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My mom, acclaimed and amazing author Rita Williams-Garcia, nabbed two — count ’em, TWO!! — big old fancy schmancy awards today:
– The Coretta Scott King award for “outstanding books for children and young adults.”
– The silver prize for the John Newbery Medal for the second-most “distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”
Add that to her being a finalist this year for the National Book Awards and winning the Scott O’Dell award for historical fiction last week, and we’ve got ourselves a pretty happy family! She is so deserving and so talented. My mom’s amazing!!
And while all of this is so literary, this does play into films, too. One of the reasons I want to get into TV/film is because I’ve seen my mom work so hard to get to where she is today, while pop writers do great things to get kids to read, but it ain’t exactly quality stuff. I’m not naming names, but my mom isn’t writing about vampires and zombies and pirates. She writes about youth forgotten — immigrants, teen moms (15 years BEFORE it was cool, MTV), bullying in school, dancers turned away from the ballet world because of its own ridiculous body hang ups, and most recently, the Black Panthers through the eyes of three little girls. Furthermore, her visual writing style, and accessible characters are perfectly adaptable for the screen.
But does anyone want to pay for tickets to go see deeply written black teenagers on the big screen — or small screen, for that matter? That’s the big gamble that, so far, very few have been willing to take, aside from the marvelously sweet Akilah and The Bee, Precious (oy), and The Quite Saccarine Blind Side (double oy). So, we’ll see. And if anyone is interested in actually filming an adaptation, let me know. I know an excellent associate producer (hint: it’s me).
To close out the week here, I read about the first international and domestic star of the screen, the uncanny Charlie Chaplin. The things Chaplin did for the genre of comedy while addressing social inequity was pretty amazing to read about. A shame, since most people only know how Tramp character, and not about his long career and, later, the injustice done to him when he was basically pushed out of the U.S. due to that ridiculous McCarthyism.
While I read mostly on his work about the silent era, I know how important his later features were, so my dude and I watched The Great Dictator. Freaking Genius. I was incredibly moved, especially watching that last scene where Chaplin, a Jewish barber, is mistaken for Not-Hitler, and is forced to make a speech after invading Not-Poland. It is absolutely amazing how much we did know as a country as far as the atrocities going on in Germany. It saddens and amazes me to know how much we knew about the rise of Hitler in 1940. The history lessons I’ve taken as a kid played the U.S. as this neutral place where we had no idea how ruthless the Nazis were, but the film really shows what kind of information was out there.
And it shows bravery. Not that the U.S. showed cowardice toward an evil dictator, but the fact that Hollywood was not using the powerful medium of film to educate the masses. But Chaplin did. And the writing in this is simple, yet there are some key points of dialogue calling for peace, and calling out the fact that people were being abused, bullied, kidnapped, and contained by the SS, led by a paranoid, power-hungry, narcissistic tyrant.