Tag Archives: publishing

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The Stories That Shape Us [Essay]

by Guest Contributor

THE STORIES THAT SHAPE US

The only Nigerian Nobel Prize winner was Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright and poet who was recognised for his contribution to literature in 1986. Clearly, Nigeria is not lacking in literary talent, yet books written by national authors and published by Nigerian publishing houses are shockingly scarce. The authors are far more likely to be picked up by Western publishing houses before they have a chance to become successful back home.

Such was the story with globally acclaimed authors such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wole Soyinka himself. “The best writing is not about the writer, the best writing is absolutely not about the writer, it’s about us, it’s about the reader,” – Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist. So why must the most relatable stories be road-tested on a western audience before being released for whom they were intended?

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Literature knows no bounds. The range in style and substance varies massively, which means there are countless levels on which a story can appeal to a reader. An individual’s go-to genre might be fantasy or sci-fi, books that give them the chance to escape into a world which is completely alien to their own. However, reading about even the most fantastical of worlds doesn’t measure up to the thrill of reading about the city and even the streets you grew up around. The familiarity and intimacy you feel with the text when the characters are travelling a road you too know so well is entirely different – it’s a melancholic sort of pride like reminiscing about old times with a dear old friend.

During an inspirational talk at the TED conference in 2009, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about how Nigerians (and people of colour in general) struggle to find other ethnic characters that they can identify with. Continue reading

EBONY.com Shows Andrea Plaid Some Love

Racialicious.com Associate Editor Andrea Plaid

As we begin the week, let’s send up a cheer for our own Associate Editor, Andrea Plaid, for being named one of 8 Dynamic Black Women Editors in New Media by EBONY.com, alongside movers and shakers from outlets like BET, Colorlines, The Grio, and others.

The full list–and Andrea’s words on the kinds of black women editors the publishing world needs–can be found here. And don’t forget to check out her weekly look at The R’s Crush of the Week and visit the Racialicious Tumblr, which she runs with frequent updates every day. Congratulations, Andrea!

Lying on the Cover

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

There’s been a great firestorm of controversy over Justine Larbalestier’s cover for her recently released novel, Liar. Ms. Larbalestier is the Australian-born author of How to Ditch Your Fairy and other fantasy/sci-fi titles. She has a wide fan base. She is married to Scott Westerfeld, best-selling author of the Uglies series. Together, they are a veritable, YA fantasy/sci-fi powerhouse.

The frukkus around Liar is because, in the book, the character describes herself as “black with nappy hair” which she wears short and natural. The cover image is of a white girl with long, straight hair.

Some have argued that the model could be of mixed race, or just a light-skinned black woman. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what she could be, within a racist context, most people looking at that cover would assume the model was white. Besides which, she clearly does not have short, nappy hair.

On her blog, Larbalestier has a picture of WNBA star, Alana Beard, who she thinks is more like what her character should look like. According to a report on Mediabistro’s Galleycat blog, Larbalestier was initially thrilled with her cover. They state that, back in April, she put this up on her blog:

“This cover was so well received by sales and marketing at Bloomsbury that for the first time in my career a cover for one of my books became the image used for the front of the catalogue . . . Apparently all the big booksellers went crazy for it. My agent says it was a huge hit in Bologna. And at TLA many librarians and teenagers told me they adore this cover.”

If this is true (I haven’t gone through her backposts), as an author I can relate to the excitement she must’ve felt at all the hoopla surrounding her book (okay, not really relate, because I haven’t ever experienced that, but it must’ve been awesome). But as an author of color, I’m saddened that the first thing to occur to her wasn’t how inaccurately her main character was depicted and what the implications of this could be. Continue reading

Write What You Know: Limiting or Authentic?

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

The other day, I came across a blog post by Editorial Anonymous, “The CSK is Dead (Long Live the CSK).” The Coretta Scott King Award was established in 1969 and is given to outstanding African-American authors and illustrators of children’s books.

Editorial Anonymous writes,

“If the CSK were in charge, male writers wouldn’t be able to comment on what it’s like to be a woman. The CSK is saying that you cannot understand what it is to be black in America unless you are black.

“Giving an award for creating art about the experience of race is a wonderful thing. But giving an award for creating art and being a particular race?

That’s racism in action.”

So this set me a-pondering. Is it cool for white people to write from the perspective of people of color? How about, as Editorial Anonymous mentions in the quote above, for men to write from the perspective of women? Continue reading