Friday, July 06, 2007

The Southgate Conversation + Looking for Marci Blackman...

I find myself needing to archive all these exchanges that I've been finding regarding writer/novelist (former dancer, and self-described black nerd) Martha Southgate's "Writers Like Me" article in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review (and the permalink for the article). Interestingly, Southgate has chimed in on some of these comment discussions. (pictured left, Martha Southgate)

There's writer Eisa Ulen's blog. Ulen comments:

This is an important article, one future generations will read, an articulation of the pains and triumphs experienced by today's Black writer. Just as students today read Langston Hughes' "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" when discussing The Harlem Renaissance and Alice Walker's "Looking for Zora" when discussing The Black Arts Movement, years from now undergraduates will be reading "Writers Like Me," along with writer Nick Chiles' "Their Eyes Were Reading Smut," when they discuss turn-of-the-21st-century literature, what Kevin Powell has called our Word Movement. [Ulen's links]
Then Ulen's blog audience chimes in with some interesting comments. Plus Ulen includes the link to Southgate's Reading List of African American Writers (the NYT includes a hyphen) who she considers to be undeservedly overlooked.

Also, there's Southgate's guest blogging moment, "Martha's Director's Cut," on Tayari Jones' (pictured left) thoughtful blog. In it Southgate includes an expanded quote from ZZ Packer, as well as some of what compelled her to pitch the article to the NYTBR. Each of these blog discussions has some really incisive comments from various writers including emerging African American writer (filmmaker, and former journalist) Bridgett Davis , journalist Errol Lewis, online independent bookseller Jenn Brissett (, and literary veteran Sarah Schulman.

Tayari Jones also chimes in with her her own take on the situation, "Beyond the McMillian [sic] Moment ." (Note: Jones is currently at the prestigious The MacDowell Colony (whose animated front webpage features a really beautiful photo of the late artist Benny Andrews), working on a new novel. She's also taking the time to blog about her experience there, we're fortunate to be able to glean something of MacDowell from her perspective; helping to demystify that experience from the inside.)

Of course there's also my fav j's theater who considered Southgate's article and turned the focus on the absence of novels and literary fiction by black gay men. (pictured right, Randall Keenan; and left the cover of his novel, A Visitation of Spirits)Yep, that's something to think about, as you also think about where the queer black female literary fiction voices are as well. Unless I've missed something, one of the last great novels written by a queer black woman was the troubling Po Man's Child, authored by Marci Blackman (pictured right in 1999), and published in 1999, by the small independent San Francisco-based publisher Manic D Press which admirably has managed to stay alive and keep its publications in print.

Blackman first gained recognition rambling with the legendary first Sister Spit Tour in 1997, and co-editing the 1994 anthology Beyond Definition: New Writing from Gay and Lesbian San Francisco. She received some great reviews for her debut, Po Man's Child, the American Library Association’s 2000 GLBT Book Award for literature and the 2000 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Best New Fiction and was a selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club. After difficulty moving to the next level in the literary field, Blackman disappeared from the scene. Last I heard she was working in real estate, and had begun the transition from butch to transman. Most importantly I haven't heard about or read anything of Blackman's literary writing, as a man or woman, in about four years.

Now that's a serious shame.

(Blackman pictured left circa 2002)
Note: Blackman's fiction also appears in the original Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction (Dutton/Plume, 2001), ed. Carol Taylor; and Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction, eds. Devon W. Carbado, Dwight A. McBride, and Donald Weise (Cleis Press, 2002)


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