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Day 18: Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931. A novelist, editor, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, her work is best known for its epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters.

Beloved (1987) won Morrison the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, yet is one of the most highly disputed works in terms of genre. Many contend that it is not a work of horror, even though it is a ghost story, and is rife with isolation, violence and paranormal activity. Others, myself included, contend that horror’s definition desperately needs widening, to embrace this masterpiece of a work. As such, it is one of the books in the 28 Days of Black Women in Horror giveaway.

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But Beloved isn’t Morrison’s first foray into speculative fiction.

Morrison points out that with its island of spirits and talking trees, her novel Tar Baby (1981), is more “timeless phantasmagoria” than identifiable present reality. Her latest novel, God Help the Child–her 11th–is a successor of sorts to Tar Baby in theme: beauty, self-image, and blackness.

Pick up Morrison’s books on Amazon. For more about her, head over to her website and follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 7: Tananarive Due

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Tananarive Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida is a recipient of The American Book Award (for The Living Blood), NAACP Image Award (for the In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel, with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes), and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award (for the short story collection Ghost Summer).

Due was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for The Between (Superior Achievement in a First Novel) and My Soul to Keep (Best Novel). Due, author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir, was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University in 2010.

Danger Word, a short horror film funded by a successful crowdfunding venture, is based on the post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story of the same name by Due and husband Steven Barnes. The short story has also sparked full length YA horror novels Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.

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Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before— her first short story collection, Ghost Summer is a must read. Keep up with Tananarive on her website, her mailing list, and on Twitter.

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Day 1: Helen Oyeyemi

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Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984, moved to London with her family at age four. She wrote her first novel while at school studying for her A-levels. For those of us from the US, that’s sort of like study for the SAT in order to be considered for entrance into a college or university. Also while still at school, she got a publishing deal and The Icarus Girl, a ghost story about an eight-year-old girl torn between her British and Nigerian identity, hit the shelves.

Her third novel, White is for Witching–described as having “roots in Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe”–was a Shirley Jackson Award Finalist and won a Somerset Maugham Award. Set in Dover off the South East coast of England, the Silver family house has been home to four generations of women, weaving threads that bind them cross time, space, and death. I loved the points of view in this book–the teenage Miranda’s, her twin brother Eliot’s, and yes…the house itself has it’s own voice.

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Readers are divided about White is for Witching, because it is a bold work. Oyeyemi trusts the reader to be able to follow along without explaining every move, every shift she makes in this Gothic tale. It has subtlety, it has a bite that you might not feel until the welt raises on your skin hours later.

Like much of Oyeyemi’s work, White is for Witching is a commentary on beauty, horror, nationality, and race. Her novel Boy, Snow, Bird is an inventive take on the Snow White and Cinderella fairy tales. Her latest release is a collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, which is on my to-read list. 

Since 2014 Oyeyemi has lived in Prague. Find out more about her work on her website.

Horror by POC for All Hallows Read

All Hallows Read is upon us and ’tis the season to give (or acquire for yourself) a scary book to read. If you’re not up on AHR, here’s the FAQ to catch up so you can start posting your recommendations on Twitter at #AllHallowsRead.

So you don’t have to run off to check that hashtag, here are a few of my recommendations for horror written by and about people of color.  Some are older, some newer, and there are even a few links to POC horror you can read immediately.

How’s that for a gift?

Happy Halloween!

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Goth by Otsuichi

Japan has made a name for itself in the horror film scene, but I come across few people who delve into the written (and translated) words of Nippon horror. Details are painted with elegant brutality, all encased in the mores of Japanese society.

Morino is the strangest girl in school – we’ve all been there, haven’t we? – obsessed with murder. The more brutal, the better. Good thing she lives in a town that’s a magnet for serial killers, making it easy to investigate the slayings. But she and doesn’t want to stop the killer, she simply wants to understand…

Mou ichido, onegai shimasu (One more time, please.)

 

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance. In Almanac, Silko puts Western, Euro-centric culture on trial and the evidence she cites is pretty damning.

This isn’t a feel-good read, or one to approach if you’re tender in any way, but if you can stand the brutality, it is a fierce, eye-opening novel.

Triggers: racism, homophobia, sexism, pedophila.

 

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One Blood by Qwantu Amaru

Voodoo, family curses, political ambitions and a quest for power are dominant in this roller coaster ride set in Louisiana. I don’t recommend books on conjure magic lightly, as many authors aggrandize the practice, and make it something isn’t. But Amaru has done his research, pulling from his experiences living in small town America and in magic-loving countries like Brazil.

Governor Randy Lafitte is popular and beloved after battling back from brain cancer, but his political success has come at a price. When his daughter is kidnapped, Lafitte is confronted with a past he thought died a long time ago. However, what hasn’t caught you, hasn’t passed you. And what comes for Lafitte may be way more than he or the forces behind him can handle as he fights the literal demons from his past.

 

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author of experimental fiction, horror fiction, crime fiction, and science fiction.  Mongrels is dark humorous horror about a boy and his family who struggle to survive in a world that shuns and fears them.

They are mongrels, mixed blood, living a life of narrow escapes and midnight runnings to stay ahead of the law. As they free across the South, the boy comes of age and the family has to decide if he is one of their unusual breed or not. Bloody, grisly, and strangely moving.

Prefer to sample some of Graham Jones’ short stories first? Try The Ones that Got Away.

 

 

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Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma

Do you love horror that is gut-wrenching? That will leave you staring blankly at the screen with its beauty, but send you scurrying for a blanket to combat the lingering chill it leaves? Then you want to read Sharma’s short story at the link above.

Triggers: child abuse, incest, rape.

 

Glen Grant’s Chicken Skin Tales: 49 Ghost Stories from Hawaii

The late Glen Grant was a historian of Hawaii and all of her melting rainbow of cultures. If you can’t get to Honolulu to experience on of the ghost tours still occurring today, pick up a copy of this volume. It’s the first in Grant’s series to give the reader “chicken skin” or goosebumps, while celebrating the diversity of fear that is Hawaii.

 

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Crota by Owl Goingback

Crota won the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel, and was one of four finalists in the Best Novel category. Bodies are found torn apart in the woods. Some think it’s a bear, but others know the truth: the beast whispered about around campfires for generations, is real. Goingback draws on Choctaw lore to create a monster—ursine, serpentine, ancient.

 

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Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Moreno-Garcia’s upcoming release. Yes, it’s about vampires, but not as Hollywood—or even other bloodsucker literature— has portrayed them: with Aztec heritage.

Atl is a Tlāhuihpochtlin, the last of a clan of matriarchal vamps from the pre-Spanish colonization of Mexico able to take on an avian aspect. Her family slaughtered by a rival clan, Atl’s mission is to escape capture and finally make her way out of Mexico. Weak from lack of food when the young, vampire-obsessed Domingo happens by, he’s a distraction she doesn’t need. Grab a copy when it’s released on October 25th.

 

 

Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal

 The Mittals desperately try to contain the secrets that have been locked behind a mysterious bolted door, but to their shame, the supernatural always finds a way in. Forbidden love and the absolute sacrifice enhance the painful horrors brought about by the oppressive weight of family and of expectation.

Mumbai-born Agarwal’s early writings explored how colonialism and the chaos of dislocation shaped human interaction, but Haunting Bombay delves into the world of the slum-dwellers, prostitutes and hermaphrodites who survive on the peripheries of Indian society.

 

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong

 Wong is a self-proclaimed writer of tiny horrors. She’s also been a finalist the Bram Stoker & Shirley Jackson Awards. Her short story, which you can read at the link above, won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Bringing a new aspect to shapeshifters, a favorite of the horror genre, Wong threads queer identity and Chinese-American culture into a gruesome, chewy read. As you’ll see, I use the word “chewy” for a reason.

 

 

Splash & Flash: Swan Children Alchemy

Recently, I won a contest from These Unquiet Things, an elegant blog for kindred glooms. I was the lucky recipient of two bottles of scented oils from Swan Children Alchemy. Proprietress and scenteur Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble offers “Oil blends, crystal magic, and herbal wisdom for personal empowerment and maximum luminosity.”

Yes. I’m here for all of this. I received Morrigan and Red Room. More on them in a moment.

Since I am such a lover of scent, I thought I’d post a piece of flash fiction I wrote based on my impression of the fragrance. Splash it on, live in it for a bit, then write a story. Hence the name, Splash & Flash.

The lovely Sarah Elizabeth from TUT also included a few other fragrance samples I’ll splash and flash at a later date. On the day I received the gift, I took a photo of the contents.

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As Above So Below temporary tattoos

A Becky Munich heart-shaped sticker and Goddess Witch bookmark

Concrete Minerals vegan mineral eyeshadow in Kinky

Raven’s foot grosgrain ribbon

Vampire queen mirror (The irony of that is not lost on me.)

6 perfume samples:

-Black Forest from Black Phoenix Alchemy Laboratory

-Starry Night from Montale

-Poudre de Riz from Huitieme Art

-Black Gemstone from Stephane Humbert Lucas 777

-Malefic Tattoo Extrait from LM Parfums

-Floriental from Comme de Garcons

I’m focusing on Swan Children’s magnificent oil fragrances. First up: Morrigan.

Last week, I had some struggles, both personal and professional. When I opened the box, I was drawn immediately to the Morrigan scent, part of their Goddess collection.

Description:

A dark and mysterious forest calls to your inner crow through a deathly blend of dragon’s blood, juniper berry, black pepper, fir needle, patchouli, and sweet almond oil with an inky black onyx obelisk holding queenly court in the center of the vial.

Onyx is sacred to The Morrigan. It is an iron-clad protector against black magic and negative energies while also facilitating energetic invisibility, and it is a strong fortifier of deep personal power and magical wisdom.

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I felt inspired wearing this fragrance. Powerful and capable. The scent lingered, draping me in its protective embrace. I was beyond those struggles of earlier in the week and I sat at my laptop and powered through my workload.

At the end of the day, I still felt a latent energy pulsing through me, instead of the creeping fatigue that sometimes assaults me at mid-afternoon and lingers, unwelcome. As such, here is the flash piece I wrote while wearing Morrigan:

Goddess Rising

The chains binding her snapped, releasing a metallic ozone into the incense-laden air. Lightning struck, drawn to her damp tongue, igniting her and burning away the sludge that had encased her more firmly than the irons had.

She was free once again.

Broken open.

She slipped from the damaged husk, her feet bare and new and strong. Kissing her cage, her prison—her old self—she thanked it for shrouding her. Then crushed it underfoot, leaving it to char in the fires of before.

The second fragrance I tried was Red Room, Number 10 from the Twin Peaks Collection.

Description:

Terror. Shadows. Doppelgängers. And a strange little dancing man. The scent of danger, unfiltered.

Top notes: hallucinogenic incense smoke
Middle notes: motor oil, scorched wood
Base notes: tobacco ash, ambrette, murky forests

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Terror and shadows. My wheelhouse. But sitting at my computer, draped in the scents of fear, I trembled a little. My other perfumes, those of light and sea and citrus, seemed far away. As the scent bloomed on my skin, I inhaled darkness. The temptation of indulging deeper, baser desires. And I wrote.

That Type of Girl

What’s that? On your face?

Lipstick, surely. Rouge, maybe. Smeared, ground, rubbed into your bare nails to tint them a rusty red. But you don’t wear rouge.

The mist of memory swirls, runs.

Under your nails…dirt. A line of it. You bring your hands to your head to contain the throbbing, the pounding.

Gardening. You’d been in the garden. Planting.

You yawn, then wince. Flex your cheek to ease the dull pain.

Cool. Cold. Tiles. You’re in the bathroom. Your reflection the mirror tells you that.

Then she tells you: You don’t garden.

And you remember.

You argued.

He hit you.

Then red.

Digging.

But… you wouldn’t. You’d never…hurt anyone, would you? You’re not like that.

Your reflection smiles. Rouged cheeks and red lips. Rusty red.

She tells you: You would.

But she’ll keep your secret.

You smile.

Rusty red.

 

I’ve never posted flash on my blog before, so let me know what you think of it. Thanks for reading and if you love scent, be sure to check out Swan Children’s selections!

Rebellious Reading: Banned Books Week

September 25 – October 1 2016 is Banned Books Week.

Books are challenged and banned in countries around the world every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA),  a challenge is defined as “as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”

Who is making these challenges and why do the books get banned? Have a look at the ALA’s graphic on 2014 challenges. What books are being banned for inappropriateness? Hold on, it’s a shocker.

Diverse books are most often banned.

Books by people of color and books that deal with issues on race and sexuality, specifically homosexuality, top the list.

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In their press release, the ALA stated that their Office of Intellectual Freedom analyzed complaints about books from 2001 to 2013 and found that “attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned.”

Some of my favorite books have been or are on the Banned Books List. Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou frequently have their books challenged. Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon. Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Even Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has been removed from bookstores and even libraries, preventing people who may not have the resources to purchase books from experiencing these powerful novels.

The Office for Intellectual Freedom puts together a list of Top Ten most challenged books each year. 2016’s list is here.  I celebrate Banned Books Week every year by picking up something that was at one time considered not appropriate for my consumption.

Have a look at this YouTube video from April of this year on book censorship and get yourself one of these inappropriate books. You’ll thank me.

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Graveyard Shift Sister: Meosha Bean

To expand my series of interviews with Black women horror writers, I’ve added a few filmmakers to the list.

My first director is Meosha Bean, an award-winning filmmaker who has over a dozen horror projects to her name, including Dark Rises (2103), Too Close to Home (2012), a crime documentary based on true events, and Miss Pepper (2014), which got over 30,000 hits in one week online.

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Meosha Bean in Dark Rises

On top of that, Meosha has acting, music videos, and promotional work on her list of credits. She’d one of the even directors for the 7 Magpies project, a horror film anthology that is the first of its kind: written and directed by black women.

She’s also worked with some big names like pro boxer Roy Jones, designer Ron Bass, and music superstar Billy Idol.

Check out my chat with Meosha here.