A Conversation Starter about the Lack of Diversity in Young Adult Literature

I posted this on Facebook and I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts?

But can we talk about the lack of diversity in books for young adults? I swear that I have read hundreds and hundreds of books since elementary school because I adore reading (um, that BookIt program in elementary & middle school was giving us the pizza hook up which led to my beautiful relationship with reading) but of those hundreds of books that I have read I can probably count on one hand how many have been either written by black authors OR had a black main character. And I’m not talking about those “Paster needs a boo” type books either. I’m talking about legit books for teens that don’t involve a teenage pregnancy plot line or whatever passes as “marketable”. Most YA books by black authors that I have read are either super religious OR have a tendency to have extremely graphic sexual content OR takes place during the times of slavery.

So these are my questions:
1. Where are all the books about the kids who looked like me/acted like me/talked like me?
2. How can we go about creating a market for young adult books written by black authors who feature black characters?
3. Does this bother anyone else or is it just me?

Book update: Looking for Beta Readers!

I just wanted to share with you guys that I am beyond excited about my upcoming poetry book! It’s still untitled (if you’ve followed me for a while you know at one point it was titled In the Making but I’m still deciding). It’s still missing a couple of poems but it is so close to the finish line. I have never been more proud of myself as I am with this endeavor. I truly believe in each of the poems that have made the cut. This is my most honest writing and it is kind of scary to think of so many personal moments printed for anyone to read. But I am ready.

I am aiming for an end of summer or early fall release. Things are on track for either at this point. More details to come, keep up here or follow me on twitter @talichaj or on Facebook Talicha J. for updates!

If anyone is interested in being a beta reader please send an email to talichaj@gmail.com

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day one of my favorite poets, Sarah Kay, shared her poem This Type on her Facebook page. It’s a wonderful poem and I even used the last line as a writing prompt for FWF a couple of years ago. I want to pass this along to you guys because I think it is powerful. Please enjoy and don’t forget to share and go let the poet know how awesome you think her work is!

Awesome right? You can follow Sarah at:
Facebook: Sarah Kay
Twitter: kaysarahsera

If you wanted to read the (really bad) poem I wrote after reading this awesome one by Sarah you can read it here: Born To

This Grammys moment was so amazing I actually had to blog about it!

My favorite moment of The Grammy’s last night (and pretty much the only thing I didn’t fast forward through during the whole show) was the Chandelier performance by Sia. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Sia- I have ever since the moment I first heard Breathe Me from her third album ten or eleven years ago, but Kristen and Maddie are what made this performance breathtaking. The way they throw themselves into this whole production is what makes me appreciate artistic freedom.

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Of course, I knew Maddie would kill it because that kid is phenomenal but Kristen was a huge surprise. It’s not that doubted her ability to portray such a serious character (while dancing at that!), I just hadn’t expected her to be so intriguing with it, so invested in this kind of character. (I know, shame on me for putting her in a comedic box, I don’t like to underestimate people so I’m not sure why I did so for her).

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I needed to watch every facial expression, every change in mood and every act of embracing or rejecting that change. I can’t describe in one word the feeling I had while viewing this for the first time but my chest was tight, my jaw was clenched, and I was hanging onto every movement. When Kristen mouths “I’m sorry”, man that gets me every time! To be aware that you are in an unsafe space, that you are doing something to yourself that is harmful, and to be willing to own it is hard. It’s even harder to apologize to yourself and to those around you for doing something against your best interest, so I found that moment really drawing me in.

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I don’t think this video should be watched just once, I think to fully grasp the complexity of emotion and expression you have to really look. It’s there and it’s raw and beautiful. I think Sia’s videos and live performances do a good job of starting a conversation on the subject of mental health (especially since this song deals with the topic of her past history with alcoholism). She invites us into the chaos that is her mind–that is the mind of many others out there. A lot of times dealing with emotions can be overwhelming, just like the pace of this video can be. You don’t know where to focus and even how to focus on one thought or feeling. I think the best thing is to take a deep breath and spend time exploring (although everyone is different so there may be more to it for some).

Enough rambling on from me. Watch, discuss, share and I hope you enjoy the video. Try to go in with an open mind!

The affect of the Mental Illness Taboo

Mental illness is this taboo thing that people skirt over more often than not. As someone who grew up with a mother with schizoaffective disorder (a mix of schizophrenia and a mood disorder) I got to see first hand just how taboo the subject is. No one talked about it. It wasn’t the elephant in the room, it was a house filled with talking elephants, one that everyone quickened their pace when walking by. Is it awkward to talk about someones mental state? Yes, of course. But I think it’s also necessary. Absolutely so for the person with the illness, for the immediate family members of said person, and for the general publics consumption in order to breed understanding.

A lot of people fail to realize just how wide the reach of one persons altered mind can span. I spent the majority of my childhood embarrassed by my mother because I did not understand what was happening with her. No one ever made sure I knew there was a reason for her peculiarities and as a result I grew to distance myself from not only her, but from other people in general. I was a shy kid because I didn’t have answers to the questions I knew people would have if I ever opened up about my home life (in fact, I was 19 before I finally got a name for her disorder). In turn, I became clinically depressed around the age of 13 and wound up seeing a child psychologist.

I will say this, it helped to have someone to talk to. I still didn’t receive answers about my mothers condition but I did get an outlet for how I felt and it was nice to have someone to pour my life into without judgement. I am pro-therapy and I know it doesn’t work for everyone but I’d say give it a chance. In honesty, the first few sessions were spent in silence. My psychologist would ask questions that I didn’t want to answer and so we’d just pass the time. But one day, it changed. I decided to speak and as a result I started to understand myself better. So to anyone who is on the fence about going to talk to someone; just give it a chance, give yourself a chance.

I think we need to teach more about mental illness, to make it something people can talk about without worrying that it will come with a preconceived stigma attached. Mental illnesses are not going away, yes there are treatments for them and people can live normal lives but they are still issues. I urge everyone to educate yourselves, to at least learn that underneath the mental illness is a person and they have to live their lives the best way they know how. I think for a long time, due to lack of knowledge I mistook my mothers mental health as a defining factor of who she was when really it was only just a small part. Only towards the end of my mothers life did I realize that aside from the quirks of her disease she was pretty normal. She had her hobbies and things she loved and she was funny. Most importantly, she was human.

I’d like to write more about this topic in future posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well. Thanks for reading! Lets continue the conversation in the comments section below or on twitter: @talichaj

I’ve Got Goals!

This year hasn’t exactly started off as planned –my mother passed away on the 12th after spending a couple of weeks in the hospital and then hospice. I am determined though, to stick to the goals I have set for myself, to live the life I desire because I know it does not last forever, or even as long as we think it should. So I want to share those goals and have a place that I can come back to in the future to see how far I’ve come.

1. Publish a book of poetry

I have been working on a poetry book for a few years now but it didn’t feel right until last year. I took an online writing course with the brilliantly talented Megan Falley and my eyes were so wide open afterwards. The class helped me find my “page voice”, which I think I just made up. By “page voice” I mean the way my writing speaks on page. I have never been stronger in my writing than I am today because I figured out how to delve deeper into words than I have in the past. I have hope that this is only the beginning and that I’ll keep improving in time.

That being said, I am almost done with the book. I think I’ve got about five or six more poems until it feels complete. I am so excited to share these poems with the world. It has been a really amazing experience to sit down, write, and come out at the end of it with something I just HAVE to read over and over again because it’s that good (shocking!). If you’d like a sneak peak of what to expect in the book you can check out Reasons Why Loving You Was More Entertaining than Watching Prime Time Television and My Favorite Photograph of Us published by Germ Magazine.

2. Compete Nationally

Last year I competed at the Women Of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS) and the Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS) for the first time. These were both such amazing experiences and I am so grateful to have been a part of them. This year I would love to go back to both and am on the right track so far since I’ll be competing in Albuquerque, NM for WOWPS in March! If you’d like to help me get there you can support me by purchasing my album In the Making!

3. Go on Tour

I want to travel. I want to go to as many open mic nights and poetry slams that I can. I want to share my poetry and meet people as passionate about writing as I am. My goal is to just go. I think the best way for a poet to be known is to be present. The details are a work in progress but I will make this happen. For booking information you can email talichaj@gmail.com

There are also a lot of smaller goals that I have and maybe I’ll share them in a later post. For now though, this is the game plan. I am doing these things on my own so if anyone has any advice or wants to help out in any way, thank you in advance. You can contact me via email or on any of my social networking sites.

To everyone who has a dream; do it, live it, don’t let it go to waste.

Twitter: @talichaj
Facbook: Talicha J.
Instagram: TalichaOff

I read We’ve All Got Eyes, Man for #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

I wanted to get out there and DO something, participate in the change, lift the weight of the onslaught on justice with my own bare hands. But I didn’t know how. I kept asking, “What do I do?” and everyone kept telling me the best place to start was my talent, to raise my voice. In The Issues, Sharon Olds writes, “Don’t talk to me about Politics. I’ve got eyes, man.” That line plus the current state of our nation sparked this poem. So I thank blackpoetsspeakout for creating a place for us to make noise and demand change in a positive way. This is my voice, this is me saying I will not be silent. I will use my words to assist our cause.

I’m published online!

Hey! I’m really excited to share that one of my newest poems, Reasons Why Loving You Was More Entertaining than Watching Prime Time Television, was published by GERM Magazine and is currently on their home page!

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One of my goals for the year was to have a poem published and I am so happy to have accomplished it! I hope that you guys will head over to GERM and read this poem, leave some love and then check out some of the other content they have!

Read: Reasons Why Loving You Was More Entertaining than Watching Prime Time Television

In Response to the Upset over the Cosby Show Being Pulled from Syndication

I read this article and it really bothered me.

In response to the upset over The Cosby Show being pulled from syndication: I’d like to point out that TV land also pulled reruns of 7th heaven because of Stephen Collins. I support the pulling of these shows. Why should we allow rapists (proven or alleged) to have a place on our televisions, in our homes, available to be looked up to by those who are unaware of an actors personal life?

Has Cosby been found guilty of these allegations? No, but how many other men/women have not been proven guilty of a crime they’ve committed? The number of women coming forth with stories is ridiculous. Is there a quota that must be reached before it becomes real enough? If you’re looking for evidence, for a trial and a jury to give you a verdict to this then good luck. These cases are old, the statute of limitations is probably going to prevent that, although I’m not expert on law. It does not mean the allegations are not true.

As far as the other actors listed in this article as a reference, I get it. These men did bad things too, they committed crimes as well. Instead of trying to use them as an example of why The Cosby Show should still be airing (which is what I assume was the point of the article) maybe the desired outcome should be that we get actions taken to pull those other shows as well (which was mildly suggested by this article). The fact that the other men listed as examples are white has not eluded me. It’s unfair and racist and so on and so forth, to penalize Cosby and not the others, again, I get it. How about we figure out a way to handle these types of situations that covers all bases; race, gender and the nature of the crime. Why not push for a system to regulate situations like this in which a revered actor/actress commits (proven or alleged) a crime that is heinous, violent or detrimental?

I try not to roll my eyes when I read “…yanking reruns in which Cosby played a role suggests we can’t distinguish between acting and the real world.” Cosby is a REAL person who is alleged to be a rapist in the REAL WORLD. I don’t care if in the show he is just playing a character. In real life he is (allegedly) something else, something more vile and dangerous. It’s not that I believe The Cosby Show is “anything more than fictional entertainment” (that’s obvious) it’s that someone who was an integral part of that entertainment has been put in the spotlight (for years) as someone who has taken advantage of the bodies of women who did not consent. Again, I ask is there a quota, some minimum that must be met before we say enough? I watched that show  as a kid and enjoyed it like so many other people did. It saddens me to have such a negative accusation linked to it but I support the decision of TV Land to pull it.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you support the removal of this show from the re-run roster or do you think it should still air? Let me know what you think here or on twitter @talichaj.

Quotes from “Mitch Albom: Erasing Bill Cosby with the speed of light“.

Lana Del Rey and Birthday Wishes

It’s the talented Peter Z’s birthday today so let’s take a listen to his latest release, Lana Del Rey, shall we?

Let’s all wish him a happy birthday by downloading Lana Del Rey from iTunes! (Click image for iTunes)

Peter, hope you have great one buddy, in fact:

“I Want To Be Evil”-Eartha Kitt

“If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?”

I really think it would be enjoyable to sit down with the one and only Eartha Kitt.

earthaI’ve read some articles and watched a few interviews and music videos of the late Ms. Kitt and I have undoubtedly been pulled in by her charm. She seems to have been a force when it came to speaking her mind and I think we could use more women like her. I know I could benefit from being more vocal about certain situations.

This is one of my favorite Eartha Kitt moments:

I love Kitt’s energy and how unafraid she is of looking a bit crazy because that’s what the character calls for in this song. I often find myself thinking of this video, of the lyrics and understanding all too much the meaning of it. Or at least the meaning I glean from it. Sometimes you don’t want to be so inside the box and exactly what you are supposed to be (which is nice and in line). And this song attests to that, it speaks up and says (in an absolutely wonderfully exaggerated and fun way) that it’s okay to want to be something other than “good” or “sweet” sometimes. It’s okay to make your own lines.

You can read more about my thoughts on being “sweet” in a past post called Braving Up. Anyway, I just felt like sharing one of my favorite Kitt videos with you guys, I hope you enjoyed it!

Concert for a cause!

So much has happened this year that has kept me from updating this site but now that we are approaching the end of it I have more time to sit down and create content. I look forward to sharing some of the amazing experiences I’ve had with you in the coming weeks. One of those awesome experiences is happening today actually:

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I will be performing a set of poems at the Annual Concert for a Cause  hosted by Faces of Media Inc. to benefit youthSpark, a non-profit that “works to end child sex trafficking”. I think the organization is a great asset to the Atlanta Community and am proud to be participating in an event that supports them. Make sure you go to their website to find out more about what it is they do specifically and to find out how and where you can help out the most. Child sex trafficking is a serious issue that calls for all hands on deck.

Find out more about youthSpark at their official website: youth-Spark.org
Like them on Facebook to stay up to date with the organization: Facebook.com/youthSpark

Images courtesy of Faces of Media’s Facebook page.

My possibly unpopular opinion on social interactions…

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday about something that bothered him so I thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts on the subject. His post was about his opinion on the “fad of people popping in headphones the second they get up from their desk, in the elevator, etc.”

I read through the comments and made my own as well on the topic but here I want to fully invest in my opinion on the matter, so let’s go.

To start, I think that it has completely become the norm to pop in headphones at any random moment, be it walking to the bus station, heading to the break room or moving through the line in a grocery store. We all have our reasons. For some it is an easy distraction or a way to pass time and for others it is a way to let people know that you are not open to conversation without actually having to be a butt and say you are not open to conversation.

After reading the post my friend wrote as well as the comments that people made in response I became bothered by the fact that this “anti-social” act seems to offend or upset others. To me it seems silly that people are frustrated with their peers decision to abstain from socializing on their own time.

I personally am “that person”, the one who will put on headphones the moment I am on break because it’s my break and that’s the way I want to keep it. Is that wrong? No. Socializing is supposed to be a positive and fulfilling experience, in my opinion that means that all parties involved are there because they WANT to be.

I have more introvert qualities than extrovert. I can be social and the center of a conversation when I choose to be but most days I like to lay low. Why should I be looked at with annoyance because I don’t want to engage with my peers? I shouldn’t. No one should. Interaction for some takes more energy than can be imagined by those who are ‘social butterflies’.

Another issue I have with this whole topic is this; I have had days where I didn’t pop in headphones the instant I stepped away from my desk and hit the break room and still never wound up engaged in a scintillating conversation. Why do people think that the headphones in everyone’s ears are the real reason conversations aren’t happening? If someone wants to talk to you, it will happen. If not, it won’t happen…simple as that, headphones or not.

My main problem though is that it seems as if some people feel like they are entitled to a social interaction with their peers strictly because they are in the same place at the same time. No. It does not work that way. Social interaction is a two way street, there must be give and take. If my attention is not given then that means it is not your right to be offended if it does not become yours to take.  

I’m going to stop myself now because I can feel this post is only going to get longer and longer with my thoughts when I’m really eager to know your opinion on this. Does it bother you when you see your co-workers/peers choose their headphones over chatting? Do you think it should matter to others if you slink off to the break room with your music as your lunch date? Are you someone who always slips headphones in when you have a spare moment or do you hate when you witness this action from your peers? If I’m not the only one with an opinion on this, let’s discuss!

Reading vs. Watching (The Fault In Our Stars has spurred this post)

This is the thing, reading a book versus watching a movie based on the book will always be a different experience. I believe that a book can be adapted into a great movie. However, I don’t know that the feeling you will leave with after watching the movie will ever compare to the feeling you have after reading the book.

Think about it: when you read a book you spend hours, HOURS, with the characters. You can’t sit down and read a novel in two hours. You invest time into getting to know and understand the people that you are reading about. You get an inside look into their thoughts and opinions. You get personal with them. With a movie, as lovable as they try to make the character, you still lose the depth of that bond.

Last night I saw The Fault In Our Stars (loved it!) which I had also read the book for. The movie was brilliant, they kept so many of the great lines that made the characters so like-able (although there were some things that I would like to have seen included but were left out, understandably) and overall just did an amazing job of bringing the characters to life. As I stated before, I loved the movie, but I enjoyed the way I connected with the charecters more while reading the book. I want to know what you think, do you prefer reading the book or watching the movie versions?

New song! “Let it slide”

So I’ve been trying to figure out this whole music thing for years. I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to making a song, all I know is that I like making them. I hope you enjoy this latest song, it’s definitely a work in progress but I feel like it’s off to a good start.