Any day is a good day to profess affection… so—I admit—I’m in love. With books written by today’s guest! So, there’s this character named Elouise Norton who has captured my heart! Why? Because she’s so human… It’s like I know her.
I’m stoked that I got to interview her creator during a visit to Los Angeles!
Critically acclaimed crime fiction writer Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of several books, including the Lou Norton series, and another title They All Fall Down, which will be released on April 9.
We discuss a range of things from her origins as a writer, how she can explores through her characters, the dualities and unexpected realities of her page people—her characters, and more!
Take a listen to Rachel Howzell Hall on Planet Noun Episode 15!
Part 1—00:00-08:10 Where it all started
Part 1a—08:16-17:07 How a character, Detective Elouise Norton, was a tutor to Howzell Hall
Part 2—17:04-29:02 Characters you don’t expect… dualities and unexpected realities.
Part 3—29:05-36:20 Rachel’s journey toward crime fiction
Part 4—36:28-42:37 Reconciling characters and subject matter with a churchy upbringing
Part 5—42:40-end Most gratifying moments as an author, and maximizing her time as an author who also has a family and a full time job
Have you ever spoken to someone at work and you knew there was something more intriguing to their story?
That’s what I started finding out after one co-worker and I got to talking and I found out she has a yoga business. After starting this podcast, I asked her to be on the show to talk about the benefits of yoga.
It’s a New Year and, no doubt, you might be reviewing resolutions to be fitter, healthier, and/or vowing for better self care this year.
What better way to do so than to get your yoga on?
I’ve done so sporadically through the years and quickly noticed I was one of a few faces that looked like mine among the student population. I definitely didn’t notice any black instructors.
But now I know one! Yes, only one. I’m certain there are more out there, but she’s the only one I know of.
Meet Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. She’s a news anchor at a 24-hour radio news station in Washington, D.C. She’s also owner and operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness in Bowie, Md.
Listen up to find out more!
• 01:30 — What Radio Yogi is all about • 02:38—Stephanie’s journey to meditation; then yoga practice and instruction • 16:41—Thoughts about Christians and yoga practice
Part 2 • 21:10—Stephanie’s advice on starting a new habit this new year—whether it’s yoga or something else.
Part 3 • 39:44—In addition to being on the radio and running her yoga business, Stephanie also runs a non-profit—Sisters for Fitness, and talks about the concerns that led her to start the organization. This segues into a discussion about mental illness in the African American and some Christian church communities. If Jesus can fix it, why can’t that fixin’ be accomplished via a therapist?
Since Christmas is around the corner, here’s a question for you:
What’s the value of a can of Ensure? Spam? Or a pack of Doritos or other snack you can pick up during a Target run or at the corner store?
Well, if you’re a member of the Filipino diaspora, everyday items, snacks and other treats can have additional meaning attached to them if they’re shipped to the Philippines from abroad in a Balikbayan Box.
It’s a tradition I had no idea about until a year or so ago. It was then I realized that—among all the groups of color I grew up around in Los Angeles—there are some folks whose traditions I’m more familiar with than others. I don’t pretend to know everything about anyone, but as an eternal student, learning as much as possible is a constant goal. It dawned on me last year that I knew next to nothing about the Filipino diaspora and Filipino Americans, and wanted to learn more.
This-here interview was released last year, and was so interesting I wanted to share it again this year!
So if you’ve heard this before—welcome back, and stick around. If you’re hearing this for the first time, let’s dig into this holiday repeat of Planet Noun Episode 3—Balikbayan Boxes: Care Packages in Reverse with Illinois-based artist, photographer and author Jason Reblando.
This has been a holiday repeat of Episode 3 with guest Jason Reblando, an Illinois-based artist, photographer, and author. He was on Skype.
Violet is bred for perfection from head to toe. Her mom saw to it. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect stride, impeccable toes to slide into perfect shoes. Everything just perfect to the gaze and the ears. She is bred to only utter words that fall pleasingly on others’ ears. Violet colors with excellent strokes and only within socially acceptable lines. Early on, she learned to maneuver through the world by placing outside perceptions ahead of the person she wanted to be.
However, she didn’t even know who that person was and didn’t realize it until her perfect life plan began to hiccup.
Violet’s metamorphosis starts when her boyfriend of two years didn’t slide an engagement ring on her finger—as she expected. Clint surprised her with a cutie-patooty puppy-dog instead.
Vi is pissed, and her birthday surprise takes her on a roller coaster that led her to a place and idea in which all women—yea, all people—should solidly stand at some point in life: That they are enough.
Nappily Ever After whispered to me, and I felt fragments of my life coursing through the script. I’m certain I’m not the only sista-girl who thinks so. From dodging swimming pools because I didn’t want to reverse my straightened hair to its natural Afro state, to summer camp braid-ups to keep it manageable. Of course there was that ever-present sense of anxiety that my ‘nappy’ hair had to be fixed via the hell-heat torture of a pressing comb.
This film helped resurface memories of wash and press days with my mom and sister at home… the ubiquitous “hold your ear” command in countless black-folks’ kitchens and hair salons across the country, and likely around the world where pressing combs have had their reign.
This movie spoke to me because of the familiar concern I used to have about rain and fog—things that could make freshly pressed and curled tresses scramble back to their roots.
It also spoke to me because in addition to those “hold your ear” commands, countless post-salon care instructions included the words “sleep” and “cute” in tandem. And sleeping cute may have looked cute and kept my hair style as close to salon perfection as possible, but it never resulted in sound sleep and never felt cute for my neck, which usually ached the next morning.
Without giving away the entire storyline, it was gratifying to watch Violet transform from a superficial human who outgrows the hair hatred that was passed down from her mother under the guise of always appearing “acceptable” to the gaze of others—even significant others. It was also heart-warming to see this character start gaining true confidence in herself based on who she is as a person and not how she appears to the world—and definitely not based on whether she has a man. The process is jump-started, but is in no way completed by the end of the film—even after five hairstyles and a liberating pool scene.
I’m also gratified that it didn’t have a storybook “girl gets guy” ending, because we all know those shit-perfect endings ain’t always real. This film is up to the times and realizes that the perfect ending doesn’t always involve a significant other or marriage.
Sometimes the perfect ending means finally being happy with yourself. By yourself. And that’s so okay.
Now I have to get the book to see what actually happens.
There’s another Netflix movie that explores a similar theme–only without pressing combs, perms and flat irons. It’s a Spanish language film that’s titled Soltera Codiciada. The English title—How to Get Over a Breakup. There are several subtitle and audio options. I enjoy films that can involve part-time reading.
In this Flix, Maria Fe’s boyfriend called to dump her. That’s how she spiraled through the seven stages of grief. And drinking. And drunk calling and What’s Apping him as she meandered through each stage.
So what led to this?
Well, what had happened was…
Her novio left Peru to attend graduate school in Madrid, Spain. Then he dumps her, breaks all contact, but she sees him posted with some other chick on Instagram.
Maria Fe drinks, a friend helps her find a roommate and over the months, her life slides back to normal.
Mari-Fe even completes some home-improvement projects in her inherited home, and starts a blog.
Thing is, she always wanted to be a writer, but was occupied by spending her time pleasing her boyfriend for six years to the point where she wasn’t chasing her own dreams.
Homegirl makes strides at work even though her boss is the most horrible person on earth—racist, sexist, homophobic and oblivious to it all.
Fe finds her blog, Soltera Codiciada, getting good traffic traction. She even finds herself on the cusp of a work promotion.
What happens in the nooks and crannies around these key events—well you’ll have to watch the film to find out. But I will say this: Old boy, ex novio, makes a comeback. Whether he stays or goes you’ll find out when you Netflix and chill. But Soltera Codiciada’s ending is spot on in my opinion—just like Nappily Ever After.
Why? Because it also shows a woman can be a fairy godmother, genie, or her own Prince Charming/Principe Azul who respects and rescues her own damn self.
And I love it.
Both Nappily Ever After and Soltera Codiciada/How to Get Over a Breakup earn…
Mom is the one who first told me about sickle cell disease and the sickle cell trait. I can’t tell you what prompted the discussion. Maybe it was hearing about a childhood acquaintance who had the disease, was in crisis and in the hospital. Maybe something else prompted her to open up that discussion.
I have the trait, and so do you, is the essence of what she said.
Because she was who she was. She earned first name only status with an exclamation point (ARETHA!) AND ascended to royalty (Queen of Soul).
Because she played a role in the Civil Rights Movement and helped others. Much-much respect!
Last but not least, I’ll miss her for accompanying us through the human experience. She was the only artist who could make me raise a hand, and say a heartfelt “Hallelujah” for ALL the life reasons: From “Precious Lord” and “Mary Don’t You Weep,” to “Bridge over Troubled Water”…
And from “Daydreaming” to “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “Dr. Feelgood,” which could be the reason some of y’all exist today.
Once upon a time, I used to create hair buns using elastic bands, but I have decided to ditch them for most of my styling needs. They’ll still be used to section my hair or hold the ends of my hair in place for certain styles…but for these updos? Nah, son. I’m done.
Much love for The Puff Cuff! It’s becoming my go-to styling tool for updos!
At first, I was doubtful. But since I learned about this product from someone I deem trustworthy, even though we’re not well acquainted, I was more inclined to take a chance on this styling tool.
So I opted for the family pack. It includes four versions of the Puff Cuff. The four sizes are the Original, Junior, Mini and Micro.
This style was created using one Junior and one Mini. I also use Eco Styler gel with coconut oil and a detangling brush. Once styled, I spritzed a lightweight shea sunflower finishing sheen onto my hair.
Learn how to achieve this updo right here:
This styling tool has won my heart because I can wear a cute updo without using elastic bands, and the Cuff doesn’t generate headaches!
The best sanitary supply bags are hidden in plain sight…
Cute.Jazzy.Snazzy… with a little bit of flair or not—depends on what floats your boat and makes your heart sing.Because your uterus isn’t singing during your period. It’s weeping blood.
In this bonus episode of Planet Noun, Liz and her sister, Lea, pick up with their discussion about stuffing the perfect Pad Bag. That’s just another name for a to-go sanitary/feminine supply bag.
In a nutshell, here’s what you need:
A cute bag.Animal print is recommended, but whatever design or color makes your heart sing.
A pack of pads in a size that suits your needs.
A pack of tampons that suit your needs. For example, I’ve been trying organic tampons by L.
A ‘backup to the backup’, is needed.Back in the day, Le-Le and I used Depends, which are diapers for incontinent adults. There are other brands available as well.A really good friend of mine recommends Always Discreet.
Wet wipes, towels, soap, and “smell good.”
A portable shower (kidding…but if you can swing this, we ain’t mat atcha!)
Shoot, you might as well pack a doggone overnight bag.
From there, we also talk about praying the ‘Broids away, and whether we think that works…to how social media can be harnessed to findconnection with others grappling with uterine fibroids.
NOT HEAVEN—OR HELL–So. What happens when the faith you’ve had for years slams into the realization that “it ain’t necessarily so?”
What happens when the faith you’ve cultivated or the spoon-feedings you’ve accepted since youth crashes head-on with a musing-turned hard-core question: “what if we’re getting it all kinds of wrong?”
And what happens if you share your changing views with folks who aren’t ready or willing to give another perspective mental due process?
Come Sunday, a recent Netflix release produced by This American Life (yes, the WBEZ originated show and podcast) is about all of that. Bishop Carlton Pearson was an evangelical rock star…until he shared questions with his mega-church congregation about what he saw as a biblical contradiction…. Namely the subject of God’s love vs. what his church taught about the existence of an eternally burning hell… and the idea that all who don’t believe and accept Jesus as savior are doomed to roast in the afterlife. He couldn’t reconcile a loving God with teachings about an eternal rotisserie. Pearson says he heard God’s voice say Jesus is enough for all the world’s salvation, even those who don’t ever hear his name… which led him to figuratively say, dammit to hell. Pearson tossed the hellfire doctrine from his trove of beliefs and embraced a new theological worldview—the Gospel of Inclusion. This American Life told his story in a 2005 episode that was entirely dedicated to sharing his story.
And his chu’ch* folks weren’t having it. I don’t want to tell all the ups and downs of the story, but let’s just say he was an outcast’s outcast. Pearson is convincingly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and his minister of music at that time, Reggie, is played by Lakeith Stanfield (Selma).
It’s a convincing story, to me, because I can relate to the journey and realization that yes—you may still believe…but you know you can no longer abide by all of the ways in which you were taught to believe…when your views of right and wrong are being encased in a chrysalis, surrounding you with mid-life metamorphosis… but you aren’t quite ready to tell all…Definitely not to anyone who might dissuade your self-inquisition.
Pearson didn’t have that luxury. He, convinced it was God’s voice, was compelled to tell his congregation. After all, as a purveyor of “Good News,” how could he stay silent and smother what was so liberating to his spirit? He lost his church and more before it was all over. His journey is depicted as rough and tear-stained, but the consequence seems to be a peaceful conscience.
*bet you didn’t know chu’ch was a contraction for church. Not really–but it exists now. Say it. Chu’ch.