Interview: Evelyn Alfred, Librarian-in-Training

I first came across Evelyn Alfred at the National Book Festival. She asked Junot Diaz a bomb-ass question at his reading and ever since then I’ve been following her on Twitter. She’s a librarian-in-training who also happens to be young and black (which you don’t hear about often) so I thought she’d be cool to rap with! Peep the track below to hear us discuss her dream job, the need for librarians of color, and how she gets around restrictiveness of the “favorite authors” question.

She also has a series on her blog entitled “Highly Textured Librarians“, highlighting the work and hairstyles of librarians of color. Pretty cool! The National Museum of African American History & Culture needs to hire this woman!

Have a great weekend!

~T.

Rap Coloring Book. Yes, You Read That Right.

So….you’ve had a rough day at the cube farm and need a way to cool off. Punching holes in walls won’t work any more, and your therapist is on vacation in Cozumel. What to do? May I present to you Bun B’s Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity Tumblr. It is, quite possibly, the dopest thing I’ve seen all month (I’m late, but whatever). Here’s a fuller explanation of the project, according to the site:

It’s like one of those coloring books that kids have, except way less boring. Curated by award-winning rap legend Bun B. Illustrated by tank top enthusiast Shea Serrano. For grown-ups, obvs. Not children.

I mean clearly this online coloring book is for the thug in us all. Pull out your 64- or 96-pack Crayolas and get to work (RoseArt is not acceptable). Also, these drawings clown out super hard, per the rendering below.

Get your life.

T.

[Pictures] 11/26 Book Event Recap

Me and Barantude pose with copies of his book, thus increasing our blackness quotient by 100%

Hey all!

Thanks for turning out Monday’s author talk and book signing at Busboys and Poets. It was jam packed and jumpin’, and I hope you had a great time. You can find pictures of the event on the DopeReads Flickr page. Let me know what you thought about it and what author DopeReads should bring next in the comments section. Happy Hump Day!

T.

#HowToBeBlack DC + Tayari Jones’ Tweet

Hey Party People!

Today is the big day  Baratunde Thurston x DopeReads x Teaching for Change/Busboys & Poets book event for “How To Be Black” ! You can peep the FB event for details, or check out the flyer below.

I’ll be tied up with that. In other black book news….

This is happening.

Totally here for this.

~T.

P.S. The butterfly is totally a thing I do when I hear good-book related news. The cabbage patch too. Just FYI.

Writerly Wednesdays: Literary Goon Shit

I like to do literary goon shit with my friends.

Or by myself.

The other day I wondered aloud if it would make me a hoodrat to sit in on Danielle Evans’ writing workshop at American. Would that be weird? I wouldn’t do it because I’m a creep. It would be because I truly cannot afford another graduate degree, but I just want to LEARN SHIT about writing. I want to understand the process. I want to be better! (Yes, I’m applying for workshops, but still. It’s so close!). But my pockets are turnt out like the Monopoly Man when he can’t pass go and does not get $200.

I also want to just show up at Cipriani’s in NYC during the National Book Awards  and be fly on the wall. I could be a waitress while the authors are mingling and chatting. I could clear their plates and eavesdrop about so-and-so’s dislike for that-person-over-there and whatchimacallit’s new project and how she just can’t get into a groove right now.  Promise I wont get in the way.   I want to put my FACE in the PLACE and learn as much as a I can. Does seem strange?

Last year I got fussed at by Terri McMillan at the National Book Festival. Something about that experience emboldened me in a way, made me realize that my favorite writers are human too, and that they are to be learned from but not idolized. And that there is a lot of lit stuff cracking off in the DC metro to be a part of. Politics & Prose always has dope readings and miscellaneous book sh*t going on. Teaching for Change too. In fact, I’m partnering with TfC for an event on Monday, go figure. I want to be the person that people ask, “what lit events are going on in DC” and I could answer like, 50 joints off the top of my head, freestyle.

Maybe what I’ll do is go to at  least one literary event a week where I don’t know anything or anyone. Just so I can learn something new and get out of my comfort zone. I went to the Big Lucks reading in DuPont Circle on Sunday. I was so nervous. I didn’t feel like a goon. But Imma go back, because I don’t like being nervous.   The last author talk I went to before that was at the MLK Jr. Library for “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. Joint was dope. Mad people were just waltzing in and out of the library, and boom, right in the middle this well-regarded author is just talking about her art and her life.  I asked Azar Nafisi something like ‘what books do you read’ and ‘what inspires you as you write your next project.’ Everyone else asked deep political questions (or rambling about their own literary connections). Her response: she is literarily promiscuous. I like that. Love it, actually.

Ok, enough of me jibberjabbering. Here are more awesome video for that ass.

Peace!

 

Book Review: Get “Lost” in Edward P. Jones’ “City”

Pulitzer-and-numerous-other-literary-prize winner Edward P. Jones’ “Lost in the City” was one of the books that had been chilling on my bookcase for a while before I cracked it open, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to grow a bit before digging into it. I got the first nudge from Junot Diaz at the National Book Festival, when he listed Jones as one of his influences. I’d read “The Known World” back when it came out, but I don’t think I’d developed the teeth necessary to really chew on and digest that book; as a result “All Aunt Hagar’s Children” and “Lost in the City” languished in unread-book-land for years. It was totally worth it, though, because now that I live in the DC metro area the stories resonated with more depth for me. Books be knowing, y’all.

Synopsis: It’s a book of short stories, and it’s easy to see where Junot Diaz got his inspiration for “Drown” and “This Is How You Lose Her” – Lost’s characters are connected to characters in All Aunt Hagar’s children, and are sometimes connected with stories in the same collection as well. Jones skillfully examines mid-century DC when it was still a ‘chocolate city’. The streets, locations, and descriptions of people are spot on. He captures the voice of old-school black DC in a quiet, unassuming, non-judgmental way. He’s just telling it how it is. I appreciate Jones’ narrative straightforwardness – Jones builds stories bit by bit, each piece appearing to just be matter of fact, and before you know it you’re at the end, pondering the bigger issues the story has quietly laid out. It’s great when good storytelling sneaks up on you.

Favorite characters: Marie, an elderly woman who fends off a potential thief with her homemade serrated shank;  Joyce, who acts like it’s all good that her son buys her a house using dope money and fakes like she can have kids with her man even though her tubes are tied; a store-keep who watches the rise and fall of a neighborhood corner store from his perch behind the counter.

Read this if you: like DC, want to understand what the city was like for black folks before 2000, like Toni Morrison, like books with depth. Also, I was super pumped that my edition, published by Amistad, had “A Rich Man,” which I posted here as required cuffing reading not too long ago, included as a bonus to introduce readers to All Aunt Hagar’s Children. Gotta read that next!

On ‘Scandal’…

A couple of days ago I came across PostBourgie’s efforts to breakdown and ‘make sense’* of the television show Scandal. Their latest write up brings up a lot of really great points, ranging from technical (this shit is implausible, yo) to seriously problematic (why are the women only powerful when they are allowed to be by a man?). And, being a the foaming-at-the-mouth-cancel-dinner-dates-with-my-homegirls Scandal fan that I am, I felt the need to explain why, despite some of its issues, I can’t get enough of this show.

First of all, let’s get into the flyness that is Keri Washington. Besides the fact that I have loved her since “Save the Last Dance,” she is showing up and kicking butt on national television. Yeah, her Sally Hemings-ish relationship with Fitz is a little uncomfortable, but I’ll be damned if it aint hot. And after 8.5 hours in a windowless cubicle, sometimes heat is necessary. Additionally, she is the bourgeois woman’s LisaRaye – she finds a way to wear a white/cream/ecru blouse with every outfit, and SLAYS.EVERY.TIME. And her wig is decent. And she lip trembles. I’m here for skinny big-mouthed girls with lots of sass – Jurnee Smollet, Erykah Badu, and me? Olivia Pope.

Speaking of sass, can we also speak of Cyrus? He is a mighty oak tree, offering shade to everyone that dares come for him – Mellie, Liv, even the President. Yes. More epic reads and dressing downs (they’re hilarious). More telling the first lady “I’m a muthafuggin monsta.” More fussin’ and fightin’ with your husband.  More representation of gays on television and more hiring gay actors to play straight characters. More giving random black actresses employment (hey, Elise Neal). More. More. I want more of it.

As a DMV resident it’s also lots of fun to have TV show based in the area because, well, you can recognize the places you walk past every day onscreen. Maybe that’s nothing new for New Yorkers, but for an area as maligned as the DC metro region, it’s nice to have some representation. I’m still waiting for them to go Southeast/Northeast/Alexandria/Maryland, but that’s a whole different conversation.

Maybe it’s that I want to support Shonda Rhimes.** Even though she found crazy success with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice (which I could never really get into), having a show written by a black woman STARRING a black woman – that isn’t a Basketball Side-Piece or a Fake Housewife – means something. As problematic as Olivia Pope might be, she is still, in my opinion, far better than a lot of representations of black women we see on television. Olivia has a killer wardrobe and is powerful and is vulnerable and kicks ass (even though she’s always called into question by that damn redhead).

Let’s hope that maybe Shonda or her writers hear some of the very valid concerns that PB voiced, especially since they clearly respond to vocal fans. The show is not perfect, but Scandal, in all its soap opera-y, fast-talking, scandalous-ass glory, is still really good to me.  I’m totally here for it.

 

*You can’t make sense of a show like this. You just have to receive it. Just let it wash over you.

**I also bang with Shonda because she signed Issa Rae for a show with ABC. And because Scandal is actually based on the work of a black woman, Judy Smith. She really seems to be trying to put people on, and I LOVE IT!