Why Michael Brown Is Important to Me
In the more than 10 years I’ve been a degreed librarian, and the 20 that I’ve been paid to work in various libraries, I’ve had friends discriminated against for their race, their sex, their preferences, and their looks. They’ve been harassed and threatened for:
- holding hands
- kissing in public
- being more than 3 people together
- talking too loud
- talking in a difference language
- wearing revealing clothing
- dressing like a slut
- asking for it
- drinking in a bar
- driving in the wrong neighborhood
- driving while brown
- walking in the wrong neighborhood
- being black
- being brown
- being female
- being GLBTQ
Basically being anything other than a straight, white, American male.
I don’t know what happened that night in Ferguson, Missouri. I know is that Michael Brown is dead, too soon. I know that in the nights since citizens have been sprayed with tear gas and flash bombs. I know that leaders took days to take action.
I know that when I see more and more stories like these, I think about the ones we don’t see. I think about the everyday bigotry and hatred that those who don’t conform to the “ideal” face. I think about the harassment that friends and I receive at conferences and symposiums and online at the hands/fingers of our peers. I think about the catcalling that we get on the street.
I think about my nieces and nephews and all the colors of their skin, and the hardships that their parents have gone through already, and I pray that they won’t find the world such a harsh place. I pray that they will find a more forgiving world, where they won’t have to know which neighborhoods are safe to walk in, and which are not. One where wearing a certain outfit won’t make them “fair game.”
And I know we’re far from the world I want for them because the teens that I work with face the same things that Michael did. They’re stopped for walking in the wrong neighborhood after dark and questioned about being there- yet if I’m walking with them we’re never questioned. If they’re in a group walking around the mall, security will follow them from store to store until a bigger group comes around; yet, those same guards will find something else to do once the teens start talking to That Guy in his t-shirt and shorts. I’ve heard the stories from their parents of them being stopped by the police for no reason- nothing wrong with the vehicle, no violations, plates and stickers all up to date- and yet they’re pulled over with lights and sirens and then another police car is called while ID is run for 30 minutes or more. No ticket is issued since everything is totally legal- they were stopped for DWB (driving while brown/black).
There’s nothing really that I can do where I am for those in Ferguson. But I can pray and work for change where I am, for those around me, and for those dear to me.
I don’t see an enemy. I see two huge multinational corporations having a fight over contracts and terms, and authors staring up at them from ground level. It’s like Godzilla battling Gamera, and we’re looking up from the sidewalks of New York rather worried that a skyscraper might topple on us. I liked Chuck Wendig’s summary and commentary at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/08/09/in-which-amazon-calls-you-to-defend-the-realm/.
I’m a Hachette Author in the UK. My wife’s a Hachette Author now, and she has a big book coming out in November, which you cannot pre-order through Amazon. Which sucks. I don’t regard Amazon as the enemy, any more than I regarded Barnes and Noble as the enemy when they had a dispute with DC Comics and stopped selling the hundred top DC Comics Graphic Novels in their stores (which included 17 books by me, including all Sandman).
But this seems like a good time to remind people about other places to buy books. Like you could preorder THE ART OF ASKING from Powells at http://www.powells.com/biblio/18-9781455581085-42.
Or you could use http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062255662 to find the Indie Bookshop nearest you to get your copy of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, if you haven’t yet read it.
As I walked down the east wing hall, I could feel their sticky fingers reaching for my brain. Puffs of yellow smoke curled toward my ears, my eyes, my nose and mouth. The hivemind wanted to penetrate and infect. Colonize. The danger was so real, so close, I didn’t dare open my mouth to ask directions. Or howl.
— Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory
One, just one of the reasons the novel is so satisfying is that Hayley’s voice recalls that of Melinda, the silent heroine of Speak, but without being a clone or copy. They are each themselves, these novels are separate works, but it’s good to be a reader in a world in which they both exist.
Two years ago, Neil Gaiman posted on Tumblr about the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize. I love his writing; I love Coraline and ”The Doctor’s Wife” and “A Study in Emerald” and American Gods, and just everything, everything. I follow him on Tumblr and I saw his post. I had written a first chapter of something that may or may not have turned into a book had I not seen Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr post (or, more specifically, had my dude not seen the post and been like, “Look, you’re doing this,” and then accepted no excuses). I entered the contest; I wrote the book; I won the contest. The book was published in the UK (as Vivian Versus the Apocalypse) and it’s going to be published in the US (as Vivian Apple at the End of the World) and the truth is simply that it wouldn’t have happened in quite the way it did were it not for Neil Gaiman and his Tumblr.
Last night, Neil Gaiman was in San Francisco, reading stories out loud at the Warfield, accompanied by a string quartet and beautiful illustrations. Kevin bought tickets and we went. It was spellbinding, to sit rapt in the dark in a majestic old theater and listen to Neil Gaiman tell stories. There was the Doctor Who theme and a catchy song about Joan of Arc and “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” which is among my favorite things Neil Gaiman has ever written—spooky and intense and darkly funny. Afterwards, because Kevin is really great and reached out to tell Neil Gaiman about the effect his Tumblr had on my life, and because Neil Gaiman is really great and was excited to hear about it, we got to meet him and chat with him for a minute, and thank him, and give him a copy of a book he inadvertently helped bring into the world. He was completely lovely and gracious and welcoming and kind, even though it was late and he’d just read out loud for nearly two full hours. He was basically everything you’d imagine or hope Neil Gaiman to be, if you—like all of us—have ever spent time imagining or hoping for hypothetical conversations with Neil Gaiman.
I will never stop thanking Neil Gaiman in my head for what he unwittingly did for me, and so the moral of the story is this: you should follow the artists you love on their social media platforms. They will teach you things; they will spark your imagination; they will answer your questions if they can. Occasionally they will mention contests you might be eligible to enter. Enter the contests.
This is wonderful. I’m so glad this Tumblr helped…
"Next to the desert, I feel soft and gentle."
— Becky Masterman, Rage Against the Dying
Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn’s voice is proving to be the highlight of this debut thriller, and I would read it in subsequent books. Well, her voice and the character of her husband, former priest Carlo.
A toddler’s announcement to his mother and the circulation desk staff. (via yourathenaeum)
Best kid ever!
My earbuds were in, but I wasn’t playing music. I needed to hear the world but didn’t want the world to know I was listening.
— Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory
It’s time again for Friday Reads! I’m finally getting around to the latest volume in Mary Robinette Kowal’s delightful Glamourists series. Boss Lady Ellensays she’s excited to spend her weekend baking pies and reading Rebecca Rasmussen’s new Evergreen. From Code Switch, Kat Chow reports that An Untamed State is shudderingly intense, and Mama Susan Stamberg is knocking back Of All the Gin Joints. How about you?
Great line-up but especially jazzed to see Rebecca Rasmussen’s new book included!