, men often rewrote work originally written by women.

Image result for women writing and religion watt"

Image via Amazon

 

Now there is a book by Diane Watts, which is going to take in depth look into the women writers of the past, writers we’re just learning about. The book is titled, Women, Writing, and Religion in England and Beyond 650-1100. The book will show how women played a part in literature, and it brings a lot of early on female writers together, such as, Leoba, an English missionary, and an abbess of Tauberbischofshiem in Franciona, who died in 782. There is also something written by an English nun. One of Leoba’s surviving letters is one of the earlier forms of poetry. All of these interesting women are part of a writing history that helped start the careers of the amazing women writers of the past and present.

Be sure to get a more in depth look into these earlier female writers, here.


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Featured image via ThoughtCo