Hypocritical Hyperbole

The Abomination of Obama's Nation

The Prophet of Zongo Street: Stories March 1, 2013

So this is a book of short stories, the first one I’ve come across on the shelf. I hope it isn’t the last because I really like these. They’re a breeze to read. The backbone to this entire book is that someone in the stories is probably from Ghana. 

This book gets a point for actually being written by an Afican American, as opposed to an African African. Now. The author is from Ghana, but currently lives in Brooklyn. Which is closer to African American fiction than “Things Fall Apart” or “Half of a Yellow Sun.” This has nothing to do with where books are written or who writes them, but more to do with how fucking stupid America’s book categorizations system is. If a black person wrote it, it goes into the African American Fiction section, no matter if the person is African, or American, or what other genre the book might be. It was kind of a joke when I started doing this, but it’s amazing how many authors in the AA fiction section aren’t AA at all. They’re just black from somewhere. 

Anyway, this book is a mixed bag of goodies. Oh the whole, I enjoyed it. When the book is dealing with issues of race or colonialization or imperialism and religion, it’s pretty on point. When the book touches on gender issues it’s not as cohesive. That stuff clearly isn’t the authors bag, but problems are problems.

So most of these short stories are very conversational. People talking about life and stuff. Since almost all the protagonists are men, you come across a few male gazey scenes. Those are whatever, and then there’s the representation. We get the single moms and the mean women and the needy queen bee and the poor maid and the big fat ugly domineering wife.

Not all of these are ‘negative’ or intended to be that way, but there isn’t the scholar or shop owner or leader to balance anything out, and the ones that are negative definitely get their full time. 

The positives are that the stories are all generally well written, and the language is good. I feel that he’s at his personal best doing the thoughtful conversation stuff (even though one of those stories goes off rails in the worst way possible). It’s a quick read and if a story doesn’t hit you in a page or two you miss nothing by hopping to the next one.

I wouldn’t recommend this really, because one short story turned me off so thoroughly it made the parts of the book that were remotely enjoyable less so.The more I think about it the worse it gets too.

Below the cut TW: Rape Racism

Avoid the story “Rachmaninov” at all costs though.

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Writing about racism in Historical Fiction July 12, 2012

Filed under: Posts From the Internet — Micah Griffin @ 19:41
Tags: , , , , ,

There was a post here http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2012/07/13/writing-about-racism-in-the-past/

it’s about writing about racism in the past. The author brings up some questions, and I wrote a rambling response almost as long as their original post. Because that’s what I do.

The first thing I think about after reading this is why is it so important to tell this story? Why do we need another story revolving around racist white people? The reason I don’t read historical fiction is because a great majority of it either completely ignores how awful the time periods were (because most of these stories are written for white western audiences by white western people) for people of color (or any other marginalized group). The people who are so often the main focus of these stories are villains. They’re people who would want to see me killed for looking at them in the face. They don’t think I’m a person or deserving of any sort of equality or human rights. So they are bad guys. When you look at post reconstruction writings you’ll find that a great number of abolitionists regret ending slavery. A lot of “anti-racist” whites of the 1930s were actually extraordinarily racist. Paternalistic is putting it kindly. At the best, the biggest leaders in equality among white people were doing it for personal gain on their parts.
Going back and dealing with regency fiction, most writers don’t ever touch on imperialism and colonialization. Most of these books ignore the fact that anyone but white people even existed in England (or any other western European) countries at the time. It’s a big horrible mess that no one really deals with.
The thing is, historical fiction is most often by white people for white people and that’s where most of the problems come in. Writers of this type of fiction are not usually challenged to think about the implication of everything going on and push themselves to do more work. When they do research, most of the source materials are clearly things written by racist white folks. That’s the only reason we look at Queen Victoria and America’s founding fathers with any sort of fondness. That and we don’t actually care about racism.
So when it comes to writing historically, it seems most writers can’t help themselves but throw their own racism into the mix. This even happens when they catch themselves trying to be progressive. It’s not just in the depiction of characters of color, but in the depiction of the world itself. It’s how exclusionary the world is, or throw away lines about American Progress or the greatness of the Industrial Revolution where it is entirely obvious that the writer has forgotten about slavery, colonialization, genocide, convict leasing, sterilization programs, introducing diseases into populations, Native American relocation projects, and a host of other issues. People just don’t think about these things and it comes through.
White people should really avoid using the N-word at all costs. If historical accuracy is that important to you, cool, but I have to wonder about what kind of person you are. If that sort of historical accuracy is that important then it’s clear you don’t want me anywhere near your writings. There should be no conflict here. That was wrong of them. There better not have been a single historical inaccuracy in the rest of their book if that’s the length they’re going to go to.
What it comes down to is this, you have to ask yourself why you’re writing something and think about the impact that it has. What’s the point of doing what you’re doing. Why aren’t there people of color in this story? Why are there so many white people? What are these white people doing? When I talk about how cool these white people are why am I not mentioning the awful events that got them to the place they are. Stuff like this. Just general “does this actually need to be written?” stuff.