Friday, November 28, 2008

No Bargains To Die For. . .

From DG:
Before dawn this morning, at a Wal-Mart where I have shopped—it’s in Valley Stream, near where my mother used to live—a store employee was trampled to death. Why? Because this part time worker could not get out of the way when the frenzied shoppers broke the doors down and stampeded the store. That made me feel sick. Click here: WalMart Black Friday stampede kills greeter employed by Long Island Store -- Newsday.com http://www.newsday.com/news/local/nassau/ny-limart1129,0,167903.story

From VDB:
I didn’t hear about the Wal-Mart death until this afternoon because, this morning, instead of hitting a sale or two, or even surfing around for news I was sniffling and sneezing and working on a “let’s give to charity, not to each other ‘cause we all have enough” email, and rounding up family members to help support my cousin’s liver transplant. Fortunately his insurance covers everything—including the donor’s (another cousin) medical expenses. He and his wife live in Amsterdam but 2 patients, 9 hrs of surgery and 6-8 weeks recovery is a long time. And we all know it’s not easy these days for folks to take weeks off without pay. So as a family, we’re going to do all we can to facilitate some additional family presence and support for as long as necessary.
So needless to say, I was horrified, when I came up for air and heard this terrible story--- I’d just been telling my family what good we could do instead of shopping.

There are ads and commercials everywhere, urging us to shop, Shop, SHOP—be the first on line at 5 A.M., 4 A.M., even come for Midnight Madness—so we can get the best deal, the biggest savings. We all love a good bargain, but Merry Christmas does not involve blood sport. This is not the spirit we shared and said Amen to when we bowed our heads for grace before Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.

It is definitely a crazy time. We’re grateful that our friend Tyrha flew out of Bangkok, Thailand the day before the airport was taken over by protestors. We are saddened by the attacks in Mumbai, India that at current count have left close to 200 dead and hundreds wounded. And the way companies have been going bankrupt and leaving people without jobs, pensions and healthcare, has everybody on edge. But let’s keep our heads and not take frustrations out on each other. It’s OK to do some shopping—even President-elect Obama is planning to do a little shopping with his family this weekend. But let’s remember the love, joy, caring and sharing that are at the heart of the season. At very least we can remember what our first grade teachers taught us—no pushing and shoving in line.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grateful

This Turkey Day, we are NOT working!! Woo Hoo!!

Some of you may remember that last year we worked all through the holidays including Christmas and New Year's--because we had a deadline. This year, although we are working on a book that is due in the spring, we do get to have a little time off for the holidays! But the book we were slaving over last Thanksgiving, What Doesn't Kill You, will be out January 6! We will be sharing more about What Doesn't Kill You starting next week--including a contest. But today, on Thanksgiving eve, we wanted to let you know that we are grateful for the support you've shown us over the years and to share with you some of the many other things for which we are truly appreciative. . .

We are thankful for our families and friends whose love and support we cherish.

We are thankful for good health and the good health of our loved ones.

We are thankful for the gifts we have been given and the privilege of sharing them with others.

We are thankful for the shelter that protects us and the food that nourishes our bodies.

We are thankful for all the material things that we have been fortunate enough to gather in our lives.

We are thankful for whatever we have in our bank accounts. We are thankful for being able to travel and visit some far away places.

We are thankful for the new administration and hopeful about the future--despite the precarious time we currently find our country in.

We are thankful for the success and happiness that the people we care about have achieved.

We are thankful for each other’s friendship.

We are thankful for the grace of The Creator, whose blessings we feel every day.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 3:05 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie on Starz

We shared with you that in addition to Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, Far From the Tree is also in development for film. And as those of you have kept up with our bulletins, blogs and newsletters know this summer we also talked a lot about Something Is Killing Tate, the first full length feature produced by our Far From the Tree producer, Jessica Funches. So we wanted to let you know that Something is Killing Tate will premiere THIS WEEK on the Starz (In Black) cable network on 11-25-08, 11:20PM PST / 11-26-08, 2:20AM EST. The film won 11 festival awards this year! So watch if you’re around and/or up and please TiVo or DVR it if you’re not!
Thanks a bunch!
D&V

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Writing White---Again

When we posted this entry last September we had no idea how many comments it would generate. We obviously touched a nerve--one that many people felt. And now, as we near the publication of our next novel, What Doesn't Kill You in January, we were discussing whether or not to re-post this entry--since it's a subject that seems as relevant today as it did in 9/07. Then we read Carleen Brice's (friend and sister author--Orange Mint & Honey) wonderful new blog about the same subject and felt that was our answer.

December is National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month. Check it out: http://welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/

So please check out Carleen, read our take on it below--and let us know what you think...

Crossing Over—Mirror vs Window

When an African American writer or entertainer achieves success with a wider (read White) audience, a la Will Smith or Terry McMillan, they are said to have cross-over appeal. Why isn’t the reverse true? When Blacks watch CSI, Spiderman 3 or pick up the latest John Grisham, no one attributes that to cross-over. Is it assumed that everyone will find these diversions entertaining? That race doesn’t matter as long as it’s White? That Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, Lakhota Sioux, Lebanese and whomever else the census separates out will “get” the storyline and generate the dollars requisite for success?

Even in the racially diverse “Grey’s Anatomy”, the central character, intern Meredith Grey, is a White woman, despite the fact series writer/producer Shonda Rhimes, is African American. Happenstance or economics? Quiet as it’s kept, in our first novel, Exposures, we “wrote White”, deciding it was the surest way to test our joint writing chops--and get published. It worked; the novel sold in two weeks. It took a lot longer to find a home for our first book with Black characters. At the time we didn’t fit the established categories (we weren’t Toni or Terry), so many editors didn’t believe we would find an audience. They were wrong.

Are these situations silent testimony to the more refined racism that lives with us everyday—the kind of de facto pecking order largely unrecognized by those who perpetuate it, and unchallenged by those of us who are aware, but just grateful to be in the game? Maybe it’s not so silent. The movie “Crash” asks questions about who we are, and what we think about all those other people. There was awkward, knowing laughter in the theater when our not so secret little prejudices were laid bare.

Not so long ago, a White reader (one of many who identify themselves that way) emailed to say how much she enjoyed one of our books, but wondered if she was welcome to read our work since she wasn’t Black. We were stunned by the question, but it spoke to the segregated reading habits which are more the norm than we would like to admit. Are we so tired of dealing with each other at work, in the supermarket, on the bus, that it’s a relief to open a book and find people with strange accents and hairdos banished from our fictional world? Or is it more insidious? Are books our mirrors, and we only look for reflections of ourselves?

Shouldn’t reading provide a window to the greater world? We read Anna Karenina without being Russian, The 100 Secret Senses without being Chinese, Catcher in the Rye without being teenaged prep school boys, Shelters of Stone without being Cro-Magnon—Anne Rice without being a vampire. We delight in Carl Hiassen without being Floridians, Sandra Cisneros with no experience of being Latinas from Chicago, understand the plight of a Nigerian girl as told by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, never having set foot in Lagos. Since childhood we have read thousands of books about people who didn’t look like us and found them enlightening, hilarious, heartbreaking, and know, without doubt, we are better people because of it.

Why then is it so surprising when works of fiction, save for “literary” efforts like those of Alice Walker and Edward P. Jones, which mostly recount our collective, tragic, post middle passage history, cross over? Are we to believe that as fully franchised, contemporary Americans living a variety of social, educational, and economic circumstances that our stories are so foreign as to be incomprehensible? That we share no universal human truths?

After the surprise success of Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which featured drawings of two brown-skinned women on the cover, our publisher made a conscious effort to cross over our next book. That cover was dominated by a house flanked by a lush tree. Our three main characters were rendered the size of carpenter ants, their color indistinguishable. So, to appeal to a wider audience we had to lose face? What must we sacrifice to be palatable to the culture at large?

Some bookstores even have separate African American areas. Is this to make us more comfortable in unfamiliar territory? Does this highlight our work, or let other people know they can skip this aisle? Granted, some argue that having a unique section celebrates the Black experience. But are they really separate but unequal niches, a publishing ghetto with very different real estate values?

Until Waiting to Exhale made publishers understand that Black people buy books, we were mostly left outside the gates. Clearly they did not learn in American history that we risked and often lost our lives to learn to read. The Exhale phenomenon is the reason many of us were given a chance. Walter Mosley reached a wider readership thanks to the endorsement of President Clinton. But is it really so hard to throw open our windows and get some fresh air? Browse a bookstore section you usually pass without Oprah to lead the way? If you like Janet Evanovich, try Valerie Wilson-Wesley. Ask a librarian or a co-worker for a recommendation; that’s how many non-Black readers found our work. You might discover a good read on an unexpected shelf—maybe gain insight into someone else, or surprisingly, yourself.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From our friend and sister author Carleen Brice

December is National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month. Check it out: http://welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/


So seems like it's time to resurrect the post we did last year about reading in black and white... look for it soon.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 5:46 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank You Miriam Makeba

From DG:
If a four year old can be said to have had her consciousness raised, then Miriam Makeba raised mine (along with Odetta, but that’s a story for another day). I loved listening to her sing with that voice like a siren, but it wasn’t alarming. It drew me in. Even though I didn’t understand the language, I got the feeling. I tried to make the Xhosa tongue clicks to accompany her on Qongqothwane, The Click Song. That’s a long way from Mary Had a Little Lamb, but who said music that appeals to children has to be childish. I loved Suliram. It’s a lullaby—actually Indonesian, it means ‘go to sleep—and when she sang I’d climb into the arm chair, curl up and close my eyes to listen, not because I was tired, but because she was so soothing.

And I loved to look at her. I loved her long, flowing clothes in brilliant colors. Now, this was seriously the days of the press-n-curl—no woman I had ever seen (other than Odetta) had short natural hair that let her beautiful face radiate. At the time it was unusual to me, but not odd or strange. Later, I was the first girl in my class to cut my hair into an Afro, and I was proud!

I had the pleasure of seeing Miriam Makeba several times in my life. The first was a free concert in Mt Morris Park (before it was renamed Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem on a sweltering summer day. We got there hours before the concert was to start to claim a spot (and if memory serves me correctly, it started late, but the party didn’t wait).There were dashikis and dancing, barbecue and b-y-o congas. I’m sure you could hear Pata Pata down in Central Park.

It’s called ‘World Music’ now, but I thank Ms Makeba for bringing the world of music to a little girl in Brooklyn.

Here’s a sample, with those Xhosa clicks.

Click here: YouTube - Miriam Makeba - Oxgam {Studio Version}

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1YKOk9QA8U

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Our Election Day Diaries

It has taken us a few days to digest the enormity of what has happened in America and we’ve been trying to figure out what to write about it. And although we are sure there will be more thoughtful, erudite observations about the election from us in the coming days and weeks, we decided to start by sharing our Election Day experiences with you.

We were not together. Donna was at home in Brooklyn, Virginia in North Brunswick.

From DG:
Election Day was the most extraordinary day I have yet been given the grace to live through. It was spent in a flurry of phone calls, e-mails and texts shared with friends. We were all giddy and shared our experiences of standing in line to vote, how long it took, how much fun it was. Now, I’m a New Yorker. It is rare that folks describe standing in line as fun. And when it was my turn in the booth, it all felt so simple, so regular. I expected to be emotional, but as I clicked my lever next to the Obama column, it seemed completely regular, like all of the votes I have cast since my 18th birthday—let’s not count. But I enjoyed the regularity of it. The candidate was special, but the act was routine—one I will repeat again the next time election day rolls around.

As for the returns, I watched at home with my husband. I needed the quiet and the focus to wait for the numbers. As each new state was called in Obama’s column I felt more sure, yet more tense. I just wanted him safely over the electoral college top. And then it happened. About 30 seconds after the polls closed on the West Coast California’s 50 votes were added to his total and it was done. A new era had begun. My husband and I were quiet. We could hear horns blowing and people cheering in the street. I went downstairs to my Mom’s bedroom to share the moment with her too. After all, she was the one who raised me to believe that I could be whomever I chose to be regardless of my race. Clearly, she was right.

The next morning when I went outside, my garbage man waved and wished me a “Happy Obama Day!” I was in my car heading to Jersey, listening to an NPR talk show when a caller described the celebration that took place at Carlton Place and DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn. Now, when I was brought home from the hospital, many moons ago, we lived at Carlton and DeKalb. Somehow hearing that made me feel like I had indeed arrived at exactly the right place at the right time in my life. I felt challenged by our new president to find ways to make my neighborhood, my city, my country or the world a better place. It made me feel giddy again. I hope to let that feeling move me forward for quite some time to come.


From VDB:
This is the email I wrote to my family after I voted.

I have returned from voting--at the polling place where I have cast my vote in EVERY election for the 16 years I have lived in New Jersey. I have always understood, since I went to the polls with my parents every Election Day when I was a little girl, that the right to vote was important, sacred even. The polls were in our elememtary school P.S. 74 in Buffalo and we'd always stop by the PTA bake sale on the way home. Cookies and cupcakes notwithstanding, my mom and dad stressed the gravity of Election Day and indoctrinated my brother, sister and me with their philosophy--that exercising your right to express your opinion about your community, city and country, through your vote, was never, ever, to be taken lightly. I voted for George McGovern in my very first presidential election...yes I'm that old! I even recalled the occasion, a few years ago, when because of the death and funeral of my Uncle Tommy in NYC, my family from out of town, was here with me on Election Day and not able to go to the polls. So at 7:30 PM, when we returned to NJ from the cemetery in Queens, they all went with me as I cast my vote for Bill Clinton's second term, because I was the only one who could.

That being said, none of those votes, not one of those elections compared to what I experienced on November 4, 2008. Once home, for reasons I know I don't have to explain, when I got home, I wept. My tears were for my ancestors--and all of our ancestors who descended from those who were brought to this country in chains and owned as chattel until Lincoln issued the Proclamation in September 1862 that later became law in January 1863. For our ancestors, who despite being freed, suffered the indignity of Jim Crow and inequality and who those were not allowed the right to vote until the National Voting Rights Act in 1965...and even then, for many it was not easy. And so I cried some more. Because unlike Barack's grandmother, Toot, who passed on the day before seeing her beloved grandson win this historic election, and my dad who passed almost 25 years ago and many, many more grandparents, aunts and uncles who have gone on, my mother, Neechie, at 85, lived to be able to cast her vote for the first Black man to ever be nominated by a major party for the Presidency of the United States of America...and to join us all in awaiting the results and celebrating his victory.

I believe he is the man for the job.
I believe he is the leader for this time.
We Have Overcome!

It is a great day!

Baracklingly,
Virginia

And this is my day after Election note.

I am still recovering from the most amazing night of my life--and I do not say that at all lightly--I have had quite an extraordinary life if I allow myself to think about it objectively. But last night was the winner, hands down--or up! I was at Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant, "my spot" in New Brunswick--surrounded by friends and strangers of every race, age and background which is the usual crowd-- the America that elected Barack Obama-- in that restaurant. We laughed, cried, cheered and screamed...and I drank more than my share of champagne! I started to cry again when Vermont, was the first state to be called for Obama. When Pennsylvania came in I stared to scream along with my tears of joy. During the evening I would leave the boisterous celebration periodically to go out and take or make a phone call, because it was too noisy in Makeda to hear. And outside on the streets, people were parading--with homemade Obama signs and banners, screaming, cheering--car horns were blaring. Rutgers students poured out of the dorms and swarmed the streets with Obama flags made from their bed sheets chanting "Yes we can!" I even had a student offer me a hug to because I just couldn't stop crying. The New Jersey Democratic Party party with Gov. Corzine and Sen. Lautenberg were holding their party at a hotel across the street--so it was a lively town. When I got home at 2AM, I spoke with a good friend, a photographer, who was in Grant Park, so he'll have great shots--I can't wait to see them.

I am hoarse, my throat and chest are sore from screaming, my eyes are swollen from many many tears. But I am happy. "O" so happy! And as the Target ad I just saw says--"It's a new day."

We Baracked the Vote!!

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 9:38 AM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New Audio Interview

When you have a minute--please check out our interview with Natasha Christy on her blog-- http://thesowingcircle.blogspot.com

http://thesowingcircle.blogspot.com/2008/10/kitchentalk-virginia-deberry-and-donna.html
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