What a week we had together!
Brittany Allen wrote this excellent essay about her work as a Black writer and her decision to write an “urban romance” at the request of her (white, male) publisher:
I often do have fun while writing my Urban romance. The fun surprises me. It arrives in the language I put in my characters’ mouths, which doesn’t feel disingenuous to write. I simply let my people speak like My People, in the voices of Allens at family reunions and in their inner sanctums. My characters crack wise about things I can’t explain to white friends; my characters have divisive opinions about The Help and The Best Man movies. I ache a little realizing what I’ve been made to lose in the muddle of my obsessive, is-this-ethical inquiry: the fact that I do love being Black, and believe there is something special and worth capturing of even this broadest definition of my experience. …
But as soon as the manuscript is done, my demons return. I am suddenly loath to give my story away, as if once the document leaves my desktop it will become an instrument of oppression, all its good intentions and sly inside jokes warped in white-editing translation.
Nicole on the order in which she would have killed people off in Christie’s classic And Then There Were None
Is Itt Feminist?, definitively asked and answered by Jaya.
“This is why people don’t like helping you,” Toad said.
“People don’t like helping me?” Frog asked.
“They do not,” Toad said. “That is why you are so lucky to have me.”
“I didn’t know that,” Frog said.
“You’re lucky I am here to tell you these things,” Toad said.
And Frog thought, How lucky I am that Toad puts up with me, since no one else wants to.
Léonicka sent this Star Wars: The Force Awakens piece to us with the subject line Finn feels, and that is exactly what it is, in addition to perfect.
“The Jane Austen Centre’s Darcy is the Darcy from really bad fanfiction, the kind that only gets a few pity kudos on AO3 because it’s so out of character.”
I loved this beautiful short story by Julia Phillips and I would really like you all to read it, so do.
How to Decorate Your Dream Library *slow clap*
This week, as you may know, I wrote about trying to respond to racial microaggressions in otherwise polite company, because someone made a comment to me at a holiday party and I wasn’t happy with my reaction (TL;DR thinking of what to say in the moment is really damn difficult). At first I had no intention of writing about it, but later as I was reflecting on what happened and how I felt, I thought it might be an illuminating exercise to just go ahead and catalogue every calculation that shot through my mind in the few seconds I had to come up with a response. (It doesn’t matter how many times these things happen; I always seem to remember them in painstaking detail and obsess over retorts I wish I’d made.) I knew a lot of people would relate, and maybe others would then be able to understand how that sort of thing feels in the moment.
When I wrote up my party postmortem I expected it would be read by Toasties, mostly, and get perhaps 100 or so shares, and that would be the end of it. It’s been out there for a few days now, and it has been shared a LOT. I have to admit, I’ve been really surprised and overwhelmed by its reach. I think we all write things we hope other people will read, relate to, maybe even love. But, as I was telling Nicole yesterday, it’s still kind of shocking to have something like this go viral. I obviously wrote the piece and thought hard before hitting Publish and understood that it would be [gestures, vaguely] OUT THERE, and I’m truly grateful for the response (for the most part. I could have done without some of the several-paragraphs-long emails from white men and all the “get a life” deleted comments and also maybe that one dude who was basically like “I Google-image-searched to find out if you really do look like everyone on Fresh Off the Boat and you were right, you don’t!!”). It just feels a bit strange to know that some people now associate me with a somewhat mortifying race-related incident. Out of everything I’ve ever written, it’s this that blew up, and I can’t help but find that interesting.
Anyway. Ever since the party, even though it’s a bit silly, I’ve been thinking about a line from the West Wing first-season episode “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet,” which I happened to re-watch just over the holidays with my in-laws. In the episode, a past memo by a White House staffer criticizing the Bartlet administration leaks; CJ, the press secretary, says the memo doesn’t make anyone in the building look good: “We don’t look like rocket scientists. But then again, we’re not rocket scientists.” That’s exactly how I feel about what happened at that dinner party, from the comment itself to my response to everyone else’s silence — I don’t think I came out of it looking great, and neither did the person who questioned me, but the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that there was nothing shocking about anything anyone said or didn’t say that night. It was just us, honestly, as we are. We’re not people who always say the right thing. We’re not people who always have the “best” response. Of course, we’re far more than the unfortunate things we say, or the snappy things we wish we had said, but what actually comes out — the cold hard sometimes ugly reality — that is part of us, too, and we all have to figure out how to face it and deal with it and do and be better.
If you read my piece this week and thought about it at all, or said something kind or thoughtful to me about it, thank you. I realize comments and tweets and shares don’t necessarily have anything to do with my skill as a writer or the importance of the incident itself. But when something like that happens and no one else appears to notice, you can start to feel a little uncertain, even a little unhinged — did you imagine it, did you just make a mountain out of a molehill, do you have any right to feel anything at all about such a tiny and insignificant thing? Every genuine, solidarity-expressing comment you left really did mean something to me, so I just wanted to tell you that, and say again how much I appreciate this community and all of you.
Nicole Chung is the Managing Editor of The Toast.