Month: January 2009

January 30, 2009 / / african-american

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at PostBourgie

In grad school, I took an elective called Autobiografiction in Black, a course in first-person narratives illustrating a broad pastiche of Black life. The first novel we were asked to read was Sapphire’s Push. I read it in three days, growing more and more uncomfortable by the page. I had to take long, cleansing breaks after certain passages. Other times, I sat covering my mouth in disbelief at the central character’s myriad disfortunes. When the book finally ended, I wanted to hurl it across my apartment. My skin crawled for days and I felt betrayed by my professor. What possible reason could she have had for choosing this novel as the initial reading for her course?

Push is the story of Precious Jones, an obese and illiterate teen whose mother and father are sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing her. As a result of routine father-daughter incest, she is the mother of one child with Down’s Syndrome and is pregnant with a second. These horrifying occurrences are just the beginning of Precious’s troubles, but it’d behoove you to read the book to find out what else is going on.

Suffice it to say: Sapphire is relentless in her portrayal of this girl, who joins a literacy class and begins to slowly peek out from the cracks of her dark, shattered life and find a few rays of light.

People who love this book will tell you that it’s a triumphal story of hope in the face of brutality and despair. And it is. But for me, hope appeared too late in the work and retreated without a satisfying enough redemption for our heroine. I couldn’t stop mourning her abundance of tragedies, no matter what brief victories she won.

So when I found out Push was being adapted for the silver screen, I cringed at the prospect of revisiting Precious’s bleakly rendered world. I dreaded watching in technicolor all the awful things I’d imagined while reading. And I reeeally didn’t want to return to the hollowness that haunted the ending. What possible reason would Hollywood have for further dramatizing an existence as heinous as Precious’s? Read the Post Reveling in Bleakness

January 29, 2009 / / Uncategorized
January 29, 2009 / / Israel/Palestine

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, orginally published at Women and Hollywood

Cherien Dabis is having one of those dreamlike weeks. She was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2009, and her film Amreeka had its world premiere at Sundance this past weekend to a standing ovation and positive reviews. Now all she needs to do it sell the film and get an agent.

Not being in Sundance, I haven’t seen the film but if I were there, it would been tops on my list. Here’s the description from the catalog:

Director Cherien Dabis’s auspicious debut feature, Amreeka, is a warm and lighthearted film about one Palestinian family’s tumultuous journey into Diaspora amidst the cultural fallout of America’s war in Iraq. Muna Farah, a Palestinian single mom, struggles to maintain her optimistic spirit in the daily grind of intimidating West Bank checkpoints, the constant nagging of a controlling mother, and the haunting shadows of a failed marriage. Everything changes one day when she receives a letter informing her that her family has been granted a U.S. green card. Reluctant to leave her homeland, but realizing it may be the only way to secure a future for Fadi, her teenage son, Muna decides to quit her job at the bank and visit her relatives in Illinois to see about a new life in a land that gives newcomers a run for their money.Dabis weaves an abundance of humor and levity into this tale of struggle, displacement, and nostalgia and draws an absorbing and irresistibly charming performance from actress Nisreen Faour as Muna, who stands at the heart of this tale. Amreeka glows with the truth and magic of everyday life and signals the arrival of an exciting, new directorial talent.

She took a couple of minutes to discuss the film and her Sundance experience.

Women & Hollywood: What made you want to make this film?

Cherien Dabis: The story is quite personal, inspired by my family and loosely based on true events. I grew up in a small town in Ohio of about 10,000 people. I actually grew up between Ohio and Jordan but most of my time was spent in this small town where as Arab Americans we were isolated because there was no Arab community and not a whole lot of diversity. For a while everything was fine and we fit in relatively well until the first Gulf War when my family was scapegoated and overnight we virtually became the enemy. All kinds of absurd things happened. My father who is a physician lost a lot of his patients because they wouldn’t support an Arab doctor and then it came to a head when the Secret Service came to my high school to investigate a rumor that my 17 year old sister threatened to kill the president.

Read the Post Sundance Interview: Cherien Dabis, Director of Amreeka

January 29, 2009 / / african-american

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally published at TransGriot

One of the beauties of surfing the Net is that from time to time, you’ll stumble across a nugget of history or some photo that you weren’t even aware existed.

I’ve mentioned that JET, EBONY and the now defunct HUE magazines when they first started back in the day served as historical chroniclers of the Black experience in America. Google just negotiated a deal in which they will be digitizing pre-1960’s EBONY and JET magazines so that you can access their content on the Net.

One of the things I discovered to my delight is that in order to fulfill their mission of documenting the Black experience, EBONY and JET also covered events and discussed Black GLBT issues.

In addition to asking pointed questions about the Black GLBT experience, they also covered the New York and Chicago drag balls as well. Read the Post African-American Transgender History-50’s Style

January 28, 2009 / / diversity

by Latoya Peterson


This could have been a good op-ed.

Reading through Jeff Jacoby’s rant about how some people have the nerve to wonder about racial parity in the press corps, I just kept shaking my head. One could have argued that if journalism, in general, is on the decline it follows logic that minority journalists will be disproportionately affected and start disappearing from the rolls. So, one could then logically argue to fix the racial gaps in the press corps, we would need to start by fixing the foundation of the press corps.

Or, one could have argued that as old notions of district boundaries and “ethnic” enclaves are eroding away, so should the idea of “ghettoizing” correspondents. So, it would be reasonably expected for a white reporter to be able to cover an issue outside of their community with the same level of insight and aplomb as a community insider. (I would say vice versa, but many minority writers, self-included, are expected to be able to “write white” already.)

Or, I could have even accepted yet another “post-racial” America type of commentary where they argue that since whites proved willing to cross the color barrier in voting for Obama, it means that journalists should be able to venture out and cover all issues, regardless of race, because a new level of understanding has been reached. (I would disagree with this, but I could accept it.)

But Jacoby’s piece is the same old, same old.

But why should it matter to anyone but a racist whether a White House reporter is black or white? Well, says Michael Fletcher, a colleague of Kurtz’s, “you would want to have black journalists there to bring a different racial sensibility.” By the same token, more evangelical journalists would presumably bring a different religious sensibility to the White House, more journalists from the Deep South would bring a different regional sensibility, and more Republican journalists would bring a different political sensibility. Do you know of any news organizations that are fretting over the “relative paucity” of evangelicals, Southerners, or Republicans on their payrolls? Me neither.

As if these things were equal. As if evangelicals, Southerners, or Republicans were systematically excluded from society (and the press corps) for years due to institutionalized racism and the pervasive idea of segregation. Read the Post The Boston Globe asks “Why Should a Journalist’s Race Matter?”

January 28, 2009 / / asian
January 28, 2009 / / addicted to race