When I realized it had been 20 years since the release of Chupacabra, I knew I had to devote some time to discussing what has been a seminal album, one that probably had more influence on music than is recognized. But I hope that October 28th brings with it proper commemorations of this work much more nuanced than my own fangirling brings. For now, please allow me to talk about one of the most unique, eclectic, but undersung artists of the past two decades who has had an unexpected impact on both my personal and professional lives, Imani Coppola.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge music fan. I live and breathe it. I can’t imagine going a day without it. Obviously, I devote a lot of time to it, particularly with the music podcast and even with this show since music plays such a crucial part in it. But I never had any delusions of being a singer, musician, or anything else requiring music talent. But I am a lifelong fan, a stan even. I have my favorites, I have music I turn to when I’m in or need to feel a certain mood, and I have my background noise. But the one thing I can honestly say about myself is that I’m not a music snob.
It’s been nearly a month since WisCon 41. After six years, I’m getting much better at not breaking down into tears as soon as I leave the hotel like I did for a couple of years. I’m also getting better at taking the little actions that make the con better people other than me (pronoun stickers and such). Most of all, I’m getting that family reunion with new additions as well as familiar faces. Overall, it’s always the thing I look forward to most during the year.
This year I got the chance to finally meet a couple of people I’ve gotten to know online, missed a few I got to meet at the event these past few years. I’m getting to the point where I don’t need to spend most of my free time in the safe space. And I’m getting more comfortable as a moderator and probably had my best year yet with this task.
In fact, I ended up modding five panels this year, all of which I proposed. But to that later. My favorite panel was actually one I attended on Friday afternoon, Exploring Identity Through Food and Fandom. The panel made me think of all the ways I use food in my writing (and in real life). For instance, love interests for my characters tend to cook for them or feed them in some way. One of the things I lament most being alone on holidays is that I don’t have anyone to feed. I also thought a lot of the points made about weaponizing food as well as the ways food access is weaponized on a systematic level.
I thoroughly enjoyed our five panels. I had the pleasure of paneling with Nerdgasm Noire Network again on several of them and the wonderful Krys was the common factor in all of them. We discussed The Year in Black Movies and #OscarsSoWhite on Friday afternoon and gave me a great start to my modding duties. I also found out the only thing more terrifying than reading Mikki Kendall’s Get Out story is actually hearing it. The New Golden Age of Black Television on Saturday morning was also a delight and De Ana decided to join the panel. In the afternoon, we had a great Black Panther panel making connections among the upcoming film, the comics, the animated series and the extended Marvel universe. I was most nervous about this one, but it went well.
Well, Sunday afternoon was one of the most anticipated for me, The Women of Luke Cage. We had a great discussion about the awesome and complex portrayals of Black women. We discussed the show within the larger context of the Marvel universe and the possibility of Misty Knight-Claire Temple slash fic. Last panel on Monday morning also went well and was more well attended than I hoped. Apparently, there are a few of us interested in Older Black Women in Romantic Relationships on Television. Overall, this was probably the best WisCon I’ve had so far.
But alas, WisCon came to an end as it always does. I immediately missed my friends and prepared for another year of hermitting in my home. Which might be a good thing if I actually took the time to read or write like I always tell myself I’m going to do. However, the new job that’s sustaining me takes up much of my time and it zaps much of my motivation to write and read. However, I have managed to read two books over the past couple of months and have started on Edwidge Danticat’s nonfiction work The Art of Death.
Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung
I picked up this book from one of the Little Free Libraries around town. Yes, I was racially profiling as I do, so I took a chance on this one. I didn’t know then it was about a 15-year-old or that it was set in Australia, but I’m glad I kept with this YA entry. I liked the protagonist Lucy Lam. The narrative starts as a series of letters to her friend Linh, whom Lucy says she lost as she became more a part of the prestigious private school where she won a scholarship as part of a diversity initiative.
Lucy’s experiences bring to light the underlying racism, classism and gender politics that run through the school. Furthermore, as Lucy experiences the pressures from her classmates and school authorities as they treat her like a project, an experiment in transforming the poor child of immigrants into one of them, her mental health weakens. While the influence of The Perks of Being a Wallflower are evident (Pung even mentions the book), this story is wholly original and one of those young adult books that will probably be on English literature reading lists in the near future.
ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino
I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. Hoshino took the premise of this book from a scam in which strangers called unsuspecting targets by only saying “it’s me” before pretending to be in great distress and in need of money. However, in this story, Hoshino’s protagonist Hitoshi Nagano accidentally takes the phone of a young man named Daiki Hiyama and prank calls Daiki’s mother and cons her out of several thousand yen.
However, three days later, Daiki’s mother shows up at Hotoshi’s apartment and acts as if he is Daiki. Hoshino later tries to go back to his own family and finds that they do not recognize him. He gets another surprise and finds that his life will not be the same. While it takes a turn that Hoshino must live Daiki’s life, it becomes much more than that.
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that Hoshino’s writing style reminds me of Banana Yoshimoto’s, whom I adored during my college years. Not only does this story have echoes of great scifi shows such as The Outer Limits and Black Mirror. Interestingly, another turn the story takes reminds me of the films of Chan-wook Park.
In the meantime, I’ll make my way through Danticat’s work and hopefully get back to my own writing. I’ve managed to do a chapter outline for both high fantasy and urban fantasy works. I’m still working on the outline for the graphic novel. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it sooner rather than later.
As most of you know, I have the opportunity to go to WisCon every year and in a couple of days I’ll be having a family reunion of sorts 😀 I usually don’t post my schedule coz for some reason I kept myself anonymous, but that really serves no purpose. I’m doing five panels this year, moderating all of them. If you’ve ever been to a panel I moderate, I like to keep it fun, keep it Black, keep it mostly womanly. Hope you’ll join us and look for a short announcement about a possible livetweet event I might hold in June.
The Year in Black Movies and #OscarsSoWhite
Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures, Queen of Katwe and Birth of a Nation were all major releases in 2016. These first four films offered refreshing depictions of blackness and Black people beyond what we have been used to seeing from Hollywood films. However, more than the controversy surrounding BOAN prevented it from living up to its hype from Sundance and it cannot be excluded from the conversation. This panels discusses these films and why they inspired so much hope for further representations of blackness.
The New Golden Age of Black Television
In addition to shows such as Empire and Survivor’s Remorse, television has seen a resurgence of Black-cast television shows. In 2016, we got Queen Sugar, Atlanta, Insecure, Luke Cage and The Get Down among other shows. Queen Sugar was especially impressive in its depictions of blackness and its decision to hire all women to direct the show. The Get Down was not only nostalgic but also depicted a multicultural setting with POC. This panel discusses these shows and how they gave room to explore blackness in ways television has failed in previous shows. We will also discuss any problematic aspects of these shows and what we hope for them in future seasons.
Can We Really Wait Until 2018? In Anticipation of Black Panther
#BlackPantherSoLit! Two years before the film is scheduled for release, Black Twitter trended the hashtag in anticipation. While we’re waiting for 2018 to get here, let’s talk about why we are so eagerly looking forward to Black Panther. Let’s discuss what we are hoping for from Black Panther and Wakanda, especially after the success of Luke Cage. Let’s also discuss what we are afraid could go wrong and whether we have faith in Ryan Coogler and company to give us the MCU film we all deserve.
The Women of Luke Cage
Who knew we could break Netflix! Less than 24 hours after it debuted, Netflix crashed as we all tuned in to the first Black-cast MCU show. The response was overwhelming. However, within this culturally specific and complicated context, the women of Luke Cage made a lasting impression. Misty Knight, Mariah Dillard, Claire Temple, Priscilla Ridley, and Betty Audrey were among a plethora of well-rounded Black female characters with depth and range in this world. This is not to say that all depictions were perfect, but they were far from one-dimensional. This panel will discuss the women of Luke Cage and how they were essential to this show.
Older Black Women in Television Romance
This panel will discuss what it means to see Black women in various intersections finding and receiving love and support, especially at an older age. We will look at Annalise Keating from How To Get Away With Murder, Mariah Dillard from Luke Cage, Cookie Lyon from Empire, Violet Bordelon of Queen Sugar, Cassie Calloway of Survivor’s Remorse and Jessica Pearson of Suits.
So that’s my WisCon schedule. Of course, I’ll be attending other panels and will hopefully see some of you on my downtime.
After WisCon, I am contemplating doing a livetweet in June in honor of Black Music Month. What I plan to do is livetweet a few music documentaries: WattStax, Soul to Soul, A Band Called Death and Buena Vista Social Club. Right now, I am considering Wednesday or Thursday evenings, but I don’t have a set time. I will be off work and hoping the queue from my transcription job has work again. Whether or not there is, I want to make time for these livetweets that each celebrate some element of Black music history. If you are interested in co-ordinating or want to do this on a day that has five weeks in the month so that you can add a film, hit me up. I’m open to suggestions.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing my WisCon peeps!
Currently slogging my way through about two books on the tablet. Slow going because it’s hard for me to focus on a screen for too long. Also, it’s more difficult when the print is small with my poor eyesight. Nevertheless, I have gotten through some other good reads since the last time I’ve written. Hopefully, with Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Haven dropping, I’ll get some more soon.
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
I borrowed a worn copy of Midnight Robber from the library along with a couple of other books by Hopkinson a couple of months ago and eventually got around to finishing Midnight Robber. What I thought was to be a fantasy about a young girl turned out to be much more. In fact, nothing in this book went the way I thought. And this isn’t a bad thing. Except I must say there may be some trigger warnings necessary for instances of sexual assault and abuse. These instances are never described graphically but are essential to the plot for the protagonist Tan Tan. However, what I found most fascinating about this work is how effortlessly Hopkinson blended fantasy with a real-world scenario. Hopkinson’s world-building skills are unmatched and her transition between Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree is one of the best narratives of legend and myth I’ve ever read. The development of Carnival places you right in the middle of the celebration in a way respectful of its traditions, not as an outsider looking in. But as I stated, the protagonist is a young girl, but this is not a story for children. If you have any sensitivity to sexual assault or abuse, then you want to approach this one with caution.
Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Pauline Alexis Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams
I love reading nonfiction that not only opens my eyes but also inspires me. I got my hands on a copy of this before the end of last year and finally got around to reading it. Revolutionary Mothering is one of those books I did not want to put down. There are so many different perspectives on motherhood and the work (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) that goes into mothering as well as the resolve it takes to see it through when motherhood is so undervalued. These works center marginalized mothers, particularly WOC, QUILTBAG and disability mothers in various intersections. Even though I’m not a mother, I am an aunt and I often think of ways to support mothers, particularly Black mothers. In any case, this is one of the best in radical thought and shows us ways motherhood can be an impetus or launching pad for radical action and activism. This is one of my favorite books next to The Revolution Starts at Home when it comes to transformative action to bring about real change.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
I’d been intending to read Nguyen’s work ever since I had the pleasure of attending a reading at our local book festival last year. I finally had to borrow The Sympathizer from the library and see why he won the Pulitzer. Nguyen is one of those writers whose style it takes a moment to adapt to, but once you do, you get so deep into it that it feels familiar. It didn’t hurt that I actually tended to read it in his voice. I found myself reading the first half slowly but approaching the second half voraciously. His style fits the type of literature I like, narrative not told as a simple point by point movement from event to event. Admittedly, his writing requires a bit more attention, much like Toni Morrison, but it’s worth the effort. By the way, The Sympathizer is not a typical spy novel but those who enjoy the likes of John le Carre will like it as le Carre was an influence on Nguyen’s work (it shows even if you’re only familiar with adaptations of le Carre’s work.) While enjoyable, The Sympathizer is not a light read neither in its subject matter or style. The war in Vietnam follows the unnamed narrator and confronts the reader with the roots of repercussions still felt today. Having said this, I’d highly recommend.