Critics Cringe: It’s Good If You Say So

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Spoiler Alert: I am married to the man that wrote this book. I published the book; The New York Times did the editing. (Big shoutout! Less work for me.) None of that is interesting. What is of note is that I was sitting next to him as he listened to so many of the performances in this book.  I also watched as the world of classical music reacted to his reviews. Most days, they wanted to kill him. And that, folks, is a critic doing a job well. He or she is not there to make a bunch of friends.

Despite the ill will in the business, audience members often came up to him after a performance and wanted to know what he thought. He’d grunt a bit and say “what did YOU think?” When they responded, I never heard him put them down. He always said the same thing, “it’s good if you think it is.”

That is the point. Nothing matters but the individual having a reaction to the material and performer on stage. A “review” can tell you what happened, connect that moment to a longer continuum and give you a vague idea if it’s something you might like. Beyond that, critics really can’t do much for you because it’s about you.Your experience, in the end, is the only one that matters.

Because of him, I often traded in the soul-shattering work on Hendrix for the soul-shattering work of Wagner. My husband’s reaction? Made perfect sense to him because, as he said, “they are both great.” I got him to deconstruct the opening  chords of Baba O’Reilly. He taught the mean beauty of the opera Wozzeck, Lulu and Otello. I still remember Rusalka singing to the moon.  He wrote a piece comparing a Schubert song cycle to Bob Dylan’s 2001 masterpiece, “Ain’t Talkin.” I like to think I had a hand in that.

Like Alex Ross, the New Yorker critic who worked under Holland, these critics jump around, writing about classical as well as all the other music forms, though I’d say Holland is a boob when it comes to rap. These critics attach classical music to a larger world and that matters, that keeps it alive and moving. Holland, in particular, is always searching and reading about history, context, source material. It’s not a commitment to anything, it’s just his curious mind at work.

With Something I Heard, he put a long career of listening to music in one place so that an arc would appear. You’ll have to read it to see. (The ebook is in a promotion and available on amazon for coffee change.)

Is there a future for classical music? What a stupid question. If it’s good, there is. Even this aging rocker feels that Marta Argerich is as good as Tina Turner. Yeah, this is a divided house that stands.

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from Nan Russell’s It’s Not About the Time 

There are many types of pain. Feeling overwhelmed, chronically exhausted, or unable to stretch non-elastic time to t what needs doing is one kind. So is wanting to do one thing and having to do another; knowing the people you love most feel low on your priority list; or giving up hope you’ll ever move toward that life dream.

When you believe you can time-manage yourself out of that kind of pain, which is what I tried for years, life tends to offer its version of a wake-up call: head- aches, illness, anger, outbursts, insomnia, overeating or drinking—you name it. If the pain gets bad enough we seek change.

Consider whether you’re ready:
1. Do you want to move away from the pain of over- whelmed and busy-busy-busy?
2. Are you willing to try something other than more time-management techniques that treat only symptoms?
3. You consider with an open mind that your time- problem isn’t about time.
Consider the statements below. If you’ve had enough and want to change it, check it. If it’s out of control sometimes, but more okay for you than not, leave it blank.

  1. I’m tethered to work 24/7/365; people can reach me via cell anytime and they do.
  2. I use at least part of the weekend to catch up on work.
  3. My life and responsibilities are over owing my ability to get everything I want done.
  4. I don’t have any time to think or be creative and that hurts the quality of my work.
  5. I have out-of-control numbers of unopened emails and just ignore some.
  6. I need to delegate more but have no time to train or hire anyone.
  7. My New Year’s resolution was to improve work-life balance and I broke it in weeks.
  8. Significant others in my life complain about my lack of time and attention.
  9. I feel at the end of my rope more days than not.
  10. I can’t remember the last time I unplugged and relaxed, even on vacation.
  11. I feel compelled to check my phone every few minutes to make sure I don’t miss something important.
  12. I know that stress and pressure are affecting my health and well-being.
  13. I keep hoping things at work and home will change.
  14. 14. There are so many things I’d like to do, but I just don’t have time to do them.

Self-scoring: Only you know if something is too much, too little, or just right for you. However, typically if you checked eight or more, i.e. more than half, there’s a consistent problem that time-management alone is unlikely to solve.

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THE GIRLS OF SUMMER: Fiction on Sale

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FAST FURIOUS FICTION ON SALE
TO FUEL THOSE POOLSIDE AFTERNOONS

 

The only time we get to read for pleasure is a long-haul plane flight or a summer weekend when the world is just a little bit slower. Oh, and those 8 minutes before we fall asleep at night, exhausted but determined to read a page or two to keep our heads alive. Below we offer the reader a range of rapid reads, all meant to entertain at a really low cost – say $2.99 – or less than the price of an iced latte. Lasts longer too.

Happy summer.

 

All she wanted was some donuts…a sugar rush to drown out her loveless suburban life and cheating bald husband. What she got was her true self back, with the help of two really young, really hot gang bangers. You’ll be done reading in 2 hours and you won’t know what hit you. But you’ll be smiling, that we can promise.

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Kindle is on sale for 2.99, paperback is 12.99

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“This is the most insane fun I’ve ever had reading a book in my life.

I called in sick so I could finish it.”

– T. Beckett Scotland, Film Producer, The Devil of Blue Mountain

 

If you like a Quentin Tarantino movie crossed with aliens and drug cartels, this is your book.  It’s so much fun, you just might snort out loud, alarming your seat mates.

KINDLE ON SALE 2.99

Paperback    10.00

 

 

51GaAnGWPcL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg  KINDLE: 2.99     Paperback 12.99

White Deer of Autumn, author Gabriel Horn, has created an beautiful portrait of a young girl coming to grips with her heritage, her community, and a world where her highest ideals – those of the natural world – are being destroyed by seemingly unstoppable evil – the British Petroleum oil spill.

This beautiful young adult novel won the 2016 International Book Award winner, 2016 Indie Excellence Book Award winner, 2016 Paris Book Festival Award winner, the 2016 Award for Literary Excellence from the Friends of the Florida Library and a winner of the 2015 Florida Book Award.

 

 

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41sJGzMvtlL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg“Johanna Baldwin is a magical and original writer whose unique voice has a gift for making allegory and fantasy surprising and emotionally plausible. Her delicate touch brings freshness to unexpected themes and opens a door to worlds hidden within the every day world.”

— Naomi Wolf,
The Beauty Myth

Kindle:  2.99    Paperback  15.00

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WRITE DIRTY, LADIES

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I recently wrote a novel with my c0-author Jason Davis called Hair Club Burning. It is a mystery, a May-December (the woman is December) love story, a caper tale, and, most importantly, a microcosm of race, a dream, a flight of fancy of how black and white can live together, making each other stronger and whole.

Throughout the book, themes of love and lust, friendship and trust, acceptance and fear, betrayal and crime intertwine. White crime is hidden in the back rooms and shell companies – Panama Papers anyone?  – and black crime runs red in the streets. My grudging conclusion was that the OGs (Old Gangsters) were indeed living a more authentic life.  That authentic life was also going to kill them. The whites just danced with the notion of Club Fed.

What I was not prepared for, as an author, was the strange reaction to the three sex scenes between the young black protagonist and older white woman. I had to walk away from a lifetime friendship because of my old, once-beloved friend’s reaction to the interracial sex. (She’s a Texan but still, there is NO excuse.) Reviewers expressed an uncomfortable feeling in their reactions to this love affair and a call-in to a radio station actually asked me, “What does your husband think of you writing this book?”

Let me be clear: I will write about any subject I wish for as long as I am alive and able to write. The word FICTION applies to the work of women and my mind is allowed to wander anywhere in the Universe it pleases. I will write as a man; I will write as a woman. I will shape-shift and taunt and make as many think, as many feel uncomfortable, as long as I can. I will also pass along Joy and new ideas and thoughts on ecstatic ways to live. I am a free bitch baby (thanks, Lady GaGa) and I will write as one.

I’m a woman, a lady sometimes, and I write dirty.

To order our “dirty” book, click on DIRTY.

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Ducks to Donuts. This One is a Winner

 

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Review of Hair Club Burning

by Beth Wareham and Jason Davis

 

Review by C.A. Lawrence

Has there ever been a time when we haven’t identified with Mary Ann and wanted to drive off alone somewhere, the passenger seat filled with our favorite donuts, inhaling them without remorse? HAIR CLUB BURNING had me laughing and reflecting on when I have wanted revenge on those who have wronged me so deeply I would have stayed up all night to cut off the heads of wooden ducks, too.

There is more to this book though than donuts and ducks. Mary Ann’s characterization resonates as more than just a wife who has been ignored or taken for granted in her marriage. She is representative of so many women who have, in essence, not been allowed to express their feelings or emotions. They’ve had to set their identities aside for too long. And then there’s Jay, a man who has also been trapped into an expectation of what he is supposed to be. Anger simmers steadily underneath both of them.

This dynamic between the two of them, along with the comedic banter and scenes provides such a rich experience for the reader. HAIR CLUB BURNING would be such a great asset to book clubs in order to create opportunities for dialogue. Ultimately, all of us — regardless of race — are just one last nerve away from a dozen donuts and driving off somewhere to eat our feelings.

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MY COLLEGE ROOMMATE -MY BODY GUARD

My College Roommate — My Body Guard: A Story and Review of My College Roommate’s New Novel, HAIR CLUB BURNING an Interracial Comedy

GUEST BLOGGER: Lisa Shanahan, “Coffeelicious”

 

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Come for the wisecracks and the sex scenes. Stay for the message.

The funniest woman I’ve ever known is my college roommate, Beth Wareham. Her new book with co-author, Jason Davis, about a housewife from Westchester County and a gangbanger from Harlem getting it on in hilarious circumstances, is a beautiful thing, y’all.

Another beautiful thing? The real-life story of Beth and me.
I was one angry young woman by the time I met Beth my senior year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. I’d arrived freshman year a sheltered, naïve, seventeen-year-old from an all-girls high school with a progressive bent.

Y’all see, society on the Vanderbilt campus in the late seventies didn’t work the way my Sunday School teachers at East Ridge Baptist Christ in East Ridge, Tennessee, told me all my life that they did, as in the song that goes: “Jesus Loves the Little Children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow. Black and white. They are precious in his sight. “Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Jesus may love them, but in college, I learned that people do not love all the little children. A codified social system based on the Greek letters of the alphabet stacked everybody up in fraternities and sororities against one another according to gender, race, and creed. And that’s for starters. There were other markers for dress, wealth, and social standing. The Greek system that dominated social life at Vandy, which was accepted as the way things were, awakened this little believer, who had almost zero prior knowledge of sororities and fraternities, to the injustices in the world.

By senior year, heartbroken and pissed off at the world, I was living in a single in the stoner dorm, the result of two life-altering decisions I made junior year.

Number one, I’d deactivated from my “exclusive” sorority following a year of acting out after an officer told me my friend, who was rushing sophomore year, couldn’t join our sorority because she was Jewish and wouldn’t represent our Christian ideals. Angry, aghast, shocked that this officer had gotten an entirely different message than I had out of Sunday School. I never participated in the sorority at the level they required again. After a year of cutting meetings, of not caring, they asked me to leave. I’m still ashamed of myself for not quitting that day I found out what all my former sorority represented, for acting out childishly instead of protesting and demanding answers.

Number two, my pivotal junior year, I switched majors from Molecular Biology, from being a pre-med, to English, but that’s a long-form story for another day.

Thus, long story short, I wound up alone, in a single, in the stoner dorm senior year — gladly rid of my sorority status, but bittersweet about leaving my group of pre-med grinds.

That fall John Lennon was shot. I was eating next to nothing after a nasty breakup with my long-time, on-again/off-again boyfriend over my summer romance in London with an Irish boy. I was listening to the Steve Winwood album Arc of a Diver over and over. I visited my high school boyfriend in Chapel Hill in a lame, failed attempt to recapture my past. I wrote an emo-style paper for an independent study on e. e. cummings that my professor called “oddly elliptical.” A cute frat boy, one with a mind and a heart, in my Medieval Literature, class came to visit me in my single, but only wanted help with his homework.

Right before Christmas, a friend and former roommate — bless her — invited me to live in her suite with five other girls the next semester. I’d be in a double with a girl I’d never met. “Yes, please,” I’d said, afraid that I was living in an unhealthy way, knowing I had to stop ruminating on my lost pre-med status, my nasty break-up, my lost Irish boy, the stigma of having de-activated from my sorority and take on the motherf’ing world that did not love all the little children. I was a privileged person — a young, educated white woman from a supportive family that’d risen in the world by starting a business. Moaning and moping anymore about my “aloneness,” I felt, would’ve been ridiculous.

Enter my new roommate. Beth Wareham. A six-foot-tall Texan outfitted with a gorgeous tan, a mane of blond hair, and a sharp-shooting wit that mowed down frat boys within a hundred yards.

That last semester at Vanderbilt, I still felt the sting of being a persona non grata in my former circles, since I’d lost my labels, since I didn’t dress to conform in preppy pink and green, since the whole scene pissed me off, but I have to hand it to Wareham. That girl was my tonic — this little nonconformist’s bodyguard, the first badass I ever knew. With her, screw ’em, I was back to walking the brick byways of Vandy with impunity. Y’all see, Beth was her own woman, had never pledged a sorority, was solely the product of her convictions; and I was proud to be her new roommate and friend.

We could’ve fit in if we’d wanted to, but we didn’t want to. We didn’t want to conform when so many others didn’t even have the choice.

After graduating, I moved to Boston to work in publishing, an idea that’d germinated during my hiatus in the stoner dorm. Beth joined me for a year, but then moved on, on her own journey, ending up in Manhattan in publishing, where she lives today with her husband, a former music critic for The New York Times.

For the past decade Beth and her co-writer Jason Smith — a Blood, O.G., as in the gang in Harlem and the Bronx, now a writer and father who mentors at-risk youth — have been friends. Beth says she and Jason cause a bit of a stir out together in New York. Feeling the camaraderie, the empowerment I’d felt with her, I imagine them striding the concrete canyons of Manhattan — friends, blood brothers — slaying the haters.

In Beth and Jason’s stylishly hilarious new book, Hair Club Burning: An Interracial Comedy, Marianne — a Westchester County real housewife — takes down her low-down, no-account, bastard-of-a-husband with the help of Jay — a gangbanger from Harlem — who perhaps needs Marianne as much as she needs him. A match made in heaven, Marianne and Jay burn the f’ing house down. Y’all will be amused, delighted, shocked, enthralled in the company of these funny-as-shit badasses, who discover love is, indeed, color-blind.

Come for the wisecracks and the sex scenes. Stay for the message.

“Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow. Black and white. They are precious in his sight.”

7.jpgAmen.

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COMEDY AND RACISM

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Excerpt from HAIR CLUB BURNING by Beth Wareham and Jason Davis

“That went well,” Rachel Rosenthalerheim said as Mary Ann drove her and Archie back to the train station.

“I thought it best to stop where we were,” Arch reported.

“Good call, Arch,” Rachel said as Mary Ann sat next to her, staring at the road ahead through the steering wheel, tears without beginning, end or sound on her face.

Rachel and Arch continued to talk back and forth as if she wasn’t there. She made it through two more stoplights before pulling into the parking lot of One World Liquors.

No one would mistake it for a holy spot but it’s where Mary Ann let rip her confession: “I beg both your forgiveness. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I used to have control.”

 

“It’s called grief, Mary Ann,” Rachel Rosenthalerheim said.

“It’s beyond that. My rage is so complete that when I saw him, it had nowhere to go. I actually think about murdering him when I’m not thinking of fucking this black guy. That’s the only two thoughts I seem to have.”

As the words ‘fucking this black guy” filled out the interior of the car, a strange smell floated about. Mary Ann now added sound to her tears.

After several moments, Rachel spoke first, “in the city, interracial couples are becoming the norm. Many people on the subway, well, it is impossible to determine the color of their parents by looking at them. I myself have dated many men of color in my life: They are just attracted to me for some reason. Neither Arch nor I are surprised by your words.”

“Speak for yourself, Rachel. You have a shelf butt and more black man have dug you than all the trenches in Georgia. As you can see,” Arch turned to address the back of Mary Ann’s head,  I come from people who feel strongly about purity.”

“That’s what Hitler said,” Rachel said. “With that kind of white bullshit….”

“PLEASE. I can’t take it,” Mary Ann sobbed out. “You don’t think it feels weird to me to lust for the one thing my Mamma and Daddy taught me was the low-est form of lust a women could have?”

 

“You were raised by racists?” Rachel whispered. “No! They weren’t racists!” Mary Ann yelled. “They weren’t racists!” Mary Ann continued yelling. “They were an insurance salesman and a school teacher who told me to never go to the Negro part of town.”

“Awk! Did you say ‘negro?” Arch yelled from the backseat. “Even I wouldn’t do that and I’m Hitler, apparently.”

“Look who is falling into an outdated vernacular,” Rachel said, staring at Mary Ann.

“Did you say ‘vernacular’ to me?” Mary Ann asked. “Who DOES THAT in the middle of an argument?”

“A lawyer with Vegas hair and a huge rear end, apparently” Arch said.

“Oh, so now my hair is on trial rather than my sex life,” yelled Rachel Rosenthalerheim.

“How did we get on hair?” Mary Ann asked, looking up and sniffing.

“Stupid discussion,” Rachel’s car voice had returned. “Look, I’m gonna pop in here so I’ll have my wine without having to go back out when I get to the city.”

“Good idea,” Arch agreed. “I’ll join you. I love a good blended scotch, a deeply unpopular idea among some of my clients. But there you have it. I’m the man of the people, I guess…”

Mary Ann was dumbfounded. She had just confessed to her legal team her most hidden, lurid thoughts and they had ended up gleefully shopping for cheap liquor just outside New York City.

 

The association Mary Ann didn’t quite make inside her mind that day was that the ‘negro part of town’ was now the ‘hood, and she was beginning to benefit from its ways.

******************************************************************

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A SEXCERPT FROM HAIR CLUB BURNING

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FROM HAIR CLUB BURNING

Ahead of her was an average-issue apartment building door, dividing two astonishing sights. To the left was a plate glass window with a brightly lit living room spread open to the night. On the right was a brightly lit bedroom spread open to the night. In each room, a man, a man who was black, a man who was black and young, a man who was black and young and very muscular, was in some stage of undress.

Her jaw went slack. She glanced around to see if anyone was watching, looked down, then turned back to the house.

She was in the dark and far enough away from the front door for either man to see her. Dashaun was in the living room to the left, bent over and hopping around on one leg while trying to get the other into his clean pants. His dick seemed to brush the floor with each jump. She gasped. It seemed so long and she saw pink at the tip. Fairly bright pink too. It hung from a finely de- fined line of muscle that ran hip to hip, almost like a Greek statue. Jair’s pubic area flashed in her mind like PTSD, a white looking pouch stretched downward by unaroused, nubby dick: It was more inverted, jiggly mound than anything.

Once Dashaun’s pants were on, he turned his back to the window and began to pull the t- shirt over his head. His traps and delts stretched out and every tiny muscle on his back popped and moved. The white of the t-shirt on his latte-colored, heavily roped arms made her—and any other woman who ever saw them—long to be rocked to sleep after a good hard fucking.

 

He put on the red shirt and flipped his long dreads back and arranged them into a thick ponytail. A clean- er pair of red Chuck Taylor high tops finished the look: He was ready for The Banker and moved out of the room.

In the other window to the right of the door, a second personal porno was streaming for Mary Ann. It was Jay, completely naked, and combing his hair back into the low ponytail he favored. She could see his hands working and the flash of his diamond rings. His back arched into a high ass, almost like an adolescent.

 

His skin was deep black, his scars shining like strips of moonlight across his skin.His torso came down to the V she had buried her nose in at Starbucks, but now she could see every articulated muscle. He turned and bent and everything was working in his back; there was simply no fat to cover it. He came upright and turned and then she saw it.

Jay’s cock was not only long, it was fat, like those pepper grinders they always point at you in restaurants. It moved in the opposite direction he moved, suggesting he was moving fast or it was too heavy to make the turn with him. He bent forward to put his leg in his pants and it too almost brushed the floor. His perfect round high ass was up in the air and she felt a kind of “whoosh” pass through her entire being.

Mary Ann had no words for what she was seeing, feeling. It was if she had to describe the blue of an iceberg, a huge cat contracting in long yellow grass, gold shining up through mud, birth. These male images were hitting her so deep in her gut she had no words. She felt the giant red monkey butt swell and envelope her. She knew she was going down.

Men could look like this? Men weren’t nubby and pink? She was shocked, felt strange and somehow humbled. After all, she’d been fighting to save a marriage to old pink tits and look at the riches laid before her. She wasn’t sure Jay’s penis would fit but she figured if a kid had come out, they should give it a whirl. She could do this and it would change her. Forever.

 

****

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3 Simple Ways to Choose a Book

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All writers and editors and publishers are people who read and read a lot. I am no exception. In my constant need for comparative titles, new ideas, before-bed reading and the like, I spend a lot of money on books each month.  I finally put myself on a “book budget” and it was harder to stick to than buying clothes, eating out and likker.

Right now, the world feels like a pile of books. Millions dance around on the templates of amazon and landing pages of New York publishing – God love them – who keeps publishing into a void of fewer readers, no retailers, and a press so locked into election coverage,  only a political book can make it on air or even have a chance at a mention in articles and blogs.

So how is a reader to navigate this black hole? With three simple ideas:

  1. Read all the descriptive material on amazon or Barnes and Noble or wherever you are buying the book. How is the writing on the exterior? Since all writers – even those with large publishing companies – now write just about everything on the book, it gives you a sense of their style and what they think the book is about.
  2. Do not pay $30 for a hardcover. You are paying for the office rent of the publisher and usually an overly large advance to the writer.  (My favorite was Mrs. Clinton’s high priced autobiography that name-dropped for hundreds of pages. She’s lucky I’m still voting for her name-dropping ass.) Books simply aren’t that expensive to make.  (Publishers publish hardcovers because the New York Times, New Yorker, et al still will not accept a paperback for review. Another sad circumstance.) Invest in a kindle as books are considerably less pricey in that form. You should now, with books, adopt the old adage NEVER PAY RETAIL.
  3. Don’t be a lemming. In book publishing, everyone seems to be reading and reviewing the same book at the same moment: You Before Me, The Fault is in Our Stars, Gone, Girl and on and on. Get out of the herd and start exploring the rising number of Indies and their ground-breaking books that are winning awards worldwide. This is where the next great voice will probably rise from….and you’ll be there to hear it.

You are in the middle of a revolution and renaissance in the art of writing and distributing words. Use it to your advantage. The prices are low, the world complex, and more information is going to make you smarter, faster, and stronger than virtually any activity on Earth.

It’s your brain. Feed it and grow strong.

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BLOODS TO INK

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While working at a medium-sized publisher, I published a book called The War of the Bloods in My Veins by Dashaun Morris and Jason Davis.  My bosses were not pleased at my authors’ blackness that I was bringing into their temple of arts and letters.  (See Publishers Weekly hard-hitting expose – and yes, my words are ironic – entitled something like “Why is Publishing So White?” Well, It’s white because the white people in charge like it that way.)

My bosses were also not pleased because these were young black gang members and THEY would do the writing. No Yalie would be looking and studying them from afar; the voices would be raw, rising from the street. The point of view would be real, the authors had walked the walk through the violence and horror. They had generated a fair amount themselves.

This, I felt, was the way for the book to have real meaning for others. To create understanding. Even perhaps a little empathy. Anything else, at least to me, was more academic masturbation. It’s easy to feel less fear about a group of people if you categorize them like, say, insects or bacteria strains.

I didn’t understand then that we would all become friends; I would see both young men end of their gang-banging careers. They are now both deeply engaged in raising children, working, and creating. They write a lot about what happened, what they did, what they can’t undo.

We can call many things a “gang.” Banks and corporations are now thought of as “gangs” by many Americans (I like cabal or cartel better). Wars are simply one large gang against the other. Every continent with people has them. Asia and North Africa just gave the world’s gang culture a doozy in ISIS.

Before you read my interview later in the week with my co-author Jason Davis,  you may want to check out the book and/or the newest book trailer.

It’s time we see what this gang thing is really all about. And change it, just like Jay.

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