Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Juicy Mangos Hits Bookstores Today!

Today the anthology Juicy Mangos hits bookstores! This the first collection of erotic short stories written by Latina authors so it's a must have. I contributed the story "Sensually Yours." Juicy Mangos has something for all sexual interests and literary tastes. But don't take my word for it. Head to the bookstore and sneak a peek then buy the book.

Editor Michelle Herrera Mulligan, contributing author Elisha Miranda and I will be doing several readings in New York City in August. For those of you who want to break into writing erotica, we're even trying to organize a panel focused on that. Sister Outsider Entertainment will host a book party in September that you won't want to miss. So keep your eyes out for my bulletins and mark your calendars.

"Do not read this in bed or your sheets just might catch on fire. It is that hot!"
-- Zane

"Juicy Mangos is an amazingly well done collection of stories...not only a tantalizing read, but a deeply rewarding one as well." -- Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"Hurray to the writers of these clever (and revealing) stories." -- Lisa Wixon, author of
Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban

"These stories aren't just juicy; they're spicy, sweet, seductive, tender, haunting, and hunger-inducing." -- Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of
He's on Top and She's on Top

Juicy Mangos will shatter your ideas of female innocence forever. Here, the smartest, sexiest literary writers are gathered to tell stories of women at their rawest and most intimate. Each of the seven stories centers around a holiday -- from Valentine's Day to Christmas -- when these enticing characters slip out of their daily roles and take on new, daring personas: A married woman finds a back door to Eden where fantastical orgies force her to confront her true and dangerous sexual desires, a historiographer experiences a lustful affair while wearing an enchanting antique dress as an erotic disguise, a sex-toy saleswoman takes on a business partner with benefits to boost her sales. With exotic backdrops around the world and beautiful, complex characters, Juicy Mangos is sexy enough to keep you glued to the page. But like its diverse protagonists, the stories are smart and provocative and will leave you hot long after your touch on the page has cooled.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Guess the Author #1

As I work on Part II of my 5-part rant on myths about chick lit, an idea came to me. I hope all of you who read this blog will participate in an experiment. Below I have excerpted four passages from four books by four different authors. To keep some similarity between them, I used the same topic -- fistfights, LOL!

Anyway, please post your guesses as to who you think wrote each passage. Feel free to comment why. Now if you absolutely know, without a doubt who an author is (say, because you JUST finished the book last week), please don't give it away to others just yet. Just say that you are 100 per cent sure who the author is.

Please pass the word of this experiment on to others who love to read books and debate literary issues and encourage them to participate.


1. This next part I don't remember so hot. All I know is that I got up from the bed, like I was going down to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddamn throat open. Only, I missed. I didn't connect. All I did was sort of get him on the side of the head or something. It probably hurt him a little bit, but not as much as I wanted. It probably would've hurt him a lot, but I did with my right hand, and I can't make a good fist with that hand. On account of that injury I told you about.

2. I never thought _____ would hit me first, but I should have known better. Most girls would talk mad shit and even get in your face but would never through the first punch. _____ was not one of those sisters, so she rang my head with solid cross to my jaw. So it was on with _____ and me rolling around on the floor, scratching, pulling, and cursing, you name it. I quickly go the upper hand. Her girls tried to jump in, but _____ started cursing and swinging at them as if they were my crew. Mind your fuckin' business, she yelled. I can kick her ass by my damn self. Then she flung herself at me like a wrestler off the ropes.

3. Big Mouth got up as fast as he could, and I was thinking how much heart he had. But I ran toward him like my life depended on it; I wanted to cool him. Too late, I saw his hand grab a fistful of ground asphalt which had been piled nearby to fix a pothole in the street. I tried to duck; I should have closed my eyes instead. The shitty-gritty stuff hit my face, and I felt the scrappy pain make itself a part of my eyes. I screamed and grabbed for two eyes with one hand, while the other I beat some kind of helpless tune on air that just couldn't be hurt.

4. We got it on, I was kicking him on the ground when my boys arrived on bikes – my blood was up; I said, I'll take any of you motherfuckers. No, motherfucker, we gonna kill yo' ass, and they started pulling ______. So like I quit the scene, they chased me all the eway to 110th Street. That was the last chase on me like that. I always carried a piece from then on. I wasn't about to take no shit. You step up, I'm gonna knock you down.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Sisterly Letter to a Street Lit Author

The following is an actual response to astreet lit author who sent me a friend request on MySpace. Because I have yet to receive her response, I chose not to reveal her identity. If she does respond to me and gives me permission to give her name, I will do so.

Peace, sister,

First, apologies for taking so long to add you to my network. You probably haven't noticed anyway because you're quite popular, LOL! Anyway, now that I have honored your request, I felt compelled to be honest about what took me so long.

For quite some time, I've had quite strong and often conflicting feelings toward street lit. I've written and talked about it extensively, mostly about my issues with it. As a hip hop activist, my primary issue has been with street lit being synomously referred to as "hip hop fiction" when I felt that it rarely had anything to do with the subculture I love so much and even perpetuated the kind of thinking and behavior that I use hip hop to resist. There are other things, but that was and continues to be my biggest problem.

So when you sent me the friend request, I hesitated. On the one hand, I appreciated your reaching out to me. I don't know you, but I found myself assuming that you -- another Black woman writing urban fiction -- was genuinely extending your hand in friendship. It truly never crossed my mind that you were just reaching out to me just to increase your network even though it may be just as simple as that. And that thought -- and the fact that the positive interpretation came to me first -- made me feel good.

But then I wondered if honoring the request would make me a hypocrite. Should I add her and let her find out where I stand on the genre she writes, and let the chips fall where they may? Or should I deny the request without any explanation? Or do I deny the request AND explain when I have not yet read any of her books to know if she is one of the genre's truly talented writers?
See, despite all my issues with street lit as a genre, I have always said that the authors deserve to tell their stories because no one should be censored or silenced, but that readers should demand excellence from them. "If you're going to read it," I always say, "then identify the best writers in the genre and support them. Don't put your money behind any and all mediocre authors who don't think enough of you to tighten their craft." I say this about every genre and every medium in popular entertainment -- books, television, music, film.
Then I realized the reason why I hesitated to accept your friend request was because I haven't walked my own talk about this. That is, I haven't made much of an effort to read street lit in order to find out who is the genre's leading talents so I can champion them. I know that you're one of the genres most popular and successful authors, but I have yet to read any of your titles, and it's certainly not because I have so little time. That is true, but we make time for the things that matter to us, and I haven't made the time to read street lit because of my problems with it.
And this has been true even though I know that at the core issue of the controversy surrounding street lit, or the debate over whether a bookstore should segregate Black books or the arguments about what makes a book Black anyway and why and/or should it matter, is the fact that we are battling each other for opportunity in an industry where very few of us have the power to make our stories -- whether they take place in a housing project, on a university campus or at summer home in Martha's Vineyard -- grace the page and make it into the hands of readers.

These days I have been reflecting a lot on the nastiness aimed at authors for no other reason than that they write in a particular genre, the assumptions that are made about a person's moral character, intelligence, politics, etc. simply because they write for the masses instead of the elite. I definitely have been and will continue to be a victim of it. I don't want to be a perpetrator either, but some degree I have been. Now I won't back down from forging my critiques of what is problematic, but I realize that I, too, have to be much more conscientious about finding what is promising. I have to make a greater effort to befriend authors in this genre and get to know them as people beyond what they write. I have to engage them in honest yet civil debate and be willing to ask as well as answer some hard questions.
So with that revelation, I accept your friend request, will find a copy of one of your novels and actually read it. In fact, I will find and read it even if you're offended by criticism of street lit and choose to delete me from your network after all.
And if you knew about my issues with your genre and decided to send me this friend request anyway, well, I thank you for being a bigger woman than I.
Sofia aka Black Artemis

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chick Lit Does NOT Set Back Feminism

Five Annoyingly Prevalent Myths about Chica Lit
Myth #1 - Chick Lit Sets Back Feminism
A word of caution before you proceed.

When I write opinion pieces about controversial issues, I usually attempt to adopt a critical yet compassionate tone towards those who do not share my position. This entry and the four that eventually will follow are a MAJOR departure from that tone. I wrote this first installment just as I felt it, and I decided to post it just as I wrote it. The majority of the time, I am a firm believer that one has to take the higher ground and maintain diplomacy even if one is not being afforded the same courtesy by your intellectual opponents.

Sometimes, however, you just need to tell them all to kiss your ass.

And because I have had enough of the "isms" targeted at authors like me, this is one of those times. Now I don't presume to speak for all the women who write chick lit or all Latinas who write commercial fiction or the all of anyone who does anything with which I identify. But I do know that I'm not alone in my hurt and anger at being targeted.

That said, I hope you will read this through, laugh here and there, and most importantly, think about it for a while.


All the snooty remarks about chick lit peppered across the internet really get to me because I get so much shit for being a feminist only to discover that the women who should have watched my back have opted instead to stab me in it.

I get shit from self-proclaimed renaissance men who at once want to exploit the benefits of female sexual liberation and advancement of women in the workplace yet still expect women to maintain the home, carry their children and raise them singlehandedly, and wash their drawers while tolerating a range of sexist behavior under the guise of "letting a man be a man."

I get shit from other women of color who think being a feminist renders me incapable of being just as strident about racial justice because to this day they still have an outdated view of feminism as a White, middle-class women's racket even as they have and continue to benefit from feminist movement.

I get shit from other heterosexual women who are so male-identified that they cling to the homophobic notion that all feminists are man-hating dykes as if never in the history of humankind has a lesbian ever had a father, brother or son and loved him.

The last person I need to give me shit is another feminist who doesn't even know I'm a feminist because she has presumed that because I write chick lit, I couldn't possibly be a woman of intelligence and substance. Are you trying to tell me that every work of fiction written by a female literary author is automatically some feminist tome? Bitch, please. You don't know me. Can you even see me with your nose that far up Jane Austen's ass?

You should be thanking me and other feminists who write chick lit, romance, erotica and for that matter, any other genre of fiction popular among the female readers you have written off in your elitist tantrum. While you shit on what we write without ever reading it, we're introducing feminism to young women through what they are most likely to consume – entertainment. You complain endlessly about how the current generation shuns feminism yet takes its gains for granted, but when was the last time you took a break from preaching to the converted to engaging the uninitiated in any way other than to shame them for not thinking like the woman you are now? (Oh, that's right. You were born a feminist. Me, I was Nefertiti in a past life.)

And what does this rant have to do with chica lit in particular? Because history has given me reason to suspect that you are highly likely to be a privileged White women who does not read anything that does not mirror your own socio-economic experience whether it is feminist or not. Oh, yes, I did go there. You're not reading my books anyway so why not keep it real?

Chances are if you're too pretentious to presume never mind seek the feminist undercurrents that might exist in books by women who have surnames like Weiner and Cabot then hell to the naw are you even picking up anything written by someone whose last name might be Castillo, Singh or Tang. Admit it… you put that book by Foxx back on the shelf because of that suspiciously Afrocentric second X.

BTW, I don't know if any of the successful chick lit authors I alluded to would describe themselves as feminists. That's beside the point. The point is that you don't either.

And then you sit at your meetings, glancing despairingly around the room and wondering Why are there no women of color here?

(A brief intermission so that all the privileged White women who are reading this with pride because it doesn't apply to them can gloat. Say, I bet many of you are editors and agents. You know this whole thing is all your fault, right? Which means you better have my back when all the White women who are offended by this start accusing me of being racist even if they themselves are innocent of the particular behavior that I'm describing.)

Here's the deal. I write what I want to read, and as an activist, a feminist activist, I want to read stories where female characters grapple with the socio-political issues that would rob them of their humanity even as they strive to get their everyday human needs for such things as love and security met. And as much as I treasure literary fiction as much as you do, sometimes I want to read, and therefore, I write stories in the language I live everyday whether that's the King's English, the Queen's Spanish, Bronx Nuyoricanese, slang-laced Ebonics or some combination thereof.

Now if that offends the aesthetics of your narrow brand of feminism, pues pa' carajo 'cause I know damned well you ain't living your day-to-day life talking like the lost Brontë sister.

And what does it say that other chick lit authors and their readers – some who also consider themselves feminists and many who probably don't – have embraced me as I am while you have concluded that I cannot even exist? Ironically, the chick lit aficionados who don't like my work accuse me of being just as pretentious as you. How dare she litter my fifteen-dollar beach reach with talk of domestic violence and rape? Go figure. While you bristle at the thought of having something in common with the masses, I plead no contest.

So if you call yourself a feminist yet insist that a feminist novel can only exist in literary prose, kiss my Audre-Lorde-quoting ass. And if you also happen to be a White, upper-middle class woman over the age of thirty-five who has not read This Bridge Called My Back or Home Girls Make Some Noise!, never mind any commerical fiction by a woman of color, kiss it twice.

As for everyone else, please be advised that this is an equal opportunity tirade in five parts. In fact, if you're a Latina/o who believes that Latina/o authors should not write or be published unless we aspire to emulate Isabelle Allende and Sandra Cisneros, I got something for your ass next. It's been hot as hell in New York City, and my penchant for choosing the more evolved response in the face of narrow-mindedness has been severely compromised. Consider yourself warned and tune in if you dare.

He Called Me Scary Smart

A Meditation by Makani Themba-Nixon

She is scary smart. He looked the other man in the eye as he said it. Half warning, half challenge. There was an awkward silence as the two searched each other for signs. Can you handle it? His eyes smiled, lip curled up like what you know about that? The other man answered with only a subtle, noncommittal head check while his eyes searched for a way out.

Scary smart. As often as I've heard it used to describe me, I've only just come to realize what it means: there are those who are discomforted by other people's gifts. Of course, there are the privileged few that generations of privilege and breeding have surrounded them with nothing but the gifted. They take them for granted and all mediocrity is hidden from view or renegotiated to a better zip code. As in my nephew is an idiot but might you find a VP slot where he wouldn't do much damage?

To be scary smart – a term mostly used for women – is to be a freak. To be a Black woman and scary smart is to be an orphan. There are plenty of places where folk will feed you but not many that feel like home.

You try to cover it up and wait for the signal that it is OK to shine. A little conversation, lightweight debate, you are up to your ankles. You watch their body language and the shifts in discussion as they hope to angle the conversation away from your strength. It takes three tugs before you notice and then you both politely excuse yourselves to safe harbor.

Being scary smart means that your intellectual imperfections are not readily available for public consumption. And we find comfort in imperfection we can see. We demand imperfection in exchange for our intimacy. It provides the nooks and crannies where we can cuddle up to others and assure ourselves. We call it being human. As if the essence of who we are is our imperfection – not when we are smart and good and beautiful. Our gifts are often the very things that separate us from humanity, so much so that many of us gauge our success by how isolated we feel.

In many Islamic provinces, weavers make a slight disruption in the pattern of every rug to affirm that none is perfect but Allah. So sure are they of their fingers, the loom, the yarn that they choose to make a "mistake" in order to keep a humble distance from the One. Perhaps this avid fear and distrust of those who do things well is our way of affirming our humility in the face of the Divine. We look for the imperfection that confirms their residency in our comfort zone: far from God and near to us.

Yet, I still imagine a world where no one is scary smart or scary beautiful or scary anything great. We walk together secure enough to know that we do not have to find the "mistake" or disrupt our own pattern in order to feel humility or intimacy. Each of us will be like flowers to one another. Someone useful, someone beautiful. Someone worth celebrating just as we are.

Among many other things, Makani Themba-Nixon is executive director of the Praxis Project, a nonprofit organization helping communities use media and policy advocacy to advance health equity and justice and a kick-ass sister that I am proud to call my friend.