Here at Ringshout, we're all about people buying black books, talking black literature, taking black literature seriously. And heaven knows, folks is talking about Precious, which led us to thinking of the novel from whence it came. We here at Ringshout wanted to offer folks a way to get people together to talk about both Push, the novel that the film is based on, and Erasure, Percival Everett's novel that, shall we say, takes the publishing industry to task for the way that African-American poverty is portrayed.
On December 6, Eisa, Bridgett, Chris, Alison and I (and about 15 folks we know) are going to get together at my (Martha's) house and talk about these two books, the film and the way black pathology is played, overplayed, played with in these texts. We'll eat, drink and talk—and hopefully leave enlightened and inspired to do it again with another book and to read some more.
I can't have everybody over to my house but there's no reason you can't do this very thing where you are. All it takes is some space, a few bright folks and some good questions. The links below form a tool kit you can use to have your own Push/Percival Salon. We hope to put kits like this up about different books on a quarterly basis to keep the discussion going about books by African-Americans. If you do have a salon, we'd love it if you'd post about it on your own blogs and send us a link or post on our blogspot about it.
I'm not even gonna kind of try to list all the commentary about the film that's out there--folks done gone crazy!--but here are two pieces that represent the general camps of discussion. Pro: Erin Aubry Kaplan at Salon. Con: Armond White at New York Press.
And finally, some questions to guide your discussion of the books--here at Ringshout, we like to keep the focus on the books.
In what ways does craft function--or not--in both of these novels? How well do they succeed or fail as examples of the fiction writers art?
Is Erasure a successful critique of the publishing industry? Of Push? Of a certain kind of literature/writer? How so or how not?
Where do you think Push fits into the long tradition of narratives about raped and abused black women? In what ways is it honest? In what ways is it dishonest?
What do you think it is about Push that has so captured people's imaginations, both as a book and as a movie?
What do you think is to be learned from the enormous commercial success of Push--and the relative lack thereof of Erasure--about contemporary literary culture?
Let a thousand salons bloom! And let us know how it goes.