Monday, December 11, 2017

The Line is Not Moving

I saw a thing that has stuck with me. Someone was discussing that a book that was called out for problematic portrayals had been researched, and that had been reviewed by a sensitivity reader and still, on publication, called out as portraying problematic stereotypes. They said if all that wasn't enough anymore, how was an author to keep up.  I think this person meant well.  But this is a misunderstanding of the goal.  In my opinion, the goal is to produce books that wherever possible are free of unintentional problematic portrayals.  There are many different roads to doing this, but in the end the finished product is what the readers judge.
Anyone in a client facing job knows that the customer is rarely appeased to learn that you had these safety checks or quality assurance measures in place, if their tea tastes like coffee they want a new tea.  Knowing what the establishment is going to do (or not do) for next time helps, but it doesn't solve the drink in front of us.
And I know it's not easy, we've all absorbed a lot of problematic things over the years, gotten used to hearing that women don't make sense, that fat people are inches away from death, that folks in the US not speaking English must be brand new and zillions of other harmful stereotypes.  That's why I reflexively tensed up watching "Mad Max: Fury Road" when I realized most of the women were wearing white and saw a hose, I expected that in this moment - even in this world where water was a precious commodity, they would soak all the girls so folks in the audience could oopsie, see more of them. And they didn't. 
But it's easy, and often lauded to make use of some of these expected moments.
The difference now, is that social media makes it faster for the folks disappointed to reach you.  And yes, you can't listen to everyone, and you can't make everyone happy. That doesn't mean that those complaining aren't right either though.  If your intention as an author isn't clear on the page, that's a craft problem, not a changing reader expectations problem.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1.  If you support folks on patreon and saw some rumblings about the changes, here's a good explainer.
2. The first uterus transplant fascinates me.
3. This piece about cats following their humans to the bathroom doesn't really answer the question, but it proposes some possibilities.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Nina Simone: Four Women

I saw 'Nine Simone: Four Women" at Arena Stage Friday and I'm still unpacking how I feel.  I thought I knew more than I did about Nina Simone when I arrived and it became clear to me that I did not.  I imagine that's sort of the point of a play like this, she's a figure that exists as part of the landscape of pop culture and yet I imagine I'm not the only one who would learn a lot from a play like this.  Part of what I'm still figuring out is how much of the research I did after seeing the play that made pieces of it clearer is a sign of a good play versus a sign that it's not as accessible as it could be to those not as well versed in the Simone landscape.
This is not to say that I don't think the play stands on it's own or that I think it doesn't make sense to some person who walks into a theater never having heard of Nina Simone.  I think it does.  But it is littered with Nina Simone Easter eggs.
The play itself is set in the bombed out 16th Street Baptist Church.  This was the moment that the playwright (per the interview in the program) felt pushed Nina from keeping her activist life and her singer life separate.  There are songs throughout, most Nina Simone songs, although a few others as well.  A jukebox musical about a woman with quite a catalogue is sort of a different experience.  None of the songs felt shoehorned in.  There are four women in the cast, as you might suspect from the title and if you were familiar with that song.  They enter the church in phases, although they are all onstage the whole time, so it creates an interesting mental shift as they go from background swayers to characters.  Nina is working on "Mississippi Godddam" and discussing activism and the treatment of women in the movement, although the characters also argue about their archetypes and how they each deal with their own perceptions and challenges and colorism. 
The play has no intermission and I don't know where you would put one but it did mean it was a lot.  There was laughter and gasps and mm-hmmms and applause.  There were parts where the characters arguments seemed to switch topic without warning and in a way that didn't seem natural, but of course, in some ways that is natural even if that's not how play characters often operate.  The set was amazing, and when Sweet Thing finally got to sing and revealed a deep alto, it was amazing.  All of them sang beautifully, I guess I had simply expected the actress playing Nina to be amazing.
Overall I enjoyed it and was glad to have the chance to see it.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Three Interesting Things

Had some weird issues posting yesterday and not enough time to troubleshoot the autopost. But here we are.
1. In light of recent news, I was directed to this piece from Meghan Markle discussing the realities of navigating life as a biracial person, the shock, confusion, and surprise as others try to define you.
2. Alyssa Cole was interviewed by Shondaland about her newest release, although she found time to talk about others. I had the chance to see both her and Alisha Rai at Politics and Prose's new Wharf location yesterday, as they chatted about books with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches and how showing communities of women, showing characters that feel too much, or are working on feeling too little, and the power of books that promise you hope at the end.  My understanding is that in addition to Politics and Prose's taping, and possibly a Smart podcast.
3. I saw this viral tweet about a stunt a twelve year old pulled, and found this description of the experience of going viral interesting.