Tag: racism

Check Out These Awesome Nonfiction Books Just Waiting to Be Read!

Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks are bestsellers, and showcase what’s resonating with audiences right now! Pick these up to see what everyone is talking about!

 

5. The Unwinding of the miracle by Julie Yip-Williams

 

Image via Amazon

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams tells of  her rocky beginnings to finding her path in life against all expectations. Born blind in Vietnam, she narrowly escaped death at the hands of her own grandmother before fleeing the political upheaval in her country in the 1970s. She eventually made it to the USA and started a family, but then, tragedy struck. She was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and a difficult journey began. She sought guidance and finding none, began to write for herself, channeling her emotions into her work. Telling her story in a sprawling narrative, Julie offers guidance, joy, and channels her rage into cleansing, passionate anger. As inspiring as it is tear-jerking, this is a must-read.

 

4. Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi

 

Image via Amazon

Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi is a heart-wrenching and hilarious memoir about a young Muslim boy’s journey to becoming a proud, fearless drag queen. As a young boy, Amrou realized he was different when he found himself attracted to other boys, something his parents did not take kindly too and took strict measures to control him. But Amrou didn’t abandon his identity and through understanding marine biology, he accepted his own non-binary gender identity. Covering the relationship between Amrou, the world around him, and his own mother, this is a deeply enriching exploration of sexual identity that is an astounding read.

 

3. The Heat of the moment by Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

 

Image via Amazon

The Heart of the Moment by Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is a look into the life of a firefighter through the lens of a rare female firefighter.Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for eighteen years. She decides which of her colleagues rush into a burning building and how they confront the blaze. She makes the call to evacuate if she believes the options have been exhausted or that the situation has escalated beyond hope. This is her astonishing account of a profession defined by the most difficult decisions imaginable.Sabrina uses her award-winning research to reveal the skills that are essential to surviving – and even thriving – in such a fast-paced and emotionally-charged environment.

 

2. Underland by Robert Macfarlane 

 

Image via Amazon

Underland by Robert Macfarlane has been called the author’s masterpiece and it’s not hard to see why. A celebrated author of nonfiction books exploring the intersection between human nature and the natural world, with his new book Macfarlane delivers a downright epic exploration of Earth’s underworlds as they exist myth, literature, and nature itself. Exploring the sea caves of Greenland to the catacombs of Paris and underground fungal networks that run beneath the planet. Woven into these travels are stories about man’s relationship to the underground world, from cave paintings to divers to cave explorers and so much more. This is a fascinating, breathtaking novel you owe it to yourself to check out.

 

1. Love thy Neighbor by Ayaz Virji

 

Image Via Amazon 

Love Thy Neighbor by Ayaz Virji is a timely book in today’s racially charged American climate. The author was living a comfortable life at an East Coast hospital in a big city but was forced to move to a small town in Minnesota to address the shortage of doctors in rural America. In 2016, this decision was tested when Donald Trump campaigned and the town swung in his favor. Some of the author’s most loyal patients began turning against him, questioning whether he belonged among them. Virji wanted out. But in 2017, just as he was lining up a job in Dubai, a local pastor invited him to speak at her church and address misconceptions about what Muslims practice and believe. That invitation has grown into a well-attended lecture series that has changed hearts and minds across the state, while giving Virji a new vocation that he never would have expected. This is a powerful novel about the consequences of toxic politics and the racism inherent across America, while pushing for a path to acceptance.

 

 

Featured Image Via Amazon 

Annie E. Casey photos at Dunbar Elementary School, The Center For Working Families, Inc., and the Early Learning and Literacy Resource Center in Atlanta, GA Wednesday, October 10, 2012. Photos by JASON E. MICZEK - www.miczekphoto.com

The ‘Picture Book Bias:’ In Children’s Books, Girls & Minorities Aren’t Speaking

If picture books are meant to give voice to the experiences of young children, then why aren’t girls and racial minorities speaking? Using data from the top 100 bestselling children’s picture books, researchers have noted a growing gender and racial disparity in terms of which characters speak in children’s books.

Over half of children’s books feature a predominantly male cast; comparably, less than a fifth such books feature a predominantly female cast. It’s evident that male characters are literally dominating the conversation: not only does the gender gap exist in picture books, but it’s also growing. The Guardian reports that “speaking roles for male characters rose by 19%,” and at the same time, “one in five bestsellers did not feature any females at all.”

Only five of the top 100 books feature a BAME (Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic) character in a prominent role. Of those five, three titles’ spots rely on the same character: Lanky Len, a mixed-race “nasty burglar” who hardly represents the sort of relatable character that nonwhite children can connect to. Statistics regarding BAME characters in less central roles are just as grim: 70% of such characters never speak at all. Across all 100 titles, only eleven BAME characters have speaking roles. And among these eleven, only seven have names. Of course, we’re discussing the umbrella of ethnic minority identities—on this list, there’s only one black male protagonist. Off the list, the disparity isn’t any better. Of all the 9,000+ children’s books published in 2017, only 1% featured a BAME protagonist… while 96% featured no BAME characters, speaking or silent.

 

 

(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children's characters of 2018
(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children’s characters of 2018 | Image Via What The Ladybird Heard

 

 

When it comes to picture books featuring LGBT+ families and disabled characters, it’s the same story. None of the 100 bestsellers featured same-sex parents. Only one title included a disabled character—but that character doesn’t speak or play any major role in the plot. We may be talking about fiction, but these statistics are unrealistic. Predominantly white, male stories for children deny the experiences of many readers, but they also don’t reflect the mathematic facts concerning the gender and racial breakdown of English children. Around 33% of English schoolchildren are from minority backgrounds; 48% are female. Our stories should reflect the varied experiences of the children they aim to depict.

What causes this disparity? Among the 100 books studied, not one author or illustrator is BAME. This lack of diversity extends beyond the list: only 2% of all children’s book illustrators in the UK, not just the bestsellers, are people of color. The lack of diversity in publishing is a capitalistic Ouroboros: because few children’s picture books feature diverse characters, publishers come to believe these books won’t earn large sums of money. At the same time, these books rarely earn money for their publishers because they are rarely published. But while the exact cause of this phenomenon may be unclear, the results aren’t—girls, minorities, and disabled children don’t see themselves in stories that are supposed to be for them. It’s also possible that these sorts of disparities in children’s media could reinforce disparity and bias as the children grow into adulthood.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Annie E. Casey Foundation.

'Twilight' Cast: Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson

Catherine Hardwicke Wanted Diversity in ‘Twilight.’ Stephenie Meyer Didn’t.

A lack of diversity is hardly the main criticism levelled against Twilight, a controversial yet highly popular vampire franchise of the mid-2000s. Allegations of relationship abuse and sexism are far more prominent—and, if sexism weren’t prevalent in the novel, it certainly pervaded the series’ filming. Right before filming, execs famously told director Catherine Hardwicke that she needed to cut $15 million from the budget, or they would pull the plug despite the overwhelming international success of the source material. She was hopeful that, once Summit saw the number of stunts and set pieces she would have to remove, the studio would understand that these cuts were impossible. Instead, they told her, “great.”

The film that “would be interesting, at most, to 400 girls in Salt Lake City” grossed $393 million.

Evidently, Summit considered Twilight low-priority because of its predominantly female audience, a somewhat baffling outlook, given that the novels have sold over 100 million copies. But the studio seemed to downplay the interests and investments of women—especially Catherine Hardwicke.

 

 

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Hardwicke revealed that she wanted the film to feature a more diverse cast. In her imagination, all the vampires had different skin tones; Alice, in particular, Hardwicke imagined as Japanese. Meyer disagreed. “She could not accept the Cullens to be more diverse,” Hardwicke imagined, “because she had really seen them in her mind, she knew who each character was representing in a way, a personal friend or a relative or something. She said, ‘I wrote that they had this pale, glistening skin!'”

 

 

Image result for glittery edward gif

Gif Via Tenor

 

(Does naturally glistening skin mean the Cullens are always sweaty? Where are our answers, Steph???)

Hardwicke was able to convince Meyer that Laurent, one of the antagonists, could be a person of color. In the novels, Meyer described his skin as “olive” in complexion, which gave Hardwicke some leeway in the casting. Eventually, Meyer became open to the idea of Bella’s high school friends being more diverse, hence Christian Serrantos and Justin Chon’s casting. But the vampires were off-limits.

Many feel that Twilight isn’t a film—or a story—in which diversity is an issue, largely because of the large Native American presence in the story. (Although it’s worth noting that Taylor Lautner’s claims of ‘very distant’ Native heritage are dubious at best… and, supposedly, were conveniently discovered only after his casting.) Casual fans and trained academics have pointed out the racism in Meyer’s portrayal of the Quileute: specifically, that Meyer relies heavily on stereotypes in their depiction. Characters fit into ‘noble savage,’ ‘bloodthirsty warrior,’ and ‘stoic elder’ archetypes. By associating a Native American tribe with werewolves, creatures associated primarily with violence and aggression, the narrative presents negative stereotypes. While anyone can become a vampire, only Quileutes can be werewolves, inherently associating this trait with racial & ethnic characteristics. The gulf between werewolves and vampires deepens: these white vampires develop supernatural abilities which make them more individual. When Quileutes become werewolves, their individuality ceases. They share a pack ‘hive mind’ and get matching tribal tattoos, reducing them to a homogenous group as is the case with racial stereotyping.

 

 

Shirtless Jacob Black, displaying Quileute werewolf tattoo

Image Via Business Insider

 

It’s also worth noting that the film conspicuously sexualizes the Quileute werewolves—to the point that even Edward asks, “doesn’t he own a shirt?” Then there’s the matter of the tattoo: while the Quileute people don’t have a ‘werewolf tattoo,’ the tribe reports that they were not consulted regarding the use of tribal imagery. Since the film’s release, many a horny white girl has gotten Jacob’s tattoo in a classic example of cultural appropriation. No, the Quileute people are not werewolves. But the tribe itself is very real—as have been the consequences of Meyer’s writing.

In associating her werewolf mythology with a real tribe, Meyer put the Quileute people in the compromising position of having their land and traditions disrespected by Twilight fans. In 2010, an MSN film crew disrupted the graves of Quileute elders while filming without permission on the reservation. When filming in Forks, WA, of course, the crew had the decency to ask the Chamber of Commerce. The Quileute Nation also says that they were never consulted for merchandising rights of their cultural artefacts and have seen little profit from the souvenir shops selling Quileute-inspired goods.

No one is saying that you can’t enjoy Twilight. But perhaps you shouldn’t without at least being aware of the racial bias within the narrative and the broader consequences of Meyer’s imaginings.

 

 

Featured Image Via The Quiz.

An incarcerated man reads - as is his right

U.S. Prisons Ban Books Critical of Criminal Justice System

For a country intent on the loosest possible definitions of free speech, one of our most marginalized populations is subject to an insidious degree of censorship.

The United States—the world leader in incarceration, imprisoning 2.2 million at this very moment—is fixated on free speech, but we favor the adjective over the verb. Prisons throughout the country are banning books that disagree with the racial disparity in U.S. prisons, the prison-industrial complex, and other incisive critiques of mass incarceration. And some are banning books altogether: one Georgia jail recently imposed a ban on all books, excluding only religious texts. Louisiana has banned non-Christian religious material, a decision that evidently violates the Constitutional provisions for religious freedom. Even the more liberal state of Washington forbade outsiders to make charitable book donations to prisons. Although the Washington Department of Corrections has rolled back the ban to accept donations from a small, specified list of charities, this compromise hardly changes the fact that WDOC only changed the rule because it couldn’t get away with it.

 

Books banned in Texas prisons, exceeding 15,000 total | Image Via Washington Post

 

Recently, the Arizona Department of Corrections has banned Chokehold, a non-fiction work exploring the role of race within the criminal justice system. Written by a former prosecutor, the book dispenses advice for black men and details the rights people can use to protect themselves (for example, during searches). While this may be unjust, it’s not unprecedented: North Carolina and Florida have banned The New Jim Crowanother book dedicated to exposing racism’s inextricable link to mass incarceration.

This past week, the American Civil Liberties Union formally addressed the issue, requesting that Arizona overturn this ban. An excerpt from the letter explains the hypocrisy inherent in the ban:

The very people who experience extreme racial disparity in incarceration cannot be prohibited from reading a book whose purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity. Improving understanding of policing, incarceration, and racial bias is especially critical given Arizona’s stark racial disparities and overall high rates of incarceration.

Advocates have pointed out the practical issues with these bans, those that transcend moral or ethical arguments. There is no budgetary component to book-donation charities, meaning that there are no financial consequences for allowing these charities to stock prison libraries. It’s also likely that incarcerated people will not spend their entire lives in prison. Given that the average prison sentence is three years, state departments of correction should assume that most of these people will return to society. Shouldn’t we want them to be emotionally healthy when they do? Shouldn’t we want them to be educated?

Under the First Amendment, only books which would actively endanger the prison or the people in it are eligible for bans. This clause would, for example, bar a non-fiction work that might detail how to make explosives or weaponry. The intent is purely physical rather than psychological; ostensibly, there is no danger to society in allowing prisoners to understand the judicial system that keeps them confined. But there is a danger to the system that imprisons them.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Video Blocks.

Natasha Tynes with the controversial Tweet

Author Loses Book Deal After Tweeting Complaint About Public Transit Worker

What’s the worst thing that a potential beau could do on a first date? Well, provided your date doesn’t snatch your wallet or set fire to the restaurant, the answer is nearly unanimous: treat the waitstaff poorly. Everyone knows the most fundamental tenet of common decency that of treating others with respect. No one is entitled to unkindness; certainly, no one has the right to mistreat someone whose job requires them to serve or assist you—that means no shouting at customer service reps, no predatory flirting with disinterested bartenders, no taking it out on a retail employee when you didn’t bring your receipt. Except, of course, for the people who don’t.

Meet Natasha Tynes, social media strategist and snitch.

Picture this: Natasha was riding the red line of the Washington, D.C. Metro when something unthinkable happened. No, nobody was injured. No, nobody was robbed. It was an unthinkable act because most of us never would have considered it out of the ordinary—an MTA employee eating her lunch on the train.

Scandalous? Probably not, even if the posted rules on the train express that eating and drinking are forbidden. But Tynes did seem to feel that it was far less scandalous to snap a picture of the woman’s face and rat her out on Twitter.

 

Natasha Tynes

Image Via The Daily Beast

 

(The original photo DID show the woman’s face, but Tynes has deleted her complaint.)

This self-proclaimed “social media expert” apparently wasn’t knowledgeable enough to predict the ensuing social media wrath. Twitter was quick to point out that Tynes was poised to launch her career by writing novels about her experience as a woman of color… experiences which can, apparently, include being ratted out for scarfing down breakfast between assignments. The hypocrisy was unsettling to many, who took the opportunity to articulate that someone’s racial or ethnic minority status cannot except them from anti-blackness.

 

Twitter found it particularly upsetting that Tynes marketed herself as a minority writer and yet would threaten the livelihood of another woman of color.

 

Racism and the Metro have a long history. In 2000, Ansche Hedgepth was arrested on the D.C. Metro for eating a potato chip despite her spotless record—handcuffed and held in a windowless cell. She was twelve years old.

Some rushed to Tynes’ defense. Many of them then rushed just as quickly to delete their Tweets.

 

Deleted Tweet defending Tynes

 

It’s only reasonable that passengers don’t know as much about the rules & regulations regarding D.C.’s transit as its employees. In fact, the employee in question had received an email days before stating that all employees must “cease and desist from issuing criminal citations” for eating and drinking on the trains—”effective immediately.” The Metro Workers’ Union also elaborated on the poor conditions employees face when trying to eat lunch: not all stations have break rooms. Anyone who’s absently watched a rat skitter away as a train barrels down the track knows that, without break rooms, the workers have no guarantee of sanitary conditions in which to eat.

We don’t have to guess at the employee’s circumstances; though she is not allowed to comment herself, the union has publicized the fact that the bus operator ate on the train because of train delays that were preventing her from getting to her next assignment on time. Rather than keep her passengers waiting, which would have caused further delays, she chose to eat on the train. Given the aforementioned official email, the employee will not face repercussions of any sort—but Tynes will.

Rare Bird, Tynes’ publishing house, publicly condemned Tynes’ actions and cancelled the publication of her upcoming novel.

 

They Called Me Wyatt, Tynes’ novel, may no longer be published—but on Goodreads, its 1.42 star legacy lingers.

“You apologized for the tweet,” wrote one reviewer, “but do you understand that you wanted her disciplined for not catering to your demands? A stranger. You tried to shame her for refusing your entitlement. Some WOC solidarity you got there.”

 

Featured Image Via Daily Mail.