Suppose I went National or worldwide asserting that my works of writing have not been accepted by traditional publishers because I write about redheads and I am a redhead. We are only 2 – 4 % of the population, and I feel like I am being discriminated against. Wouldn’t you think that was ridiculous?
The following is reblogged from The School Library Journal. It is written by Zetta Elliot. If she asks me to take it down I will gladly comply.
(I am a Black feminist writer committed to social justice. I write stories about Black children and teens, but within the children’s literature community I have struggled to find a home or what poet June Jordan calls “living room.” In “Moving Towards Home,” Jordan describes a place “where the talk will take place in my language…where my children will grow without horror…where I can sit without grief.” If “home” represents sanctuary—a safe space where one can speak in one’s authentic voice, feel valued, and able to thrive—then the children’s literature community is not my home. I am—and likely will remain—an outsider.
By industry standards, I suppose I am a failed author. Since I started writing for young readers in 2000, only three of my thirty stories have been published traditionally. I turned to self-publishing as my only recourse, and now face the contempt of those who see self-publishing as a mere exercise in vanity.
Last year a white Facebook “friend” suggested that my decision to self-publish was analogous to Blacks in the civil rights era choosing to dine in their segregated neighborhood instead of integrating Jim Crow lunch counters in the South. In her mind, self-publishing is a cowardly form of surrender; to be truly noble (and, therefore, deserving of publication) I ought to patiently insist upon my right to sit alongside white authors regardless of the hostility, rejection, and disdain I regularly encounter.
Since 2009 I have used my scholarly training to examine white supremacy in the children’s literature community where African Americans remain marginalized, despite the 2014 increase in books about Africans/African Americans. This sudden spike (reflected in the latest statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) was not paired with a comparable increase in the number of books by Blacks, however, suggesting that power remains where it has always been: in the hands of whites.
Publishers Weekly’s 2014 salary survey revealed that only 1 percent of industry professionals self-identify as African American (89 percent self-identify as white). That the homogeneity of the publishing workforce matches the homogeneity of published authors and their books is no coincidence. The marginalization of writers of color is the result of very deliberate decisions made by gatekeepers within the children’s literature community—editors, agents, librarians, and reviewers. These decisions place insurmountable barriers in the path of far too many talented writers of color.
I know better than to turn to the publishing industry when I seek justice for “my children:” Trayvon, Renisha, Jordan, Islan, Ramarley, Aiyana, and Tamir. I know not to hope that industry gatekeepers will rush to publish books for the children of Eric Garner as they struggle to make sense of the murder of their father at the hands of the New York Police Department. But I also know that children’s literature can help to counter the racially biased thinking that insists Michael Brown was “no angel” but rather “a demon” to be feared and destroyed. I believe there’s a direct link between the misrepresentation of Black youth as inherently criminal and the justification given by those who so brazenly take their lives.
The publishing industry can’t solve this problem single-handedly, but the erasure of Black youth from children’s literature nonetheless functions as a kind of “symbolic annihilation.” Despite the fact that the majority of primary school children in the U.S. are now kids of color, the publishing industry continues to produce books that overwhelmingly feature white children only. The message is clear: the lives of kids of color don’t matter.)
Like an agent knows what color skin an author has when they get a query mailed to them.
Ezra Jack Keats’ bio on google opens with “Ezra Jack Keats is an American Author.”
Zora Neale Thurston’s opens with “Zora Neale Thurston was an American folklorist.” As a part of a writing program at my grand daughters, school, I heard her speak. She discussed how important it is to write. I am POSITIVE not one person in that audience thought, “I am listening to the voice of a black woman.” I am also POSITIVE no one boycotted the talk because she was black. The room she spoke in was packed. She gave my grand daughter a signed book! Betcha Ms. Elliot doesn’t have one.
If people want to wave the flag of skin color, they are free to do it as much as they want. Personally, I am obsessed with being a redhead and well aware of all the privileges it has granted me. My PINTEREST board on redheads is huge and beautiful. But I do not bang people over the head with the flagpole. I do not slap them in the face with the flag.
Racial divisiveness is being promoted. Skin color is being emphasized all out of proportion. Why take on the burden of an unjust classification all by your self? Is your skin really black? Is your skin really white? Is your skin really yellow?
My mantra is and always has been, “Hoe your own row.” “Play the hand you were dealt.” If you do those things the very best you can, if each and every person of whatever ethnicity did that the very best they could, there would be no reason at all for anyone to hire a bandwagon full of supporters to back them up, to second their opinion, to help them.
I am getting so sick of it.
I have to rush now. My cable company cancelled my service because I am a redhead, and I have an appointment with a lawyer. The pressure is getting so bad, someone anonymously sent me a one way ticket to Scotland. I am so insulted.
IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: Vintage illustration by Mabel Lucie Attwell, via Google
When was that Selma Alabama memorial march thing? Some day last week? How fucking adorably ironic. Martin Luther King is spinning in his grave.
I am through. I will never ever again proselytize about accepting people for their own self worth or recognize effort and ability without prejudice or distinction. This is the straw that broke my less than perfect back.
– BizPac Review http://ow.ly/K4prT
Hey. Guess what? If you didn’t notice yet, I have no struggle at all having conversations with people who don’t “look like me”. Doesn’t that sound more like this prick has a personal problem instead of a RACIAL problem? But then, there is that BLAME thing going on.
This is the high school my daughter and I graduated from. When I was there, there was one black student. Her name was Faith Julian. She was Dr. Percy Julian’s (google) daughter. They burned a cross on his lawn when he moved into Oak Park, Illinois. That town contains a larger concentration of sanctimonious dickheads than any other city in the world. My dad was a cop there. I moved back when I got married. The mayor was corrupt. He was paying his extramarital sweetie over a million dollars a year as a computer consultant. I am getting ahead of myself.
Faith Julian was a sweet, friendly, unpretentious girl despite being ungodly wealthy. She would walk into one of the school’s enormous, thronged girl’s bathrooms and a hush would fall. I was a senior when she started there. She was a year or two behind. As far as I recall I am the only person who ever spoke to her in a social situation at that time. But everyone knew it would be me. I would talk to anyone.
When I went to St. Mel’s grammar school, there was one black girl. Her name was Hazel. Her parents were rich. We could tell by her coat. It was an Irish neighborhood where most of our coats had too short sleeves and were threadbare hand-me-downs. Hers was tan with a brown velvet collar and a fucking matching hat.
We walked into Madigan’s department store and my two and a half year old brother saw his first black person. I will never forget the look on his face. My mom had to explain his reaction to me.
I would love to tell you the story about why all the parks in my subdivision have been remodeled in the last ten years and there is no longer a basketball hoop to be found. (I now live way North of Oak Park. When I moved out 25 years ago, my real estate taxes were over $8,000 for a forty two foot lot.)
On the stairwell at my high school there was a huge picture of some guy named McDaniel who founded the school. I said he was my great grandpa. Maybe he was. I hope that picture was taken down before thugs covered it with obscene graffiti.
Oh. Here is another ironic aside. In Baton Rouge Louisiana, there is an old plantation that is kept as a historical site for tourists and stuff. It is called The McDaniel Plantation.
In college, I went to visit my then boyfriend in Spring Hill, Alabama. The Airport was weathered in so we had to take a bus from New Orleans to Mobile. I saw a drinking fountain that had a sign Colored Only. Not a photo. Not a reproduction. A flaking, old, white enamel sign above a drinking fountain.
Why does not someone talk to this current school principal, who is principal for the same stupid reason Barack Obama is president, and mention casually, with maybe a sixteen pound sledge hammer, that he is promoting and fueling racial divisiveness? Why are we so FUCKING scared to speak up? Why do we give stupid assholes like Al Sharpton air time and print inches?
I am through with tolerance. I sneer at it. It is all about me now. Me and MY affinity group.
Son of a BITCH. This is SOOO fucking outrageous. I cannot believe it happened. I cannot believe it was allowed. If I was a 99 pound sophomore and he barred me from MY auditorium in MY school, I would have kicked the mother fucker in the balls. Or do “they” not have any?
Unfollow me. I don’t fucking care.
Actually, I only EVER pretended to care.
Photo attribution: Idon’tgiveaflyingfuck.org.
(This is not erotica but has some adult content. The title is still a secret.)
A few drizzly days had them both on edge. After a little supper he remarked, “Well, if you are going out to the beach to do your little communication exercise again, best do it now. It will be pitch dark in an hour or so. Don’t forget the light and the walkie-talkie and stay away from the edge of the sea. Orcas have been known to come up a few feet on the beach for prey. And you are not much bigger than a seal.”
“Nice. I won’t be long. I just want to see the sun go down and think about them. I love beaches and water.”
“Just remember this isn’t Tampa or Crooked Lake in July.”
“I’m well aware.” She hooked the walkie-talkie on her pocket and put the flashlight lanyard around her neck and kind of rushed out. He was very aware that conversations with her were always cut short by her and he was pretty sure why. He just chuckled a little in the back of his throat, reminding himself that he was going to live in the moment.
After an hour, he was starting to wonder and worry that she might be trying something foolish or might be just plain lost, so he walked out and headed west down the beach. Darkness was coming earlier and she had not left enough time for her nightly ritual on this evening. As he approached the ridge of a small dune he heard her singing. He quickly and quietly took a few more steps. She was facing west and singing, “Slumber, mother’s love is with you. . .” and holding her arms out. As she finished the lullaby she dropped to her knees and began to sob with her face in her hands. He was stricken. He had to rein in his instinct to run and comfort her. This was not a part of his life he was prepared to deal with. He did not want to dwell on what he was depriving her or her family of. He so much felt that he deserved this chance, but realized how selfish he was. But then he always had been and it had always served him in good stead. He jogged back to the cottage and jumped into a hot shower, lately the only place he could think straight and actually relieve the pressures building up in his mind and his body.
He emerged in a huge white bath sheet to find her disconsolately leaning in the archway to the parlor. He hadn’t heard her coming in. Her face was blotchy and her eyes still swollen with tears. She looked altogether bereft.
“Yes? Are you okay?” He wondered if he should appear clueless—decided against that. “I went looking for you. I saw you crying. I. . . I’m so sorry. I. . .”
“Could you please just hold me? I feel so lonely. I am used to piles of people crawling all over me. I can’t stand how I feel. Please just hold me for a sec?”
“Megs. I . . . I’m not. . . Megs?”
She jumped back like he had slapped her. “What are you doing to me? Why am I here?” she shrieked. “You take me away from my life and you won’t even touch me?” She was backing to the doorway, her voice rising and becoming more shrill. “Why am I here? Is this an experiment? Who are you doing this to–for? What is your point? You are crazy. I should have pushed you out of the boat. Why am I here?” She threw the door open and ran down the unlit path toward the beach, stumbling on the rain wet cobbles and trying to regain her footing as she hurried to get as far from her tormentor as she could, half-thinking of where she was going to go, needing only to make a distance from his person.
Thinking that was just the start of the fits of rage he had been on the lookout for, he threw the towel on a hook and jumped into the nearest pair of jeans buttoning them as he ran out the door into the chill night, shoeless, shirtless. He heard a loud thud along with a brief cry of dismay. . Maisie had tripped over a rock in the darkness and fallen face forward into a small tidal pool, scraping her forehead open on some shells or driftwood. He could see nothing but her rising to her knees, a little light from a waning moon glittering on her copper curls, a soggy dark green piece of seaweed hanging down near her ear and blood streaming down her face. Tears poured from her eyes amplifying the volume of blood, but she made no sound. She looked completely desolate, completely beaten, crushed, by his will, by the forces that he had mustered to bring her here, to hold her here. She struggled against him as he tried to help her up.
“I didn’t fight you hard enough. I could have gotten away. Leave me alone. Don’t touch me.”
There were no two ways about how to solve this one. He picked her up and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of wheat and made his practiced way back to the house. She thrashed and pounded at his back the whole way. He plunked her down on the couch and got a clean towel from the kitchen to swab at her cut. “It needs a stitch or two. Stop struggling. Those tide pools are crawling with life. You have to get this slime off you.” He carried her to the shower and put her fully dressed on the bench, her protesting loudly all the while and slapping and pushing at him as he deliberately removed each piece of her clothing. The hot water began to pour down on her and she shook her head and tried to catch her breath.
“Sit still for a minute. I’ll be right back.” He stepped into the kitchen and poured some rum and honey into a mug. He sliced off a chunk of butter and put the works in the microwave for a few seconds and took it back to the shower. “Drink this. It will take the edge off your chill.”
“What is it? Are you going to dope me again?”
“No. It’s just buttered rum. Just drink it.”
She took a sip and said, “This is like candy. What did you say it was?”
“Hot buttered rum. Just an old wives cure-all.”
“I’m not used to liquor but this is delicious.” She chugged it.
“You are supposed to sip it. Listen to me, Megs,” he said to her, mustering his most authoritarian tone and continuing to peel away more of her filthy clothing.
“Can I have some more of that rum? I feel much better.”
Against his better judgment, he fetched another mug full. “Sip it this time, and for once, listen to someone. I was standing there in a towel. I have been walking around with a semi for days now. I had to help you to urinate. I had to wash out your skivvies while you slept. My bed smells of you. I am enraged and insane with lust and frustration. I could not hold you while I stood there in a towel. I would have looked the fool.”
“You should have said. You pushed me away.”
“I did not push you away. You bolted.”
“You could have said. I’m so disoriented. I don’t know what to think.”
“Part of that is the rum,” he muttered as he pulled her sodden bobbies past her knees and feet and began to scrub at her head and her cut, “and you might be concussed. Just hold still and listen. I am crazy for you. I am a madman. I have kept this in the back of my mind for too long. I want to grab you every second. I lay beside you while you sleep, fighting my feelings, trying to figure out how to approach this. I am insane for you. I adore you. I love you.” He left her on the bench with the water pouring over her to get his medical valise for stitching the cut.
“Are you doing this to disfigure me? Are you that desperate? Don’t touch me.”
“It won’t be noticeable. It’s in your eyebrow. It’s split. A butterfly won’t hold it in such a motile place. Your eyes move even when you sleep. It will only need two or three. I do facial reconstruction surgery on babies sixty or seventy times a year. I know how to make a nice tiny plastic surgeon’s stitch. You don’t have to worry about your darling little face being marred. Hold still. Tilt your head back and hush for once.”
As he cleaned the wound and injected some xylocaine to numb the area she ran her hand down the front of his soaked jeans. “I see what you mean. Nice snug jeans to hide your secrets.” She giggled childishly on the verge of drunkenness.
“You’d better not do that while I am sewing you up. I am not rejecting you. I am not pushing you away. I just don’t think I can stand that distraction right now. I’m almost through.”
She put her fingers inside his waistband and pulled his body closer. “Megs. . .”
“Pay attention to your work. This is your fault. Completely–from beginning to end. Your fault.” Trying to sound accusatory, her sentences trailed off into an unsuccessfully suppressed snicker. Not used to alcohol in general, much less high octane, heated rum, she was beyond tipsy. She worked at the buttons in the wet denim. She managed to get the waist and two of the fly undone but was stuck on the third one. A little maddened from all that had happened, she giggled a little and pushed her fingers inside his jeans. She felt the warm hard velvet skin on the head of his erection. “Oh?” sounding surprised, almost as if she didn’t expect what she was playfully probing for.
“I’m done. Hold still a second.” He dripped something that stung into the wound and she gasped. He patted the area dry and placed a bandage over it. “See if you can stand. Take my hands.” She tried to rise but her knees were still too shaky and she sat back on the bench. “You may be concussed. I’ll have to carry you,” as he reached for a big towel and threw it over her shoulders.
“How cliché Rhett Butler. And I suppose I will waken tomorrow in a fuzzy glow of love and satisfaction.” She tried to wrap the towel around her as she stood but fell back to the bench. “Did you give me more dope? I feel shaky.”
“You’re probably a little concussed. And you gulped that rum.” He picked her up like a baby. “You have to put your arms around my neck.” He sat her on the edge of the bed.
“I’m cold,” she said. “Could you hand me some clothes?”
He opened a drawer and stared at the things he had bought for her having no idea at all what to choose, completely dismayed by the turn of events. This scenario was playing out like nothing he imagined. Just as he was thinking himself a fool, she interrupted his hesitation. “You don’t have to coordinate an outfit. Just hand me something dry. I’m freezing.” With the fireplace and the pellet stoves, the house was not at all chilly. Perhaps a bit too warm. But at the moment he knew he was no judge of that and attributed her remarks to the concussion. He reached in for a t-shirt and the nearest pair of bobbies and worried all the while that her concussion might be more serious than he had thought. He usually trusted his judgment, but things were going so wrong he was beginning to doubt himself. He helped her pull the t-shirt over her head. The feelings coursing through him made everything so complex. Guilt, lust, protectiveness, concern, anger at her and himself, annoyance at her perceived neediness when he had earlier labeled her a dominating bitch. Confusion ruled. He stepped into the kitchen and fetched another mug of rum, this time not so full, trying to judge the wisdom of that with all the other thoughts storming his brain. He handed her the mug as she plopped down ungracefully to sit on the bed.
“Sip,” he warned her.
Sipping the rum and setting it aside, she said, “These are like clown underpants.”
“Then get another pair yourself. I’m getting a little tired of the handmaiden routine.”
Her tone rang with defeat and exhaustion with a tinge of apology as she replied, “No. Thanks, really. They are kind of cute. They’re so soft. They make good jammies. I feel so sleepy. I have to lie down.” She pulled futilely at the duvet on which she was sitting.
“You shouldn’t sleep now. It might be from the concussion.”
“It might be from the rum and the late hour. Let me sleep.”
He helped her to cover up and said, “I’ll check on you every so often. I’ll have to wake you and ask your name and stuff.”
“You mean you are leaving me here alone again?” She was instantly awake, sitting up precipitously, her soft grey eyes immediately glinting with flashes of steely anger. ”You asshole. This is all your fault. I swear I will swim to the fucking mail boat if I have to just to get away from you. What does it matter if I drown trying? Death would be blessing after this torture. What am I? A little monkey on a stick for you to play with?”
“Babe. . .”
“Don’t babe me. You bring me to this god forsaken rock to conduct your little sensory deprivation experiments? Isn’t this where I came in? Asking for a little comfort and getting my head split open?” Her head was reeling from the concussion and the rum. “I hate you. I hate you. . .” The last so faint it made him think of a candle burning out. He knew he couldn’t leave her.
Feebly he offered a pat on her arm. “I’ll stay here with you. My jeans are wet and bloody. Just let me get out of them.”
“And I’ll pass out and you can run off and hide again.”
He had undone the last of the buttons on the fly and was pushing down the pants and hobbling toward the dresser. She couldn’t help but laugh. Every emotion was coursing through her and she seemed to not care or try to put them in proper order. “Commando? How brave and manly.”
“I was in a hurry. I thought an orca grabbed you or something.” He was pulling up a pair of boxers as he stumbled the few steps back to the bed.
“You’re already getting hard. May as well forget that. It’s not what I want from you and, for sure, it’s not what you’re gonna get, big boy. Still, I am impressed.”
“Am I not embarrassed and discomfited enough? You have to run a commentary?” He pushed the covers aside and sat next to her.
Suddenly tears poured down her face. “I’m sorry. I know you are trying to be nice. I know this is a mess and I am being a bitch. I am so disoriented. At home, bedtime is such an ordered regimen. This is worse than staying at a hotel. I don’t have to worry about a concierge’s feelings. I‘m so sorry.”
“It’s running off the rails. You shouldn’t apologize. My fault. . . Why do I suddenly feel like I’m eleven again?”
“We are. We are still those two people. We’re just picking up where we left off, just finishing what we started. This has just been waiting for us. As soon as I saw you, I knew.”
He deliberately reached past her for the abandoned mug and took a sip. She decided she wanted a bit more and took the still warm mug from him. As she handed it back she held onto his arm with both of hers and seemed to be inching more near to him. He knew it was unconscious on her part if not imaginary on his. He sipped from the mug and felt her lips against his arm.
She sighed and drew close to him, a semi-conscious moth to the flame of his warm body. Only the most primal feelings were in control now. It had all been too much. The games, the kidnapping, the fights, the loneliness, the deprivation. She tasted him with just the tip of her tongue, the faint saltiness as delicious as a feast to her starving. She groaned a little and moved closer as he turned to her.“You’re so warm,” she said. “Kind of salty.”
Setting the now useless cup on the nightstand he brushed his face into her curls as she pressed her mouth against his arm.
“Mmmm.” He couldn’t help it. The softness, dampness, warmth and sweet smell of her made his head spin. Or maybe it was the rum. At the sound she slowly looked up at him, her lips half parted. “Just an inch or two. . .” he thought, then quickly decided not to think as he bent his head ever so slightly and softly met her lips with his. He couldn’t read her expression, didn’t want to pick up on her signals, her intentions. There was absolutely nothing else in the world for him to do or to think of at that moment but to put his mouth against hers, to try and taste her, to feel how soft her lips might be, to find out how steep this cliff he was about to fall from. Her lips parted slightly and she took a huge breath. She deliberately drew the breath from his mouth into herself.
She gasped in surprise for so many reasons and only so slightly pulled away from him but something other than thought was in control for now and she softly nipped at his lower lip. She sucked in his breath and his spit as his tongue brushed against her mouth. She met it and hungrily tasted him.
He felt her firm, tiny breasts through the thin fabric of her t-shirt. Her nipples hardened reflexively at his touch. He pushed the t-shirt up and leaned to taste her, her gasp not unlike the one tinged with fear and surprise so many years ago. In his mind this was just the next moment. All of his life in between meant nothing now. Now he was officially out of his mind.
She pulled her shirt over her head so she could know his skin on hers and then she was again biting at his lip. Her tongue tasted him and she breathed him in and she loved him. The rest of the world was gone. There was only his touch on her that tethered her to earth at all.
He looked at her perfect little body, her small breasts, her nipples hardened by her excitement. It could have been awful he thought. She is perfect he thought. More than he could have ever imagined, she struck him with her beauty, her skin, her waist, her color, her smell, her texture, her presence. “I touched you here.” He touched her nipples and ran his hand over her breasts. He leaned to take another taste and moved his hands down her body.
She whispered huskily, her voice clogged with this tidal wave of emotion, “I thought of how it felt every night for a long time. All my childish explorations of my body focused on that. I would touch myself and remember how it felt”
“You wouldn’t even answer my letters. You treated me like shit when you saw me. I would wonder what I did wrong and then I just decided it was how you had to handle it. I convinced myself that you cared, you had to care. I have never stopped thinking that.”
“I was scared. It wasn’t really you I turned from. It was the feeling — the power of what I felt. We were too young. It was so innocent and so beautiful. But I was frightened by how intensely sexual it seemed. But we were too young.” They were stroking and nipping and tasting each other as they whispered the words to each other. Words that needed to be said just then. Consolation? Explanation? Rationalization? It didn’t matter.
He seemed so familiar. It didn’t enter her mind that he might just be someone she was turning to in her desperation. He seemed so real, so warm. She wasn’t thinking logically anymore. The circumstances had overwhelmed her. Her center was gone. Her point of focus had blurred. She looked up to his eyes and met them squarely. She didn’t ask herself if she was lying. She couldn’t ask herself what was real anymore. She was lonely, hurt, disoriented, scared. “I think I really wish we weren’t so young when it happened. Maybe it should have been. I feel like I know now it could have or should have worked out. But we were so young.”
He put his hand under her chin in the cliché Romance Novel-cover way and moved his face toward hers. “Now we aren’t.”
She had realized in the boat, her mind somewhat foggy from the sedative, that this was not something new. This was something she had stored away and rediscovered. She had felt apprehension then, but it was suffused with curiosity and desire. Still, all this while, she had tried to hold on to the part of her that was the mommy to four kids, the wife to Barney. But as the time and distance from her family had increased and the tension between her and Gus grew stronger, she seemed to forget that part of her character, or maybe she wanted to be just Maisie for a while. Maybe she wanted to be selfish, self-indulgent, greedy, careless, for just a few minutes.
But the few minutes she let herself go, let herself be Maisie who loved Fergus in the forest, who carried Fergus’ touch in the back of her mind and in her heart for so many years, those few moments became a lifetime as he pulled her down on the bed and her body arched against him and his hands and his mouth explored her, coaxed her, melted her reluctance, her doubts, until her need for him dripped from her. She toyed with him teasing him, inciting him with her touch, with her mouth until she finally slid herself down on his cock and drove him over the edge with her noises, her smells, her pulsing climax, grabbing at his center and pulling him into her, over the cliff, under the water, into the depths, to the very end of all the life he had known. Here he was panting, gasping, and finally shouting that this was his, this was his life, this was his destiny, the one thing he had ever found that felt right in his life, that was his right and the rest of the world be damned.
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been”.