Monday, June 29, 2020

Incremental Steps

I think often of Yarn Harlot (who I know has a name - Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) saying that she had no trouble imagining knitters as great fundraisers, because knitters and other yarn peeps engage in a craft where you intentionally set out to make something piece by piece, stitch by stitch, so the idea of small donations adding up to something huge is not much of a mental adjustment. Similarly activist Miriame Kaba often says, "Hope is a discipline."  
So on Friday I tuned into C-Span to watch the historic passage of HR51 through the House of Representatives.  It would shrink the official federal enclave to basically be some grass and some federal buildings, and make the rest of what is collectively referred to as DC a state.  
Oh, and if you are here to tell me that this is against the Constitution - a - it's not, and b, I don't care. The Constitution doesn't say citizens in DC shouldn't have rights, but it also was written with the assumption that a lot of people, including people who looked and were shaped like me, wouldn't need rights.  
It is possible that this bill will also pass the Senate and for the first time since DC was organized in 1801, the citizens within it would have rights.  (Note: Of course, when they shrunk DC in 1846, so a slave port in Alexandria could remain active while they banned slave trade in DC (but only DC in 1850) those citizens got rights back.  Weird.  No one minded then.  Oh wait, just some citizens.  That's probably why.)  
Or it may not pass the Senate. We shall see.  But this remains a historic step towards where we ought to be.  So I will celebrate it.  

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Three Plus Three Interesting Things

Since I got distracted with new book things last week, let's double up this week.  
1. L. L. Mckinney talked about how some books by Black authors are getting less coverage because they aren't about trauma, and what that means.  (Also, I've seen a lot of folks lately saying some variation of I would love to read more books by Black authors, but I read mostly [insert genre] and there just aren't any.  I promise you there are.  There are not enough, but they already exist, you can already find them from picture books to sci-fi, to lit fic, to romance, to cozy mystery.  The more you read, the more you will find.  And also hopefully those sales (yours or the library's) will help convince folks in publishing to find even more for you.  
2. Captain Awkward is often great at helping people verbalize boundaries, so this post on talking to family about travel and gathering amid a pandemic is great.  
3. I was directed to this piece from last fall regarding Amber Guyger, about reconciling the need for justice when it comes to police officers who murder on and off the job and also recognizing that adding to the prison population doesn't provide justice. As we work towards a community that is set up to provide justice, the very least that can be done is for police officers using deadly force to be terminated and unable to work in fields charged with community care.  But more prisoners does not happen to be one of my goals.  
4. I talked about this on Twitter last night, but a random post led me to this post, where I discovered that in 1908 three Hawaiians showed up at the Wyoming Rodeo and kinda killed it.  (This is a promo post for the book, which I have not yet read.)    
5. NPR talked to Ijoema Olua about tips for having conversations with your parents (or other relative, especially elder ones) about race, and how to frame them.  
6. R. Eric Thomas pointed me to this delightful story about a woman whose husband didn't know she could cook until she decided to reveal her skills in quarantine.  

Monday, June 22, 2020

Live Read of "Cuttin' Up"

In these pandemic times, we are all figuring out how to do these things. I've been making use of lots of virtual backgrounds, so have discovered that virtual backgrounds can overtake your face and get very confused when you reach your hand towards the camera. 
Also you may have discovered that your friends have varying lighting situations where they video chat.
"Cutting Up" debuted at Arena Stage in 2005. The live read was a collaboration between Playbill and the Classical Theater of Harlem.
The cast for the read included Joe Morton, Blair Underwood, and Tisha Campbell. Special props to Tisha Campbell, who broke out a different top and hairstyle for each character she played. 
There was sound and video editing. As with movies and such, it is interesting to discover how distractable I am watching from my own couch.
So, the play. The play has not stayed in 2005. There are references to current events. The three main characters are male, the owner of the shop, his more experienced barber, and the newer younger barber. As a neighborhood barber shop, it experiences a lot of peeks at folks' lives, and the barbers also reminisce about different experiences. It reminded me in ways of "Jitney", where the play stayed in one place and snippets that formed these people's lives layered in. It's unclear to me how long it will stay up, but it is a theater like experience if that has been missing for you.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Undercover Bridesmaid

 I have a new book out today - sort of.  It's releasing on Kobo today, so if epub and/or Kobo is your jam, you can pick it up now. It releases at the rest of the sites next week so you can go hit preorder.  

Rafe has been using charm both in and out of work. Finding himself the only groomsman at a weather interrupted bachelor party isn't going to stop him from having fun. Felicia has made a living for herself helping out brides by posing as one of their bridesmaids. She's used to handling all sorts of unexpected hitches, but a solo groomsman who keeps showing up at all the bachelorette events is a new one for her. It doesn't matter if he's hot, Felicia's there to make the bride happy not herself. Not even if the bride decides a little matchmaking might make her happy.

1. This book is written to stand alone, but it is part of the City Complications series, so if you have read Aloha to You you will already know who Rafe's friend Seth is.  In fact, you will have met Rafe too.  

2. I don't always know exactly what inspired my stories, because my writer brain is often like a sticky ball, gathering up bits of things until it coalesces into something.  For this one I know.  I was listening to NPR's "Ask Me Another" and on that same show they had a woman who was for some time a professional bridesmaid, and a gentleman who had garnered internet fame for being the only member of his bachelor party. And I thought what if I stuck them together? 

3. It is a particularly odd thing to have a book that involves travel to three different cities, and a number of non-socially distant gatherings amid a moment where essentially none of these things are really possible.  I have friends trying to figure out if they should even get married right now. 

4. I have watched a lot of TV shows about animal rescue.  I myself have a cat from a shelter.  The people who dedicate some or all of their time to animal rescue, are wonderful people who do a lot of work, and see a lot.  This book contains many fictional dogs, who all survive and are happy.  Let's not tell my cat that I have now written more fictional dogs than cats, mmkay?

5. This book starts in New Orleans, a city that called to me so much the first time I visited.  I've been lucky enough to visit it several times since. With groups and on my own. 

6.  This book, in addition to DC and it's suburbs (because of course) also spends some time in New York City.  New York City and New Orleans have been hard hit by both the COVID 19 pandemic, and police brutality.  (DC also.)  Here's hoping the world that we build going forward is better on all fronts. 

7. There is a teeny Broadway reference in here.  Let me know if you spot it.  

Oh also, if you are playing Ripped Bodice Bingo, this works for I'm on a Boat and Secret Identity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Black Publishing Power Week

The folks at Amistad publishing have suggested that perhaps if everyone bought two books by Black authors this week, the bestseller lists might* reflect this, which would be very cool.
I am a big fan of buying books, so this fits into my kind of economic power demonstration, if you will. 
I certainly don't want to tell you what or how to buy books. Because honestly, if all that happens is a bunch of people have two new books to enjoy, well yay.
If book buying is not in your budget this week, you can get two from the library, or request two you think your library should add. 
Sales matter to authors whenever they happen. 
But if you were looking for recently released books to take a look at, here are a few of my suggestions:
I'm put them all in a Bookshop list for easy ordering. If you prefer audio, may I suggest libro fm. Obviously you do you, but these options let you support local bookstores, so it's like a double win. If the bookstores near you are awful, I am fans of mine, including Loyalty Books.
I have not read all of these.  Some of them are still patiently waiting in my TBR, or made it into my cart this week. And obviously, this is just a starting point.  There are so many more great books out there.  

*There's a lot of factors that go into bestseller lists, most notably the NYT is open about the fact that sales is only one factor, and opaque about the other factors.  The USA and other lists are a little clearer about their methodology.  

Monday, June 15, 2020

Let's Talk About Privilege and Police

I had a friend who lived in Riverdale, right near the College Park border.  I had a car at the time, and she didn't, so much of our hanging out was me driving to her.  When I read this story, it sounded familiar. (Please feel free to read that whole thing and then come back.  I'll wait.)  My friend and I witnessed anywhere from three to six police cars showing up for what looked to us like traffic stops. We saw teams of officers gathered around handcuffed folks in parking lots.  I had a co-worker who talked about being pulled over late one night - and due to the at least two cops must be present rule - she and her friends had to sit in the car, cold and tired, waiting for another car to pull up.  (Interestingly I was pulled over in that same county by a solo police officer.  I am not doubting the rule.  I am saying that rules get bent at police officer's discretion all the time.)  
As I tried to list for myself the number of times I've been pulled over by police, I realized, other than a few sobriety checks, none of them involved multiple police cars.  Not one.  I've been pulled over in DC, at National Airport in Virginia, and in at least three counties in Maryland, including PG County.  And the reality is, I'm white presenting, I for a while drove a Volvo, often, I basically looked - as much as possible - like the most non-threatening kind of driver.  I also had no visible queer or queer ally paraphernalia.  
I'm focused on being pulled over as a driver, since that is my primary experience with police.  It wasn't until recently that I realized how much my own personal police interaction went down when I gave up my car.  
But again, I'm white presenting, I'm female, I look like I belong in most neighborhoods.  But I think one of the things that is true for anyone that has been pulled over, it is inherently nerve wracking.  I generally don't worry that I won't survive police encounters.  I do know that any police encounter can cost me money, time, or both.  Now, you can say, Tara, not if you aren't doing anything wrong.  And well, therein lies the question.  What actually counts as wrong?  I was once pulled over because the light over my license plate was out.  I personally, regularly checked my head and tail lights, but had not checked the light over the license plate.  Technically Maryland law does not require me to have a license plate light, only to make sure my license plate is visible.  So essentially, I was pulled over for something that was not illegal, because the police officer decided it was suspicious, and he wanted me stationary while he called in to make sure nothing additionally suspicious popped.  
Fortunately for me, I was headed home and had time to spare.  I left that encounter with no work order, and no ticket because I had literally done nothing wrong.  And we accept that as normal.  Same with sobriety checks.  We have accepted that at any given moment, an armed officer can stop and check in to decide if my behavior is in compliance.  
I could keep sharing stories of my own police encounters, but it isn't the point.  It doesn't matter that I survived all of mine.  I mean it does, because, yes, preferred outcome. It doesn't matter because surviving police interaction should not be a privilege.  
I also want to express, I don't think this is the fault of individual police officers. Some of them, sure.  But it is a broken system.  We have established a system where police are expected to be first responders for mental health, for homelessness, they are expected to interfere with people in order to prevent crime before it happens.  The only way to do that is to regularly infringe on the very citizens they are charged with protecting.  Police officers are in schools, they sit in stores, they are there to be threatening.  
We can keep layering in new policies to try and fix this, or we could accept that we built a bad system.   It wouldn't even require starting over.  Here in DC we have violence interruption programs, we have mental health services, we have programs that address homelessness, addiction, and sex work, and we have an alternative justice program.  Investing more in any and all of these programs, along with others to support housing and education would solve many of the things we currently rely on police to do.  We have ways to make life in the city better for everyone. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. As someone who had found some joy in the Bon Appetit channel, I have been watching this reckoning as employees who have been trying to fix things from within have finally made their issues public.  This look at the culture that marginalizes what appear to the audience to be some of its core creators, as well as discounting those working behind the scenes is, well, interesting. I hope the public reckoning allows for some lasting change. 
2. This frank conversation between two Black YA authors about the state of kidlit is fascinating. I was lucky enough that in high school we read one book that contained Black characters that was not about slavery or a miscarriage of criminal justice.  It is a shame that that is still not the case for so many.  
3. This booklist has some great suggestions for YA for Pride month.  

Monday, June 08, 2020

Welcome, There is Work to Do

I have been grappling with the notion that we all come to these moments in our own time balanced with, we are behind schedule and we cannot wait for everyone to finish the reading. 
This week local restaurants started putting up names of victims of police violence on their windowa. Names of folks like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This week the mayor painted "Black Lives Matter" on the street where I live, and changed a street sign to Black Lives Matter Way. 
These are all great public statements of support. I am entirely aware that these recent cases of police violence are what has galvanized this current moment, and I absolutely want justice for all of these victims. 
But I also want that for folks here, in this city. I am well aware that our same mayor imposed a curfew that was then used as an excuse for local police to chase and pepper spray protestors. I am aware that both the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police Department, the Park Police Department, and the Metro Transit Police Department have shot and killed people who have not received justice. 
I know that when one puts together a poster of prominent names, that you lean towards the ones that have the widest appeal. 
But I confess, I worry. I worry that it's easy to think, gosh things in Minneapolis are bad, but not here. That it's easy for restaurants to publicly support something that doesn't directly challenge and law enforcement likely to walk by their restaurant. 
It's easy for the mayor to paint a road near the White House, and still demand huge parts of our city's budget for police so they can buy more riot gear and pepper spray. 
But hey. Being cynical is bad. I'm sure all these folks here in DC are reading up and will want to demand justice for Jeffrey Price, D'Quan Young, Marqueese Alston, Terence Sterling, and others. Justice is not a one size fits all answer.  Sometimes it comes in the form of arrest and prosecution. Sometimes it is better funding for policies that allow for restorative justive, or the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers.  None of these options bring back people whose lives are lost.  None of these policies will take away the pain of those families. But they are perhaps ways we can limit the number of families that join their number.  
In a week where a number of corporations emailed me to let me know they were aware that racism is a problem and they are looking into how they participate, it is easy to dismiss these notes as performative.  They are performative, if they aren't followed by action.  But it is a moment worth noting.  If corporation X has decided they need to tell me they are against racism, then they have provided an opportunity for me to follow up with them and make sure they are living up to that, to challenge them about times I know they have fallen short.  
So, if you cheered for the painting of "Black Lives Matter" on the street but don't know the names of the victims of police violence where you live, welcome.  There is work to do.  

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. The 9:30 Club is forty years old, and this reminiscence of the original space where I saw many bands that no longer exist made me super nostalgic. It's so hard to explain to folks who only know the new space that there are bands I saw only in glimpses, because if it was packed, you might be pushed back behind the doorframe.
2. I think this post from a neighbor on Swann Street who witnessed much of the action Monday night about trying to explain it to her kid is interesting to read alongside this chat with the author of The End of Policing. Because the idea of who do you call if the people causing the violence on your street are police is something some people have only recently had to confront. But expecting police to solve mental health, homelessness, prevent, and solve crime is really too much too expect.   
3. I have been slowly doling out Meg Cabot's Corona Princess Diaries as a treat to myself.  (I'm still behind, so I assume they are still continuing.  Don't tell me.) Anyway I got to the protestor with the "Let My People Golf" sign which is such a delightful distillation of how privilege folks have been treating virus restrictions.  Scroll back to the beginning and read them all, is my suggestion.  

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Ripped Bodice Bingo

Ripped Bodice has debuted this summer's bingo card
Here are some books I have already read that would fit the qualifications: 
There was only one bed: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
I am on a boat: Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan
Set on an island - He's Come Undone - Adriana Herrera's story here is primarily on an island
Suffragettes - Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole, The Sufragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
Secret Identity - See also Nothing to Fear, Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Title is a pun - Unsung Heroine by Sarah Kuhn (see, there's karaoke.  That's punny.)  
Healthcare professional - See also He's Come Undone - Ruby Lang's story has a healthcare professional
The Final Frontier: See also Chaos Reigning
Cover has a large piece of jewelery on it: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Ice Cream - Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

7 Things: Rubber Bullets

1. Rubber bullets, also called baton rounds, are not made of rubber.  
2. The rubber (usually not rubber these days) refers to the plastic bouncy coating surrounding the object.  
3. They can cause bruising, permanent blindness, injuries to internal organs, broken bones, and/or death.
4. In theory they are designed to be aimed at the thigh, since that's a fleshy part of the body to minimize damage.
5. Their bouncy coating makes them lose velocity quicker than other projectiles.
6. This of course also makes them harder to aim.
7. It's also really hard to aim when you fire them into a crowd.    

Monday, June 01, 2020

7 Things About Pepper Spray

1. Pepper spray is a weapons grade chemical agent. Pepper spray comes in multiple strengths, but what determines that strength is not regulated. It is designed to inflame any mucous membranes, so eyes, nose, throat, lungs. It generally causes burning, wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath. It can also cause bluish discoloration of the skin. If any of these also sound like the symptoms you have been told to watch out for with COVID 19, you are correct. It was terrible before we had a pandemic. It is especially terrible within one.
2. Repeated exposure can change your corneas.
3. If you have asthma, take certain medications (no I have not been able to find a clear list) or are otherwise experiencing breathing issues, the additional information caused by pepper spray can be lethal. Pepper spray has also been found to cause cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological toxicity.
Because it is based on a plant, it also possible for someone to be allergic to it.
4. When pepper spray or pepper balls are released into a public area, there is no way to contain the spray, or be certain no one there has a pre-existing condition.
5. When pepper spray is deployed by law enforcement they often use large amounts designed to target a large area. They train on being pepper sprayed because most of their methods are so widespread they know they will also be sprayed. Also, studies have shown that police often employ racial bias (which yes, is a fancy way to say racism) in determining who to spray.
Also, pepper spray - though often the balls or pellets used to deploy it, damages nearby buildings.
6. Pepper spray cannot be rinsed off. It cannot be removed from the respiratory system.
7. Pepper spray is banned for use in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is currently only legal for use on your own citizens in the US. Oh and bears. It is legal to use on bears.