Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Sleeping With The Enemy

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In one of Spike Lee's most enduring films, Do The Right Thing, one of the questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, because he feels the black customers of Sal's Pizzeria are being continually disrespected. Every day we are given choices to do what's right or wrong based on our own morality that might be shaped by religion, culture, parenting, societal codes and the like. I grew up in the black church - like most Afro-Caribbean youth, I was forced to go, and some of the time that should've been spent in the pews were spent mastering Space Invaders and Pac Man at the local bodega. But I digress. As I accept media requests from some US-based radio personalities, I sometimes wonder if "all press is good press" as the saying goes? Tell that to Rihanna and Chris Brown. Or Lindsay Lohan. So, let's say you are asked to conduct an interview with a journalist you loathe. Whose opinions you care little for, but who you know has a large listenership that could stimulate the sales of your new book. Like, if Jerry Springer's producers wanted to get you on the hot seat to shill your new book, would you bite? These are things I ponder as I do some press in the United States with some, er....questionable pseudo critics. Real talk. There are newspapers and columnists who's worldviews stand in stark contrast to yours. And this is a capitalist society where its all about the C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me). So doing Springer might conceivably spike your book sales. But he's moronic (and so are his producers), and you know this, so would you compromise your intellect to get a bigger slice of the North American pie (or in this case, to cash in some royalty cheques)? Most rappers ain't afraid to call the kettle white, so I sometimes work in the tradition of a KRS-One, a wordmsith who calls it as he sees it, and ain't brown nosing anybody. Here's his take on America's pop culture journalists and their treatment of hip hop artists and black culture. Peep his lyrics from the Bulworth film soundtrack.

Check it out
True underground sound from the Boogie Down
Uptown Downtown gather round for the showdown, in they faces
Calling out these racists, at Rolling Stone
Spin Details and other places, KRS is The Source
Fuck these magazine leadin hip-hop off course
You'll print about Black Mayors, Black Senators
Why you ain't got no Black Editors?
Everytime I do an interview in Rolling Stone
They sendin me a writer that look like he's Home Alone
Ignorant, to the culture and the microphone
This has got to stop -- your whole spot
is blown sky high, battle why try?
My view is bird's eye, scopin with my third eye
You don't understand, why you're publically banned
until you recognize the writing skills of a black man
Black Editor, all of us ain't thuggin
Gossiping over who's homosexual
Some of us are Black Intellectuals, up in Harlem World
You can't get with me, so now in Midtown
you wanna stop and talk to me?
Bitch ass journalist, is this your fake hip-hop publication?
Look I'm burnin this


Excellent article, Dalton, and it's actually a situation I was (unwittingly) involved in. When promoting a book a few years ago, I was put on a show called "Mancow" in the U.S. (the name of the show pretty much sums up the sensibility of it). I had no idea what the show was, but apparently it's some hugely popular show with a Howard Stern-like host. It was awful, he was rude and sexist and kept trying to get a rise out of me, never mentioned the name of my book, and when he was done with me, simply hung up. He had a huge listenership, but I'd never do it again. I have no idea if it actually helped book sales at all (if he never mentioned the name of the book, how could it?) but it wasn't worth the aggravation and embarrassment. Great question, and I hope you get a lot of discussion here.

This is an amazing post and your Springer scenario/question is perfect...on the money. So much is required of authors to promote their books as well as write them, and I am curious to hear how writers respond to your discussion here.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Dalton Higgins

Dalton Higgins is a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and journalist. He is also Canada’s foremost expert on hip hop culture. His latest book is Hip Hop World (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi).

Go to Dalton Higgins’s Author Page