COLOR ONLINE: Celebrating Women Writers Who Make History ~ Ari’s Model (Reading in Color)


Re: Last week’s post: “I’m sure most of you are familiar with the fabulous website COLOR ONLINE, a blog that “focuses on women writers of color for adults YA and children,” that is dedicated to empowering young women and children. If not, make sure to click and read away. Color Online regularly features interviews, book reviews, giveaways and essays on literacy and on various cultural issues. It was founded by LaTonya Baldwin, who is also at the origin of Readers Against WhiteWashing (RAWW).

Color Online is maintained by LaTonya and a community of women bloggers that include Doret (The Happy Nappy Bookseller), Tarie (Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind), Ari (Reading in Color), Vasilly (1330V), Ah Yuan (Gal Novelty), Terri (BrownGirl Speaks), and me (though I don’t contribute as regularly as I’d love to, yet).

To celebrate Women’s History Month, it was only natural to highlight Color Online’s work. And what better way to do so than to pick the brain of some of my colleagues? So I asked:
Tell me about a woman writer who made history, whose life inspire you, and/or whom you consider a role model.

A huge, BIG thank you for Ari‘s (Reading in Color) contribution this week. Dear Miss Attitude, I definitely owe you one! I know you’re busy (making history at Reading in Color, Color Online and to all the places your passion takes you to), so I sincerely appreciate you taking the time for this post. Here’s Ari’s response:

“Toni, Toni, Toni!

A woman writer who inspired me is Toni Morrison, the first Black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. I know, I know, how cliché. It’s not even her books that really inspired me. I’ve only read two of them, The Bluest Eye and Sula. Reading both of those books was like watching a train about to collide with something, the stories were so intense, the stories so heart wrenching that I felt suffocated, holding my breath. Anxiously hoping to read that everything turned out fine in the end or haha it was just a dream. Yet, that’s not Toni Morrison’s style. She writes about the most depressing situations but her characters are always young and resilient. They refuse to be broken, they might get damaged in the process of coming-of-age and/or finding themselves but they are never ruined and there is always the faintest glimmer of hope struggling to break through the darkness of the book.

In The Bluest Eye the schoolchildren and Pecola’s father are so cruel; I literally choked on the angry words threatening to leave my mouth. Toni Morrison’s works never fail to produce a visceral reaction in me. It never ceases to amaze me at how her main characters remain friends.

In Sula, Nel and Sula remain friends. They are complete opposites, they hurt each other deeply but there’s something at the root of their friendship that won’t let them sever ties.

The most important influence Toni Morrison has had on my life though is by pushing me to start a blog. One of my all-time favorite quotes is “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I really wanted to find a blog that featured YA/MG multicultural literature. I found a few, but none written from a teenage perspective; thus, Toni Morrison’s quote is the one that really pushed me to go for it (about 1.5 years ago), to start a blog that spotlighted multicultural literature. Now here I am, Reading in Color has done fairly well in the book blog world and while I don’t have the patience to be a writer/aspiring author, I apply Toni Morrison’s quote to everything in my life that I want to change.

Want to increase the diversity selections in libraries that could use some tender loving care? Start your own project (C.O.L.O.R.).

Want to find a list of all the YA books published about Latinos in the 21st century? Create one. So one and so forth.

Toni Morrison’s quote pushes me to be a go-getter because I’m the only one who can make my dreams/goals come true (as cheesy as that sounds). I need to re-read The Bluest Eye and I also intend to read Jazz as soon as I can.

And listen to some Tony, Toni, Tone ;)”

Thanks, Ari!
Dear readers, are you inspired yet? 🙂

Side note: Relief Efforts for Japan post has been updated.

In Case You Missed It

o Beloved Author Toni Morrison was celebrated in France last week, as she received the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration awarding military, social, scientific or cultural contributions. The award is, on occasion, granted to non-citizens. The following quotes are from Jenny Barchfield’s article on the Huffington Post. Frédéric Mitterand is France’s culture minister.

“Mitterrand called Morrison – a Nobel laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize – “the greatest American novelist of her time.”

“I want to tell you that you incarnate what’s most beautiful about America … (that) which gives a black child, born during segregation into a modest family in a medium-sized Ohio city an exceptional destiny,” Mitterrand told Morrison, as she listened on from a gilt-covered armchair nearby. “You were the first woman writer to tell the painful history of Afro-Americans.”

Read the entire article here.

o Nathan Bransford is not longer agenting. Nathan worked as an agent with Curtis Brown Literary Agency from 2002 to 2010. Most of you know Nathan and have benefitted from his advices (his posts helped me craft my first query) thanks to his award-winning blog. Nathan is joining the ranks of CNET, and will from now on focus on media strategy, in addition to his career as an author. Indeed, Nathan’s book–JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW–is published by Dial Books for Young Readers and will be out in May 2011.

Fear not, Nathan Bransford’s blog will live on. Because he’s like that. Thanks Nathan. To read more about Mr. Bransford’s new adventure, click here.

o Madonna (after all, she’s a children’s book author), suggests an “experiment” to end bullying.

o It’s here! The New York Times, not speaking ill of picture books this times (click here for Mother Reader’s take on the topic. Excellent post!), has its list of 2010 best illustrated children’s books out, just in time for Christmas shopping.

I would particularly like to draw your attention to the following moving and stellar review of Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier. I must say, the little I saw of Collier’s illustrations touched me to the core. It’s powerful.

The article, written by Tony Horwitz, is here.

o I wasn’t aware of this, but you probably were: The Stonewall Award, ” The first and most enduring award for GLBT books is the Stonewall Book Awards, sponsored by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table. Since Isabel Miller’s Patience and Sarah received the first award in 1971, many other books have been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience.” I’m just glad it exists. One more voice to add to the “It gets better project.” Hopefully, the GLBTQ children’s literature will be more in the spotlight and help prevent suicides, especially among teens.

o Last but not least: It’s my wish that author Zetta Elliot be one day granted an award for her incessant fight against racism, for her efforts to bring more equality, cultural diversity and awereness in the publishing business. She is a strong voice and an inspiration. Please, check out her post titled “Shady,” focused on “shadeism, the discrimination that exists between the lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community”. I grew up in an environment that embodied what she is denouncing. Leave a comment to show your support?

o Me? If you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet for so long, and why the absences either during the summer or more recently: I’m dealing with a bout of depression, and have been for a while. I have much going on in my family, and though I’m the type to see the glass half full, it’s been a bit discouraging and worrisome. I committed to reviewing a certain amount of books and to some interviews. I will fulfill my commitments.

I’m writing this segment because I wanted to be honest with you all. Some people emailed to enquire about my well-being. Some left comments on the blog in my absence. I’m touched and I thank you. If this blog is still up, it’s because of you.

Merry Tuesday,