Link Sharing: Women’s Work

I’m taking a break from Twitter and Facebook. It’s not my first break but this is the first time I’m feeling antsy about not being able to shoot links out into the ether.

So, check it:

Elizabeth Newton has this excellent essay in the latest issue of The New Inquiry on the erasure of women’s work, specifically within Jazz and other music communities. “Can She Dig It” is a fairly quick read with some nice prose, thoughtful articulation, and disturbing facts. For instance, “Sun Ra had excluded Carla Bley, a pianist and composer in his circle, from his Jazz Composer’s Guild—a society Bley helped found. Citing sailor lore, Sun Ra claimed it was bad luck to bring a woman aboard the ship.”

These days I’m always raging about the small (and large) ways I see women’s work being dismissed and completely erased. My mother keeps warning me that it’s not good for my heart so I’m always looking for nods that let me know I’m not alone in my rage. Enter my favorite part of Newton’s essay:

Just last month I fleetingly considered smashing my computer, mining my hard drive for its mineral contents, scraping the tantalum and coltan into vials with which to poison every man who has ever made me compromise.

But to get back to the center (if there is such a thing)
This conversation between Darian Harvin and Danyel Smith is so good. There’s some good stuff in there about dating and about career. Danyel Smith is in that Black female hip hop writer canon (with the likes of dream hampton, Joan Morgan, …). I’m not super familiar with her writing (though this on Bobbi Kristina is excellent) but this conversation makes me want to have a mentor like her (and to be a mentor like her). I’ve also TBR’d her forthcoming book on black women in pop music.

Sometimes I daydream about “making it” as a writer and whenever an interviewer asks me what made me want to be a writer, I say “ZZ Packer’s author photo.” Yeah, that one. The side ponytail. The eyebrows. This is seriously my favorite author photo. Also Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is one of my favorites. I tend to say I don’t have favorite books but DCE is one I revisit for enjoyment and as guidance with my own writing. In any case I’m always looking for news about Packer. Somehow I missed this from earlier this year. The profile is a bit generic (Packer’s path to writing, her current project, just enough personal information to make her success seem attainable, and some advice to writers) but it’s still nice to read.

Speaking of writing advice, this is a good reminder from NK Jemisin:

And if it helps, remember: this is what makes you a writer. Yes, this. The sick feeling in your stomach, the weariness you feel, the utter conviction that you are the Worst and your novel is the Worst and everything is awful. This is how writers feel sometimes.

Alright, that’s it for now.

Read This Short Story: A Temporary Matter

A Temporary Matter is from Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories entitled Interpreter of Maladies.  I prefer to read short stories without any prior synopsis so I’ll skip that part and let you read:

The notice informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight P.M. A line had gone down in the last snowstorm, and the repairmen were going to take advantage of the milder evenings to set it right. The work would affect only the houses on the quiet tree-lined street, within walking distance of a row of brick-faced stores and a trolley stop, where Shoba and Shukumar had lived for three years.

“It’s good of them to warn us,” Shoba conceded after reading the notice aloud, more for her own benefit than Shukumar’s. She let the strap of her leather satchel, plump with files, slip from her shoulders, and left it in the hallway as she walked into the kitchen. She wore a navy blue poplin raincoat over gray sweatpants and white sneakers, looking, at thirty-three, like the type of woman she’d once claimed she would never resemble.

She’d come from the gym. Her cranberry lipstick was visible only on the outer reaches of her mouth, and her eyeliner had left charcoal patches beneath her lower lashes. She used to look this way sometimes, Shukumar thought, on mornings after a party or a night at a bar, when she’d been too lazy to wash her face, too eager to collapse into his arms. She dropped a sheaf of mail on the table without a glance. Her eyes were still fixed on the notice in her other hand. “But they should do this sort of thing during the day.”

“When I’m here, you mean,” Shukumar said. He put a glass lid on a pot of lamb, adjusting it so only the slightest bit of steam could escape. Since January he’d been working at home, trying to complete the final chapters of his dissertation on agrarian revolts in India. “When do the repairs start?”

“It says March nineteenth. Is today the nineteenth?” Shoba walked over to the framed corkboard that hung on the wall by the fridge, bare except for a calendar of William Morris wallpaper patterns. She looked at it as if for the first time, studying the wallpaper pattern carefully on the top half before allowing her eyes to fall to the numbered grid on the bottom. A friend had sent the calendar in the mail as a Christmas gift, even though Shoba and Shukumar hadn’t celebrated Christmas that year.

“Today then,” Shoba announced. “You have a dentist appointment next Friday, by the way.”

He ran his tongue over the tops of his teeth; he’d forgotten to brush them that morning. It wasn’t the first time. He hadn’t left the house at all that day, or the day before. The more Shoba stayed out, the more she began putting in extra hours at work and taking on additional projects, the more he wanted to stay in, not even leaving to get the mail, or to buy fruit or wine at the stores by the trolley stop.

Six months ago, in September, Shukumar was at an academic conference in Baltimore when Shoba went into labor, three weeks before her due date. He hadn’t wanted to go to the conference, but she had insisted; it was important to make contacts, and he would be entering the job market next year. She told him that she had his number at the hotel, and a copy of his schedule and flight numbers, and she had arranged with her friend Gillian for a ride to the hospital in the event of an emergency. When the cab pulled away that morning for the airport, Shoba stood waving good-bye in her robe, with one arm resting on the mound of her belly as if it were a perfectly natural part of her body.

Each time he thought of that moment, the last moment he saw Shoba pregnant, it was the cab he remembered most, a station wagon, painted red with blue lettering. It was cavernous compared to their own car. Although Shukumar was six feet tall, with hands too big ever to rest comfortably in the pockets of his jeans, he felt dwarfed in the back seat. As the cab sped down Beacon Street, he imagined a day when he and Shoba might need to buy a station wagon of their own, to cart their children back and forth from music lessons and dentist appointments. He imagined himself gripping the wheel, as Shoba turned around to hand the children juice boxes. Once, these images of parenthood had troubled Shukumar, adding to his anxiety that he was still a student at thirty-five. But that early autumn morning, the trees still heavy with bronze leaves, he welcomed the image for the first time.

Read the rest here (you will need a New York Times account).

Read This Essay: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

Came across this incredibly moving, beautifully written essay: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance by Kiese Laymon

I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies — once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself. Not sure how or if I’ve helped many folks say yes to life but I’ve definitely aided in few folks dying slowly in America, all without the aid of a gun.

Read the rest here.

A few of my thoughts while reading this essay:
1. I want to be a better writer.
2. I hate being like his mother.
3. I hate loving those with this level of awareness (and those who without it…)

Web Finds: Jamaica Kincaid, Avatar Remix, & More

For Creatives, a few places to submit your work:

Got a high-quality film with commercially appealing content? Consider submitting it to be screened at the Big Shade Tree Film Salon (a monthly film screening event in NYC).

Are you an African writer in the diaspora with an unpublished manuscript?  Consider submitting to Kwani? Manuscript Project

From the Black Film Center/Archive: the African Media Center releases a call for papers on Evolving African Film Cultures

Reading & Writing:

Have you checked out AfricaBookClub.com?  It’s a great resource for reading about contemporary African books and authors.  They also have an online store.

I just finished reading my first Jamaica Kincaid novel, check out this interview she did with Mother Jones back in 1997.

Tayari Jones shares some facts about Artist Residencies

I like these writing prompts Tayari shares with Gotham Writers Workshop

I just finished Chapter 2 of Teju Cole’s Open City.  His comments on The Last King of Scotland reminded me of this video:

Web Finds: Half of a Yellow Sun, Speculative fiction, African activism & More

Film
Principal photography for Half of a Yellow Sun has begun!

The trailer for La Haine looks interesting, but from that alone, I can’t see a rip-off of Do the Right Thing… adding it to my to-view list.

Literary
Much gratitude to Nnedi Okorafor for sharing my post on Akata Witch, it brought a lot of traffic to my site and introduced me to other bloggers and writers.  I’ve been taking my time checking out P. Djèlí Clark’s blog.  There’s a lot of good stuff for sci-fi/fantasy fans and for writers of all genres.

From a Fall 2007 issue of Bomb Magazine, Edwidge Danticat interviews Juno Diaz

Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See.  I’m not a regular reader of the New Yorker, but I found these covers to be quite provoking, especially this cover inspired by the assault of Abner Louima.

Other
I’m in the midst of reading about recent Ghanaian history (1960s-current) so I was ecstatic to see The African Studies Library post a link to the African Activist Archive!

I enjoyed this video from The Love Project:

Web Finds: B&W Photography, “Beasts…” Trailer, & More

Film
Neil Drumming is working on his feature film debut and documenting the process on the Atlantic.

Bradford Young mentioned Touki Bouki as inspiration for Restless City.  Check out Basia Cumming’s review of the film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild has been on my radar for a minute now and the trailer has finally arrived!  This short from Beasts director, Benh Zeitlin seems to be where the story started:

Literary
Want to get close to some of the greats in contemporary African literature?  Farafina Creative Writing Workshop is now accepting applications!

Tayari Jones reviews Toni Morrison’s new novel, Home.

Other
Amazing photos from an old, gritty New York City.

This amazing photograph from Teju Cole:
Lagos, November 2011