Monday, January 30, 2012

Black and White Airmen

Right upon the heels of learning that film producer George Lucas is involved in an interracial relationship with Good Morning America Financial Consultant Mellody Hobson, I also found out that George Lucas is the producer of Red Tails!  

Because Red Tails, depicting the story of the heroic Tuskegee (African American) Airmen, is largely cast with African Americans, George Lucas had to finance it with his own money. Other producers feared low movie attendance since no heavy duty white roles are present to attract white audiences.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but it's on my list! I wonder if Ms. Hobson put the bug in George Lucas's ear to do the movie in the first place!

 With all the talk about Red Tails, I wanted to share a book I happened upon by accident one day while at the library.  It's a kid's book (6th grade and up), but a fascinating account for adults to enjoy, as well.

One of the things I liked most about the story was that the two friends featured in it are from Cincinnati. And not long after I read the book, I got to see both of them speak at my sons' school--which is the very same one they attended as young boys!

In John Fleischman's Black and White Airmen: Their True History, we learn about the true history of a friendship that almost didn't happen.

John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun grew up in the same neighborhood and were in the same third grade class. Although classmates, they weren't friends, because Herb was white and John was black.

John and Herb were twenty-one when the United States entered WWII. Herb became an Army Air Forces B-17 bomber pilot. John flew P-51 fighters. Both participated in the high-altitude bomber war against Nazi Germany.  But because the army was segregated and black and white couldn't mix, they never met.

John and Herb returned home safely, but it took them another fifty years to meet and discover that their lives had almost taken the same path through times of war and peace. Now friends, Herb and John have made it a mission to tell young people why race once made a big difference and why it shouldn’t anymore.

Check out this video to learn more about John and Herb, and be sure to read John Fleischman's Black and White Airmen!

Have you seen Red Tails yet? If so, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Your Novel Starring...

How about Tom Cruise as...
Before diving into today’s post, I wanted to throw out a book that’s on my to read list.  Since I’m posting about casting your novel (in your imagination, of course), I’d like to suggest a book on screenwriting.  I attended a workshop a few months ago and the author (whose name escapes me) recommended Save The Cat! by  Blake Snyder. 

The workshop focused on developing heroes and villains, and the presenter highly recommended Snyder’s book.  The title Save the Cat! (courtesy of Wikipedia) is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice — e.g. saving a cat—that makes the audience like the hero and root for him. According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story.  There’s your helpful tip for the day! If you’ve already read Save the Cat!,  please share your thoughts!

Alright, now let’s have some fun! We’ve all done this, whether reader or writer—cast a story we love in our imaginations!  I read Gone with the Wind when I was in eighth grade. The movie was already in existence—and perfectly cast.  But I cast a sequel in my head, you know, the one where Scarlett gets Rhett back.  I decided that Linda Carter (Wonder Woman) would play Scarlett (because she looked like Vivien Leigh), and Chad Everett (Medical Center) would re-enact the role of Rhett! To me, he seemed like the only man at the time (am I showing my age here?) suitable to play Clark Gable—I mean Rhett Butler.

Some Vince Flynn (American Assassin) fans think the perfect Mitch Rapp (a black ops operative) would be Gerard Butler.  I don’t believe the role has been cast yet, but the movie is in the works. Recently, I saw the trailer for Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money, starring Katherine Heigl as bounty hunter Stephanie Plum—what a great choice!  I hope Ms. Evanovich is pleased!

Years ago I remember reading how disappointed author Anne Rice was when her novel Interview with the Vampire was cast starring Tom Cruise in the role of the vampire Lestat.  I suppose when movie rights are sold to a novel, the author cuts ties completely and has no control over the future Hollywood incarnation.  But wouldn’t it be nice if writers could sell their novels with the condition that only actors they choose could be cast as the characters they’d created? 

What’s a story that you’ve read or written that you’ve cast in your imagination? Share your story and your dream cast!  Here's mine:

Leonardo Dicaprio
In The Governor’s Sons, I’ve cast Leonardo Dicaprio as the arrogant, charming and self assured  Ash Kroth.  We first meet Ash in 1936 as a young law student.  In the second half of the story, the year is 1965, and Ash is a segregationist governor.
Tatyana Ali
Tatyana Ali would play the alluring college girl Kitty Wilkes, introduced in Part I (1936).  She works as hired help one summer in Ash's family home.  Ash is twenty-three and immediately attracted to Kitty upon first seeing her.  She flirts with him from day one, and soon the two fall in love.

Kyra Sedgwick
Kyra Sedgwick would be Ash's wife, Charlene Stokes Kroth.  Readers don't meet her until Part II (1965).  At this point she has been Ash's wife for over 25 years.  A former beauty queen, Charlene is smart and beautiful, yet insecure.  She knows of a woman from Ash's past, but she doesn't know just who that mysterious woman was, or how that woman forever changed her husband's life.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Help in a Box

Aunt Jemima then
Let me open by saying Happy Martin Luther King Day!  Nearly 100 years after the Civil War, Dr. King put our nation on the road to racial reconciliation.  It’s a long road and we’re still on it, but things certainly have improved.

Prior to racial barriers being broken, blacks were relegated to positions of servitude.  Even high achieving blacks in white schools were encouraged by teachers and counselors to seek trades.

If you’ve read Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help, or seen the movie, you get a good feel for what life was like in the South during the early days of the Civil rights era.

With all the talk about The Help, I decided to blog about Aunt Jemima today.  My kids love Aunt Jemima frozen waffles and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.  I grew up eating waffles and pancakes that my mom made from scratch—which is exactly what I did for my kids.  But they prefer the premade frozen and mix (eaten at sleepovers) to my homemade.  Store brand waffles  and pancake mix aren’t as good, according to my boys.  “We want Aunt Jemima!”  (Sorry, Mom)

Aunt Jemima now
Prior to my kids demanding Aunt Jemima, I never bought the products—and seeing the Aunt Jemima label in a black person’s home used to shock me. I realize no ill feelings exist behind the label (Quaker Oats owns Aunt Jemima now), but the origins of the Aunt Jemima character are insensitive, or what's today considered politically incorrect.

When I was a growing up, my mother never allowed Aunt Jemima’s broad, smiling face to darken our pantry shelf (yes, pun intended).  Why did Mom despise this seemingly  innocuous,  jolly woman?  Well it all goes back to southern slave history.

Back in slavery days, very young white children called much older slaves aunt and uncle.  Apparently the practice of calling any black person  aunt or uncle, carried over into post slavery times.

My mother grew up in 1930’s South Carolina, and when white salesmen would come to the door and address my feisty grandmother as Auntie (pronounced “Ainie” in the southern vernacular), she’d say, “My mother never gave birth to anything that looked like you!” before slamming the door.

So, Mom never purchased Aunt Jemima because addressing a black woman as aunt or auntie (instead of Miss, Mrs. or ma'am) was a disrespectful practice.  However, she never had a problem with Uncle Ben, perhaps because he didn’t appear as a buffoonish caricature.  For years Aunt Jemima was portrayed as the stereotypical black mammy of the plantation south. Old Aunt Jemima was a minstrel song written in 1875 and the Aunt Jemima character was a fixture in minstrel shows during the late 19th century.

The idea of this pre-mixed product being represented by a slave woman was inspired by the marketing aspect of bringing back “the good old days” when slaves did all the work.  In the book Slave in a Box, Maurice Manning shows how “advertising entrepreneur James Webb Young, aided by celebrated illustrator N.C. Wyeth, skillfully tapped into nostalgic 1920s perceptions of the South as a culture of white leisure and black labor. Aunt Jemima's ready-mixed products offered middle-class housewives the next best thing to a black servant: a ‘slave in a box’ that conjured up romantic images of not only the food but also the social hierarchy of the plantation South.” (From the Slave in a Box Amazon page).

When I was a kid, my mom said, “if they’d just take that kerchief off her head and call the product Jemima, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”  Aunt Jemima’s appearance has changed throughout the years.  She’s no longer buffoonish looking and doesn’t resemble a mammy.  She’s been slimmed down, her kerchief evolved into a hair band before finally disappearing, and she now sports a 1980s hairdo.  The only thing that hasn’t changed, and will forever prevent my mom from buying any Aunt Jemima product is the “Aunt” in front of her name. 

Most African Americans of later generations don’t know about the derogatory past of Aunt Jemima.  But there are probably plenty  in my mom’s age group that don’t buy Aunt Jemima because of its hurtful past.

I’ll end things on a lighter note.  I won’t put you on the spot and ask whether or not you buy Aunt Jemima!  But I will ask this instead, do you prefer pancakes from mix or from scratch?

Now let me take a moment to shamelessly plug my book! If you have read The Help, readers have found The Governor’s Sons a good follow-up.  It provides a different glimpse of “the help” by showing what happens when a wealthy young man falls in love with his family’s African American maid. 

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, January 9, 2012

An SEO Experiment

Last time I promised a post using an example of SEO, search engine optimization.  Kim Kardashian isn't someone I'd usually blog about, but I certainly don't think she'll mind me using her name for today's SEO experiment!

To refresh your memory (courtesy of Wikipedia), search engine optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.  In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users.

If that went over your head, here's the naked truth about SEX, oops, I mean SEO, in a nutshell:  It enables you  to get your website noticed as much as you want it to.  So by planting strategic words in your website, you'll "herd" viewers to it. In today's post, my strategic words are in bold italics. To learn about a free tool to help you effectively use SEO, click here

Kim Kardashian is hot right now and the topic of interracial dating (known in some circles as jungle fever) is provocative.  I'm interested in writing novels about interracial/multicultural relationships, so today I'm posting some of Kim Kardashian's opinions.

Kim Kardashian's father is Armenian, and her mother is of Irish and German descent.  Kim Kardashian herself has dated white, black and Hispanic men, so she's knowledgeable on this subject.

So, without further ado, here are some of Kim Kardashian's thoughts on interracial dating:
  • Whoever you fall in love with, you can't help that.
  • [If a man] is good to you and you love him and he loves you, that's all that matters and your family will understand.
  • You have to take chances and you have to take long as [a relationship] is not harmful to [you], you need to really follow your heart.
To hear Kim's complete thoughts, click here.

Short post, a few strategic words, not sure if I'll get more hits than usual, but we'll see!

Do you use SEO?

Thanks for visiting!