Letters to Anita: On My Grandmother’s Legacy

Shortly before my maternal grandfather died of prostate cancer, he gave my Uncle Bill, his eldest son and namesake, a box full of things whose inheritance he wanted to ensure while he still could. Its contents included, among other things, an official MLB baseball of uncertain context, a program from JFK’s 1961 inauguration, and most tantalizingly, a manila envelope that read, in Pop-Pop’s Sharpie scrawl, “Letters to Anita: Do Not Open Until After I’m Dead.”

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A Question I’ll Never Give A Straight Answer To

There are two pretty good reasons to look at this coverage of the Women And Humor panel at the LA Times’ Festival of Books this weekend:

1. I look powerful and compelling in the accompanying photo. In real life, Ann and Issa were just looking at me as one does during the part of a conversation where one is being silent, but in the picture they appear to be gazing upon me with love and approval, as if to say, “Here at last is a woman whom no one can criticize; here at last is a woman for the ages, whose carapace we will fashion with gold and with lapis lazuli, and who we will patiently let describe episodes of Futurama to us over the breakfast table, even though we have heard her describe these selfsame episodes before.”

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How To Tell If You Are In A Shirley Jackson Story

1. Someone you have known and hated for thirty years pays you an unremarkable yet somehow sinister greeting at the only grocery store in town, which you also hate.

2. You have committed several murders, yet somehow you are also the sanest and most sympathetic person you know.

3. Every time you see your neighbors, the encounters decrease in friendliness and increase in dark foreboding.

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When I Win This Fucking Award

When I win this fucking award, I won’t even know what award they’re talking about at first. “No, I’m serious,” I’ll say. “What award?” Because I haven’t even been following the nomination process, not because I think I’m too good for it, but honestly just because this kind of thing doesn’t even register with me, like I don’t even notice when people win awards. I mean, if it makes them happy, that’s great, I just don’t even hardly notice it.

It’s not that I think I’m above this whole thing, because I don’t. I’m just in a really different place from it, a place that’s separate and slightly higher up from the place everyone else is in, but not above them.

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This Writer is on Fire: Cathy Linh Che

“Writing, to me, is an act of anti-erasure. It reaches for the unsayable. Anti-erasure is when the silenced or marginalized object speaks. When it asks a reader to listen to what it has to say. And what it says is the evidence.” –NPM Daily

“I write about my experiences because I’m uneasy with the silence. I’m uneasy with the abject and unfathomable horror surrounding the topic—as if sexual molestation is not something that happens to one in three girls and one in seven boys. At a table with ten folks, several people have been sexually violated at some point in their lives (whether we identify as victims, survivors, or something else), or are perpetrators. So, it’s not ‘unimaginable’—it’s lived experiences that we all share.” –Fireside, A Kundiman Blog

Who she is

Cathy Linh Che is the author of the poetry collection Split (Alice James Books, 2014), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is a poet, teacher, and arts administrator living in Brooklyn, NY.

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History in Color: A Black American Romance Roundtable

In the publishing world, the romance novel reigns — at times an underappreciated, resented, and mocked monarch, but the sales numbers don’t lie. Historical romances are among the most popular books in the genre — the queen’s crown jewels, so to speak — pulling readers in since the very beginning.

Although much has changed over the years in historical romance, including the rise of heroines who are more likely to save themselves than wait around for a hero, much has remained the same. Historical romance is often (though not always) shorthand for a romance set in England, with the Regency era being the most popular setting. In these books, the duke/earl/viscount hero is usually white (with bronzed or golden skin—because the British Isles are known for their great tanning weather and tawny-skinned inhabitants). The heroines are usually fair—like, really fair—with milky, lily-white skin mentioned often enough to cause concern about their health. While this description might seem playfully reductive, the books that garner the most attention within the genre are homogenous to the point that one author, Genevieve Turner, was compelled to start the Year Without A Duke project, in which she only reads romances that do not fit the description above.

In recent years, new areas of the historical romance landscape have been mapped. Much of the change has been pushed by Beverly Jenkins, the prolific author whose well-researched historical romances feature African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and other ethnic minorities in America, and now several romance authors are following the path blazed by Jenkins. In this roundtable, you’ll hear from a few of them: Kianna Alexander (author of two multicultural historical romance series), Piper Huguley (author of inspirational historical romances), Lena Hart (writer of sensual to steamy interracial romances), and me, Alyssa Cole. All four of us have contributed stories to The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (June 2015; now available for pre-order). Here, we discuss our personal experiences as romance writers, the current state of multicultural historical romance, and our thoughts on the future of historicals that feature people of color as the heroes and heroines.

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A Country Called My Mother

I’m at a hospital in Houston, Texas, spooning puréed carrots into my mother’s mouth and catching the dribbles at the corners with a plastic spoon. She’s beginning to come around after overdosing on what one of the doctors called “a dangerous cocktail of marijuana and benzos.” The ziplock bag of prescription medications that traveled with her to the hospital sits on a shelf across the room. The orange plastic bottles, now empty, once contained an assortment of pills: Prozac, Seraquil, Haldol, Clonazepam and several other medications. One of the bottles has someone else’s name on it.

My mother is like another country I used to live in, familiar but no longer a place I call home. When I visit, I don’t stay long; dysfunction is the official language, the terrain is a desert of constantly shifting emotions, and the weather is grey when it’s not dark and stormy. Estrangement is so much easier.

When she opened her eyes a few hours earlier, it was the first time she’d seen me in a year. She recognized me, of that I felt sure, but her eyebrows were slightly cocked, her large brown eyes were opened wide and rounded, in them a look of profound disbelief.

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