By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) - Before we had "16 and Pregnant," push-up bras for tweens or mandatory sex education, girls like Donna Liska-Johnson learned about the birds and the bees from author Judy Blume.
Liska-Johnson was 11 years old when her aunt gave her a copy of Blume's breakthrough novel, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." She formed an instant bond with 12-year-old Margaret Simon who, like her, was embarking upon puberty at a time when people didn't talk openly about boys, bras and periods. She had finally found someone she could relate to.
"I would close my door and the world would fall away," she said. Blume's first-person narrative "always connected me with the character because she wrote so close to the heart."
Believe it or not, it's been nearly 43 years since "Are You There God?" jump-started Blume's prolific career, which changed the way a generation of readers learned about menstruation, masturbation and sex, among other growing pains. Though she's had her critics over the years, Blume, who turned 75 last week, can still draw a crowd in this latest chapter of her career, which includes a forthcoming novel and the first major motion picture adaptation of one of her novels - and it's not "Are You There God?"
"Tiger Eyes" may not be Blume's most popular book, but it's the one she and son Lawrence Blume (the inspiration for Fudge) had always wanted to bring to the big screen. Both said they felt a strong connection to lead character Davey Wexler, a teen whose mother uproots her from New Jersey to visit relatives in New Mexico after her father is killed in an armed robbery. Plus, it was the only novel they could film in 23 days on a budget that only allowed them to cast three professional actors from outside New Mexico, said Lawrence Blume, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with his mother.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Jesse Williams is an actor/producer who plays Dr. Jackson Avery on the TV series "Grey's Anatomy." He is a Temple University graduate and former public high school teacher. Williams founded the production company, farWord Inc. and is an executive producer of "Question Bridge: Black Males." Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr. Note: This article contains offensive language.
By Jesse Williams, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Films such as "Django Unchained" carry with them an uncommonly high concentration of influence and opportunity. Due to the scarcity of diverse and inspiring representations on screen, Quentin Tarantino's latest movie casts a longer shadow than many are willing to acknowledge.
In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film's impact: "I've always wanted to explore slavery ... to give black American males a hero ... and revenge. ... I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years."
He went on, "Violence on slaves hasn't been dealt with to the extent that I've dealt with it."
My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.
I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret "otherness." People see what they are shown, and little else.Read Jesse Williams' full column
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Published over the weekend, Emory University President James Wagner's winter message reflected on the importance of compromise in politically divided times.
The example he chose to illustrate his point, however, was rather unfortunate.
And before the weekend was over, he was apologizing for citing the so-called three-fifths compromise in which Northern and Southern states agreed to count three-fifths of the slave population for determining representation.
"A number of people have raised questions regarding part of my essay in the most recent issue of Emory Magazine," Wagner wrote in an apology posted above his original column.
"Certainly, I do not consider slavery anything but heinous, repulsive, repugnant, and inhuman," he said. "I should have stated that fact clearly in my essay. I am sorry for the hurt caused by not communicating more clearly my own beliefs. To those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity, please forgive me." FULL POST
Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War"; and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."
By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "I was owned by Johnson Bell and born in New Orleans, in Louisiana."
Those words were spoken by a man named Frank Bell.
He said that according "to the bill of sale, I'm 86 years old."
His words, and those of thousands of other American citizens, were transcribed in the 1930s, at the depth of the Great Depression. As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's efforts to restart the economy, the Works Progress Administration was founded, and one arm of the WPA was something called the Federal Writers' Project.
Men and women were hired by the government to work on various assignments documenting American history and American life.
One of those assignments, vast in scope, came to be known as the Slave Narratives.
"If a woman was a good breeder she brought a good price on the auction block," said Hattie Rogers, a North Carolina resident, when she was interviewed in 1937. "The slave buyers would come around and jab them in the stomach and look them over and if they thought they would have children fast they brought a good price."
We are in the midst of Black History Month. The slave years in the United States were not only black history, they were American history - the ugliest and most indefensible chapter.Read Bob Greene's full column
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - A nurse is suing a hospital, claiming it agreed to a man's request that no African-Americans care for his baby.
The lawsuit accuses managers at Hurley Medical Center in Flint of reassigning Tonya Battle, who has worked at the facility for 25 years, based on the color of her skin.
The man approached Battle, while she was caring for his child in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, asking to speak to her supervisor, according to the complaint filed in January by Battle's attorney.
She pointed the charge nurse in his direction.
The man, who is not named in the filing, allegedly showed her a tattoo that may have been "a swastika of some kind" and told her that he didn't want African-Americans involved in his baby's care.FULL STORY
By Jessica Yellin and Gregory Wallace, CNN
(CNN) – Word that the Obama administration has circulated to federal agencies drafts of an immigration plan led the White House on Saturday to reaffirm its commitment to successful bipartisan negotiations to reach a plan on Capitol Hill.
"The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based," White House spokesman Clark Stevens told CNN. "We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit."
CNN has reported that the White House was drafting an immigration bill in case an effort among a group of senators – the Gang of Eight – does not produce legislation in the near future. A similar effort is under way in the House.
USA Today obtained a draft proposal which an administration official told the newspaper was being sent to various federal agencies. An administration official told CNN the specifics of the plan are accurate as of the last draft this official saw.Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker
(CNN) - Every March 8th, International Women's Day honors the achievements of women past and present, while remembering that equality is still a work in progress.
So, in the lead-up to this year's event, we're asking our readers to share their favorite quotes from celebrated women of the world.
It could be a motto on love, a tip for success, a proverb on happiness or a witty observation about life. Just share the words that have inspired you along the way and it could be featured - along with your name - as part our special coverage.
Lost for inspiration? Check out some of these quotes from a few of the amazing women who've appeared on CNN's Leading Women over the last year.
"If you can find something that you're really passionate about, whether you're a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force." Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer.FULL STORY
Editor's note: CNN's Moni Basu, a Bengali immigrant, was born in Kolkata, India.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - In the next few weeks, Fatima Shaik, an African-American, Christian woman, will travel “home” from New York to Kolkata, India.
It will be a journey steeped in a history that has remained unknown until the publication last month of a revelatory book by Vivek Bald. And it will be a journey of contemplation as Shaik, 60, meets for the first time ancestors with whom she has little in common.
“I want to go back because I want to find some sort of closure for my family, said Shaik, an author and scholar of the Afro-Creole experience.
That Americans like Shaik, who identify as black, are linked by blood to a people on the Indian subcontinent seems, at first, improbable.
South Asian immigration boomed in this country after the passage of landmark immigration legislation in 1965. But long before that, there were smaller waves of new Americans who hailed from India under the British Empire.
The first group, to which Shaik’s grandfather, Shaik Mohamed Musa, belonged, consisted of peddlers who came to these shores in the 1890s, according to Bald. They sold embroidered silks and cottons and other “exotic” wares from the East on the boardwalks of Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey. They eventually made their way south to cities like New Orleans and Atlanta and even farther to Central America.
The second wave came in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were seamen, some merchant marines.
Most were Muslim men from what was then the Indian province of Bengal and in many ways, they were the opposite of the stereotype of today’s well-heeled, highly educated South Asians.
South Asian immigration was illegal then – the 1917 Immigration Act barred all idiots, imbeciles, criminals and people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.”
The Bengalis got off ships with little to their name.
They were mostly illiterate and worked as cooks, dishwashers, merchants, subway laborers. In New York, they gradually formed a small community of sorts in Spanish Harlem. They occupied apartments and tenement housing on streets in the 100s. They worked hard.
And they did all they could do to become American in a nation of segregation and prejudice. FULL POST
Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy.
By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - In the wake of Chris Dorner's death, much of the talk has already turned to his political views.
In the wake of a tragedy, it is understandable to ask why this happened. It is appropriate to discuss ways to keep it from happening again.
But we should draw the line at suddenly giving an exalted place in our national discourse to the political rantings of a murderer.
Before he met his end, Dorner took the lives of several human beings and wounded a few more. One of those killed was a father of two. The law enforcement officers killed were simply doing their jobs, trying to keep us safe.
Today, with the families of the dead still grieving, it is very hard for me to shift away to focus on Dorner's political views.
The families of the victims are still in shock and mourning. Think of their friends and relatives, who are still shocked and devastated. How much would it hurt them if they turned on the TV and heard, instead of tributes to those lost, pundits going on about a crazy man's Facebook manifesto?
We should not be "using this occasion" to debate various theories of racial justice - not while the blood of the innocent is still fresh on the ground. Dorner's actions have invalidated his notions of justice; killing innocent people is not the proper method to advance the cause of justice, period.
Furthermore, why should any of us participate in giving Dorner exactly what he wanted? We should not validate his quest for attention by discussing his political thinking, especially not while mourning families are planning funerals.FULL STORY
By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) - The Illinois Senate will vote Thursday - Valentine's Day - on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Because Democrats have supermajority control of the General Assembly, the measure is expected to be approved. After the Senate vote, the measure would be considered by the House.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has indicated he would sign the bill.
If it is approved, Illinois would be the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization.
Three other states are considering similar legalization, said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. A bill has passed the Rhode Island House and has been sent to the Senate. A proposal has been introduced in the Hawaii legislature and another is expected in Delaware, Taylor said.FULL STORY