Treading Water

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on a lot of things, art, writing, mourning what was lost in the 2016 election, what could have been, but also becoming more driven than ever to make a difference. The following piece is a selection from an artist book I wrote and screen-printed. I made the piece last October, but more than ever, I feel its resonance.

About the piece:

On August 12, 2016, Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. In the Black community, Simone’s triumph is especially significant because of the deep seeded, and often forgotten, history of race in the water. From the journey across the Atlantic, desegregated pools being drained or closed because of African American swimmers, to stereotypes about black people being unable to swim, “water” has never been a safe space. Public pools have been battlegrounds for equality, and navigating the white shores of America has often been a question of treading lightly or drowning.

Within this context, Treading Water is an artist book meant to cope, confront, and address the anxieties I as a black women associate with water and navigating the social climate of America. The book exists in an edition of screen-printed images and text, and mono-printed backgrounds.

Here are a few prints from the work

 

 

Here’s a GIF of the poem.

Treading-water.gif

My Reading Cave and all the Books I Binge vol. 22

reading cave side shadow

Unlike most people, I don’t just read books—you know, a chapter a day, two every here and there, maybe a novel finished once a week. Generally, those are probably good reading habits, allowing a person to read consistently and more widely than say someone like a binge reader—someone like me. Yup, I admit it. I’m a binge reader, and I’m having trouble coming to terms with the idea that, well, maybe binge reading isn’t as great as it seems.

My Reading Habits

When I say I’m a binge reader, it’s exactly as it seems. Like people who binge watch TV shows (me), or movies (me), when I see a new book or series I want to read—I devour it. I’m your, “don’t talk to me I’m reading” girl, the “turning the page and eating” person, the “have I been in the bathroom stall for 3 hours? it’s not my bladder, it’s this cliffhanger in the last chapter” kid.

In High school there were weeks when I’d spend more than 12 hours a day just reading—on school days, meaning staying up until late into the night (never later than 1 or 2 am, cus you know, healthy people start their bad habits later in life) finishing not 1 book, but 2 or 3 a day. It was intense, and I kind of miss those wistful days, where time was an infinite sea of possibilities.

As a teen, I read to escape, to discover, to deal with the internal and external issues in my life that I wasn’t strong enough to face in reality. As an adult though, I’m trying to come to terms with what it means to engage with text without simply consuming it.

Let’s be honest, binge reading doesn’t leave a lot of room for reflection. I realize that I’ve internalized and sometimes completely overlooked the most problematic elements of the works I loved, and some I still love to this day. At the time, re-reading books during my binge sprees always helped me address those issues, but now, with even less time on my hands, I find that I’m going back to old favorites less and less.

Binge Reading

The problem with binge reading, isn’t just that you’re not digesting what your taking in, it’s also an issue of consuming the same thing, over, and over, and over again, until you’re sick of it—or maybe even worse, until can’t or won’t broaden your horizons. When I binge read, I read in the same categories, the same genres, the same authors—the same repacked versions of stories I’ve read before.

eating spongebob patrick spongebob squarepants spongebobsquarepants
kind of like this. Like at that point, can you even taste what your eating?

It’s fine to like what you like, but you won’t know what you don’t know, until you paint with all the colors of the wind…or something like that.

But really,

I say all this, but I still love binge reading, and there are some bright sides to it too like:

I’m more open to exploring new, experimental works in the categories and genres I binge.

If I see a random book, any random book on the YA shelf with a vaguely interesting premise, you better believe I’ll be picking it up. This goes with movies too. At this point, I’m scrapping at the bottom of the barrel just to get my hit of rom coms, and surprisingly, I’m finding some real gems down there too.

I see everything.

Tropes, stereotypes, twin sibling conveniently showing up —I’ve seen it all. There’s no crack that I can’t spot, no table left unturned. I can enjoy a good trope when I see one, but I can also tell when I’m being manipulated. Now more than ever, I willing to move on to something else when I find issues with what I’m consuming.

Maybe this time…

So there you have it, my binge reading post. It was supposed to be a post about all the books in my reading cave, but you can just check out my favorite things page to get a gist of what I’m into.

If there are any other binge readers out there, send me a sign. What are you currently binging, any recommendations? Not for me I mean, just for a friend…

What can I say, a bad habit’s hard to break 😉

Wonder Woman Trailer Review

Review

This trailer left me feeling pretty apathetic about the film. Narratively, it gives me no understanding of what is actually going on in the story. I know the who (Wonder Woman), but what is she trying to accomplish, what is the central conflict of the story? Based on the overly dramatic music and the war montages, it seems like she’s going to have something to do with WWI but other than that, I’m at an impasse.

The only other thing that the trailer may or may not be focusing on is how being a women, her gender may pose as a conflict in the film. I know this because they constantly brought up how everyone else is a man, how she hasn’t ever met a man, how she can’t just do what she wants because doesn’t she know about men?

It’s a bit disappointing that none of the other Amazon women are given a real spotlight in the trailer, despite a brief appearance by who, her mother, her lover? I’m confused.

I’m not sure if Wonder Woman and Pine’s romance (that’s what it looks like anyway) will play a central part of the film. But honestly, the trailer’s approach to their (possible) romance seems strange to me.  Are they afraid that men won’t see the film if it’s promoted as a straight war romance film (which may be why they’re not focusing on the story elements of the movie) or are they afraid that it will disenfranchise women if it’s shown as a straight forward action film? I honestly can’t tell.

Sigh, seeing this trailer just makes me want to watch Testament of Youth again.

This trailer gets 2 awkward song and dance numbers

106406-i-like-boys
xanadu

Watch The Trailer Below:

Bonus Bit: My stream of thoughts while watching the trailer

The first words Wonder Woman says is…”you’re a man?” er…okay?

I laughed out loud when I heard the line because, how can I not? Especially with that overly dramatic music going on (man, when will super hero films get over the whole sad, overdramatic backstory phase they’re in? It’s been almost a decade since the Dark Knight and we’re still tryin’ give them tragic backstories? Not buying it.)

Also, the song sounds like the hunger games.

World War I??? I’M DOWN.

Have you never met a man before? um is that going to be an underlying theme in this movie? Really?

Also that ending? lol Wonder Women, please turn to chapter 1 in your world history book so we discuss the topic of slavery.

Conspiracy theory: Wonder Woman is actually a secret remake of Xandu. Honestly, I’d be sooo be ready for that.

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2a6njkG

via IFTTT

Bring Your Own Food to the Table

There’s something about Twitter that brings out the best, and worst, in people. Within the last few months that I’ve been active on its YA blogging/writing scene (and by active I mean silently stalking, favoriting and retweeting—you know, the usual Twitter activity that’s devoid of actually tweeting) I’ve seen bloggers, writers, and industry professionals having critical conversations about representation in the medium. Over the last few years, these discussions have taken many forms, from hashtag activism (#OwnVoices, #BiVisibility, #FergusonReads, #KidLit4Justice), livechats (#wndbchat, #GayYA #diverseya), to threads where members within the community share their personal accounts, experiences, and perspectives about the publishing industry’s continued lack of diversity. Despite seasonal trolls and bouts of backlash against the movement, writers, bloggers, and industry professionals seem dedicated to bringing about concrete changes to make the realm of writing more inclusive.

Now, with #OwnYourOwn, emerging creators in marginalized groups have an opportunity to voice their thoughts on their craft and the community, and to give encouragement to new creators. This week, I’m excited to read what other #ownvoice creators have to say about their work and their perspective on the industry, but when it comes to writing something myself, to voicing my own thoughts, I’m terrified—which is exactly why I’m writing this post today.

As a 21 year old Ghanaian girl, my gender, race, age, and ethnicity, have constantly put me in a space where I have to affirm and reaffirm the validity of my identity, my creative purists and, of course, my opinions to others:

Who are you to want to see yourself in the media you love?

Who are you to question how you’re portrayed, to criticize it when it’s done in a harmful way?

Who are you to create, and to be credited and paid for your work?

Who are you to want a seat at the table?

WHO ARE YOU?

IMG_3119(self portrait circa way back when ’12)

Being in the World

Growing up, I’ve become accustomed to these questions. I’ve memorized answers, facts, statistics, and theories in my search to forge a place in social groups, the classroom, and in the workplace. I know that before I can get a seat at the table, I need to get in line—and before I can get in line, I need to spend years, decades—probably most of my life—working in the back of the house, preparing the meals that I wish to one day serve myself and share with others.

Maybe along the way, someone will offer me a seat. They may have had their place reserved for them through decades of saving spots, cutting in line, and pushing other people out of their place. Or maybe they waited in line, or are still making their way to it and somehow, kindly bring attention to my work in the kitchen during their trek to the front.

Maybe, but probably not, and until the rules at the dinner table change, or I catch a spot of good luck, I’ve always known that I have to keep my head down as I silently work to get a seat in the vicinity of the movers and shakers of the world.

Being Online

On Twitter, it’s different.

Here, not only do you get a seat at the dining hall, but the moment you sign up and verify your name, you get utensils to devour whatever discussions are being had, and a serving spoon to add your own thoughts to the mix. Eat up, Twitter seems to say, and while you’re at it, why don’t you have a conversation with your favorite author about a series you both enjoy, or maybe talk to your dream agent about the novel you’ve just finish. It all seems exciting, so wonderful and intimate, but then you raise your voice and…silence.

A nearby conversation is drowning yours out. Plates are clattering, utensils clashing, and the red faced man across the room is shouting. You turn to the creator sitting beside you, the one whose work you deeply admire, and try to start a thread, but they won’t engage with you in a meaningful way. They can’t, because while you may recognize them through their work, they don’t know you. They don’t know you.

And there it is again, that question.

Who are you?

But this time, it’s you asking yourself.

WHO AM I?

Being an emerging creator, I often find myself stuck in this space of doubt. I see all these wonderful conversations, start following all these amazing creators, yet find myself asking,

Who am I to participate in the dialogue about representation?

Who am I to reach out to other writers, authors, or any professionals in the community?

Who am I to think my voice is valid, or necessary, or wanted?

 It’s a question of confidence, of not just asserting my worth to others, but believing in those affirmations myself. While many on Twitter have found success in selling a version of themselves to followers, the ones who find a community do so because their voices are genuine, because it resonates with others.

Being Yourself

So what advice do I have for emerging #ownvoice creators? How do you find that courage, that confidence you need to take part in the conversation and to carve a space for yourself within the community?

Bring your own food to the table.

It’s the creators who prepare their own meals, the ones who don’t just dish out their work, but share it with their peers and the community, who shine. It wasn’t until I started writing, blogging, and putting my artwork online, that I’ve felt like I had a voice at the table.

In just these last few months alone, and directly related to the channels of support in the Twitter book community, I’ve been able to work with generous authors on my query and manuscript, and have been able to attend my first writing workshop, a masterclass in which I also received a stipend to attend.

These opportunities have been amazing. They’ve given me a chance to meet and work with some wonderful individuals, they’ve fostered a sense of place for me within the community, and most of all, they’ve made me more confident in myself and in the work I create. Even so, I never would have had these experiences if I hadn’t started creating and sharing my own work.

I’ve found my voice through my stories and art. I’ve found answers in creating, in liking my work, hating it, questioning it, getting feedback, and being inspired to create more. So who am I?

I’m a writer.

I’m an artist.

I will be an author.

I will be an illustrator.

To all you emerging #ownvoice creators out there, I say this,

Own your own.

There are opportunities for you here. There are spaces where people want to hear your voice and see your work. Share your work. Create content, take part in discussions, listen to conversations, and pass the plate, because there are plenty of empty stomachs waiting to be filled with your stories.