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This is John Lewis' memoir of his time in SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement, co-written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.

It begins with Lewis preparing for the 2009 inauguration, and the contrast between that and the 1960s Jim Crow era was probably much more uplifting just a few months ago. As things are today, the book feels more necessary than ever. It's not as though the work stopped after the Voting Rights Act, after Obama's election, after anything, but there is so much more of it now.

Part of me wishes I had at least one experience of reading this before the election, with Obama still president, because those flashes to his inauguration in the comic, the hope that is so tangible, all of it is painful to read now.

I've known the general story of the Civil Rights Movement for almost as long as I can remember, having grown up reading those Scholastic biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr. And I've learned much more about it later on, from how much community organization was going on to the many different groups and philosophies involved. That said, I found this comic to be a valuable addition, particularly the first-person narrative and the way the black-and-white illustrations grab you.

The three volumes cover all the big points up through the signing of the Voting Rights Act, from the lunch counter sit-ins to the bus boycotts to Freedom Summer and Selma and the March on Washington, but it's the little details within the big moments that make the comic so good. Ones that particularly struck me were the students who couldn't make it through the nonviolence training or the fear of being killed—I feel it's always so easy for people to say, "If I were there, I would have marched or protested or volunteered," but to be honest, I'm not sure I would have been brave enough, particularly as a college student. The stories of all the people who were killed while helping are pretty chilling, and I'm glad that the authors and artist make it very clear how dangerous it was and how the activists there didn't know if they would make it through or not.

Other moments: one of the people running the lunch counters shutting it down and fumigating it with the protesters still inside; the ways people still resisted even while they were in jail; how the activists set up check ins; and through it all, just how violent the pushback was to every single tiny step. I keep returning to that after reading all the justifications for police violence on the protesters today and how quickly just saying "no" becomes a reason to beat you down. It's not that I didn't know, but seeing it illustrated brings it home in a very particular way.

My one complaint is that I wish Lewis had gone more into how the movement started to splinter, how some people began to advocate for physically fighting back, or the increasing divide between SNCC and the SCLC and other organizations. Lewis hews to his nonviolent philosophy here while also trying to portray other people's points of view without demonizing them. I think his attempt to walk the line of upholding nonviolent resistance without condemning those who thought he sold out makes those parts a little too abstract; without the dialogue and arguments and examples of what happened in those clashes of philosophy, much of the power of the comic is lost.

I also wish he had gone into more detail because I would have found it extremely helpful for right now, when it feels like there's a different answer or strategy every day, and as a roadmap for making change with a large coalition of groups who frequently don't see eye to eye.

All in all, very worth reading, and I only wish it were longer and had more details about how to deal with splintering coalitions.
oyceter: (angry dieter's fork)
I think I've recommended Radiolab, a sciencey podcast, to people before. However, they recently published a piece on Yellow Rain and the Hmong experience. I haven't been able to listen to the piece itself; I had to turn it off after the introduction of the segment, in which a CIA agent talks about being posted in the backwaters of Southeast Asia.

Despite Radiolab's many edits of the podcast, they have yet to acknowledge what Eng Yang, a documenter of the Hmong experience for the Thai government, said during the interview or the additional facts he and his niece, author Kao Kalia Yang, provided.

Kao Kalia Yang finally gets a space for her story: (ETA: content warning for racism and discussion of miscarriage)

The aired story goes something like this: Hmong people say they were exposed to Yellow Rain, one Harvard scientist and ex-CIA American man believe that’s hogwash; Ronald Reagan used Yellow Rain and Hmong testimony to blame the Soviets for chemical warfare and thus justified America's own production of chemical warfare. Uncle Eng and I were featured as the Hmong people who were unwilling to accept the “Truth.” My cry at the end was interpreted by Robert as an effort to “monopolize” the story.

I'd say stuff about the privileging of white Western points of view and voices, but Yang says it better herself.

ETA: [personal profile] sasha_feather has text of the full article, since Hyphen's servers seem to be overloaded.
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Hrm, did not realize so many episodes had passed since the last time I wrote things up. Overall, I continue to enjoy the show for the multitude of female characters as regulars, guests, and one-offs. On the minus side, the show continues to succumb to its Magical Negro thing.

Spoilers )

Con or Bust!

Wed, Feb. 22nd, 2012 09:55 am
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[livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust is still going, and bidding closes on Sunday Feb. 26. And, more excitingly, they are trying to raise more this year because they are widening the scope to send fen of color to all fannish SFF cons, not just Wiscon! This potentially includes non-USian fans and non-USian cons!

Also, there is some really cool stuff up to bid on. I, alas, am going to be entirely selfish and only link to things I have been outbid on. But check out this gorgeous robot palm leaf engraving! And signed copies of a comic about beautiful women and monsters! (The Attack of the Alien Robotsaccount of how [personal profile] deepad got them for the auction is pretty awesome too.) Or tuckerization in the fourth Sarah Tolerance mystery!

I am offering a used Alex ereader. It is very lovely, and the only reason I am giving it up is because CB gave me a Nook Touch a few months ago.

And as to "Why help?" this is how Con or Bust has affected me.

My story )

So that's why I'm pitching in.

And here are some other stories:
- [personal profile] deepad on expanding Con or Bust
- [livejournal.com profile] fantasyecho's experience
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For [personal profile] chomiji, who asked for "stories about your personal history and encountering and/or embracing a situation that occurred because of a point of difference" for her [livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust post.

1988-2010 )
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Why is American fantasy so Eurocentric? If you believe our fantasists, American cities are populated with imported Romanian vampires, Russian werewolves, Celtic faeries, Nordic gods, Germanic witches, and the (very) occasional African god or Arabic djinn, but scarcely a homegrown magical being to be found. In fact, indigenous magical beings abound in the Americas and their stories of magic, wonder and horror are widely told by spoken and written word. North American mythology is rich with magical beings. Do these stories get adequate air time? Is it easier to imagine an Old World teeming with supernatural beings than to visualize a North America enchanted with indigenous mythical beings? Is it difficullt to believe that we live in a naturally magical place? And if we did, what would it look like?
Theodora Goss (mod), Valerie Estelle Frankel, LJ Geoffrion, Andrea D. Hairston, Katherine Mankiller, Georgie L. Schnobrich

This is an assembled summary of what I remember from the panel sans notes; as such, attribution will be very hazy. Please let me know when I get something wrong! I am also inserting a lot of my own commentary in here.

Not a liveblog )

Anyway, that is my massive OT side thought inspired by the panel, and now I want to know where that USian fantasy is. Rec me stuff! [personal profile] coffeeandink mentioned Karen Joy Fowler's Sarah Canary, Louise Erdrich, and Terry Bisson' Fire on the Mountain, as well as Laurie Marks' Elemental Logic series as not a direct take on US history, but as reflecting many themes about colonization. I feel Bernardine Evaristo's Blonde Roots kind of does this, but not as cohesively as I would like. I am not specifically sure what I am looking for, but something about how the mythology of USian history directly results in all the "dark side" narratives, and not just that, but how they are tied together, like how the War of Independence went hand-in-hand with declaring people's (but only some people!) right to property as a freedom, how oppressions are often framed as "unfortunate side effects" when those very oppressions are built right into the US's history.
oyceter: (not the magical minority fairy)
(Asian American Theater Company and Crowded Fire Theater, directed by Marissa Wolf)

Saw a production of Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven with Tari, S., C., [personal profile] via_ostiense, [personal profile] starlady, [personal profile] bluerabbit, and CB. I recycled the playbill, so I can't quote, but the introduction to the play said that Lee wrote it as a response to the "minority literature" pieces out there that talk about the minority experience in the US and Racism and Oppression and etc.

The play is staged in a bit of a black box theater, the entire space covered with plywood with a stylized flower in the center of the floor. It opens in the dark, with the sound of a man's voice instructing a woman who is being slapped. After a while, a video screens: a close-up of the playwright's face. She is sniffling, holding back tears, and every so often, an invisible hand loudly slaps her. We hear a pansori singer. (Later id'ed by Tari as doing a piece from Song of Chunhyang.)

Korean American comes out to introduce the play, followed by Koreans 1, 2, and 3, each in color-coded hanbok. Korean American speaks English with no [eta: a USian accent] and is dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Koreans 1, 2, and 3 spend one segment of the play speaking the respective languages of the actresses (Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese). The play continues with assorted vignettes, some of which are just odd, some of which are hilarious (Korean American with her grandmother omg).

The play itself was interesting, particularly how White People 1 and 2, a young cis het couple, had emo scenes arguing about their relationship, completely unconnected with the rest of the play. In the end, their narrative, boring and narcissistic as it is, takes over the entire play, which had me laughing hysterically.

The oddest bit, though, was going to the fireside chat afterward. I didn't connect to the play completely, but I didn't find it as uncomfortable as reviews said, and afterward, I felt even more alienated, like I was the intruder despite the play being produced by the Asian American Theater Company. All the things I had thought were obvious, such as how the White People scenes had nothing to do with anything and was narrowly, obsessively focused on itself and the occasional desire to improve the world and "I want to go to Africa," had not been that obvious to some of the audience.

Some audience members wanted to know what the point of the White couple was, especially since they seemed so mundane compared to the Asian people. I hadn't even realized that quite a few of the audience didn't even know that Koreans 1, 2, and 3 weren't even speaking Korean, and after me and the director pointed it out, another audience member commented on how Korean sounded like "angry Japanese."

But yes, this is why I mention having gone with so many people above; I think it would have been an entirely different experience if I'd only gone with a handful of friends or such. As it were, I am pretty sure me and CB were incredibly loud and nearly dying with laughter at several points when the people around us were not, and since all of us sat together for the fireside chat, I am fairly certain I was much louder and more obvious in my eye-rolling than I normally would have been. But honestly. Just the fact that the first few questions were all about the white people and what the play meant for them and OMG please explain what it is is saying about Asian culture to us?!

I am glad that later on, more Asian-Am people (some of the group I went with included) commented on their own experiences of the play, and I was particularly interested in the notes of how the multilingualness was done. (Lee wrote the entire play in English and wanted Koreans 1, 2, and 3 to be cast from any combination of East Asian actresses who spoke (an) East Asian language(s); part of Wolf's audition process was to see how each actress translated her own scene.) Tari also started getting into a bit of audience knowledge wrt the inclusion of the pansori snippet in the earliest sequence, which was a comedic contrast to the emotionally fraught scene, as opposed to an audience member wondering "what that music was." [personal profile] via_ostiense also mentioned how the play didn't feel like it was speaking to her own experience in particular. [eta: more accurate comment]

Overall, I felt that the play wasn't radical enough for me—I particularly wanted to see more being done with the multilingualness, particularly so that audience members who understood non-English languages were seeing a different play of sorts. Unfortunately, it also seemed to be too radical for many of the other people there. I realize this sounds snotty, but the points that I thought were extremely obvious to the point of being anvils had been not grasped at all by some audience members. There were some points in there about Korean-ness and general Asian stereotypes in the media, along with Korean Catholic [eta: (Protestant?) Christian] culture that felt spot on (CB nearly fell off his chair in the scene with the grandmother talking about Jesus; I nearly fell off my chair at the miming of various ways to commit suicide), but I didn't feel like I (non-white Asian-American me) was the play's core audience, which made me a bit sad.

I also looked up some reviews for this play later, and I feel that what I saw was not necessarily what the reviewers saw.

- Official page including a YouTube snippet of one of the first portions of the performance.

- SFGate review: "Besides Lee's forays into Korean American identity, she raises the daring notion that white people may be as human as anybody else."

- SF Examiner review: "One scene within the 70-minute piece, about a daughter in conflict with her tyrannical parents, is performed entirely in an Asian language (maybe more than one, as the actresses themselves come from various Asian backgrounds). Decipher it if you can.

"In another, more accessible scene, the Korean-American is persuaded by her overbearing, dying old-world grandmother to 'be humble' and pray to Jesus."

To all these reviews, I want to say: accessible to whom? Why? Deciphered by WHOM? Who are you presuming is the audience, and why in the world are you presuming that?

I do think Lee's play is directed more toward white people than I would have liked, or held back somewhat because she wanted it to be more "universal," but I also think she is reacting to the Amy Tan version of explaining it all to the white people by not explaining, or by using in jokes and making some people uncomfortable with the realization that they are in jokes. And some of them are jokes I am not in on, but you know what, that's okay. Because it's not about me (Chinese-American me who partially grew up in Taiwan), which some of the reviews and some of the audience members really did not seem to understand.

(People who went, please feel free to chime in more/correct me/whatnot in comments! I waited too long to write this up, and as usual, I have forgotten more than I wrote down.)
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The serious

  • Potluck #1 is up! (Or, uh, was up a long time ago.) Potluck is intended to be about multicultural and intersectional discussions of food, and the first issue is about holidays. I have a post on New Year away in there that I backdated, so people may have missed it?

  • OkCupid's blog has old posts on how your race affects whether or not people message you back: hetero data | same-sex data. I am not a statistician, so I have no idea how well the study is put together (also, it's from OKC data anyway), but I went into it thinking it would be the old "Why do all the [POC group] self-segregate?" and instead it's basically "everyone loves white guys." I wish I were more surprised.

  • वैष्णव जन तो... made me think a lot, particularly the final paragraph, which puts into words many of the things I'm still struggling with (and probably will be forever).

  • Bidding on [livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust has started! Help send fans of color to cons they want to go to! (I am particularly invested this year, since I may be hitting them up.) I am offering a knitted colorwork hat and a blog post.

The fun

  • Pretty jewelry and scarves on sale at ChunInda! (Especially the gold-plated earrings...)

  • I really liked the Thom Browne Menswear Fall 2011 collection and how it plays a bit with concepts of masculinity and femininity. (Normal fashion complaints about race and body type and etc.)

  • Went to Stitches West over the weekend with [personal profile] troisroyaumes and [personal profile] ladyjax and managed to leave without too much yarn in tow. But! We also discovered Handknit Heroes, an indie comic about knitting superheroes, with bonus knitting patterns for your own superhero stuff, and The Knit Princess, a knitting web comic.

  • Also, I knew there was the Serve of Self-Actualization or something in Prince of Tennis, but I did not realize there was also the Serve That Killed the Dinosaurs. BWAHAHAHA!
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I came up with this theory after reading Cherie Priest's Not Flesh Nor Feathers, a mystery set in the South about a flood rising and the evils it uncovers. I've seen/read several examples of stories where an angry person of color (frequently a Black man) goes off on a criminal or killing spree, and it is later revealed that the angsty backstory is.... racism!

In Not Flesh Nor Feathers (spoilers), the eventual evil is... evil Black zombies! Controlled by a dead Black girl who was wronged by her White friend! I have also seen this in Ragtime (the musical), where Coalhouse Walker's car is torched, and he eventually retaliates by holding people hostage and threatening to bomb the city. There is also Orson Scott Card's Heartfire (spoilers), where it is finally revealed that the slaves in his alternate American South do not rebel because another Black man is using voodoo (I think?) to take his fellow Black people's will. Once their heartfires or something are restored, all the resentment bubbles up and they riot and torch the city. There are also multiple instances of Muslim characters of color who are either unfairly treated and end up getting recruited by terrorist organizations in crime dramas (Spooks/MI-5 has several episodes like this), or Muslim terrorists using injustice against Muslim people (usually POC) as an excuse for their attacks.

And of course there are non-fictional equivalents such as the way the Rodney King trial and resulting riots are framed. In Bay Area news, there have been protests gathering over the trial of the police officer who shot (and subsequently killed) a young Black man in the back, and the news reports I saw framed the protesters as almost threatening to riot if justice was not served.

Please feel free to list out more instances of this trope! I am particularly interested if this holds for non-USian countries/narratives.

My off-the-cuff theory is that there is a subconscious knowledge that POC are angry about racism and a subconscious fear that this anger will eventually result in the murder of White people, particularly White people who are not responsible for aforementioned racism. And thus, when POC are angry, it triggers this fear, which also leads to the unjustified thought that White people are unsafe from the Revenge of the Colored People. But the basis of the trope is "OMG these people were oppressed in the past, but not by me, and they are so angry that they turn their rage on undeserving targets, and look, we feel bad they were oppressed, but must they be so scary and angry and mean? See, they turn to violence, which clearly indicates that although they might have sympathetic motives, they go too far!" It is an extreme example of the tone argument or concern trolls, in which White people might actually feel for the injustice of racism if only those annoying brown people weren't so mean about it.

This is, of course, bunk, as a) it plays into the stereotype of angry and violent POC, particularly Black and Muslim POC, b) there is no such thing as being innocent of institutional racism when White privilege is so ingrained in the world, c) the notion that anger inevitably turns to violence and mass murder, and d) the idea that individual acts of violence have the same weight and effect as institutional oppression (I do not condone violence or think it is good, btw, but it is also not the same).

I suspect there are instances of the trope which end up being revenge fantasy, and I also suspect this holds true for other oppressed groups as well. I am also wondering if the flip side of this trope is the Tragic Mulatto narrative or narratives like it, in which POC are tragic and oppressed and conveniently off themselves at the end so White people can feel some guilt and sympathy to assuage their consciences, but not so much that they are actually inconvenienced by it or driven by it to do something about injustice.

(thanks to [personal profile] coffeeandink for the post title and [personal profile] deepad and [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu and Mely for listening to me spout off on this yesterday)

Maker Faire

Sat, May. 22nd, 2010 04:08 pm
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So, Maker Faire... much more fun the day before it officially opens, when a) there is free food, b) you don't have to tend to your exhibit, and c) fewer people!

A few short observations: Maker Faire is incredibly White. There have been a scattering visibly identifiable Asian people, but not much of other POC, with the caveat that I am probably misidentifying people. This year, there's a steampunk section. I haven't seen it live yet, but it looks like much of the white-ified steampunk when I checked it over before the fair opened. There are also way too many geek fallacy people who try to explain your own project to you under the guise of asking questions. I am sure there would be a lot of mansplaining going on as well, but I am antisocial and therefore sit in the back and run the computer or fix things with (a lot of) tape. I have definitely noticed more men doing geek fallacy and explaining the project even to my male project partners than women doing so. It's also been sad to see the young boys who want to try out our project go up and basically push their way into line while the young girls hang back and don't answer our questions and only talk to their parents. The kids only look 6 or 7 or so, and yet, gendered socialization has already set in.

Also, I probably could have worn my new corsets, courtesy of [personal profile] daedala, here, but that would be detrimental to the avoidance of mansplaining, the ability to crawl beneath things to slap on more duct tape, and in general trying not to call attention to myself.
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These are books 3 and 4 of Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers quartet, which is about four survivors of a British regiment ambushed by Indians in the not-yet-United-States. (I will get to this rant in a moment.)

To Beguile a Beast - Mrs. Helen Fitzwilliam has finally decided to leave her keeper, the Duke of Lister, but she knows he'll go after her just to get her and his two bastard children back. She ends up trying to persuade naturalist Sir Alistair Munroe to let her stay as his housekeeper, since he desperately needs one. Alistair is the titular beast, as he was scarred and had two fingers cut off during aforementioned ambush. Thankfully, this book has relatively little about the ambush, which meant I could pretend to ignore it so as to not throw the book against a wall. Most of the plot revolves around Helen escaping the Duke of Lister, and amazingly, her two children are not nauseatingly cute. In fact, I actually really liked the very solemn and not at all cute Abigail. I like that the hero is actually scarred, as opposed to the usual "Oh WOES I am UGLY wait no it's only a mild scratch" thing, but I was rather unconvinced by how long the "I am not worthy of your love" thing was dragged out on Alistair's part. Overall, not bad, though I like her Princes trilogy better.

To Desire a Devil - Spoilers and rantiness )
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As with the other Lisa Nakamura books, I read this months ago and don't remember it well.

This was published in 2008, so it's much more recent than the other two books. It still feels a little dated given the gap between research and publication, but less so at least!

The book covers race and the use of AIM icons, the Alllooksame test, UIs and race in Matrix and Minority Report, the creation of forum avatars for pregnant women and their babies, and finally, how we count race on the Internet and how it could be improved.

I was extremely puzzled by the inclusion of the forum avatars for pregnant women, as the women in question are almost all white and I do not remember Nakamura talking about the construction of whiteness very much in the chapter. The study fits into the book's subtitle of visual cultures, but not much with digitizing race. The chapter was an interesting read, but confusing when I tried to connect it to the other chapters in the book.

The look at race in the Matrix trilogy and Minority Report weren't as new to me, given the amount of media studies critique in the other two books I've read on race and the Internet. And I sadly do not remember much at all about the AIM icons chapter, the Alllooksame chapter, or the final chapter. However, a quick glance at the final chapter on Amazon has a better discussion of how to think about the "digital divide," particularly how Asian Americans are probably underrepresented in censuses due to potential language difficulties. Nakamura also discusses how censuses on technology use fail to take into account how many Asians are there behind the scenes, manufacturing the technology being used. I think most of her writing focuses on Asians; there's mention of the online petitions against Abercrombie and Fitch, as well as talk of outsourcing manufacturing so that the risks involved are taken by Asian bodies. I don't remember enough to say how much she discusses other POC though.

Mostly I remember thinking this was interesting although not necessarily always exciting in its conclusions.
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This related to Bound by Your Touch in that the heroes know each other, but they barely show up in each other's stories (I like that, although YMMV).

British spy Phineas Granville meets American flibbertidget Mina Masters in Hong Kong (why all the "exotic" settings WHY?), where she saves his life at some cost to her own. Four years later, Phin wants out of the spy game, but Mina is in trouble, and he's the only person she can think of to go to for help.

Thankfully for my blood pressure, the book gets out of Hong Kong fairly quickly, so I can not have British colonialism shoved in my face again. That said, there are still mentions of Phin's older spy missions, all of which are exactly as imperialist as you might think and focus on his white man angst instead of the brown people being screwed over, but at least it's not the main plot. It's so sad that nowadays, I almost prefer that romances stay all white and all in America or Western Europe and ignore the POC there, because when they don't, there's so much fail. I managed to not think about it so I could enjoy the book, but it's still there.

Anyway! With all that in mind, I actually loved this. Mina is an excellent heroine: she is stunningly gorgeous and knows it and uses it to her advantage, she detests being caged, and she is incredibly smart. One of the most frustrating yet most rewarding parts of the book is watching Phin find this out. At first, he suspects her of pretty much everything, leading to some standard "I loom over you to threaten you and make you talk" scenes, but Mina won't have any of it. I loved her description of one of their kisses, in which she mentally notes that it's very skilled, but forced seduction is both boring and predictable.

She has constructed an entire facade that almost everyone buys into because no one, not even Phin at first, believes she could be as intelligent as the evidence shows. I was so happy when she calls Phin out on how he assumed someone had to be behind her because of course she couldn't possibly have done it herself.

I also love her entire brainless bombshell routine, as it feeds into my love of the Scarlet Pimpernel fop-hiding-something trope. Here's Mina telling Phin of when a priest ran over her dog Mongol and she used it to blackmail the priest for chocolate:

"Blackmail? We called it a friendly agreement. By the end of the year, I wished I had another terrier for him to kill. But not really," she added quickly. "Wouldn't that be too bad of me! I much preferred Mongol to chocolate. Dogs are always much better than chocolate, of course, because they're alive." She paused to frown. "Then again, if one counts mold, I suppose some of the chocolate was also alive in the end... the cherry-filled ones, you understand; I never liked cherries. Well, it's all rather confusing."

After Phin gets over his misunderstanding, he turns out to be a rather nice hero, even though I still wanted to bash him over the head in the final conflict. I liked how he actually bothers to listen to Mina, that he understands her jokes and what it means for her to call his body "beautiful" and to comment "Why you're a pocket Venus write large, Ashmore."

Sex-wise, I wish Duran had gone farther. I feel bad for pushing for dominant heroines in every single romance review I do ever, given that it's not for everyone, but there's just such a lack of them! I can still count the number of dominant heroines on one hand. It was especially frustrating because Mina clearly gets off on it in an earlier scene: she's bored until she makes Phin lose control, backs him up against a wall, and marks him. She also makes a move to blindfold him and possibly tie him up later, but then Duran turns the tables on her. I did appreciate Mina thinking that even blindfolded and tied up, she was still choosing what to give and what not to, but it was so close! I'm so frustrated by how almost all the romances I read never have the hero tied up, or even if they do, they still manage to give him control. Even with these complaints, Duran still manages to pack character and relationship development into the sex scenes, which impressed me given how hard it is to do.

And as mentioned previously, the issue of control isn't a passing one for the book. Mina has fought tooth and nail to control her own life, which is one reason why I would have liked to see more of that in the sex, as well as why I was so annoyed by the final conflict and how it's all about Phin's issues and resolving them instead of Mina's.

In conclusion: I loved this, even though I wanted it to go farther and wished it hadn't had scenes in Hong Kong. I'm also extremely frustrated, because Duran is clearly a good writer doing interesting things, but she also seems to be very into the whole "exotic" setting with white people frolicking about, which means I will probably avoid many of her books. (I couldn't even get past the first chapter of Duke of Shadows because it pissed me off so much.) These settings are not exotic, they are not backdrop, they have people who live there and speak the language and grew up there and have relatives there. And the time period these books take place in is one that devastated the places being used as mere stage settings, these places that are people's homes.
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Lydia Boyce is a spinster interested in her father's archaeological expeditions in Egypt. James, Lord Sanburne, somehow gets his hands on some Egyptian stela for purposes that I have completely forgotten. Lydia exposes Sanburne's acquisition as a fake, and sparks ensue.

I read the first three-quarters of this while not in the mood for romance, and as such, I do not remember much of what happens at all. Also, it didn't help that the spinster-meets-wastrel is one of my least favorite tropes right now in romance. And finally, I spent the entire book ranting in my head about how these people were just going off and stealing Egyptian property to study, that it was all about Egypt as this distant land way out there where these things happened, that the action was as usual all about the white people.

Yes, it was nice to know that the heroine engaged in Egyptian-government-sanctioned trade, but given the power dynamics of the time (Victorian England), how much leeway did the government have, really? Especially since this book takes place after the construction of the Suez Canal.

When I managed to not be overcome by rage, the prose was indeed lovely, and the character growth was interesting, although I am completely unconvinced of the resolution of Sanburne's storyline re: his sister.

Overall, it may be a very good book, but still. RAGE.

- [livejournal.com profile] oracne's review
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At Wiscon this year, Victor Raymond passed around copies of a letter the nascent Carl Brandon Society wrote to the Wiscon ConCom... on May 27, 1999.


I meant to type this up for the letter's ten-year anniversary, but haven't until now. I'll also upload a PDF version of the letter sometime during the week.

Ten years, people. TEN YEARS.

And POC are still being ogled at and made to feel unwelcome.

Yes, there's been progress, but there still needs to be much more.
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I have spent most of the past year thinking about knowledge, about who gets to know what, about who gets to disseminate that knowledge, about whom people think the knowledge is being disseminated to. It is a mixture of my experiences of year one of grad school, along with a constant debate with myself on the who, what and why of my own blog.

Much of it is prompted by the extremely common fallacy that non-white people/POC do not exist outside of the white eye, that our countries are "discovered" even though we have been living there for centuries, that our cultures are there to be explained by white people to white people. I've seen this play out in person over various iterations of Racefail online, but the important point is that this is not new. This is a tool that has been used over centuries by colonizers to justify their own narratives, to make themselves the heroes of their own stories, and to erase non-white/POC contributions to history. I cannot count how many times I have picked up a book titled "The History of [Subject]" only to have it cover the Western history of [subject]. Occasionally, if the writers are "generous," we get a brief mention of Egypt or China or the Ottoman Empire, but always with the assumption that these civilizations are static ones that existed only in the past, that their contributions are blips on the radar, unconnected to anything coming before or after. Joanna Russ talks about how taking away the context and the narrative disempowers female writers in How to Suppress, and the same tactic is at work here.

My Academic Crisis )

The right to know and not know )

Presumed audience and defaults )
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Yay IBARW for making me post, despite it being months late?

Although I had a very positive Wiscon experience this year, it was amidst a lot of fail. I heard and saw Black and South Asian women being mistaken for other Black and South Asian women, fish bowl ogling, and a lot of reports of people asking POC to be their special POC friends ("I have had no prior interaction with you before, but let me waylay you for half an hour to pepper you with questions about proper ally behavior or ask for your permission to do X!"). I personally managed to avoid a lot of fail, I think because a) I limit my panel appearances, b) I only go to panels in which I know and like the panelists, and c) I am antisocial, do not really go to parties, and only talk to people I know and like. Given the shenanigans, I do not think I will be changing my interaction habits in the future.

This works fine for me since I am, as mentioned, antisocial, but seriously. POC should not have to limit all their social interactions at a con just so they can be treated like a normal human being.

With all those caveats in mind, I was so happy to see so many brown faces this year, to make connections with people I've only seen online, to get the chance to talk in person instead of via comments.

One of the highlights of the con for me was being on a panel about Andrea Smith's Conquest with Andrea Hairston and Diantha Day Sprouse and talking with them afterward. First, I'm thankful I got the chance to apologize to Diantha for calling her too angry years ago; I read that now and think "She is so right! Make people with their horrible grabby hands GO AWAY!" But mostly, I cannot emphasize how good it was to talk to women of color from different generations than me about their journeys and their experiences.

The women I grew up with—my mother, my grandmothers, my aunties—gave me many things, but they did not give me the tools to deal with issues of social justice. And although I love them dearly, the models they have to offer aren't very radical. I think it's pretty sad that it took me going to Wiscon, which is mostly white, to find other women of color whom I looked up to as role models, but that's what happened. And I'm grateful that even though the initial connections I made with people were online or at Wiscon, they have been moving offline and outside the con. I'm glad I've been able to talk with more people locally, to have discussions in email and on the phone and in person so I can work through things without having random white passerbys ogling at my mental processes.

I can't even say how much it means for me to finally find these communities of women of color who are committed to social justice, especially in SF/F, which is what I grew up on. So thank you to the women I've gotten to know, the women I sometimes disagree with, the women I don't know, the women who have passed on, to all of you out there creating and critiquing and blogging and talking and being fannish and just being yourselves.

Having your multitude of voices means so much to me, especially as I continue to work on who I want to be and what I want to do.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I read this several months ago, so my already bad memory is now even worse. This is a relatively early book examining race and cyberspace; it was published in 2000, and the research is no doubt a few years older.

As with Nakamura's Cybertypes, this book was compiled when much of the rhetoric about the Internet and email and Usenet espoused how cyberspace would eradicate identity politics and allow all of us to only be seen via our personalities or our text or whatnot. I keep saying this, but oh, I laugh so bitterly at that!

Many of the pieces in the book come from media studies people and examine the portrayal of cyberspace in popular movies, books, and video games. I cannot really remember what they cover, since I read this right after Cybertypes and get the two mixed up at times. What I found the most interesting was a study of whiteness online in terms of Confederate websites, a study of an "electronic village," which attempted to emulate the experience of a small shopping center, and one on the role of computers in education and how that affected the digital divide.

Like most anthologies, I got frustrated by the length; I always wanted more. This was particularly the problem with Kolko's piece on trying to include "@race" in online MUDs to get rid of the frequent assumption that if someone doesn't specify their race, they must be white. She talks about designing the @race tag and how the system would use it, but notes that she only began implementing it and has no results for the study yet.

Overall, the book is very dated, and while I appreciated the media studies look at things, I also wanted more about class and race and how it impacts people's experiences online, not just how they are portrayed as being online. I think I wanted something more like The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online.
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Justine Larbalestier, whose books all feature protagonists of color, posts about the white washing of her latest book:
The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers.”

Susan from Color Online (good blog on YA books by and about POC) also adds:
Very few have responded to my comment about the absence of color among book bloggers. Those marketing folks didn't come to that conclusion without some basis in what they see. Something shaped their perception.

What is important has already been said: this is not a new issue; it is a self-perpetuating cycle contributed by bookstore shelving, marketing expectations, and aversive racism from readers and reviewers; it is symptomatic of the larger issues of racism; and it hurts readers of color.

Book list )

Color Online is also running a book giveaway to promote YA authors of color.

Link spam!

Wed, Jul. 15th, 2009 01:40 pm
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  • Help send Verb Noire to WorldCon:
    Verb Noire needs to raise some cash to defray the expenses of WorldCon. We thought we could bridge the gap out of pocket, but money is tight and my kid's face is expensive. So, we're hoping book sales, merch sales, and anything else you guys want to suggest can make up the difference. We're already putting together the second book (an anthology of short stories) and I was vaguely contemplating some sort of naming contest, but if that's not what gets you excited then please suggest something. We really want to be there, but finding the money for attendance and such is putting a hurt on ye olde pocketbook.

  • The volunteer theater program [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija works at is in need of help:
    The organization I have volunteered with for fourteen years, The Virginia Avenue Project, is holding an auction. It's a mentoring group for kids in Los Angeles. They do amazing work, which I have personally witnessed.

    100% of the Project kids graduate from high school. 90% of them continue to college. 85% of them are the first in their family to do so.

  • IBARW 4 is from July 27 through August 2 and we are looking for people to spread the word! Especially if you are or know a non-English blogger and/or a non-Western blogger.


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