“It is my honor to be here, to stand on the shoulders of those who came before,” Kamala Harris, the first female, the first black, the first Asian American Vice-President of the U.S.A. proudly said in her first address to the nation on inauguration day. Her tone is optimistic, her goals are ambitious, and her energy seems unlimited.
It is true, we all are standing on the shoulders of those who came before, all the women who prepared the way for our progress, our achievements. And there has been quite a bit of progress as Carol Dyhouse, a social historian at the University of Sussex, describes in her new book, Love Lives: From Cinderella to Frozen. The title is a bit misleading. Though myths, fairy tales, and popular culture tropes still influence us, Dyhouse outlines how women in the western world have abandoned the restrictions of domestic life since the 1950s and gradually, though often painfully, have claimed access to education and the professional world. A long path it has been to self-determination and economic independence.
But even now the question remains: Have we made enough progress? Because I do worry about “my girls” these days, as Michelle Obama describes them. I worry about “my boys,” too, but this is a blog post to remind ourselves of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Both encourage us to reflect on those who came before, but also on those to whom we pass the baton, whose legs we steady on our shoulders.
Americans do not vote directly for their presidents. We vote for the people who will vote for our presidents. Each state is assigned electors, based partly on population, but each state is assigned an additional two electoral votes, regardless of its size. Consequently, a vote from a person in a rural state has more influence than a vote from an urbanized area. This system has given us five presidents who came in second in the people’s vote with mixed results. Three have made us question this system. With Rutherford Hayes, we got Jim Crow law that denied African Americans their civil rights for more than 100 years. With George W. Bush, we got the Iraq war. With Donald Trump, well, we got – Trump!
It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.
Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.
I am writing this on the first day of a new year that arrived not a nanosecond too soon. We needed a new year as sorely as we ever have.
2020 will take its infamous place in history, a time Queen Elizabeth II once charmingly – if woefully – dubbed an annus horribilis. We have to be careful not to misspell that, though given as hard as these last twelve months have been, it’s tempting.
Segueing from the Queen’s real Latin to my own faux Latin, exactly ten years earlier, in 2010, my play Mundo Overloadus premiered in New York’s East Village. The title was my stab at describing what seemed already a world overloaded. That play is my absurdist take on a sugary sweet American cultural landmark, the silly and now forever-rerun TV comedy from the 60s, Gilligan’s Island – my version set in an insane asylum. In my play, I was asking the audience if the unapologetic innocence of that show still had currency in this new, already cynical century. From 9/11 in 2001 to the corona virus lurking about roughly 20 years later, it feels that – for sanity’s sake – we desperately need a gentler, kinder point of view, even if it’s the cotton candy of a sitcom.
Imagine the following situation: You want your students to read out their results, but you are running low on time. Your students are highly motivated, and most of them want to share their work with the class, but it is clear from the start that you can’t involve all of them. What do you do now? Pick your ‘favorite’ child? Pick the child who did the best job as an excellent example to the rest of the class? Or would it be better to involve the shy child and give her a chance to contribute to the class? Will some children feel neglected or preferred?
Last summer, I spent three months in the United States where I’d been offered a chance to observe different elementary school classes. There I found a solution to the problem mentioned above. In one class – full of highly motivated fourth graders – I noticed a beautifully decorated jar filled with tongue depressors. At first, I couldn’t think of any purpose for this glass, so I decided to ask the teacher about it after class.
What makes a piece of fiction successful, apart from a good portion of luck? Well, some writers deem the craft of ‘plotting’ essential for creating fiction that goes somewhere, while others prefer to write from the seat of their pants and are likely to dread the prospect of their art being anything less than inspiration, talent, and vision.
Let me introduce you to two writing guides that might offer some perspective on the initial question. First, let’s visit someone who claims that both ‘pantsers’ and plotters are on the wrong track because …