Monday, June 27, 2011

Novelist Tananarive Due on caring for her mother

Novelist Tananarive Due, (My Soul to Keep; The Between), offered a personal narrative on about this challenging season in her life which she faces with her sisters and father, taking care of her ailing mother, Patricia Stephens Due.  A pioneering civil rights activists, Patricia Due led what became the first "jail-in" of the student protest movement at FAMU.  Her battle against the institutionalized racism on campus prefigures her current battle with another formidable opponent, cancer. 
My sister and I are experiencing a similar season, caring for our mother who suffered a massive stroke in January of this year. In fact, many friends and colleagues these days tell us stories about the onset of their parents' sudden sickness. We talk about the terrible ailments that sadly have debilitated the strong men and women they were once. We only hint at how the sicknesses wreak havoc on us, though. How these ailments upset the memory of our parents' physical prowess, which is one way I have known my mother, as an imposing kinetic force from my childhood that looms large in my adult imagination. We only tiptoe to the edge of a discussion that would admit the upheaval of our  emotional geography, the instinctive mapping of the parent-child relationship that inverts when the child must care for the parents' at the most basic level of human need. The inversion of the parent-child relationship for me is an emotional shock. I don't know if that is because the inverted child-as-parent is a reversal of habitual order or a progression of the universal and natural order of our human experience. 
Wonder if anyone is currently writing about or reading about these experiences?

Behind Mom's dark glasses: A civil rights leader's biggest fight
By Tananarive Due, Special to CNN
June 25, 2011 2:51 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Days ago, I sat at my mother's bedside and helped her hold a copy of our 2003 memoir, "Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights."

The cover pictures her leading a protest march when she was 20 years old.

"That's you," I said, pointing out her face, determined and stoic behind dark sunglasses.
Tananarive Due, left, her father, mother and sisters-[Due Family]    

"I remember this," Mom said, and smiled.

These days, I do not take my mother's memory for granted.

My mother, Patricia Stephens Due, now 71, has thyroid cancer. Although thyroid cancer is considered highly treatable, by the time Mom's disease was diagnosed in the fall of 2009, the cancer had spread throughout her body, including her spine, which was fractured by the tumors. She was in bed for months.

In sickness, Mom possesses the same fighting spirit she's had since she defied Jim Crow to spend 49 days in a Florida jail in 1960 for a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter.

"I've been to jail; I can do this," she told me from her hospital bed last year.

She did rise like a phoenix to reclaim her life a piece at a time. A year later, this past February, she was able to drive from Tallahassee to Gainesville, about 150 miles, to be a featured speaker at the University of Florida with my father, civil rights attorney John Due, where she spoke passionately about civil rights for two hours.

. . .

Her voice -- a rich, textured contralto often compared to Maya Angelou's -- has inspired people far beyond her family.

At 15, she convinced high school classmates in Belle Glade, Florida, to sign a petition to try to fire their principal. When she was 19, she and her sister, Priscilla Stephens Kruize, organized a chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Mom, Aunt Priscilla and three other students spent 49 days in jail rather than pay a fine -- the nation's first jail-in in the student sit-in movement.

She and the other jailed FAMU students received a telegram from the Rev. Martin Luther King applauding their stand. Baseball great Jackie Robinson published her letter from jail in his column in the New York Post and sent the students diaries to record their experiences.

The one thing Mom always wanted to do was tell the story, forever her generation's griot, so young people would understand that ordinary people could do extraordinary things.

This year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent Mom a letter on June 9 saying that her jail-in "was a significant moment in our country's history and your actions serve as an incredible inspiration still today."

Tallahassee Mayor John R. Marks III declared May 11 "Patricia Stephens Due Day" and visited her hospital bedside to personally read the proclamation, holding her hand. She listened silently with tears in her eyes.

"If we were treated like second-class citizens, it was like we were already dead," Mom often said, explaining her activism despite the dangers.

Read Tananarive Due's full article, "Behind Mom's dark glasses: A civil rights leader's biggest fight," @  

Monday, June 13, 2011

White Readers Meet Black Authors: Review of The New Jim Crow

Novelist and blogger Carleen Brice recently published Cheri Paris Edwards' review of the book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander's eye-opening book on the impact of America's prison industrial complex on poor Black and Brown populations in America. An excerpt of the post published on Brice's popular blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors, is published below. A link to the full review follows the post.

"If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you know I don't often cover nonfiction. Nothing against nonfiction (I've written some myself). Just trying to maintain some focus. However, occasionally a book grabs my attention. The New Press sent me a copy of The New Jim Crow, which is definitely worthy of any attention I can help bring to it. Before I could read this NAACP image award winner, I noticed novelist Cheri Paris Edwards mention on Facebook that she was planning to read it. Kismet. I offered her the copy the publisher sent me if she'd do a review. She kindly agreed. Below is [an excerpt of] her review."

Summary /Review of Michelle Alexander’s
The New Jim Crow-Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Cheri Paris Edwards

The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander
Racial control revisited In “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” civil rights attorney and advocate Michelle Alexander presents a well-supported argument that America’s prison system has been used to control brown and black people in this country. She likens this control to the age of Jim Crow where laws enforcing this sort of race-based system of control were legal. Alexander’s argument begins with an absorbing introduction that includes these disturbing facts:
1. “In less than 30 years the US prison population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase.”

2. “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the heart of apartheid.”

3. “In Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all from the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to spend time in prison."

Read the full review @ White Readers Meet Black Authors

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Can E-Books move to the A-lists of university presses?

University presses may find e-sales growing in the most unexpected places...their backlists.

The E-Reader Effect
June 1, 2011   
For technology reputed to be the future of reading, e-books have had a hard go of it in higher education. Students have for years declined to purchase electronic versions of their textbooks, and instructors have largely refrained from assigning them except when they are given no choice.

University presses, in many cases, have been even less successful than textbook publishers in selling electronic versions of their books. A new survey by the Association of American University Presses suggests that as of last December, e-book sales or licenses accounted for less than 3 percent of total revenue for the overwhelming majority of university presses.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents expressed “serious concern” about the viability of their current business models. In an era of flat or declining print sales, university presses might be discouraged by the fact that e-books, to which most sectors of publishing have pinned their hope for a rebound in an era of flat or declining print sales and scarce resources, have failed to gain traction.
But there is anecdotal evidence from some presses that e-book sales have jumped in the months since the association collected its data. Several presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed reported that their e-book sales have risen significantly in the first part of 2011. While e-books still account for a small proportion of total sales even in these cases, the presses see the uptick as an encouraging sign that there is a market for electronic versions of “serious nonfiction” works after all — and that market might finally be stirring.

Last year, as winter approached, the University of Kentucky Press found itself in a position similar to that of most of its peers at the time: Its e-books accounted for a negligible sliver of the press’s sales: 1.6 percent, according to John Hussey, the director of sales. But in February, e-book sales skyrocketed to 11.3 percent. (Hussey calls this “the Christmas boom,” speculating that a lot of people got Kindles and iPads as gifts.)

The boom tempered a bit between March and April, with e-book sales dipping to between 6 and 8 percent, month-to-month. But last month they jumped again, Hussey says; although May figures have not yet been finalized, e-book sales at Kentucky have crept back toward 11 percent.

Read the full article in Inside Higher Ed