By Tameca L Coleman
Kitchen Sink Approach
January 8th, 2020
Introduction: There is No Better Time Than Now (?)
I want to host a book club at Literary Citizen: Writers Shaping Culture, and use that as a way to start connecting with community and generating ideas for content. Part of this want is to hold myself accountable for finishing certain books, rereading and thoroughly processing them, and also to have conversations in regard to those books as a way to continually move toward positive change.
Primarily, I didn’t want to accept more than nonfiction work for Literary Citizen, but I’ve decided to open that up. In a recent meeting with From Allies to Abolitionists / Emancipation Theatre, I was reminded that in order for change to happen, we need to explore all modes and genres available to us. We need to make that work accessible, and it must be daring. And, we should push against and challenge norms and strictures.
Some of my background is through the backdoor journalistic. While I haven’t spent the bulk of my time in that realm, or even enough, I have been influenced by it, and admire true journalism’s aim of sticking to the objective facts, finding as many of them as possible, and letting the public decide what to do after being so informed. That is why I primarily only wanted nonfiction pieces. I wanted facts-based work. And I still do. As a multi-genre writer, and multi-modal creative, I know good and well that the truth can be found in every genre, mode, medium, and performance of any of those in any media. The questions are always “Who is our audience,” and “How do we want to influence that audience?” We all have our respective skillsets, and I want to see more of those working towards positive change.
I believe in amplifying the good. I know that what I deem as “good” is subjective. I also know that so many of my friends and colleagues agree on what that “good” is. That is why I work with whatever I have to amplify that good because of how I see injustice and the need for healing. I feel that my leanings are evident, not only in being a queer nonbinary mixed-race Black person, but by the way that I work in the world. This good, or striving towards it, is what I want to amplify and be part of, and this want is soul-level deep.
It is important for us not only to amplify what needs amplification, but to also preserve what might be swept under the rug, forgotten, erased. In that light, I want to mention my love and admiration for archivists and certain scholars in history and education reform. I feel that their work is more than important, especially when their ethics align with what that work can be in regards to social change, equity, and the abolishment of many systems that prey on its marginalized people. I admire too, anthropologists, folklorists, and collectors of stories who continually consider their role and the possible damage that their role could cause so that they can promote what I see as the good and positive social change with their work. An example of folks working in this way include my friends Savannah Powell and Jason Cordova at Adventure Scholar which is a culturally informed arts and education organization of speakers, writers and performers. I also want to mention Denver’s ArtHyve which does incredible work in helping community gain the tools and knowledge needed to preserve and write our own histories from our own experiences.
My dream for Literary Citizen has long been to include the work of such people. If that is you, I invite you in. I am looking for more organizations and movements like those mentioned above, and also individuals who want to carry these discussions further. This work deserves to be amplified.
Book Club: A Call for Writers
I let myself doubt myself a little because there are a lot of amazing book clubs out there already. For example, Roxane Gay started one to go along with her fantastic new newsletter The Audacity. I can’t compete with that, but I also promised myself I would give my ideas a chance this year, and learn whatever I needed to learn as I go, so here’s what I propose (following). If you or someone you know is interested, send them the following request:
Writers! Artists! Literary Citizen: Writers Shaping Culture is looking for your submissions in any genre based on the following books (or similar ones, which you can pitch at literarycitizenmagazine at gmail dot com). Please write “Submission + title of your entry” in the subject line. The list of books I would like us to discuss follow. If folks bite, I will add more books going forward. There are so many books I want to help amplify and also talk about / generate new work around, and in community. I’ll start with ten:
*Note: This is not a place for reviews. It is a place for responses to texts. Also, this call is not paid. I have put out a separate call for featured writers, and there is more information about that below.
Book Club List (January 2021):
The New Authoritarians: Convergence on the Rightby David Renton (Haymarket).
Description: “An original and compelling analysis of how a newly emboldened and radicalizing right has come to global political ascendance in the years after 9/11, culminating in the victories of Trump and Brexit.
*Haymarket currently has free downloads of this book which are accessible through their website.
American Gun: A Poem by 100 Chicagoans, edited by Chris Green (DePaul University/ Big Shoulders Books)
Description: American Gun: A Poem by 100 Chicagoans is a collective response to the individual suffering behind the statistics. Big Shoulders Books editor Chris Green asked one-hundred poets from across the city to take turns writing a communal poem about Chicago’s gun violence. More here.
*I have four copies of this book on hand to send to anyone interested in reading and responding to this book. You can also download a copy of that book through DePaul University’s website.
How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship, by Ece Temelkuran (Harper Collins)
Description: “How to Lose a Country is an impassioned plea, a warning to the world that populism and nationalism don’t march fully-formed into government; they creep.” More here.
Anarcho-Blackness: Notes Toward a Black Anarchism, by Marquis Bey (AK Press)
Description: “In this bold and expansive treatise, Marquis Bey seeks to define the shape of Black anarchism — not, he says, by listing “all the Black people who are anarchists and the anarchists who are Black people,” but through a fluid and generative encounter between anarchism and Blackness.”
*I have one copy copies of this book on hand to send to anyone interested in reading and responding to this book. You can also find out more and purchase a copy from AK Press’s website.
Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health, edited by Adrian Shanker (PM Press)
Description: “The contributors to Bodies and Barriers look for tangible improvements, drawing from the history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and from struggles against health care bias and discrimination. At a galvanizing moment when LGBT people have experienced great strides in lived equality, but our health as a community still lags, here is an indispensable blueprint for change by some of the most passionate and important health activists in the LGBT movement today.”
*You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from PM Press’s website.
Erase the Patriarchy: An Anthology of Erasure Poetry, edited by Isobel O’Hare (University of Hell Press)
Description: “Within this gorgeous volume of erasure artworks exist differing cultural experiences connected by the desire for paradigm shift on a global political scale. Familiar statements and treatises are transformed into poetic versions of what reality looks like or could become for many of us stuck in a vicious machine. This international artistic appeal rips apart layers of deception, inequity, and fraud perpetuated by systems of power. Erasing what no longer serves us can reveal another avenue from which to begin.”
*You can find out more and purchase a copy of the book from University of Hell Press’s website.
Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next), by Dean Spade (Verso Books)
Description: “This book is about mutual aid: why it is so important, what it looks like, and how to do it. It provides a grassroots theory of mutual aid, describes how mutual aid is a crucial part of powerful movements for social justice, and offers concrete tools for organizing, such as how to work in groups, how to foster a collective decision-making process, how to prevent and address conflict, and how to deal with burnout.”
*You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from Verso Books’ website.
We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel (Nightboat Books)
Description: “A collection of formally inventive writing by trans poets against capital and empire.”
*You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from Nightboat Books’ website.
The Magical Writing Grimoir: Use the Word as Your Wand for Magic, Manifestations & Ritual, by Lisa Maria Basile (Fair Winds Press / Quarto Books)
Description: “Part guided journaling practice, part magical grimoire, The Magical Writing Grimoire explores the transformative power of writing. Each chapter contains writing prompts, writing rituals, meditations, and poetic wisdom. You’ll find shadow work, bibliomancy, automatic writing practices, incantatory poetry, and more.”
*You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from Lisa Marie Basile’s website.
Your Healing is Killing Me, by Virginia Grise (Plays Inverse Press)
Description: “Your Healing is Killing Me is a performance manifesto based on lessons learned in San Antonio free health clinics and New York acupuncture schools; from the treatments and consejos of curanderas, abortion doctors, Marxist artists, community health workers, and bourgie dermatologists. One artist’s reflections on living with post-traumatic stress disorder, ansia, and eczema in the new age of trigger warnings, the master cleanse, and crowd-funded self-care.”
You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from Plays Inverse Press’s website.
Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf Press)
Description: “WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators.”
You can also find out more and purchase a copy of the book from Graywolf Press’ website. I also have one extra copy on my bookshelf that I can send to someone interested in responding to this book.
Submissions Info Recap:
If you are interested in writing responses (any genre, and many modes considered) to any of the above and/or similar books, pitch Literary Citizen at literarycitizenmagazine at gmail dot com. Please write “Submission + title of your entry” in the subject line.
*Remember: This is not a place for reviews. It is a place for responses to texts. I am also interested in features for Literary Citizen. Featured articles are paid, and currently, we have enough to pay two featured writers $50 for their work upon acceptance and publication. I hope to publish an issue by Summer 2021. For examples of previous features, you can visit Literary Citizen’s features page.