Posted in Rants

Book Bloggers Are the New Gatekeepers and Prejudice in the name of Diversity

So it’s been a while, but after the disaster that was the release and review tour of Confessions of a Fat Girl I had to take a while to recollect myself and regroup. That said, it’s been a year since I initially released Confessions of a Teenage Rape Survivor and after trying my best to get these books off the ground, it’s just not happening. Now I’m not here to bitch and complain, but the truth is, the publishing industry, even the self-publishing one, is messed up. I’m going to say something and I may get a lot of flack for this, but I don’t have that many followers or interactions on here or on twitter anyway. So here it is.

Book bloggers are the new gate keepers of the publishing world.

You can argue that book bloggers do so much and that they don’t get paid and that they do this in their free time and all that jazz, but that doesn’t take any truth away from what I’ve said. Nor does it mean I hate book bloggers or that I’m going to do something crazy and stalk or troll or bully one through social media. I’m just making a statement. And you can hear me out or you can go be a whistle blower and lead the book blogging community to burning me at the stake. No big deal. I have nothing to lose in this sphere of the internet as it is.

So way back when self-publishing wasn’t a thing, it was the agents and editors who were the gates to getting your book to the world. And they accepted and rejected what they wanted not just based on the market, but based on social prejudices, beliefs, political climate and every other thing that can sway people’s mindset. That left a lot of writers, a lot of good writers, in the never ending slush pile or getting rejection letter after rejection letter because they were different, bold, and went against the grain. But then comes along Amazon and the ability to self-publish digital e-books online. There was no one to tell anyone what was bad, what was good, what was acceptable and the e-book market changed the sphere of publishing forever.

Still, the problem was that how did anyone know what was good or not? Sure you could buy a paid review but how could you trust that. How did you get through all the slush of the 99 cent and free ebooks? Enter the book blogger. People have been writing and reviewing and talking about books for a long time, but e-books and the internet changed all that. Book bloggers were getting writers who were little known or would have never been known on the map. They started word of mouth and began using social media to engage with potential readers and were influential in getting them to buy books. They began to get power. And naturally, big publishing noticed and began to court these bloggers who mostly did what they did because they loved books.

To make a really long and complicated story short, the power began to shift. And while traditional publishing and big publishing still hold a lot of clout, book bloggers have the hearts of the readers and if they want to ruin a book and an author they can use their platform to do it and have done it. I’ve witnessed it on multiple occasions.

Here’s the thing though? With great power comes great responsibility and I have to say, book bloggers have abused it. Not on an individual level, but collectively. There seems to be this collective push for more “diversity.” The problem is that it seems that the book sphere and the book blogging sphere in general have a very limited idea of what diversity is. To them, it’s more non-binary characters, more characters who are in the lgbtq community, more sex, more grit, more edginess. Yet it seems to leave little room for anything else. It seems to me that while those things have made great leaps and bounds in the last year in terms of books (even if they still have a long way to go), I haven’t seen the same leaps and bounds in other areas, like black characters, Latino characters, POC characters in general, single characters, overweight characters, Muslim characters, Jewish characters, no sex, no recreational drugs, no promiscuous sex etc.

In fact, I’m would argue that this push for certain diverse aspects isn’t going against the grain anymore. Sex, edge, lgbtq, non-binary, grit, all that’s now becoming more socially accepted, so much so that it’s now becoming a trend. And while a year or two ago that was brave, I don’t see it as so anymore. What’s brave about it if people are accepting it and that’s what they want now? And if I know anything about publishers, money talks and they’ll give people what they want to read. And now it seems like book bloggers are doing to same thing to one group of writers as big publishing used to do to the writers who found success with self-publishing and getting the word out through book bloggers.

Now am I saying this is what happened to me and what happened to me? Am I saying my book was good and because of prejudices in the book world, it seem like none of the bloggers liked it and as a result it tanked? Shrugs. I don’t know what happened. But I can tell you that some of the criticisms of my book were “there’s no storyline,” “I didn’t like the main character,” “she was a bitch,” “she was insufferable,” “I couldn’t relate to her,” “the main couple didn’t have sex,” “I didn’t agree with the actions of the characters.” I could go on, but I don’t need to. Look, those are valid criticisms. I don’t mind, yet I felt like and still feel like I’m being shot in the foot for doing some of the same things with my characters and my story as books that were lauded and praised for doing the same things by book bloggers.

I feel like if I had been writing about sex on every other page, with everyone doing recreational drugs, where the heroine was skinny and blonde with blue eyes with a hero that was white, with blonde hair and knew his way around the bedroom, Confessions of a Fat Girl wouldn’t have gotten as much criticism as it did. I don’t think I would have heard that someone did like the book because they didn’t agree with the hero not having sex until marriage like there’s something socially wrong with it when these same readers read books with promiscuous sex and say it’s teaching girls and boys to own their sexuality.

Is that true? Shrugs. Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure does seem that way and because of that, I’ve decided that while being a successful writer who can stay home and write books all day and interact with her readers is my dream, the climate of the book world, book bloggers in particular, won’t accept the type of books that I want to write and because of that I can’t find a readership.

So am I done writing? No. I’ll never be done writing. I’m still writing. Do I still want to be a successful writer? Always. Is Hadiyyah’s story still happening? Eventually. Maybe next year. But I’ve certainly realized that I’m going to have to find a way to make my own way to get the world to see it, because I’m certainly done trying to court the rest of the book world into accepting what I write because it’s going against this new trend of edginess and sexiness and darkness. And I want to make clear there’s nothing wrong with those types of book. I read them. They’re in my tbr list, but I feel as though all other things have taken a backlash because of this push for them.

Posted in News, Rants

Meet Hadiyya: The Protagonist in My Next NA Novel Who Happens to be Muslim

So I’ve been in a writing rut lately, but just because I’ve been in a rut doesn’t mean I’m short of ideas. And there’s one idea in particular that’s been running through my head and distracting me from daily life because I’m constantly thinking about how this story can go so I decided to share it with you all. So without further ado, I’d like everyone to meet Hadiyya. Well, if you’ve read or plan to meet Confessions of a Fat Girl you’ve already met her or are going to meet her, but I plan for her to be the star of her own novel.

the odd couple
This is what Season and Haddiya are in terms of their perspectives on life and faith, but somehow their friendship works.

Hadiyya always stood out to me as a character. For one, her prompting is the catalyst that leads to Season meeting her love interest for the first time in Confessions of a Fat Girl, and she’s also Muslim and I decided she was Muslim very early on in the writing of Confessions of a Fat Girl, like in the first chapter. Her relationship with Season is loosely based off me and my best friend from college with a few differences. Like Season and Hadiyya, we both have different philosophies when it comes to faith, namely that I’m Muslim and she’s atheist (Sort of. At the very least, she is very skeptical about the existence of a Supreme Being or power). But while Season and Hadiyya are the same race (or identify as the same race since Season is biracial), I’m black and she’s white.  So we were definitely like the odd couple on campus and everyone in the administrative staff (and I do mean everyone) knew who we were. Again, Season and Hadiyya are only loosely based on my real life friendship. Still I was really apprehensive about making Hadiyya Muslim despite my good experiences so far.

muslim not terroristThere’s some really awful propaganda going out about Muslims. I mean, as far as media is concerned, everyone who ever did anything wrong is Muslim, and that’s just not true. It’s like any other group of people. A select few are really bad people, but many more aren’t. And when people said dumb shit like all Muslims are terrorists, my debate is as follows: Some men rape women, but not all men are rapists; In America, Christian Caucasian people enslaved, tortured, and raped black people and use Christianity as justification, but many more Christians are really good people; Some parents abuse their children, but that doesn’t mean that all parents are child abusers. You get where I’m going here? So how is it that an entire group of people can be demonized for their faith based on the actions of a few comparatively? And because no one seems to want to answer this question or deal with this question, I think it’s important to show another side of the Muslim faith and who better to write it than someone who is Muslim.

My religion isn’t something I’ve really broadcasted in the past, but I feel like if everyone else can get on social media and proclaim proudly what they are, then I should to. And I should be able to write about it just like everyone else can write about things that are important to them. That’s not to say Hadiyya is me because she’s Muslim. She’s going to do things and get involved in things that I never would. Not bad things mind you (or maybe it will be bad depending on your moral compass), just things I would never do. But I do think that there’s this unspoken agreement that in mainstream and commercial publishing, you shouldn’t necessarily mention religion or else your book is categorized as a book about faith or religious fiction, and it was something I had to grapple with as I wrote all the books in the Confessions Universe. But the fact of the matter is faith or lack of faith is a big part of people’s lives. It’s especially a big part of the black community, which the characters I write about are part of.

Now I have no intentions for this book to be a preachy book on Islam and Islamophobia and being Muslim because being Muslim does not define Hadiyya, but it is a part of who she is, as is her martial arts training, her skills in cosmetology, her love for movies from the seventies and eighties, her like for neon pink nail polish (lol), and her strong dislike for bullying, oppression, and sexism. And just like any other person, she has hurts and pains and desires and relationship problems, which brings me to what this book is about.

I'm not actually sure where this picture is from, but it says Platonic Romance, so I rolled with it.
I’m not actually sure where this picture is from, but it says Platonic Romance, so I rolled with it.

It’s in the Confessions Universe of course, and it’s New Adult but what it will be a confession of… I haven’t decided yet because while being Muslim is one of the things that defines Hadiyya, it’s not going to be the defining focus of this book. It’s about… something else that I can’t really give away without spoiling the book. Not yet anyway. But I can say this book will deal with a platonic romantic relationship between Hadiyya and a man she meets. A more than friends, less than lovers type of thing, but a little too close to be brother and sister that will really question socially accepted definitions of love, friendship, and romance. Because contrary to popular belief, love and romance is more than just being involved in a monogamous, sexual, touch-feely relationship with someone. You can have love for and romance with (and when I say romance, I mean a strong emotional connection) someone without being in love and wanting to spend the rest of your live with them, and many of the problems Hadiyya faces in her book will deal with the assumptions people make because of how mainstream media has defined friendship, love, and romance as these three separate entities where only two can be companions without raising eyebrows.

Essentially, this definition of romance is what I'm going for.
Essentially, this definition of romance is what I’m going for.

And I know some people are going to read this book, particularly other Muslims, and say that something Hadiyya does or says isn’t a total picture or reflection of the Muslim faith. I know, okay? But no matter what your religion, philosophical beliefs, or professions, we all have a different way of expressing it and this book isn’t about Hadiyya expressing being Muslim hence why this book is not—I repeat, IS NOT!—going to be titled “Confessions of a Muslim Girl” (again, that’s NOT the title). It’s about Hadiyya expressing herself and being Muslim is just a part of that expression, and like all my books, I’ll try to leave it up to everyone who reads it what to make of that.

This post was brought to you by:

Respect for Muslims Productions

I Can Love You But Not Be In Love With You Productions

Platonic Romance Productions

Friendship, Love, and Romance Productions

*Pictures Courtesy of Google Images*

Posted in Rants

Admired and Ridiculed: The Problem with Media Portrayal of the Black Female Body

With the release of Confessions of a Fat Girl, I thought it would be a great time to talk some more about body image. My book, which focuses a lot on body image isn’t the only thing that inspired me to write this post. In fact, this post isn’t just about female body image. Specifically, it’s about the black female and body image and the way society glorifies and simultaneously mocks the black female body, and more broadly, how society glories and simultaneously mocks the female body in general, telling us that we have to fit into an impossible standard. Not impossible because it’s impossible to achieve any look you want with implants and exercise and all that other stuff, but impossible because no matter how much you try to conform to the beauty ideal, it’s still not enough.

SerenaNow, if you haven’t been living under a rock these last couple of weeks, I’m sure people have heard about the controversy surrounding a comment being made by what I can only call sexist chauvinistic pigs and by The New York Times about Serena Williams. In the midst of her win and achievements, some people made the comment that she’s built like a man and some even said the only reason she continues to win is because she’s built like a man. There are a lot of things wrong with that statement. The first of which is that by making a statement like that, a shadow was cast on her achievements because it implies that only a man could make those type of achievements and since only a man can supposedly achieve what Serena Williams did, she must has achieved her wins because she’s built like a man instead of… I don’t know, maybe she worked her ass off. But that’s for another blog post at another time (probably after this one).

J.K.-Rowling-and-Serena-Williams2What really pissed me off about it and should piss all women off, but particularly black women is that once again have doubly applauded and praised her body and mocked her for it. Thankfully, Serena Williams has millions of people who love and support her and will defend her, one of the best defenses coming from my favorite person in the world, J.K. Rowling. But while it’s good to see people standing up to defend her, I have to say well of course they will. She’s a celebrity, but not only won’t she be the last black female or female that will be insulted by the media, the backlash against the comment made against her won’t solve the perpetual and centuries old problem of black women in particular being mocked for the shape of their bodies, and then having woman of other races try to emulate their bodies like it’s a new trend or fad. And you would think once it became a fad, black women would get the credit, but they don’t. Other people, usually white women get the credit and when black women raise up and call foul they’re accused of causing a division between women when women are all in the same fight. Well. Meh. In some cases, that is totally true. Women do have the same fight. But in another case, women of color, specifically black women, are fighting a totally different fight that not many people outside our group understand.

bantu knots
These are bantu knots. Not mini buns. Black girls have been doing them for a very long time.

I don’t feel like I need to give examples because it’s so overt that anyone can see it. But just in case you don’t understand what I mean, let me tell you a few. For years black women have and continue to be mocked by the texture of their hair and mocked for the styles that we put them in, even when their neat. We’re mocked for our weaves, our braids, our bantu knots, our afros. However, everyone wanted to make ado over “mini buns” that a model wore in Marc Jacobs’ show and got upset when black women cried foul and said that the so-called “mini-buns” were nothing new and that they were called bantu knots and that we had been wearing them since we got off the slave ships. Nicki Minaj was and continues to be mocked for her quirkiness, for the raciness of her videos, for being a female rapper (an admittedly good rapper even if you don’t agree with her messages), and for her body. Yet when Iggy Azeala blew onto the screen, everyone wanted to act like she had done something new, with people going as far as to say they didn’t know a woman could rap until they heard Iggy Azeala. Fine. If you don’t like Nicki, you don’t have to and we don’t even have to use her as an example. We can go way before her where black women have a long history of producing awesome female rappers, but that’s not the point. The point is people tried to put Iggy on a pedestal and ridiculed Nicki.

twerkAnd though I really hate that it became such a huge thing, twerking. I have to say it and excuse the rawness, but women, specifically black women have been shaking their asses for a long time and every time they’ve been ridiculed for it, mocked for having a behind big enough to shake. Yet Miley Cyrus got on stage and it became a thing. It became okay for girls to put a video on YouTube and shake her butt. And though Miley got some slack, she got and gets nowhere near as much as black women have gotten over the years for doing the same thing with their bodies.

Tina FeyNow that I’ve given some examples, let’s bring this on home and tie it back into my book and how the media has  women on a path to self-destruction because they make such a huge deal about body image. Admittedly, this kind of thinking—from a racial perspective–wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I was writing Confessions of a Fat Girl, at least not from this angle. But the fact that 1) Season is overweight and 2) Season is also an overweight young woman of color means she’s not only dealing with the fact that she doesn’t fit the mold for the standard of beauty in real life, but the fact that even if she did, someone would have something to say about it. If she fit the mold, she’d be called trying to be white or accused of denying her black heritage. If she didn’t fit the mold and was a big, but proportionate (whatever the hell that means) curvy girl, her butt would be too big or she’d be accused of getting implants. And being overweight, Season doesn’t really fit any “approved” mold. In other words, if women who supposedly have “perfect” bodies are ridiculed, then Season and women like Season, who don’t fit the mold and might not ever fit the mold will never be able to win. Not while we live in a world where we are taught that there is a certain standard, where how you look is most important and if you look different from the norm you’re not the right kind of “pretty.” So is it really a wonder that people are overweight, that the new food marketing gimmick is sugar-free or fat-free or all natural, that people all killing and abusing each other and themselves over how they look?

And it’s easy to say that how you look doesn’t matter. And that’s true. Except that it does matter, even if it’s not right. No matter how “perfect” your body is, there’s something wrong with it.

So how do we fix this? How do we fight a world that on one hand essentially encourages us to flaunt it, but then mocks us when we do?

CoaFG Cover 1I don’t have “the” answer, but I do believe that it starts with us saying, “fuck how we look?” Asking why it matters like I’m asking? Asking who made it matter? And it starts with diversity in media, particularly in television, movies, and books and bringing awareness to the problem. And I’m not talking about making a joke or a comedy about it. I’m talking about books and shows and movies that take a serious look at what happens and all the complexities when you live in a world that defines your worth by how you look no matter what you have going on in your life. That being “thin” makes it all better when it doesn’t. That sometimes being thin just makes it a whole lot worse or even leaves you with the same problems.

Now am I advocating women to be fat? No. At a certain point, that’s unhealthy. However, being “skinny” or “thin” is not a guarantee to being healthy. What I am advocating is appreciating and loving the body that you are in not because of how it looks, but because of that body you—and when I say that I mean the electric spark or spirit or energy or whatever you believe that animates us—can exist and be here. And I think once that clicks into place, we stop worrying about how it looks and simply taking care of it so that we can exist, which is followed by having good health (as much as you can control), which makes your body look the way it was meant to look and once that happens we can not only break the mold but get rid of the pieces. And that’s not just black women, although this post was inspired by that, but all women. And I think once we do that, no one will say that Serena Williams is built like a man, or that someone’s butt is too big, and black women’s bodies won’t be admired and awed and oogled at the same way people admire, awe, and oogle at animals in a zoo. NO women’s body will be look at in a way that is both approving yet disapproving.

Now will this happen overnight? No. It won’t. But I have every intention of letting Confessions of a Fat Girl be a stepping stone that continues to stir the conversation about this issue.

This Post Was Brought to you by:

Confessions of a Fat Girl Productions

Built Like a Woman Productions

Beauty is Only Skin Deep Productions

*Images Courtesy of Google*

Posted in Rants

New Adult Should Not Mean Sexy Romance or YA with A Lot of Sex

I’ve been thinking a lot about the New Adult genre and what this genre consists of, mostly because after a long haitus from the genre, I find myself writing in it again with my last two books. The first time I was writing it, the genre didn’t have a name and I was calling in edgy young adult. And one of the concerns my betas had was that although my protagonist fell within the YA category at eighteen, she wasn’t doing the things that normal teenagers in that category do. In fact, her situations were decidedly very adult. Now, I don’t have that problem. When my muses said hey? Why don’t you write about this situation about a twenty-two year old girl developing an eating disorder, whose mother abandoned their family leaving her to take care of her siblings, while falling in love at the same time I instantly knew that this would be a New Adult novel… except I seem to have a different definition of New Adult than what seems to be marketed. Let me explain…

Black Iris
I didn’t like this book, but it really is a perfect example of what people were claiming New Adult was.

When New Adult first came out, everyone seemed to be sprouting that this was going to be the genre that would herald in something different in fiction, a place where there were no boundaries, no restrictions on the topics and people you could write about, where you could write about the things people think but are ashamed to say, and, as a bonus, sex and lots of it was welcomed. And boy did the genre welcome the sex. People who were writing young adult and wanted to be more bold with it jumped on the New Adult bandwagon with eighteen-year-olds, who were technically still part of the YA category as it pertained age-wise, but who had lots of good sex and did adult things. New Adult also proved that there was certainly an audience for college aged protagonists when it had one time been argued that no one wanted to read about those people. New Adult said, “Twenty-something-year-old’s have an experience, have something to say about the world they live in. And damn it, people are going to listen and take us seriously.” I’d even argue that the sudden boom of New Adult was a literary revolution, one that couldn’t have happened without the self-publishing and ebook boom. New Adult was on a roll and not even the fucking sky was the limit. THE UNIVERSE was there for the taking.

Maybe Someday
Um… I’ve never read this one. But based on what I know about it, it pretty much sums up what I think the NA classification has become. Come on people, it’s just an example. I may read it and like it one day.

Then something happened. Suddenly it seemed like everyone forgot about all those other different things and it seemed to become a genre that was sexed up YA and the same old stories were starting to be told. Girl goes to college. Girl falls in love with bad boy alpha male. Girl has awesome sex. Shocking twists! Girl decides she doesn’t care! Girl lives happily ever after with alpha male. Even if they didn’t follow that pattern, even if the romance was different, the fact of the matter is, suddenly New Adult wasn’t a category to group a certain age of protagonist who weren’t young adult anymore, but yet were still trying to learn how to navigate in and act like an adult in an adult world while letting childish things go. Suddenly, New Adult seemed like an excuse to write about college aged people falling in love and having a lot of sex. And somehow, the new adult category became a subcategory of the romance genre instead of a classification all on its own and that’s not what it was touted as in its conception, what I perceived it to be.

CoaFG Cover 1
And this is my book which I’d like to think is different from other NA. Feel free to bash it if you don’t think it is when it comes out.

All that said, that’s why even though I think Confessions of a Fat Girl is New Adult and it can even fit in the New Adult Romance category, a romance isn’t all it is. It’s about a girl thrust into a more adult world with more adult responsibilities than she was bargaining for and trying to navigate it like… well, like a new adult. Yet, that’s not what New Adult seems to be marketed as nowadays. It seems like if you’re not writing a romance with lots of sex your books aren’t considered real New Adult books. Now look, I know. I know there are some exceptions. I know there are successful New Adult books that defy this assumption, but there aren’t very many that I know of. All the ones that are being touted and promoted have sex in it. And that’s discouraging for the writers who are writing a books about protagonists where college didn’t quite pan out for them; who can’t find a job even with a degree and dreams aren’t coming true; who don’t have rock hard abs or curves in all the right places and don’t live up to a certain ideal of sexiness; who are stuck at home because they don’t have the money to go anywhere else; who are stuck at home because no college except the neighborhood community college was the only one willing to take them; who decided not to go to college: who aren’t in a romantic relationship; or, like in Confessions of a Fat Girl, are in a relationship but aren’t having sex.

Look guys. I’m not bashing New Adult Romance. I love a good romance. I’m a closet romantic even though I’d never New Adultadmit it except on this blog that no one I physically know reads. And if they ever read this, I will swear up and down someone pretending to me wrote it. I get that twenty-something is that age where typically we start craving and experiencing real relationships and having to juggle them with real life, not just high school. But I am a new adult guys. And my life is decidedly lacking in the romance department and we won’t even talk about sex. And I’m not saying I speak for everyone, I’m just saying that’s my experience and I’d enjoy reading a few novels that reflect that. I’m interested in some experiences that are totally different from my norm and my expectations. I want to be engaged and surprised more often.

All that said, as much as I love the New Adult classification, I really am afraid of its future. Because when all the stories are the same, they spark the same conversation. And even though that conversation might be good, after a while, those conversations start to get old and people are looking for the next thing to talk about, and that’s not what I want New Adult to be.

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New Adult Should Not Mean Sexy Romance or YA with A Lot of Sex Productions

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I’m a New Adult… And I Don’t Have A Lot of Sex Productions

*All images Courtesy of Google Images*

Posted in News, Rants

Why I’m Not a Fan of the Plus Size Clothing Fashion Industry.

Hey everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing, but I’ve been working really hard to write Confessions of a Fat Girl. For some reason it’s probably the hardest book I’ve ever wrote and not because I don’t know what’s going to happen, but because I really relate to the plight of my protagonists. Sometimes I just have to stop and takes breaks because of the emotional blockage that builds up before I just force myself through it. So there’s that and then there’s the fact that I started writing Star Wars fanfiction again. So when I have that emotional blockage, I just write fanfiction. Then I’m in the process of looking for a job and… well, there’s just a whole lot going on, but to rant about my personal problems isn’t why I’m here.

Plus size pic 5I’m here to talk about that title. The title that might be a little controversial. That title that says that I don’t like the plus sized model ads. I can imagine initial reactions to that. So you’re a body shamer, you don’t believe clothing should be marketed to bigger woman, you’re playing into and being affected by so-called normalized expectations of feminine beauty that men have been using as one of the ways to marginalize women. Sigh. No. I’m not. It’s the very opposite actually. Not only do my size 14 non-slender legs, big butt, and huge arms disagree with you, but it’s also because I reject normalized expectations of feminine beauty that men have been using as a way to marginalize women that I don’t like the so-called plus sized model industry nor the ads.

Plus size pic 2I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life people. I struggle with it now. Even at my smallest weight, which was 138 pounds when I was seventeen , I struggled with my weight. No matter how big or small I was or am, I’m the fat girl. And I obsessed over it. Now I realize that some of that was the beginnings and seeds of what could have become a full blown eating disorder if I hadn’t realized and made the conscious choice that no matter how hard it was, I refused to let food and my weight dictate my entire life and take enjoyment out my life. So now, I’m 160 or so pounds and mostly happy with myself for the most part. Even so, I still struggle and while like everyone else I was like, “Alright. Actual big girls modeling clothes for bigger people,” I found that these same ads triggered all those insecurities about my body image and my weight I was. Why? Well, look at the plus sized model ads throughout this entire post.

Plus size pic 4I know. I know. What’s wrong with them? They’re celebrating curves and thickness and trying to accommodate and welcome bigger woman, right? I should happy about this, right? But the things is I’m not and the reason is that the plus size model and clothing industry still caters to a certain ideal of what a so-called plus sized woman “should” look like. Sure they’re big girls, but all of them have big breast slim waists, flat-ish stomachs, long slender legs, wide hips, slender arms, and not a blemish in sight. They may be bigger, but they all still fit into an acceptable standard of beauty, a standard where big sausage arms, big thighs and short legs, a-shaped bodies with little to no breast, no discernable collar bone, and full faces without a defined jaw line aren’t accepted.

Plus size pic 3
Yeap. They say what words cannot alright. They say even though I’m technically plus size, I’m still the “right” size.

A good article that somewhat draws attention to this is the buzzfeed article This Is What Plus-Size Clothes Look Like On Plus-Size Women. Read the article for yourself, but the gist of the article and pictures are that the plus size modeling industry and the plus size clothing industry is a gimmick to make more money just like everything else in the fashion industry. It’s a way to get those women who probably wouldn’t look twice at designer clothing because it wouldn’t fit to spend their money, and ultimately, for girl like me—who very well may always think of herself as the fat girl no matter how big or small she gets—it’s telling them that their kind of curvy or fat or whatever you want to call still isn’t right and doesn’t fit within the mold of beauty. Women are still being presented with a standard they might not ever be able to attain.

Now, that’s not to say that they’re aren’t designers who really want to cater to the needs of plus sized women, who want to break the beauty mold and accept all woman, all body types, skinny, curvy, not curvy, and somewhere in between all that. However, I am saying that while I think the fashion industry has taken a step in the right direction, it has an incredibly long way to go in embracing more diverse body types.

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Virgin Shaming and the Sexual Expectations of Men in Media

Time Flies!Time really flies. I didn’t realize it had been so long since I updated. Admittedly, I’ve been in a rut and living my own real live new adult novel lately, filled with angst, depression, despair sometimes and some brief moments of happiness, mostly when I realized that the guy I’m very much in love with knows I’m alive and comes to seek me out rather than the other way around. So yes. I’m a little happier than I have been lately and found some inspiration to work on Confessions of a Fat Girl, which is where I got the idea for this post.

So the story is all about Season and how she battles with the onset of an eating disorder she won’t admit she’s developing and how that effects all her relationships and her relationships effect the disorder. One of those relationships is with Victor. You guys remember him, right? If you don’t know who he is, I won’t spoil it, but he shows up in my other two books. And I wanted to make him the star of his own book, but Victor just doesn’t have enough conflict within himself or outside of him that affect him, nor do things bother him. However, he is Season’s very serious boyfriend in Confessions of a Fat Girl and in the novel, Victor’s a virgin. That’s right guys, I reversed the roles here. Victor is the virgin with little experience in things of sexual nature and Season is the non-virginal female who has to know what boundaries she can push and ease Victor into his sexual awakening… Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. He’s purposely saving it for marriage, and I’m not sure if they get married or not yet at all, but I do know it’s not in the duration of the book which brings me to the point of this post:

Virgin shaming.

Virgin Meter

Yes. It exists. I mean, you would think in a world where women are criticized for being sluts because they had sex being a virgin is a good thing. NOPE! They get shamed for being a virgin with things like, “You can’t marry someone if you don’t know if you’re sexually compatible,” “You don’t know what you like if you haven’t experimented,” “That’s old fashioned,” and blah, blah, blah!!! Damned for doing and damned for not doing people. So you may as well be damned for doing whatever the hell you’ve made the choice do because someone is going to persecute you for it either damn way!

Stop Virgin ShamingHere’s the thing, people talk about slut shaming, people talk about how wrong it is, how you should be allowed to have as much sex as you want without anyone judging you for it. But I think when we started to fight so harshly against sexual repression and oppression, we became to covertly sent the message that once you get a certain age, it is not okay to not have sex, even when someone makes the active choice not to. If you’re choosing not to have sex or you choose not to deal with relationships until a certain time period in your life, that should be fine and no one should be telling them that they’re asexual or never going to find someone that wants to be with them. Unfortunately, that’s what virgins of a certain age are faced with.

For example in this article called, When Guys Find Out I’m a Virgin, a girl defends her decision (a totally non-religious decision might I add) to not have sex until marriage. I thought it was awesome that she was so convicted in her choice, especially in a very sexualized world where it seems like even toy commercials are wiring us to want sex. Then I read the comments that said she might be asexual or she might have a psychological problem or that she was wrong to think that way and should rethink her choice. First of all, her choice is harming not a damn soul. Second of all, I think these commenters missed the part where she said she was in no way anti-sex, that she pretty much can’t wait to have sex, that once or twice she’s almost given in to the guy who liked her so much and wanted to rip off her clothes and she thought about letting him, but he left the room to respect her decision. Did they miss all that? It was the first time I became aware of the stigma that’s being created against virginity at a certain age and really began to look into this idea of virgin shaming. And to my surprise, it existed.

Dominant male
I hate this movie, but is this really what women want? A guy who always takes control… minus the abuse of course.

And then I thought about the guys. The guys who are expected to be the controllers of the bedroom, to take charge and know exactly how to please a woman, to have her melting like butter in his arms from a simple touch. Virgin shaming is so much worse for them. Somehow, being a man and a virgin is seen as taking away from their sense of masculinity. Somehow people assume a virgin won’t know what to do when it comes time to get in bed, that they don’t know and won’t ever know how to pleasure a woman. That if they’re waiting for marriage, the two parties involve will be sexually incompatible and the marriage will be over. Or that they’re deprived or… or… all the other things I’ve heard people say about male virgins and all virgins.

And it’s not just what’s said, it’s what’s not said in movies, books, music, and various other forms of entertainment. I can’t name a romance novel where the guy is the shy virgin and the woman takes control. If he is, he’s being made fun of or his sex partner is just as virginal as he is and they both awkwardly fumble through it as though it’s not that serious or it in no way can be romantic or erotic.

Here’s the thing guys. Even the two most compatible people on the planet have to work at sex. Yes. I said it. Sex takes practice. And it doesn’t matter how many people you’ve been with or haven’t been with, sometimes it takes a while to understand what the other person likes or to get over the initial awkwardness. For some people, that’s two hours and for some people it takes more than that. Days, weeks, maybe even a few months. But eventually everyone gets the hang of it and they’re sex lives turn out to be just fine. Or maybe it doesn’t, but that’s totally not dependent on how many people you’ve had sex with or haven’t had sex with in the past. There are a lot of factors that play into it.

Shut upMy point in this long rant? If you want to have sex. Go for it. No one is stopping you. If you don’t want to have sex, for whatever reason you don’t want to, then don’t. Either way, don’t let anyone judge or shame you for whatever decision you make. And in your efforts to no be shamed, please don’t shame someone who makes a different choice than the one you made.

So Confessions of a Fat Girl are for all the girls who have a problem with how they look whether it’s too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall etc… It’s also for virgins, particularly the male virgins. Whatever the reason you made your choice, it’s okay.

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Note: No. I did not marry a virgin man. I’m very single, but if you are single man and happen to be a virgin, please send me your number. Lol. Just kidding…. Mostly.

Posted in News, Rants

Fox’s Empire and the Portrayal of Black Life in Media

Empire Image 1As a writer that is a proponent for diversity in fiction, particular a proponent of more racial diversity in fiction, it should be no surprise to any readers of this post that Fox’s new show Empire caught my attention right away. It’s gotten a lot of criticism, good and bad, and I had no intention of saying anything about it until this checklist was shared on Facebook.

The executives at FOX NETWORK ran down the following check list before Premiering the New show “EMPIRE” tonight…….. here’s that check list…

  • 1.) Black Men killing each other…. “check”
  • 2.) Angry Black Woman going after a Black male “check”
  • 3.) Educated, Successful Black Male with a White Woman “check”
  • 4.) Display of Effeminized Black Males “check”
  • 5.) Blacks committing crimes and going to prison “check”
  • 6.) Two Bitter Black Women going after each other ….one being lightskin, the other brown skin…. “check”
  • 7.) The Promotion of Ignorant ass Crack Baby Rap Music “check”
  • 8.) Overweight Black Woman displaying her self hate by wearing a BLONDE WIG “check”


Before I discuss this, I’m going to throw out a disclaimer that I don’t know the legitimacy of this list. All I know is that it showed up in my personal Facebook timeline where a lot of people were beating down the show.

Music, Family, PowerNow because I’m a very open minded person and and as a writer I must see all sides of the argument in order to present them, I see where both the defenders and the opponents of this show are coming from. In its defense, the show is pretty well written, has some good acting (especially by Taraji P. Henson), and is unafraid to delve into detail about the taboos and customs of the black community. Issues like homosexuality, drug dealing with the intent to get out as soon as possible to start legitimate business, jail, marriage, divorce, etc… If it weren’t so well written the entire show would be a cliché, but then again everything is a cliché if it’s not well written and executed so make what you will of all those tropes.

On the other hand are its opponents. Some of their conclusions are a stretch, but I can see why their upset over this portrayal of blackness. There’s this portrayal that black people are nothing but a bunch of self-hating backstabbing thugs that will do whatever it takes to get on top in the world and get a couple of dollars, no matter who they stomp down in the process (family and friends). That’s evidenced by how Cookie and Lucious are trying to turn their own sons against each other, even though so far the two have resisted. The very atmosphere of the show is one of no loyalty, no trust, and taking advantage of people to get what you can from them while they’re useful.

Now, let’s step back and analyze this. Do both sides have a point? Yes. Absolutely!

On the defenders side, as black people, we’re starved for any portrayal of black people in a television show, especially where the black people get leading roles. And let’s not talk about getting GOOD shows with black people in leading roles. It’s one of my pet peeves with Tyler Perry. Sure the man is trying to make good whole TV with a message for his people, but damn can he work on the execution, the dimension of his characters, the sometimes offensive, condescending and judgmental message he sends, etc. So when Empire came out, many people cheered. Another show paving the way for us. And to anyone who has a problem with it, my suggestion is that you turn to FX, MTV, VHI, HBO, Lifetime and you’ll see white people acting like that on any given day and no one is critiquing them like Empire being critiqued.

Breaking-Bad-HeisenbergNo one critiqued Breaking Bad for it’s portrayal of a white man selling drugs to take care of his family even though it eventually gets out of hand. We didn’t agree with what he did all the time, but we loved him all the same because his intentions were (most of the time) good. This reminds me a lot of Cookie who sold drugs and got sent to jail trying to help Lucious, and most people who like the show couldn’t give two f**** about the message it sends.

The opponents of Empire don’t see all this. They see some, most, or all of the issues in the above list I shared. They see this show as giving a bad name to black people and black life because that’s not the entire scope of black life. Black life is more than just doing whatever it takes to come out on top. And the opponent’s problem is the lack of other black shows to balance that out. So yeah we Empire, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. But where’s our more wholesome portrayals. Where’s our normal black family trying to do the right thing, who did everything right and are dealing not just with issues specific to the black community, but specific to the universal community.

FreshWhere’s the Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin (debatable) and That’s So Raven, of the 2010’s. The shows that everyone, no matter what color can relate to and say I’d like my family to be like that. Those families and portrayals weren’t perfect, the black people in them were good people with a somewhat regular life who simply made mistakes along the way like all people do. Yeah not all white people are portrayed like that in television, but for every Breaking Bad there’s a Girl Meets World or a Switched at Birth (that one’s debatable too) or a Community or a New Girl. And they’re not always cheesy, over-the-top, and dramatic. They’re good shows you can unwind around and watch with the family. Sure we have Black-ish, but meh. Your mileage may vary with that one like mines does.

So what I think it all boils down to, and what it all boils down to for me as a writer, is that Empire isn’t a bad show. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with it. It’s just one portrayal of black life. But it’s not the only portrayal, and I think that’s where its opponents are having issues. We need balance in the portrayal of black people—just like there is a somewhat balance in the portrayal of white people—in all media from books to movies to television. And when writers decide on those portrayals, we shouldn’t be judged on it. There’s no way one show can be the picture of a race, but because the rest of the picture is lacking crucial aspects, that’s what it seems like.

*All Images Courtesy of Google Images*