Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “non profits”

Defining the Genre – Transformational What?

This weekend I was asked me what genre I write.  I replied: “Transformational fiction.”

“What’s that?”

I was asking for it, since I have adopted a phrase I heard from the presenter of a workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

“I write about change – people who want to help change the world and in doing so experience a change in themselves.”

I began to explain about the books I have published and in process. In A Gardener’s Tale, the mysterious protagonist empowers a young outcast to transform into an important member of the community. In The Accidental Activist, my main character is not one of the activists sued by the oil company, but a self absorbed computer programmer who takes up the struggle against the multinational in order to get laid (well kind of), but discovers that he can harness his talents to help improve the world.

I have written three other manuscripts and, in each, the protagonist goes through a deep transformation. As I wrote my novels, I never realized that this was a common theme until The Accidental Activist was being critiqued.

The discussion progressed into which social causes we each work for, and what organizations we are involved with. When we finished, I felt that he wanted to buy my book because of his newly formed connection with me. Best of all, I never felt as though I was trying to sell him anything. I was being me and, passionate as I am about social injustices, I was being genuine.

Brian Judd, a book marketing specialist, recalled in a recent CreateSpace webinar  a man who had written a children’s book about bananas. He would dress up as a banana, which naturally became a talking point.I have tried to dress up my website fit that transformational flavor: the Richard Wright quote, the request to purchase my book at an independent bookstore and showcasing non profits and causes that I support.

This urge to advance a persona behind the book and author feels right. It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t genuine, but since I have been a political activist and community organizer (no I’m not announcing my candidacy for President) for most of my life, it fits.

And so I will go out into the world and introduce myself: Alon Shalev. I write transformational fiction. And maybe one day, the person I am being introduced to won’t respond: “Transformational fiction – what’s that?”

Maybe one day they will even say: “Alon Shalev? Yeah I read your novels. One inspired me to…”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Shaft Strikes Again – Norman Weekes

There are things we whisper to each other when white folk are not around.

Yes it’s true. When two or more Black folk stand by the water cooler we talk in-house. Most of it need not be shared. ‘They’ wouldn’t understand. It would take hours, maybe years of context to not be misunderstood. But at the risk of having my “Black Enough” card revoked, I’m going to share one of these secret communiques. For about two years now, ever since Obama started getting his ass kicked on every meaningful issue of concern to the Black community I’ve heard this or something like this:

After checking the room, looking over both shoulders one of my beloved – brothers or sisters will lean in and say  “Just wait until the second term. Then we’ll see the real Obama!”
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The hope is that unencumbered by re-election politics he’ll transform from Urkel to John Shaft. Maybe even Dolemite. Something other than what he’s already proven to be. The guy we wanted. Not the guy he is – Benson. I can hear the First Lady screaming “Benson! Oh no you didn’t!” Obama’s recent open mic gaff to Russian President Medvedev gave hope to the fantasy. Never mind he was referring to foreign policy and stating the obvious.

I understand the desire to believe that the conformity, reserve and caution is just an act until he’s free to be the real Obama. After all, we’ve done this everyday for hundreds of years. It’s a coping mechanism that has served us well in a persevering kind of way. At the same time we desperately want to believe Obama’s just waiting for the opportunity to “stick it to The Man” even if he is “The Man”.

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This theory ignores a cardinal rule of being Black in America. If you get in don’t f-it up for the next brother. The next Black president is alive today. Obama knows this. He may hope the next Black president is living in the White House today. If he is a Super Negro waiting to emerge, checks and balances will temper Obama’s second term. The Republican House and/or Senate along with conservative Supreme court justices who obviously sold their souls for eternal life will keep him in “check”. Wonder if Satan tried to return those souls after a quality check. Caveat emptor Beelzebub.

Second term Presidents rarely get wild and crazy in their second term. Nixon and Clinton were impeached and I’ve had the entire Bush 43 presidency erased from my memory. I don’t think his second term was very memorable but you can look it up.

In the final analysis the Obama we have is way better than any alternative. You know it, I know it, and the American people know it. As William DeVaughn reminds us: Be Thankful for What You Got.

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Norman Weekes is a volunteer in social justice non profits and occasional political activist. 

 

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