Monday, January 24, 2011

Black, Female and Nerdy-licious
Interview With '32 Candles' Author Ernessa T. Carter
Part 1

A book about a funky, nerdy black girl--YES! So here’s the story…

Davie Jones childhood in Glass, Mississippi is no crystal stair. She grows up poor with a physically-abusive mother. Her mom is also the town’s easy lay. Classmates call Davie “Monkey Night” because of her dark skin and being a nerd doesn’t make her social life any easier. Then a new kid comes to her high school, James Farrell. Davie gets deep, pitbull puppy love for the wealthy jock who barely knows she exists. How does Davie get through these tough times in Mississippi and later blossom into self-love under a California sun? Molly Ringwald movies of course. It’s the plot to Ernessa T. Carter’s debut novel “32 Candles.” Carter pulls off a story that will make you fall out laughing, crying and gasp "oooh no" during the juicy parts.  Even mega author Terry McMillan gave the new author a shout out on Twitter for her unique storytelling style. I interviewed Ernessa about her book and the possibility of it becoming a movie. Then we got personal about our childhoods, love, hair and how she’s handling in vitro fertilization.

Why a book about a black girl's love for Molly Ringwald movies?

I happen to be a black nerd who grew up in the ‘80s. Even though I don’t have very much in common with my main character Davie, you do kind of want to read about someone who is a little bit like you. In the books I read I felt like, especially, in terms of black literature and especially dark- skinned characters; women in novels were not dark skinned. Or they had these perfect glamorous jobs and just needed a guy. Or it was the other end of the spectrum with dark skinned women. They were kind of like Precious--aggressively down trodden…It kind of made me want to read something about somebody who started off with nothing but gained wisdom, experience and perhaps even love along the way.

I definitely related to the character because I’m of a cocoa complexion. Growing up I was a nerd. I still am a nerd and am proud of it. I also remember too being picked on for my skin complexion. Did you encounter that when you were growing up?
No not at all. Just kidding. [laughter]  No, of course. When I was growing up I went to a Lutheran school and I was the darkest girl in my class. That was an interesting experience. You really wanted to crawl out of your skin. You just hated the skin that you were in…At the same I think it was really great. I wouldn’t trade my experience. I think there’s a big difference between growing up and being traditionally beautiful and saying, “Of course everyone told me I look good.” I think there’s something to be said for finding your own beauty.

You said you went to a Lutheran school. Where was this?
St. Louis, Missouri

Where there other black students there?
Mostly black students. I remember one white girl and white boy in the classroom. It was a pretty middle-income school.

Tell us more about the main character.
To borrow from our president she has the audacity of hope. Which is something you don’t see with a lot of characters like her. Basically she goes and sees the John Hughes movie “Sixteen Candles” for the first time when she’s seven years old and decides that’s the way she wants her romantic life to go. Did your high school romantic life resemble the movie?

Black, Female and Nerdy-licious
Interview With '32 Candles' Author Ernessa T. Carter
Part 2

Click here if you missed Part 1 my interview with '32 Candles' author Ernessa T. Carter. She also runs the blog Fierce & Nerdy.  Ernessa and I talk love, fertility and hair in the second part of our interview.

The story takes a switch of tone when Davie moves to LA. The book is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. There are parts where I wanted to cry, then crack up laughing. Were you emotional writing it?

People always say it switches tone, but I feel life is a switch of tone. I was a playwright dealing with these deep, cynical plays about love and relationships and religion. Then I met this really great guy and I was so happy. I sat down to write a play and I didn’t have that cynical sadness anymore. What do you do with all of this happiness? I started writing the book. That’s kind of like what life is after you fall in love, a tone switch. You don’t think the same way. You don’t write the same way either. Yeah it was emotional for me, all within the course of writing this novel I fell in love, got married.

Which disputes the image of black women not being marriageable, especially those of us on the chocolaty hue of the color spectrum.

What I find very interesting about all of these discussions is not only am I happily married black woman but I know a lot of happily married black women. Why are we never invited to the discussion?

You come off to me as a woman who thinks outside of the box. And I’m looking at the bio on the jacket of your book. You’ve worked as an ESL teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburg, a payroll administrator in Burbank, a radio writer for Ryan Seacrest. You were in the LA Derby Dolls. We as black women can do anything. Some of the things you’ve done, they’re not things that people would say, “That’s what black women do.”


I would do all of those things. Is there any pressure for you to fit in this mold of “this is what black women do”?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kitchen Drama
My Pyrex Dish Exploded In the Oven

Luckily no glass got into the chicken.
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden

'Twas a few nights before Christmas and all through the house
Lingered the smell of baked chicken
and my Boyz II Men CD
was  jammin'
I bopped to the kitchen to check on my chicken
And saw on the glass dish, my wings were stickin'
 I added tap water to loosen them up
Not knowing my glass dish would soon erupt
The dish went BOOM.  I shrieked "AHHHH!"  Glass flew all over the oven. It was a hot glass mess...
This is just some of the glass I had to clean up. Not fun
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden

This was the second time within a year I experienced a glass dish explosion. The pictures above are from my first explosion.  Again I was baking chicken but the dish was lined with foil. I can't remember if I was adding water but when I turned over my wings, the darn thing went KA POW! and scared the hell out of me. I thought my dish was cracked and expansion from the hit caused it to blow.

For those of you thinking I'm stupid for adding water to a hot pan, I've been doing that for many years with no problem . And so has my mother and grandmother.  Apparently I'm not the only whose glass dish exploded in the oven. For the last six years, hundreds of people have sent in complaints to  Consumer Affairs about their glassware dishes exploding and CBS News reported last month (see video below)that thousands have gone to the hospital for injuries over the past nine years. It's not just Pyrex dishes, but Anchor Hocking and other brands as well. Apparently if the dishes go from extreme temperatures they explode.  According to the CBS story, Consumer Reports safety experts think companies like Pyrex are making their products with a different type of glass today, but Pyrex says they're using the same glass. And the company says there are warnings on the back of the dishes' labels.  But how many people read that small, black font on the back of those labels? Especially those of us who have been using Pyrex since we could reach the dials on the stove. It's a product we trust and had no problem with until now. Pyrex and other companies need to make their warning list more visible. For all of you cooks out there, be careful. Check the bottom of the CBS News story for a list of DOs and DON'Ts when handling your glass bakeware dishes.  Also Consumer Reports covers glass bakeware safety in their January issue.


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