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Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.





text that says Jodie's Section

➝ I saw Amy mention reading the Racialicious breakdown of race in 'The Vampire Diaries'. Kendra and Jordan's analysis talks about the historical link between the vampire characters and slavery in the south, which receives very little overt attention in the program. I found myself thinking harder about the tradition of vampires who belong to a wealthy, elite class (from Dracula, to Lestat, to the Cullens) because of this breakdown. When you examine white vampires through the lens of historical realism, it becomes apparent that their longevity and elite status must often lead the characters we love so well to participate in historical periods of oppression. So, why does contemporary vampire media spend so little time commenting on this aspect of vampire life?

➝ Zetta Elliott made a list of African Canadian novelists whose books were published in English between 2000 and 2011. Her final total was 23. I wonder what UK and US numbers would look like if we counted authors, rather than books.

➝ And before we leave Zetta's news, I've got to show you the cover for her new novel 'Ship of Souls'. It's a stunner. 'Ship of Souls' comes out at the end of February, which means my tortured waiting is nearly over!

[twitter.com profile] maureenjohnson shared a link to a New York Times article, 'In China Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad' The article talks about recent deaths at a factory where iPhones are polished, then goes on to talk more about the current state of worker safety in the Chinese manufacturing industry, which many big Western companies, like Apple, use to create their products.

I saw someone mention that this kind of article has been around for years and consumers have known about these issues for ever, but suddenly the stories have become important enough to be considered worthy of mainstream comment again. I think that's true, at least, I remember when I was growing up a lot of attention was paid to the working conditions of overseas manufacturers used by Coca Cola and Nike. Then mainstream media seemed to forget about working conditions and any further commentary became confined to special documentary programs. I wonder what the re-emergence of large, mainstream news coverage means this time and whether significant change will come out of this focus.

➝ Cheryl Morgan links to a handy pictorial reference for explaining gender, sex and sexuality: The Genderbread Person. As she says it's not perfectly inclusive, but it does provide a good starting point that can be expanded on once people have gained a basic understanding.

➝ Angry Robot's new YA SF/F imprint, Strange Chemistry has already signed three books which sound cracking, but I'm especially excited about Gwenda Bond's 'Blackwood'. It sounds like a creepy, buddy mystery novel.

➝ In 2010 Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult made comments about the media saturation that surrounded Jonathan Frazen's novel 'Freedom' and how female authors were treated in comparison with male authors. A year later Weiner is checking the gender stats of the books and authors that The New York Times found worthy of interest in 2011. The results are mixed, but some areas show improvement.

What I think is perhaps more important that an improvement, one year on, is this act of returning to check the stats. Once a gender balance problem is identified we need to keep monitoring the situation, or the visibility of the problem and the motivation for change disappears. I'd be interested to see the VIDA study of reviews repeated in 2012 and it would be nice to see stats gathered on the state of gender in sci-fi publishing at the end of 2012.

➝ Jennifer Weiner's new analysis prompted Ron Hogan to talk about gender and book reviewing, in a post called 'The Beam in My Own Reading Eye'. Then, in 'More Thoughts on Gender Bias and Reviewing' he tries to explain why literary culture continues to reinforces the significance of the great white male author:

'The latest book by a familiar face, from a familiar publisher? Why, it practically demands a review. And when somebody like Jennifer Weiner comes along to point out how that kind of thinking can skew a book section's contents, the defense is that it's a reflection of the author's cultural significance and prestige. But that significance and prestige isn't shaped just by the author's earlier books, but by all the previous decisions book critics made about those books. In other words, critics aren't only recognizing a pattern of "fiction that will really endure" or "books that matter," they're perpetuating that pattern.'


It's always nice to see these things written down in public places.




text that says Renay's Section

➝ This week, I donated some of my old YA ARCs to the teen section of my public library and I feel good about it. Thanks to [twitter.com profile] misskubelik for the suggestion. Good deed of the week! Now if I could only read some books in order to donate some more to Friends of the Library and make our inevitable move from this neighborhood easier.

LEGO & Gender Part 1: Lego Friends by Feminist Frequency is out. The feminist bent is always illuminating, but like a nerd I went straight for "HISTORY OF LEGO!!" flail party. It was really fascinating.

Michelle Obama and Ellen have a push up contest. I wish I could do one push up. This is amazing. I can now link to this animated gif photoset on tumblr featuring Michelle and Michelle's arms and oh, right, the President that I was clearly saving for this moment.

➝ Reading Rainbow was a formative part of my childhood and now it's on Twitter at [twitter.com profile] ReadingRainbow!

➝ I've followed SF Signal's Tidbits for years and years now. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a blogger that contributes to them and a post he made, Essay: Awareness and Bias in which he talked about his agenda, one of which I happen to agree with. I will say one thing: this reader noticed, Charles Tan, and she thanks you.

➝ I also came across A Few Thoughts on the Russ Pledge by Fantasy Book Cafe, which was a response to Nicola Griffith in the ladies in SF debate last year. This grabbed me:

At this point, I was solely reading books I bought myself because I heard they were good, and it seemed like a lot of the fantasy and science fiction books being talked about were written by men. It made me pay more attention to recommendations for books by women, and I did find out there are a LOT of women writing fantasy and science fiction. I just had to work a little harder to find them because their books didn't seem to be talked about as much.


Feminist texts written by women of color. Really useful.

➝ The Printz award was announced...awhile ago. I'm slow, alas. The winner was a book called Where Things Come Back. Here is an interview with the author, John Corey Whaley. I am really excited about this book! Because it is set in Arkansas, and I have spent 1984 - 2012 living in Arkansas, I have lots of emotions about its portrayal in popular culture and media (many of them are anger). I am very excited to read this book.

➝ I don't know much about vidding, but I do like awesome things and [community profile] festivids, which I was introduced to by [personal profile] franzeska. I haven't gotten to watch near enough yet, but Bloom in Adversity is heart-wrenching. The master post is here and definitely worth a look even for those of us outside of fandom!

Date: 2012-02-05 07:19 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I saw the push up contest - awesome. Love that gif and how cool your president thinks it is that his wife has guns.

Also can you explain Reading Rainbow to someone who grew up without it?

Date: 2012-02-08 08:45 pm (UTC)
renay: Text: I love being awesome! (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
If the First Lady can do 20+ push ups, I can do a push up! GOAL ACQUIRED.

Hmm. For me Reading Rainbow is very nebulous. I watched it after school when I was younger but didn't care about the books so much as the feeling that it gave me that reading was cool, you know? I can't pick out an episode and go "FOUNDATION OF MY CHILDHOOD!" I was raised with a family who had televisions on constantly, so many of my messages came from there and it was the only show I can remember that made reading (i.e. not watching television) seem like an acceptable pastime that I didn't have to be ashamed of at all.

Date: 2012-02-09 07:30 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I'm also incredibly excited about Gwenda Bond's novel. I've been reading her blog for ages and enjoy her writing so much.

I only skimmed the Vampire Diaries article to avoid spoilers, but from what I remember of Anne Rice's vampire chronicles (I read them all repeatedly in my teens, but haven't revisited them since I was... 21, I think?), that question is also very pertinent in their case.

Date: 2012-02-10 07:47 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yes, totally fits with Anne Rice as well. The vampire = elite critique is one I read when studying Dracula, but in that case he represents the corruption that has crept into the elite (and there is a racial dimension to that, which I will not go into here, but let's just say that Bram Stoker and his society had issues with people from other countries and corruption is only happening to the foreign elite in this book - draw your own conclusions) not a sympathetic elite force. Whereas now we're expected to sympathise with the vamps, with very little thought for what other terrible deeds (beyond all the killing) they probably have engaged in because of their elite status.

I'm also really interested in the way that the vampire trend of making 'monsters' sympathetic and setting stories in our own Western countries, has maybe encouraged us to relate to that elite class (crucially that white, in our own country elite class) when they clearly continue to oppress + have all the money. I guess I'm seeing the more sympathetic vamps as a trend that encourages the 99% to empathise with the 1% right now. I mean, not only that, but that in part.

Date: 2012-02-10 12:12 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
That's such an interesting reading. It would be awesome to revisit the Vampire Chronicles with that angle in mind. #plans

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Renay is a long time member of slash fandom and nerdfighteria who stumbled into book blogging by accident and decided she liked arguing with herself at length and in capslock — it was all downhill from there. more? » about.me icon twitter icon pinboard icon tumblr icon

Ana is a reader who’s been blogging about books since early 2007. After several abandoned career paths, she decided to become a librarian and currently works for a large public library system. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon last.fm icon

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