Yesterday, the book contract from Algonquin arrived in the mail! I have an ISBN number for my book! Whoo-hoo! It's really true. Light-skinned-ed Girl (the novel) will be on shelves Fall 2009. Oh, gosh, you have no idea how happy this makes me!
I wanted to celebrate Obama's acceptance speech in style and that required new pajamas. Yes, it was at least idiosyncratic if not weird. After much ribbing from others all day, I had given up until--driving home I drove past a PAJAMA STORE that was having a SALE! I bought Heidi Blue pjs, rushed home to wash them, and then settled in for the wondrous night. And it was wondrous! Obama was in command, speaking with such energy and eloquence about real ideas. I have never felt so inspired by someone's example of integrity and intelligence. How can I grow up to be just like Obama? Well, it's possibly too late for me to aspire to make such a great impact, but it's not for today's young people. I felt like his speech took a lid off of small dreams. We no longer have to dream under a low-sky. I'll be wearing my lucky Obama pjs on election night--I can't wait until he is our president!
I have no words for the excited feeling I have on this momentous day--the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the day that Obama, the first biracial African-American major party candidate for President accepts his nomination. I can't wait to hear Obama speak.
Nice touch with the line about: are you in it for the mother with two adopted autistic boys who has no health insurance and is battling cancer? Or are you in it for me? Etc. etc. Really good point, Hillary; and very well said. I don't think she could be any clearer that McCain is simply not a choice for someone who believes in what she believes. Nice work indeed. But tell me: did anyone else think the Harriet Tubman reference was a little odd?
What a moving, inspiring, and heart-felt speech! How amazing and wonderful to see a smart, talented, gracious and elegant black woman take center stage in America's imagination. Michelle Obama for President 2016!
The Emily Post I bought at age 14--with my own money--is well-thumbed. I did not grow up bourgeois, but thought that through study, I might one day join the ranks. Already I was a great believer in the importance (and power) of correspondence and the thank-you note. Miss Post taught me to enjoy practicing the art of conversation (not while chewing) and dining with good cutlery and fine dinnerware with multiple courses.
The past few days I've been having a great time reading etiquette guides of the black middle class from the early 1900s. I blogged about The Colored Girl Beautiful (1916) yesterday. Today, you can find some gems from two other etiquette guidebooks for "colored" folks below. In Edward S. Green's 1920 National Capital Code of Etiquette, you'll find charming photographs and instructions on dressing, table manners, letter-writing, and proper conduct at the theatre and balls. In Silas X. Floyd's Short Stories for Colored People Both Old and Young, you'll find great illustrations, parables and exhortations to abide by good manners in public and at home.
"The reader of this book who earnestly strives to follow its teachings so far as possible will be as near correct as it is possible to be in this imperfect wolrd. We consider it a great pleasure and our special privilege to respectfully dedicate this volume to THE COLORED RACE."
Do not whistle or hum to yourself when on the street.
Avoid onions or tobacco when you contemplate making a social call on ladies.
Above all things, do not pick your teeth, clean your finger nails or scratch your head in public.
If a person appears in public with a bruised countenance or other blemish, do not gaze at the unfortunate individual fixedly, nor inquire as to how it happened. It is generally bad enough without having to add unpleasant explanations.
Ladies, bear in mind that "Familiarity breeds contempt."
What would happen if tomorrow everyone were to keep all his promises and fulfill all his engagements? I think it would make a new world at once.
Never think of yourself, whoever you are, of small importance. Never think that it is of little account whether you are good or bad, or what your example is to others.
If there is one idea for which more than any other the public school system should stand, it is the idea of self-help. Self-help is the best kind of help in the world and one cannot learn this lesson too early in life.
The "Don't Care" Girl: About the worst girl in all this world is the girl who doesn't care what people think or say about her conduct; the girl who goes to every "hop," to every party, who stays out late at night with the boys, who hangs over the gate and talks to them, and who cuts a number of foolish capers, and then when any one speaks to her, shoots her head 'way up in the air, and turns up her nose, if she can, and says boldy: "Oh, I don't care; nobody has anything to do with me!" She is the worst girl in the world, and she will never come to any good end.
These books are both charming and entertaining, but there is a disturbing undertone to them given when they were written.
The etiquette books, quaint in tone, appeared during a violent and tumultuous time for African-Americans. In fact, Floyd's book seems dangerously naive--he seems to suggest that through good manners will conquer all evils including the evil of lynching. "My dear boys and girls," he writes, "I have written nearly one hundred stories for this book and I have not said one word about the so-called Race Problem. I have done this on purpose. I believe that the less you think about the troubles of the race and the less you talk about them and the more time you spend in hard and honest work, believe in God and trusting him for the future, the better it will be for all concerned.
"I know, of course, that the sufferings which are inflicted upon the colored people in this country are many and grievous . . . Lynchings are on the increase. Not only our men but our women are being burned at the stake? What shall we do? . . . In spite of prejudice; in spite of proscription; in spite of nameless insults and injuries, we cannot as a race, afford to do wrong . . . we can afford to be patient."
Patience, politeness, and the "Race Problem." I wonder whether these notions are animating the political discussions today as this historic Democratic National Convention begins.
I'm delighting in a read of The Colored Girl Beautiful, a 1916 etiquette book for African-American girls written by Madame E. Azalia Hackley. The book's charming chapter titles include: "Self-Control," "Her Relationship with Men," "Laws of Attraction--Vibrations," and "Deep-Breathing" (in which Hackley exhorts her young readers to breathe deeply as a habit because it "cultivates Personality & Personal Magnetism and thus makes one attractive.")
It's a fascinating little book which points out how tightly associated etiquette was considered for racial pride and uplift. "A woman's mind should always be filled with a life plan, else she is in danger. A busy woman is generally a safe woman," writers Hackley. "She must find her life work and keep busy. Even a hobby is better than nothing if time hangs on her hands. She should do something with all her might and not delay, for Time is flying. A colored woman especially should have some purpose in her life to further race advancement. It should not only be a high purpose but it should be something real."
There are so many fascinating as well as infuriating passages. Here's a list of highlights and a link to download the whole book (pdf) if you'd like to read it.
"The two attractive periods in a woman's life are girlhood and maturity. If girlhood is not sufficiently attractive a girl may go into beauty training for maturity . . . The fair, fat, and forty age is no longer dreaded."
"No one should ever scorn a colored working woman. She has been the bone and sinew of the race. She has built the churches, helped the schools and has made the race what it is. The pioneer colored woman in most instances has helped make the wealth that many colored families enjoy, today."
"Colored people are credited with having the finest teeth in the world. The obligation of this gift is cleanliness and preservation of this attractive gift."
"A woman who marries and does not intend to have children is merely an object of convenience who has sold herself."
Congratulations to the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival the recipient of a grant from Social Justice Works! The Aaronson Fund! The Fund was "created to honor the legacy of progressive education, to salute those who are continuing the struggle for a just and equitable society, and to provide financial support for high school graduates of the Cambridge Public Schools who are working for social justice in a variety of fields."
"The Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival clearly honors the legacy of progressive education and a commitment to the struggle for a just and equitable society."
This honor is an incredible buoy in our continuing effort to encourage storytelling of the Mixed experience. We hope that people will begin to understand that what we advocate is not the privileged or "magical" position of biracial people in America, but rather the connectedness of all people. When we no longer silence the stories of the Mixed experience, we learn about all the commonalities we share.
When I say Mixed experience, I am talking about YOU--whether that means you are in a blended family through adoption, marriage, or re-marriage. It means YOU if you have an intercultural family (yes, Vietnamese and Chinese blend counts). It means YOU if you have a background so blended, the blend has been forgotten. The Mixed experience means all of YOU, us together.
The Second Annual Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival will be held June 12-13, 2009 at the Japanese American National Museum. To learn more and/or to donate to this non-profit project please visit: www.mixedrootsfilmandliteraryfestival.org.