A sample of my articles for blogs and newspapers:
“Zane and Respectability.” Popular Romance Project. May 31, 2012
People are often taken aback when I tell them I’m writing about Zane as a romance author—including, and maybe particularly, other romance authors. For the uninitiated, Zane is a wildly popular writer of erotica, having carved out space for sexually explicit tales of couplings between black men and black women (and black women and white men, and black women and black women, etc). She writes unapologetically about sex, intends to get you all hot and bothered, and believes she is helping to free black women from inhibitions created by what scholar Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham calls “the politics of respectability.”
“Presidential Romance.” Popular Romance Project. November 1, 2012.
As romance scholars, however, we should also note that that couple in question is African American and that race places a constant, though largely invisible role in the American understanding of romance. We rarely see, in mainstream popular culture, a black love story. We have plenty of stories about the unmarriageability/unlikeability/undesirability of black women (countless reality TV shows attest to this), about the unsuitability of black men (black men are all in jail, on the down low, underemployed, etc.), and about the inability of black men and women to ever make a relationship work. We’ve grown used so used to these stories, in fact, that popular romance is almost always the stuff of white people. If it is a “truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a great fortune must be in want of a wife,” then, as critic Ann duCille counters, we must also acknowledge that the man in question is presumed to be “not only wealthy but white.”
“Why I Hate Watchmen.” The Hooded Utilitarian.com. Sept. 30, 2012.
Watchmen should be a perfect storm of all things that fill me with geeky, intellectual joy. The only problem? I really, really dislike this book. So much so, that I’ve never managed to read all of it, despite numerous tries.
“Race in the Comics Classroom.” The Hooded Utilitarian.com. June 5, 2011.
While it has become something of a cliché to assert that race poses a significant challenge in the classroom, I have long ceased to think of race and teaching in these terms. Indeed, as a professor of African American literature, I regularly deal with the difficult issue of race and have developed, and help my students develop, tools to grapple with American racial history and persistent racial tensions and conflicts. Which is why I was caught completely off guard in my comics course when I taught Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks and found myself attempting to discuss race with students completely unprepared to do so.
“Blackface vs Blackfaces: It’s the claim of authenticity that’s truly offensive.” Charleston City Paper. August 20, 2008.
Full disclosure: I laughed my ass off. The movie works as a satire of the self-importance and overindulgence of Hollywood. It also has great fun with an audience that enables Tinseltown excess by purchasing tickets to the latest Rambo sequel or laughing every time Eddie Murphy puts on a fat suit.
“Why It’s Worth Reading and Re-reading the Great Toni Morrison.” Charleston City Paper. July 23, 2008
Morrison was once asked whom she wrote for. She answered, “I want to write for people like me, which is to say black people, curious people, demanding people — people who can’t be faked, people who don’t need to be patronized, people who have very, very high criteria.” The ultimate reward for getting through a Morrison novel is knowing that you are one of these people.
“Princess Feminist: What ‘Penelope’ says about chasing Prince Charming.” Charleston City Paper. March 12, 2008.
Mine is a familiar feminist tale, I’m sure. Armed with the knowledge of all the esteem-crushing, soul-sucking traps our society sets for girls, feminist parents do everything we can to ensure that our daughters navigate those traps happily and successfully. But if I sign my kid up for soccer, knowing that participation in a competitive sport helps protect a girl’s self-esteem, the culture offers up pink shin guards and sparkly mauve soccer balls.
“Boys Don’t Cry: Why the best romantic comedies aren’t about women.” Charleston City Paper. January 23, 2008.
If we really want to see these kinds of stories done well, we need to skip the chick flick and look to films like 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad, precisely because they aren’t actually about romance, about boy meets girl.
I also blog, with my husband, at Afrogeek Mom and Dad.