Literary Links: Writing and Marketing Across Race and Culture, Female Friendships

The best bookish writing on the web this week.

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. And since our audience (and we) love books in particular, we thought we would share a weekly roundup of some our favorite bookish writing from around the web. This week: lots of smart articles about diversifying publishing and writing, and thoughtful essays about female friendship, depictions of teen girls and finding readers in literature.

Diversity, race and privilege in writing and publishing continues to energize writers and inspire new ideas and project. At NPR’s Codeswitch, a wonderful feature takes a look at the problems diverse authors face in publicizing their books. The piece spends time with Kima Jones, who specializes in doing publicity outreach for marginalized writers:

Each client is unique, she says. For past projects, she has researched segmented audiences ranging from retired African-American women’s books clubs, South Asian soccer organizations, Trinidadian-interest media outlets both stateside and abroad, to extracurricular programs geared toward South Bronx teens. She works both as a lead publicist on projects and has been hired to take on the culturally specific campaign for a book, while the publisher’s in-house team focuses on traditional, mainstream press.

At her blog, Mikki Kendall offers honest advice about “writing the other”: “Just like you would respond to any other writing critique by trying to do better, the solution to being told your character is a racist trope isn’t tears and pearl clutching. It’s an apology and an attempt to do better,” she notes. The whole thing is worth reading.

Finally, an activist project, the I, Too, Arts Collective, seeks to reclaim Langston Hughes’ Harlem home as a space for diverse writers. 

This summer’s big literary novel was arguably Emma Cline’s The Girls, about two girls in a Manson-like cult. Two essays at The Guardian explore recent fictional depictions of women, including The Girls in their analysis. Writing about how women and men view adolescence, Lorraine Berry compares recent work by women on the subject vs. traditional treatment by men:

Far too often, very ordinary phenomena like female sexual desire or the onset of puberty are elevated by male writers to something remarkable, frightening. Young women are either the animalistic bearers of the erotic urge, or bodily reminders of how sin enters the world. And other elements of female adolescence not associated with sex – like the intensity of friendships or familial bonds at that stage of life – are left off the page, or reduced to dramatic displays of hormonal cattiness.

And in her essay about the way complex friendships between women are something of a literary hot topic, Alex Clark mentions both Emma Cline’s work and Elena Ferrante’s.

Novelists, in the popular imagination as well as by self-description, often ping between the solitude of the writing desk and the rivalrous frenzy of the literary circuit. Naturally, most find themselves still able to have human relationships beyond those with their editor and agent, and to describe the complex phenomenon of personal interaction in their work. But recently, there has been a growth in the literary depiction of a particular type of friendship, one that has in the past found itself vulnerable to dilution and deflection by the ostensibly more powerful imperatives of heterosexuality and motherhood

Ferrante also comes up in a post on Ploughshares by Carolyn Ogburn that comments on the dearth of readers as characters in books, which is to say reading about reading:

But the activity of reading isn’t an easy one to describe. It is surely a physical act: we hold a book open, turn its pages; our eyes scan the text; our tongues might fold and twitch as we mentally process the sound of the words we silently read. While we read, our minds are prone to skip and dive into our own past associations and experiences.