Afro-urban magic

It’s up!  I wrote this essay back in September, but it’s out now in the March issue of the Horn Book Magazine (the full title was “Decolonizing the Imagination: Afro-Urban Magic and The Door of No Return”).  You can find it on their website.  While you’re there, check out Roger Sutton’s interview with National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Katherine Patterson.  I think the Ambassador and the Children’s Book Council would be ideal sponsors of the US Publishing Equalities Charter.  The CCBC would also be the perfect organization to monitor signatories to the charter, ensuring they really are promoting diversity within the industry.  To learn more about the UK Publishing Equalities Charter, visit the Diversity in Publishing Network (DIPNET).

This is a photograph of The Door of No Return taken at Goree Island by my friend Keith.  It’s always interesting to show this image to students and ask them to describe what they SEE and what they FEEL.  As horrific as the experience of enslavement was, I look at this image and see possibility.  Here’s an excerpt from my essay:

Why would a plump, brown-skinned girl with an Afro embark on a quest to read all the books she could find by Frances Hodgson Burnett? Was I an Anglophile in training, or was my taste in books (and music, and clothes) a way of rejecting popular representations of blackness, which fit me just as poorly (if at all)? Up until grade three I started each school day by singing “God Save the Queen,” so perhaps my taste in literature was the inevitable result of Canada’s colonial legacy. Whatever the reason, I have since made peace with my past self. I accept my own hybridity, which is too often reduced to the fact that I am mixed-race. (There is a common misperception that mixed-race people exist solely for the purpose of bridging the racial divide.) I am an educator, so I do have a professional obligation to teach others to respect and value difference. As a writer, however, I have a somewhat different mission. Unlike our unfortunate president, who is attacked whenever he dares to broach the topic of race (and even when he does not), my goal isn’t racial reconciliation. Instead it is to expose and explore what Canadian writer Dionne Brand calls “the fissure between the past and the present”; with my writing I aim to reveal “a rupture in history, a rupture in the quality of being…a physical rupture, a rupture of geography.”


~ by elliottzetta on March 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “Afro-urban magic”

  1. Nice words Sis Zetta. I just found your page through Shadra Stricklands work. Great stuff! And that foto of the gateway struck me because I just illustrated a piece with a very similar-if not the same gateway.Keep up the strong words.

  2. Thanks, Robert–looks like you’re doing great stuff on your site, too!

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