Shannon Hale

Life is short, so live extra lives. Read books.

18,824 notes

claudiaboleyn:

lifeofawannabehobbit:

OK. So Children’s Place were selling Guardians of the Galaxy t-shirts for boys… and left Gamora out of the ugly-ass t-shirt design because she’s a female character and this “shirt in particular is a boy’s shirt.”

THIS. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, PEOPLE.

(via: http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2014/08/guardians-of-the-galaxy-t-shirt-leaves-off-gamora/)

We all know that’s bull because the girls’ shirts are always covered in male characters. Apparently having a female character on merchandise would accidentally give young girls and women the false impression that they matter too. And we can’t have that, now, can we? 

(Source: captain-ameriadoc-brandybucky, via yahighway)

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kadeejo asked: How do you come up with such GREAT ideas for your books? I'm a pretty big fan. I've read Princess Academy probably like six times, Austenland two or three, The Books of Bayern, all that jazz, and HOW do you DO it? I would LOVE to write, but the ideas I have are only about half there. How do you make a plot, how do you even do any of that????

I always wanted to be a writer. But I remember when I was younger being worried that I could never have enough ideas. Now I have to fight them off with a stick. The longer I live, the more books I read, people I meet, experiences I have, stories I write, the more ideas I have. Please be patient with yourself. Being a writer isn’t just about having ideas. It’s about writing. Practice your instrument before composing a symphony.

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inloversmeeting asked: it is not right you say that the idea that it's natural for boys to violate unconscious girls is unfair to "wonderful, sane, and respectful" men. using the word "sane" this way just contributes to the widespread idea that people who commit violent crimes do so because they are mentally ill, and throws actually mentally ill people (who are more likely to be victims than perpetrators) under the bus.

You’re absolutely right. Definitely the wrong word choice. I hadn’t been thinking of the literal definition of the word, but it’s easily read that way so I should have chosen another. Thank you.

[in response to this post]

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Let’s talk about [bleep]

[trigger warning]

[for mature readers, please get your parent or guardian’s approval to read if you’re under 14]

Some recent events prompted me to look back on last year’s discussions about rape culture and consent, and a followup post. Several people commented anonymously about a related matter that I think is really important. I’m going to repost some of those comments here. Some cultures and religions advocate for celilbacy* before marriage. I completely respect and support those who make that choice, but there is the misconseption that celibacy=silence, that the decision to not have sex outside of marriage means one cannot even talk about sex outside of marriage. And often the taboo of communicating about sex extends into a marriage. This silence leads to misinformation, misunderstanding, and a sometimes crippling separation between spouses.

I personally want to advocate for parents having long, varied, open conversations with their children, both sons and daughters, about sex, consent, what it’s about, how to communicate, how to listen to your partner, how sex is about the pleasure of your partner and when your partner is enjoying it, your own pleasure increases. And I’d also like to advocate for couples who are having problems to please open up that line of communication. Please go see a counselor together. It’s not too late. There should be no stigma about seeing a marriage counselor. Marriage is weird! How on earth can two people maintain that close of a relationship over years and years when both are changing? We all need some outside, non-judgemental help sometimes.

Someone’s Wife:

I want to respond to Lizzie’s comment that there are women who wouldn’t want to have sex EVER if they had to give their consent enthusiastically before they did it.

My big question is, why don’t those women want to have sex? Is it because women innately don’t like sex and men innately do like it? I don’t think so, because in other cultures, trends are different. In some cultures, and I’m especially thinking of some things I learned about from the Renaissance, women are seen as the sexual predators and men as the sex that has to protect themselves from the other sex’s advances.

Here’s my story. When I first got married, I gave my consent willingly AND enthusiastically in the beginning. But over time, my husband started to pressure me to do it when I didn’t want to, to the point that I actually felt like I was being raped at times, but I told myself I was being crazy or too sensitive because I never really told him NO, so it couldn’t be rape, right?

But over time, as that happened more and more, my enthusiasm for the whole thing really waned. Now, I only do it when I’m feeling really guilty because it’s been a long time, but I’m never enthusiastic about it.

I can’t say for sure what would have happened if my husband had accepted that I didn’t want to do it /all the time/ and not pressured me back in the beginning, but I suspect that we never would have gotten to this point if he had done what the boy in Mary’s story did - if he had cared as much about my feelings as he did his own and not pressured me.

I think he was afraid that if he didn’t pressure me, I’d never want to do it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wanted to do it, I just wanted to feel like I mattered when we were doing it.

But the culture we’re in right now shaped the way my husband and I related to each other from the beginning. It says that if you don’t have sex whenever your husband wants it, he’s going to find it somewhere else. A counselor even told my husband that if I didn’t have sex with him whenever he wanted it, or at least twice a week, he would be a lot more susceptible to having an affair or looking at pornography. What kind of counselor does that? One who thinks that men have to have sex a certain number of times a week or else they just won’t be able to help acting out those desires with someone else.

How much of that is true biology, and how much is shaped by our culture? I certainly don’t know the conclusive answer to that, but I think a lot more of it is culture than we generally think it is.

Someone’s Spouse:

The reality is that there are many reasons for differences in drive, and hopeful asking by one partner is pressure to the partner who struggles with sex for one reason or another. I am approve of the contents of these posts, but my advice is different. If you have problems with sexual differences, get professional help as soon as possible! We all get embarrassed talking to doctors and counselors about something so intimate as sex between two committed individuals, but the alternatives are worse. If you experience pain during sex and repeatedly engage in unenthusiastic sex, if you don’t discuss it with your partner and seek professional aid, you will years down the road be “someone’s spouse,” and to your horror both people are scared and scarred. Resentment will build. Neither will understand why others have sex at least a few times a month, but they struggle with managing it once every six months, and when they do it is not fulfilling. So, you avoid the whole issue and are just great roommates who love each other, but somewhere deep in your hearts have some mistrust, hatred, and wounds. It all comes to a head when one person feels that they have foregone romantic love long enough (they never cheated) and decides that leaving wouldn’t be that bad. It’s unfair to both to be unable to have romantic love. And she does love him, she asks him to stay. The wounds are so deep, and they begin seeing a counselor. They can get to romantic love again, but they still feel deeply confused at times. They occasionally still avoid it, but they do so because it really isn’t that important anymore. If it happens, great. If not, that’s okay too because their focus has changed. Each is forgetting themselves and simply loving the other.

People, please go to counselors and doctors at the first signs of trouble. If it’s a doctor issue and the doctor doesn’t understand our help, change doctors. Don’t live with it. Brushing it under the rug has far reaching consequences. Same with the counselors.

Another Wife:

Someone’s Wife, that is unfortunately my story too. I was about to type it up after reading Shannon’s post, but you have done it for me. Thank you Shannon, for opening my eyes to something that on one hand I have been someone naive about (what goes on in the world, and how important it is that I must work to educate my children about it), and on the other hand something that I have dealt with for over a decade, and not really understood just how to express my feelings about.

*alert reader Quinn alerted me to alert reader Miranda’s comment on Goodreads reposting of this post, which I hadn’t seen, but is an excellent correction: “Great blog post: I would just like to point out that there is a difference between celibacy and abstinence. Celibacy is when someone decides that they are going to completely abstain from marriage and sex, forever. Abstinence, which is what I think you were meaning in the first paragraph, is restraining yourself from indulging in something, such as sex or alcohol. You cannot advocate for celibacy before marriage because celibacy involves swearing off marriage.”

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A few more voices on consent, sex, and rape

[trigger warning]

[reposted from an April 2013 blog post]

This post is continuing the discussion from the past three, and again, is intended for those 14 and up. If you are younger, please get parent/guardian permission before reading.

I have so many more thoughts and questions about this topic, but I want to step back now and highlight some of your voices before bringing this discussion to a close on my blog for now. I am so happy to hear how many of you are talking about this in your homes and classrooms. There were so many comments that impressed me and felt important and mini-conversations going on in the comments. Let me just pick a tiny few to repost.

Commentor Mary Lou Hart: “Consent really is an important part of the discussion and I don’t think it is the murky grey area it is being made out to be. I am reminded of a story from a girl friend who in high school told a boy ”Yes” to having sex. Then as it got down to the last moments she was more scared then excited, he noticed asked a second time “Are you sure you wanna do this?” and she said No. His response was to say okay and take her home. Years later she told me “He could have continued on, I wouldn’t have fought him and I wouldn’t have felt I could claim rape because I had said yes in the beginning. But the fact that he respected me enough to listen and ask made a huge impact on me. I was no longer an object with which he wanted to interact for his own pleasure. My pleasure matter too.” This is what we need to get to. Where either party can say no, at any point, and be listened to as a person and respected.”

From Megan Whalen Turner: “You said…that people commit crimes because they think they can get away with them. I wanted to add that they commit crimes because they don’t think they are *really* wrong. File sharing is a good example. People who would never, NEVER, steal a book out of a bookstore will steal an electronic copy with only a moment’s hesitation and a little defensive rationalization. They don’t really think it’s wrong, just maybe a little illegal, but not for a good reason, therefore, it’s actually okay.

"This is what rape culture tells rapists— it’s not *really* wrong.

"Sure, there are the rapists who jump out of bushes and violently assault women. Then there are the boys at Steubenville who talked about the rape, took pictures of the rape, joked about the rape and then were visibly stunned to be convicted of, you know, RAPE.

"It makes sense to be careful. It makes sense to teach our children to be careful to avoid being a victim of *any* crime. But I believe, really, really believe, that every time we publicly suggest how a woman or a girl can avoid getting raped what we do is reinforce the idea that if they *don’t* do these things then it is not *really* wrong to rape them.

"I am sick of every single variation of "Yes, but that girl shouldn’t have …"

"I understand people’s good intentions when they say that women should take self-defense classes and that girls shouldn’t get drunk at parties and that we shouldn’t walk in the dark alone. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you tell girls and women that this is "just the way it is," it means that you are making sure this is the way it will *always* be.

"It’s time we made an effort to change our focus in these conversations. I think we need to make a deliberate effort to stop talking publicly about how women can avoid rape and start talking publicly about how men can stop being rapists. After all, we have already heard for several thousand years how women can avoid rape. I’m not worried about women not getting the message."

From a teacher who emailed me privately.

"It is difficult to not consider my own experiences when reading your thoughts on the subject. The abuse I suffered in my youth has been a relentless wound that has followed me well into my adult life. Funny how quiet, yet persistent it can be. I was in my 30’s before I could fully understand my "history". I held onto shame and a sense of culpability for decades. I had assumed that the fact that I was not beaten or threatened made me an accomplice. While the adult mind might understand that shock and horror can be paralyzing, when you are raised in a culture that tells you that your body is a temple and you should go to your death fighting for its virtue, it is hard to reconcile any delay in one’s response to its violation.

"It did not help that I was a child growing up in a HIGHLY conservative home. I was told it was not okay to "talk back" to grown ups. No one ever gave a scenario where it might be okay to say "no" to one. Sex was a taboo subject, outside of the "school maturation program". Funny how that taboo led to every single one of my sisters suffering from one form of abuse or another. I share this with you to say that if I had read a blog like yours when I was in my youth, I would have been given the language to see my situation a little differently. Instead, it took a lot of therapy, money and "letting go" to come to the conclusion you give your readers.

"As I have worked to come to terms with my own history, I have often looked into the eyes of young  women in my class and found an all too familiar shame reflected back. Your conversation is necessary. It is vital to the health of the every 1 in 4 women out there who walk around carrying an unnecessary sense of responsibility for something in which they did no wrong."

I think it’s vital that we listen to the stories of rape survivors (boys and girls, men and women). Until all of us understand how devastating rape can be on an entire life, we might not be motivated enough to enact our small part in helping to eliminate rape culture.

One commentor linked to this amazing post, a mother writing an open letter to her two sons about sex, consent, and rape. I think it’s a wonderful model—this is how clear we need to be, both in the home and in schools. I want to add that for those parents who believe that sex is for marriage alone, that is easily added to this same discussion. I believe that any person who chooses to wait until marriage to have sex should still have the exact same understanding of what sex really is (and should be), and what rape and consent are.

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Let’s talk about consent

[trigger warning]

[reposted from an April 2013 blog post]

I was surprised and bit disheartened by how many of you objected to the definition of consent, as first offered by, Dianne E Anderson: “Consent is an enthusiastic, unequivocal yes.”

Chuck says, “Consent must be unequivocal it does NOT need enthusiastic…If she implicitly and explicitly makes clear that she’s willing to have sex it’s not rape no matter how unenthusiastic she may be.” Chuck, this is not the legal definition of consent. It’s an extremely wise definition that we’d all be better off to live by and the definition I believe we should be teaching to our children. Wouldn’t you rather that your partner was enthusiastic? Why would you want to proceed if she/he wasn’t? (Also, probably not a great pickup line: “Hey baby, want to have some willing but unenthusiastic sex?”)

What are we worried about here? Yes is such a wonderful word! Don’t we want to hear that from our partner? Yes! Yes please. Don’t we want to be sure that our partner is as excited and willing as we are? Don’t we want there to be no doubt? Just imagine a world where all those entitled high school football players had parents who taught them “Consent is an enthusiastic, unequivocal yes.” Imagine those frat boys one commentor mentioned, sitting on their porch chanting about raping women—if they instead had been repeatedly and lovingly taught that “Consent is an enthusiastic, unequivocal yes.” Wouldn’t everyone be better off embracing this ideal? Why fight this brilliant idea when there are so many more important things to fight? Like, say, rape?

john doe asks, “What if the two parties disagree on what it was?…do you need to get consent in writing now?”

Yes, do that. If you have to ask, then yes, yes, yes. Sounds like you’re walking a line, and one that can be horrifically devastatingly life changing and even life ending for many a victim. If you’re not sure if she’s consenting, then ask her to sign a consent form, a napkin, your belly—whatever. And then her consent (or non-consent) will be perfectly clear. You’ll protect yourself as well as your partner. Do that. Please.

Let’s err on the side of clarity, can we? When we have girls and women regularly taking their own lives to escape the horrors of a post-rape life, then clarity is the least we can offer.

Are we worried that enthusiastic consent is too hard to get? Say a woman says, not tonight, honey. And he gets to kissing her neck and murmuring sweet things and she changes her mind and is all in. Great!
Or say a woman says, not tonight, honey, and he tries his usual moves and she’s not feeling it and still would really rather not. What happens next is very telling about how healthy their relationship is and what kind of a man he is. If she really doesn’t want to, and he doesn’t care because he does, then that’s abuse. That’s unhealthy. And if that sounds like your relationship, you both should get counseling. I mean that kindly and sincerely. Counseling could really help. When sex is more about the pleasure of the other than about your own, then your pleasure increases. That should be the goal. That’s when it’s the best.

Any other worries about a clear consent? That a partner might reluctantly say yes and so you decide it wasn’t enthusiastic enough and don’t go through with it? Then you did the right thing. You protected them, you protected yourself.

Are you worried about the slippery slope? (full disclosure: I don’t believe the slippery slope argument is valid in any discussion. I believe it’s false rhetoric.) But let’s explore. Is the worry that if a guy wants to has sex and doesn’t hear a clear an enthusiastic yes but goes through it anyway, then she might call rape on him?

Well, 1st, depending on how it happened, it might very well be rape.
And, 2nd, if you’re okay having sex with someone who really doesn’t want to do that with you, then counseling is a good idea. Again, I mean that kindly and sincerely. Sometimes survivors of rape and abuse have a hard time enjoying sex again, and that’s something normal that a partner needs to know and respect, and counseling together is an excellent idea. But if that’s not the case and you just enjoy having sex with someone who isn’t enjoying it with you, then STOP IT AND GET HELP.
And, 3rd, if you’re choosing to sleep with someone who you’re worried might falsely call rape on you, then it’d be a good idea to choose not to sleep with them. Foregoing sex in this instance would be a wiser, better, happier choice for all.

Sex is a physical communication, but it needs to be proceeded by a verbal communication to make sure it means the same to both partners. We need to talk. When sex is a taboo topic, abuse and rape is more rampant. When we’re willing to talk about it, understand how it should be, communicate with our partners, we’re striking a huge blow to rape culture and creating healthier relationships for ourselves.

In order to end rape culture, we all need to be on board. Men and women. Girls and boys. Everyone. We have to care deeply about stopping this epidemic and protecting our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, ourselves. We have to be clear. What is rape. What is sex. What is consent. I’m honored to be talking about it with you here. But what I really hope is that these thoughts might spark the conversations that really matter: the ones between parents and kids, between partners, in families and among friends. The more we talk and think about it, the more aware we become, and awareness always proceeds significant change.

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Let’s talk about rape culture

[trigger warning]

[reposted from an April 2013 blog post]

I want to talk about something disturbing, and I hope you’ll bear with me. If you’re under 14, please skip reading this post unless your parent/guardian okays it. If what you read troubles you, please find someone mature who you trust to talk to about it. I’m not an expert on what I’m talking about here. I am a woman and a parent and am speaking from my own observations.

On Saturday, I joined a conversation on twitter about rape culture and wanted to continue that conversation here. All of us know rape=bad. All of us know someone(s) who have been raped (even if we’re not aware of it) and/or been raped ourselves. It’s horrifyingly common. But until reading about the events in Steubenville, Saratoga, Penn State, Nova Scotia, and Torrington, I hadn’t realized just how wide spread rape culture is in our communities. (and I realize, it’s far, far worse in many other parts of the world)

Rape culture is an environment that is conducive to rape.

Most potential criminals will not commit a crime unless they believe they can get away with it. This is just natural. People have a strong sense of self preservation. We are children sometimes—we want what we want and we want it now. But as we get older we’ve been conditioned by society to withstand impulses that we know are going to get us into serious trouble. Some microcosms of society are more lenient to particular crimes than others.

Let’s look at the American South in much of the last century. Lynching was obviously against the law, and yet in that post-slavery and pre-civil rights era, terrible acts of racism were committed because the perpetrators believed (rightly in most cases) that they could get away with it. People of color were murdered in front of witnesses who never testified. Criminals bragged about their acts, but they were never arrested. Or if they were, the all male/all white jury didn’t convict.

Racism still exists, but how common are lynchings today? That culture has been squashed through education, changes in generations, and a more fearless justice system. Though there may be people just as hateful toward others as there were then, they no longer believe they can get away with lynchings (and rightly so), and so they no longer commit those crimes.

What we have broadly in America (and much much more severely in other parts of the world) is a rape culture. Rapists believe (often rightly) that in certain circumstances they can get away with sexually assaulting someone.

When a well-dressed, employed, non-prostitute, non-drug addict, non-immigrant woman gets violently raped by a stranger in a dark alley and immediately gets medical attention, there’s no question it’s rape. Everyone thinks it’s horrible. It’s not her fault. The law and society are on her side. It may be hard to catch the rapist, the trial could be a nightmare, the woman will fight just to survive in the aftermath, but no one questions the word “rape.”

But change the details of the victim and the rapist, and rape culture allows a horrible act some leniency. Here’s some of the points from the twitter conversation:

Rape culture asserts that when a guy is cute and popular he couldn’t possibly be a rapist because any girl he chooses is lucky to be chosen.

Rape culture asserts that accused rapists are innocent till proven guilty (as they should be) but sometimes denies rape accusers the same courtesy. A rape accuser is commonly called a “slut” and “whore.” This happens even if the rape occurred in front of witnesses, while she was unconscious, when she repeatedly said no. Recently two rape accusers committed suicide after being bullied for speaking up.

Rape culture thrives in places where it’s forbidden to talk about sex. This is a big, big topic and one I want to tackle in its own post. I hope you’ll join me back for that discussion and that we can keep it respectful and open-minded.

Rape culture is encouraged by the idea that males are characters of choice and action and females are present to please the males. While boys and men are frequently the victims of rape, the vast majority of those targeted are women and girls, so I think it’s important to look at how we allow girls and women to be portrayed in stories and media, and ways our culture is encouraging that attitude. The attitude that when a girl is passed out a party, a group of boys would see no problem taking advantage of her any way they want. Her purpose is to please them. She is not a human being to them. The idea that it’s somehow the girl’s fault, that if a girl is passed out it’s only natural for boys to undress and assault her, is so grotesque and not to mention untrue and unfair to the majority of wonderful, sane, respectful men and boys in the world.

Rape culture says, “but how could it be rape if she was married to him?” Again, that idea that a woman has no free will of her own. She belongs to her husband or boyfriend or any man who wants to use her as he will. So strange that anyone can still think that way! And yet many do.

Rape culture praises a woman’s appearance and sexual attractiveness above any other quality.

Rape culture thrives in communities where protecting the public image is more important than anyone’s life.

Rape culture insists males can’t be rape victims because of course males always want sex under any circumstance.

Rape culture is most effective when people believe there’s no such thing as rape culture. When it’s invisible, when we think “that’s just how things are” instead of realizing that we’ve helped create these artifical rules.

Rape is not a woman’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem. And as the news has shown us, the villains in rape aren’t just the male rapists. The problem is created by everyone who stands by and doesn’t speak, who lets things occur. Who doesn’t try to stop a rape, as in the Penn State atrocities, and then go immediately to the police (real police, not just campus police). Who aren’t willing to testify as a witness. Who forward photos and videos of a rape to other students instead of showing them to the police and NO ONE ELSE. Who make jokes about rape. Who whisper about a rape accuser, call her a slut, victimize her all over again on social media. Who help create the kind of culture where potential rapists feel safe doing whatever they want. Because they know they can get away with it.

It’s up to all of us to make sure they don’t. And the very first step we need to take is simply to talk about it. So let’s talk.

62 notes

Hug a librarian today

Thanks for your comments on the last post. The school district that banned my books also got rid of all their K-8 librarians. I see a correlation. I can’t express enough how important librarians are. I’ve visited about 200 schools to do assemblies and writing workshops. Within a minute of meeting the librarian, I know exactly how the event will go. If the kids will be engaged, excited, and leave the assembly eager to go read a book, or if they’ll half-ignore me as some other adult blabbing about nothing. The relationship the librarians has with the kids and the prep they do prior to the assembly is 50% of how it goes.

The librarian is the heart of the school, the center of literacy. I don’t mean a book-checker-outer. I mean a Librarian. There are many library aides that are extraordinary and go above and beyond, but in my experience a fulltime, MLS-trained librarian is consistently phenomenal. They know books. They curate a library perfect for their school’s population. They booktalk and get kids excited about reading. They match the right books to the right kids, which is the #1 key in turning a “non-reader” into a Reader. They know the school’s curriculum and work with teachers to integrate the right books with what they’re teaching. They organize literacy events.

Research shows: Kids who are confident readers have a chance to excel in any subject they face. Kids who aren’t confident readers will struggle in most subjects. Teachers and parents don’t have to be alone in this mission to engage kids with books. Again, librarians make all the difference.

Hug your librarian today! Do you have a fulltime librarian in your school? Write a note to the superintendent or district execs thanking them for valuing librarians! If you don’t, maybe write a note expressing why you think it’s important. They’re often looking at numbers. If they don’t understand the added value a Librarian brings, they’ll just think, “Why hire a librarian with a master’s degree to just check out books? We can get someone for that on minimum wage.”

I could hire a lot of people to do something for minimum wage rather than a professional: like add a new electrical outlet in our garage, tile our bathroom floor, do my taxes, fix my car, set a broken bone, cut my hair. When something matters, when we want it done right the first time, when we value it, we get a professional. When we value children and literacy, we make an effort to staff our schools with professional librarians.

6,688 notes

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala
From the Washington Post, article here.
GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:
Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.
I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”
Dwayne McDuffie
Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.
I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.
In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.
The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).
By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.
Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.
In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.
Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities. After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.
We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.
And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.
Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala

From the Washington Post, article here.

GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:

Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.

I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”

Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.

I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.

In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.

The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).

By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.

All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”

Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.

Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.

In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.

Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.

We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.

But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.

This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.

I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.

We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.

Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.

Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.

And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.

Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

65 notes

My twin 3yos return from preschool.

"We did art today!"

"Yes, we learned about positive space and negative space."

Me: “Really?” I point to a picture. “What part is the negative space?”

My 3yo correctly shows me. Then she points to the gap between her front teeth. “Negative space!”

Me: “Yeah!”

"Mama, I want to whisper something in your ear." She leans in. "Henri Matisse."

Me: “Henri Matisse?”

"Yep. He painted pictures. Then he went to a doctor and he died."

"Yeah, he’s dead now."

She makes up a game where when she says “positive space” we kiss and when she says “negative space” we hug. I would like to keep playing this game forever, please.