No One Wants To Be On The Bottom

home_book_cvr

I am reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. As a white person, in the South, I feel it’s my duty to understand race relations and become an agent and ally for change. I’ve read: Waking Up White, Just Mercy, and The Hate U Give this year, in an effort to understand where and how I perpetuate racism as a system of control over African Americans. No one wants to think of themselves as racist. No one. But, in a system contrived to keep an entire race down, we are all complicit in perpetuating the cycle of racism that exist in the U.S. today.

In the New Jim Crow, Alexander explains the system of mass incarceration and how it became a system directly following slavery. I’m still within the first 50 pages of the book, and already I’ve learned that the systemic racism established in the South was methodical. Directly following the Civil War and the freedom of the slaves, during the Reconstruction period, a lot of strides were made in granting freedom and liberty to African Americans. In 1866, the Civil Rights Act gave African Americans full citizenship. The 14th Amendment prohibited states from denying citizens due process. The 15th Amendment state the right to vote could not be denied based on race. And the Ku Klux Klan Acts declared interfering with voting a federal offense and violent infringement of civil rights a crime (Alexander, page 29).

After this happened, there was a great increase in the number of African Americans who voted and who sought legislative offices. And this scared the white elite of the South, because they felt like they were losing their power, their livelihood.

So there was a backlash. And the Southerners found ways to keep African Americans in their place, an earlier precursor to the Jim Crow Laws. When incarcerated, African Americans were sent to farms and literally worked to death. Incarceration of African Americans soared (just like it is today), as a way to control African Americans. Eventually, work farms like Parchman Farm in Mississippi sprang up.

Around the turn of the century, a “Populist” group of poor whites joined together with poor African Americans to fight against the power of the White Elite. The Populist group, at first, strove for equality with African Americans touting liberalism as paternalism, which the African American population did not like. The Conservatives played off of this and even convinced some African American voters that the political and economic equality touted by the liberals could cause the blacks to lose everything they had gained since the end of slavery.

For a brief period of time, the Populists made strides in integration, and then Conservative lawmakers introduced segregation and the Jim Crow laws in order to drive a wedge between poor whites and African Americans. Populist leaders realigned themselves with conservatives, and the Jim Crow laws were put into effect (Alexander, 34). Conservatives had found a way to prove African Americans were different and played on the psychology of poor whites that somehow poor African Americans were holding them down. No one wants to be on the bottom.

All of this or most of this was economically driven. After the Civil War, white elites were put into a precarious position, because they no longer had free labor. When African Americans were given more rights, white elites saw this as an attack on their power, and they suppressed that power. Jim Crow ended mostly because of public (global) perception during World War II, and due to the Civil Rights Movement. But as it ended, new systems were being put into place to check the power (economic, intellectual, and otherwise) of African Americans.

I am only at the beginning of this book, and I can already see how the system collaborated to make it hard for African Americans to flourish. The U.S. perpetuated the idea that African Americans were somehow different from us (after all, at one point the U.S. Constitution considered them 3/5ths of a person). After the Civil War, the idea of the black savage was painted with a heavy coat. African Americans were disproportionately incarcerated and given long sentences. Some children were even incarcerated for minor infractions. If one thinks the black savage is an idea of yesterday, they need to think again.

In the U.S., today, there is a we vs. them mentality. African American males are locked up more than any other population. The U.S. is the only country in the world that has such a high majority of minorities incarcerated. African Americans are still denied counsel. African Americans receive disproportionately long prison sentences. African Americans are more often executed for the crimes they commit.  It’s time to change that.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Stereotypes and Preconceived Notions About Race

I’m currently reading a book called Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.

Waking Up White

I have written about race a little bit on this blog, but I find I tend to skirt the tough topics. Race is an integral part of the South, and since I write Southern Literature, I thought I would do a series on race on this blog. In her book, Debby Irving poses questions at the end of each chapter. I’m going to use these questions to guide my discussion. I hope you all will leave comments and answer the questions too. I plan to do about two of these a week, but I will skip the week of December 6th-December 12th.

The first question posed in Irving’s book is “What stereotypes about people of another race do you remember hearing and believing as a child? Were you ever encouraged to question stereotypes?”

I had problems with this question. I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. I went to a public elementary school. I never thought, as a child, that black people were different from me. I knew my neighborhood was vastly white. We lived in a two story house. I walked to school. My school was diverse.

Probably the biggest stereotypes I could think of that were imparted to me, not so much by my parents as my peers, were thinking black people were great dancers and athletes. Then as I got older, I thought the majority of gang members in Montgomery were black. I attributed this to their circumstances. When I grew up in Montgomery, public schools still did well (vastly different from today). But there were a lot of private schools. My parents transferred me to one in the 5th grade. The private school I went to, The Montgomery Academy, was founded in the 1960s in part to keep the white children segregated from the black children – a clear “fuck you” to the Civil Rights Movement.

At my private school, I stereotyped the black kids, assuming they were all there on scholarships. I think this was because I’d been raised to think that African Americans had less than white people did. They lived in West Montgomery. I’d heard rumors they might move into McGehee Estates and that would lower our property value. Later on, there was white flight from West Montgomery to East Montgomery. The city kept trying to move away from “the race problem.”

I’m not sure my parents raised me to question stereotypes. My dad is intellectually minded, and both my parents certainly raised me to question the status quo, but there were certain expectations too, which kept race aligned with little mingling.

I clearly remember at age thirteen attending a Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah—can’t remember which friend it was for), and dancing with a friend of mine who happened to be black. I thought nothing of it. He was my friend, and I liked him. When I came home that night, my mom sat me down and told me several parents had called concerned I had danced with a black boy. I was astounded by this, because I couldn’t believe these parents had the audacity to mingle in my life.

I remember saying something like, “Why does it matter?”

“Because they’re a different culture than us,” my mom said something like this.

In my childhood, it was noted that white people date and marry white people, and black people date and marry black people, and that mixing the races was frowned upon. I know this was a holdover from my mom’s childhood and the way she was raised.  My mom has changed so much since then.

And suffice it to say, it damaged my friendship with him. I pulled away, and I stayed pulled away, even after his father died. I did not know how to let myself get close to him, based on other people’s perception of our relationship/friendship. I didn’t want to be the talk of the town. But I also couldn’t understand why who I liked depended on the color of their skin. I had a questioning mind, and I questioned these types of assumptions and racial problems even back then.

What stereotypes do you have about people of another race? 

For More Blog Posts in this Series, click the links below:

Family Values and Principles

You’ve Got Class

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Another Time, Another Place?

For a long time I felt like I had been born in the wrong time period. When I was a kid, I had imaginary friends named Jonathan and Thomas. They were my brothers who time-traveled to me from the Civil War era. I knew where our house was: under a large mountain, a log cabin, where I lived with my brothers and my mom while my dad was away fighting. I kid you not.

I played with Jonathan and Thomas next to the blue hydrangea bush in my backyard on scorching hot summer days. I felt like they were real, maybe even ghosts, but probably they were just the result of my already overactive imagination. I loved anything Civil War when I was a kid. I had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. I used to dream I was married to him, because after all I’d be a better spouse than Mary Todd. Then I told people, I thought I had been Abraham Lincoln in a previous life. I read anything about Lincoln I could get my hands on. My favorite poem, read on the lap of my dad, was O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my writing would sell if I had been born in a different time period. Like, what if I had been a contemporary of Jonathan and Thomas instead of just their sister who lived in the rocking 1980’s future with big hair, jams, and all! Maybe I’d be a famous 1860’s writer, writing about the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. Because right now it’s damn hard to get published.

Here is a list of what it takes to get published in the year 2017:

  • Living in New York – I read once where an agent said New York City is the only place to live if you want to be a serious writer — No thank you.
  • Devoting every dollar you ever make to marketing your book and then some
  • Not having a working wage
  • Somehow acquiring an agent even though you have no writing contacts – it’s all in who you know, people, and I know noone
  • A finished and polished manuscript
  • Your first born child
  • Your tortured soul for all of eternity

No, but seriously, it’s hard to get published. I used to dream I was one of the Bronte sisters. Or Jane Austen. Some of my favorite authors are long dead. Katherine Mansfield—totally awesome. George Eliot—God, if only something like Middlemarch would sell these days. I’m in the wrong field. You know how some people say God is dead, well I think literary fiction is dead. Or at least I have no fucking clue how to market it to an agent and get it sold. Maybe I should start writing young adult vampire books. Or cat books.* There seems to be a great market for those.

Jane_Austen

Jane Austen

So I made a list of pros and cons for living and writing in the 1700s or 1800s.

Pros

  • Not much competition – a lot of people did not know how to read or write. Basic literacy could make you a success!
  • A lot of time – with no electronics there was a lot of spare time if you weren’t birthing babies.
  • There wasn’t technology to aid in procrastinating or distracting you.
  • Love has it all – romance sells, people! Who doesn’t want to hear about someone looking for the love of their life.
  • Epic novels with seemingly no plot, romance thrown in, a little bit about how the fields were doing, and what dresses people were wearing were all the rage.
  • Tragedy was an everyday part of life so people liked to read about it, and we know I love to write about tragedy and darkness!

I would have fit in, people, if it weren’t for the cons…

Cons

  • It’s hard to get published unless you pretend you’re a man – take George Eliot. I mean, I thought she was a man until one of my high school English teachers set me straight.
  • You’re probably going to die young of tuberculosis or some equally horrible disease.**
    • Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1923
    • Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817
    • Charlotte and Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1855 and December 19, 1848 respectivefully.
    • Virginia Woolf committed suicide — authors still do this in amazing abundance, because a large majority of them are tortured souls – do you know that?
    • George Eliot lived to the ripe age of 60 and succumbed to kidney disease.
  • There wasn’t technology to help you research.
  • Word-processing didn’t exist. Talk about hand cramps. And if you had dysgraphia, forget it! You’d never become a published writer.
  • Bad eyes – writing by candle light and reading all those books in the dark. Atrocious. I already have bad eyes, I’d probably be blind by now if I lived back then.
  • Men – they cramped women’s style by not wanting them to do anything but care for the kids that they were continually popping out. Plus they had an advantage by just being born with a penis. Heck, they still have that advantage today, but it’s gotten a little bit better. At least I don’t have to pretend to be a man to get published.

So maybe being born back in the good ole days wouldn’t be so great. I guess I’ll keep trucking along. As long as I have one reader then I qualify as a writer. Because to me, the most important thing is my audience.

Do you think you were born at the wrong time?

*I love young adult books, vampire books, and even books that feature cats as main characters. Cats are awesome, solitary, independent creatures. 

**All information was found on Google & Wikipedia. 

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

The Devil Within is $0.99!

The Devil Within Cover

The Devil Within ebook is 99 cents between October 3rd and October 17th!

When nine-year old William loses most of his family in a car accident, he is left alone with a religious zealot of a father. As a result of his father’s abuse, William blames himself for his family’s death and becomes convinced the devil is leading him astray. The backdrop of life in a rural town in the 1960’s sets the tumultuous scene as William struggles to cope in a world no child should have to face on his own. Will William be saved, or will he succumb to the devil within?

What People Are Saying About The Devil Within:

5.0 out of 5 starsPop are so wonderfully described that they remain etched in my mind on August 4, 2015

The characters came alive for me in this novel. Will, Lulu, Miz Leigh, Pop are so wonderfully described that they remain etched in my mind. In fact, since I finished the novel, I continue to think about them. Aptly titled, this novel is heartbreaking and tragic but I found, curiously, that this novel sends a positive message about the triumph of a little boy’s spirit over unspeakable grief and abuse. This is a very good book and I highly recommend it. Looking forward to the next novel from this author.

Well written and strong descriptive characters, most of whom I wanted to strangle. It was not my usual read. The abuse this poor boy endured after a traumatizing event was torture! I felt broken for him. I wanted to hold him and comfort him. I could totally relate to how this boy felt consumed by the devil. The words people say to us get burnt into our minds and as a child we are so moldable to these perceptions that others imprint on us. I recommend this book but carry some tissues!
I couldn’t put this book down. I just had to know what happened to William. I love that one of the characters had a health condition that was practically unheard of in the period this book was written. The author makes it as common as freckles. Well done! I want to take this child home with me and just love him. There was definitely a devil in the midst. Well written and I am looking forward to the sequel.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Banned Books Week

This week is banned books week. Every year, hundreds of books are banned or challenged all over the world. I recently read Captain Underpants is one of the most frequently challenged books for offensive language. This made me laugh, but challenging and banning books is not a laughing matter. For banned books week we’re celebrating the freedom to read whatever the hell you want (<—offensive language).

As a writer, I think banning books is a travesty. It’s the ultimate censorship, and because of that it’s wrong. Sure, there are some books that are disturbing. There are books explicitly about sex, the wrongs of religion, race relations, and all sorts of subjects that may make the reader uncomfortable.

Books on diversity are the most frequently challenged. By diversity I’m talking more specifically about books with non-white characters, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ. Folks, this shows we have a societal problem. Diversity is under attack, and challenging and banning these books isn’t helping our kids, it’s hurting them. It’s showing them the way to deal with people who aren’t like them is to pretend they don’t exist. Who wants their children learning that lesson? I certainly don’t. I want my children to be accepting and embracing of everyone. I want my children to realize that difference does not equal threat.

A few years ago I decided to pick up Lolita. I knew the subject matter before I started reading, and it did make me hesitate to read the book. But Nabokov is able to show us the life of a sick person, Humbert Humbert, who is obsessed with nymphets and subsequently runs off with Lolita, a young girl. The book was disturbing, but so well done. Nabokov was an incredible writer. But the thing I loved most about this book was the afterword. Nabokov detailed in the afterword about his struggles of whether to write this story, but it kept haunting him. Finally his wife told him to write it, and she insisted he publish the book. Lolita subsequently became one of the most banned books, but it also earned Nabokov a lot of respect as a serious writer.

As a writer, I know that feeling. When I wrote The Devil Within, I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it. The material was disturbing and I knew it would upset a lot of people. Not only the abuse in the book, but the religious aspects of the book too. Religion is not described in a fluffy feel-good light in The Devil Within. Instead, the downfall of distorting the Bible and religion to fit ones own needs is discussed along with the comfort we can receive from religion if it’s used wisely (this sounds familiar in today’s society, doesn’t it). I’m so happy I did publish the book, because it’s been well-received. But I can understand how Nabokov felt, on having written such a despicable character, but such a wonderful book.

So what banned books have you read? Probably more than you think. Check out American Library Association’s website for a list of wonderful books to choose from and get reading! These books have a lot to offer:

Banned Classics

Frequently Challenged Books 1990-1999

Frequently Challenged Books 2000-2009

Frequently Challenged Books

What’s your favorite banned book?


Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Newsletter Signup: http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP

Top Ten Books To Read

I love to read. It’s one of my favorite past-times, so I thought it’d be fun to share my ten favorite books with you! Maybe it will help you find your next good read. Fiction and non-fiction are included.

1. I finished Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott this week. I’ve added it to my list of favorite books. I love Lamott’s take on how writers need to write, maybe for an audience of only two people, but they should write what they love and know. Her humor kept me reading, and I felt like I related to her on so many levels.

Bird by Bird

2.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I find people either love or hate this coming-of-age novel about a boy named Theo Decker. Tartt evokes Dickens’ style in this epic novel as Theo struggles to find himself.

The Goldfinch

3. On Writing by Stephen King. Who wouldn’t want to read a book on writing by one of the most prolific writers of our time? King gives us insight on what writing has meant to him. He also gives tips to writers for writing, editing, and even publication. This was one of the most encouraging books I read when I finally decided writing was the life for me!

On Writing

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school and hated it. I’m glad I gave Steinbeck another chance. A unique take on the Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel stories that describes the intertwined destinies of two families. Well worth the read.

East of Eden

5. Middlemarch by George Eliot: Can you tell I’m a fan of Classics? I loved this book so much, I read all 900 pages within two weeks. Dorothea Brooks and Will Ladislaw are such well thought out characters. They face some of the same challenges to their love that people face today, making this a book that is still pertinent to our times. Beautifully written and the work of genius, for sure.

Middlemarch

6. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: This is actually on my to-read list again, because I haven’t read it since high school. Mr. Conway, my high school teacher, went through every detail of this book with me. The characters are so vivid, and I still remember the scene where Vardaman Bundren says, “My mother is a fish.” Quintessential Southern literature–all of Faulkner’s books should be included on this list.

As I Lay Dying

7. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut: Once again an author whose entire collection could be on this list, because I admire his writing so much. Vonnegut is a genius writer, and I love how he weaves his stories together. The story of Rabo Karabekian and his secret in the potato barn. This novel is a reflection of moralism in art, life, family and relationships.

Bluebeard

8. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison: Keep your Bible handy for this one! The story of Milkman Dead, who spent his whole life trying to fly. A must-read.

Song of Solomon

9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Of course this had to make the list, because I’m a huge fan of Southern Fiction. Harper Lee’s book about childhood, race-relations in the South, and heroes. Scout has stuck with me my entire life! Such a wonderful book.

To Kill A Mockingbird

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Who doesn’t like magical realism? Yet another book my English teacher, Mr. Conway, introduced me to. This one and Love in the Time of Cholera might be tied in my book. Marquez is an incredibly talented writer and this is a must read!

One Hundred Years

Now that you know my favorites, what are yours?

This is the last day to enter to win a copy of The Devil Within on Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Devil Within by Lauren Greene

The Devil Within

by Lauren Greene

Giveaway ends August 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/widget/147843
Also, this is your last day to pick up a copy of No Turning Back on Kindle or Nook at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $1.99!


Follow Lauren Greene:

color-facebook-96color-twitter-961412733468_circle-google-plus-128MailChimp

Here’s What People Are Saying About The Devil Within

The Devil Within Cover

Goodreads Add button

Sniff Sniff
Sometimes the best books are the worst books. We wish this sort of thing didn’t happen in the world but it does. This book follows the life of young William who loses his mom and siblings in a car wreck. He is left to be raised by his father who you could say is God fearing to the extreme. In his attempts to shape up William he actually breaks God’s laws himself. The writing is strong, emotional and brilliant. I wanted to reach into the book and cuddle that boy, bitch slap his dad and steal him away and feed him pancakes and love. I can’t recommend this book enough, it is gripping from beginning to end.
 — Susan J.
The Devil Within was a heart wrenching page turner. Written through the eyes of a young boy dealing with a loss that no child should endure; the story takes the reader through his journey of self realization, acceptance and love. I read the book in one night! I didn’t mean to but I just couldn’t put it down.
— Shanna
Couldn’t put it down
I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. I was impressed with the subject matter and how well it was written. My heart ached for William and all that he went through. By the end I was in tears. Great book and very well written.
–Katrina
Hurry, if you sign up for my newsletter, The Greene Pen, before July 31st you will automatically be entered into a drawing for a free signed copy of The Devil Within: http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP
You can find The Devil Within in paperbook or ebook at the following websites (click the word for link):
iTunes (Search The Devil Within by Lauren Greene in the iTunes Store)

The Devil Within is now a hashtag!

First and foremost, I’m a guest blogger on Tami Lund’s site today! Check it out at http://tamilund.com/?p=2353. Tami is an awesome paranormal romance writer who I met through the Writing Wenches, and I featured her on my blog a week ago when I was in Punta Cana. Check out what I wrote about Gideon, who you all are going to hear a lot about as I work on editing his and Lana’s story.

Today, I registered a hashtag for #TheDevilWithin! Last year, I started using Twitter for the first time to try to promote myself and my work. I heard as a writer that social media presence is a “must have” in this day and age. I fought against it though, because honestly, Twitter? I thought it was silly, but it’s a great way to support authors and have others support you. It’s a great way to meet contact and even pitch work. So send me some love on Twitter by hastagging #TheDevilWithin.

I ordered my books this week, but I haven’t received them yet. Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house, and my dad had my book. I’ve always felt like my dad is my harshest critic (I’m sure my kids will say the same about me when they’re grown). It was great for me to go over there yesterday and the first words out of my dad’s mouth were, “I’m reading your book, about halfway through, and it’s great. The characters are great and it’s extremely readable.” My heart felt happy in that moment. These are the words an author longs to hear from their readers. When their words resonate with an audience. That’s what’s writing is all about. Oh, yes, and sanity too (in my case).

Here I am with my book:

11695408_10153440116278427_4359310732027674473_n

My dad said he wanted me to sign it as Lulu. Lulu is a character in the book, a cousin the same age as William. And she has alopecia universalis like me. She does have aspects of my personality, but she deals with alopecia so well. She’s fierce and she doesn’t let anyone mess around her. In essence, she’s the child I wish I had been when coping with my alopecia in grade school.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to be entered into a drawing for a free signed copy of #TheDevilWithin:  http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP