Friday, August 26, 2016

When We Was Fierce - Rounding Up the Links

Candlewick's decision to pull e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's young adult novel When We Was Fierce days before its publication date has lots of people talking. Below you'll find a collection of links to the many discussions surrounding the situation. Meanwhile, the book recently received its fourth starred review (from the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books) and a favorable review from VOYA.

Getting Down. Getting Over. - Edi Campbell, Crazy QuiltEdi

(Australian author) Ambelin Kwaymullina - guest post on the Alpha Reader blog

The Getdown and When We Was Fierce - Latinas Chat Media (featuring Maria Nieto, Linda Nieves-Powell, Sophia Quintero, and J.F. Seary; starts near the 40-minute mark)

On Choosing Texts for Students - Millie Davis, NCTE blog

So You Bought A Racist Book For Your Library: Now What? - Angie Manfredi, Reading While White

When We Was Fierce + A Birthday Cake for George Washington + A Fine Dessert... - Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children's Literature

What Does When We Was Fierce Mean for Latinx Kids? - Dr. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, guest post on Crazy QuiltEdi

Can You Hear Us Now? - Edi Campbell, Crazy QuiltEdi

The Rocky Unpaved Roads of Good Intentions - Ibi Zoboi, guest post on Reading While White

Black Voices Matter - Zetta Elliott

When Whiteness Dominates Reviews - KT Horning, Reading While White

Review: When We Was Fierce - Edi Campbell, Crazy QuiltEdi

Guest Review: When We Was Fierce - Jennifer Baker, guest post on Crazy QuiltEdi

You can also see discussion regarding When We Was Fierce on twitter by searching #jivefierce.


Jenn said...

THanks for this list, Sam!

Debbie Reese said...

Ditto! These round ups are really helpful to people who do research or who follow these developments.

Nanette said...

I just... well, first, I'll add my thanks to the creation of this roundup. I'd seen snippets of thought about WWWF, but was too involved in other things to do more than note them. Thus, I was under the impression that the main problem with this book was the made up language, a problem that ruined an otherwise good underlying story.

But, man... reading these reviews and the actual descriptions of the book, and even the author's interview in Truth, Teeth and whatever and... this hurts my heart. I just don't understand. I keep seeing that "her intentions were good" and I have say I don't believe that at all. Not for a moment. Not in 2016. Not when the purported inspiration for the book was Trayvon Martin--a suburban Black child gunned down for walking down a suburban street while Black--his death due in part to depictions of Black life, Black *people* as filled with senseless violence from birth to death.

Okay, not going to blather angst all over your site, but it's really disheartening that anyone thought to publish this book at all, and that it met with such universal praise before Black and other reviewers got hold of it.

Nanette said...

Okay, one more angsty comment--will try not to rant, but I think it's an important point that white readers/reviewers so on (among others) should think about.

Okay, how to explain... one reason I don't ascribe good intent is because of personal history (not with the author, don't know her at all.) But--well, I am and always have been quiet (except in comments,) bookish, did not grow up in an AAVE speaking home, so don't code switch, am more prone to observation than talking, not really into crowds, prefer listening to violin compositions instead of pop, rock or rap.

And yet, various people I've met throughout my life--those of "good" intent and ill--were/are disappointed in my "Blackness"--and so they try to correct the record, so to speak. Like, saying something, then looking to me for reaction. When I don't give the "right" one--they will.

"Boy, I bet you're gonna slap me upside the head!"
"Uh, no, I..."
Then something like "GIRLFRIEND, you is too much!" with an attempt at neck wagging. and on and on.

Why I'm telling this--because to these people (and this is not all the people, by any means... just some,) Nanette--me, who I am, what I like, what I do--is the performance. The REAL me, being Black, surely must be Shanaenae of the hood. Surely.

And that's what this book feels like. I'm sure the author knows young children of color, maybe even Black ones--but from here it seems like they were not performing Blackness well enough for her, so she created a Black world that better fit her idea, including language, and performed the Blackness for them.

This is not something limited to the author, of course--you see it all across the creative spectrum, in media, walking down the street, in history books. Black folks (and you can usually replace that with Native or Latino, etc, as well) whose kids do little more exciting than homework and taking out the trash, or adults who live life in all its varieties and complexities, or have good jobs, are well adjusted, whatever... are the performance. Those few sunk in the pathology of crime, drugs and despair, on the other hand, are the reality.

This book, especially how it came about, simply reinforces that "reality."

K T Horning said...

Thanks for your perceptive comments, Nanette. Your discussion of "performing Blackness" made me think of a nonfiction book I read many years ago about Black masculinity called COOL POSE by Dr. Richard Majors. It's as if Charlton-Trujillo sees the performance and the posing, but not the person underneath. When I read the book, that's what I thought was missing -- the human beings beneath the surface. All of the characters were like cardboard cutouts -- no heart, no soul, no brain, no depth. Unfortunately, that plays into the stereotype that so many White people have entrenched in their minds about Black boys and men, in particular.

Nanette said...

Thank you, KT, for mentioning that book. I'd forgotten about that. And yes, similar to what I meant, especially as it pertains to the characterization in this particular book.

Only not really, though I agree on the cardboard cutout characters and such but--well, just deleted a bunch of stuff trying to explain what I meant ;). I'm going to work on it though, work through my thoughts first. I probably should just start posting on one of my long-neglected blogs again and stop cluttering up comment sections, sigh.

Anyway, I also wanted to clarify a few things in my previous comment, though--wrote quickly and not always clearly, sigh.

First, the people I mention who were/are disappointed in my Blackness were mostly White, some other non Black. Not other Black people, as we tend not to seriously define Blackness so narrowly--we have so much variety it would be difficult to do.

Also, don't want to leave the impression that I think there is anything wrong with Shanaenae in the hood, except of course that I am not her. And that she is often just mostly a flat stereotype. Which is sad, because in life (no matter her name) she can be one of the most interesting people around.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for collection these! I'm aware of most of them, but seeing all these links in one spot shows how far we came on this one. We wanted a frank and honest discussion and look where it led us. Nanette, yes!

Sam Bloom said...

Nanette, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. And to all who wrote pieces that ended up here in this round-up, thanks so much to you too!

Unknown said...

I just wonder, do people only recognize the issues with books if they are this terrible? I remember reading Paperboy by Vince Vawter and thinking how horrible the representations of Black people were, not to mention the dangerous tropes it follows (similar to those in Maniac Magee), and then seeing that it won an award. Who decides which books cross the offensive threshold and how do we make authors and publishers more accountable for their actions?