Friday, 27 November 2020

A book and a yearly screening


 

My grandmother didn’t die from breast cancer.

I had my mammogram today, and this was what crossed my mind as the technician was arranging my body for the scan. I don’t remember what year it was or how old I was when my grandmother was diagnosed. Old enough to know the basics but too young to fully understand what was going on.

She had cancer twice, with a long span in between—more than ten years. The first time, they removed a lump the size of a pin head. I remember that because they talked about how it was a good thing she’d gone for her checkup and how it was all relatively smooth. No complications. Nothing in her lymph nodes.

It served as a life lesson. I was clear that when I reached the appropriate age, I was going to begin my yearly screenings too. I learned from it that if you pay proper attention, they can catch these things before they progress too far.

My grandmother had cancer again years later, this time much more serious. She had a double mastectomy and rounds of chemotherapy. Even so, they still got it all. It was another long while before she died, unrelated to any cancer.

She didn’t die from breast cancer. Neither did my college classmate’s mother.

That was a tricker situation. Her mom was young, and I learned that sometimes screenings fail to catch things. I was studying to be a nurse, and now I knew the benefits of doing self-checks in between and making sure I kept up with my annual visits with the gynecologist.

I don’t know a whole lot about what happened with my classmate’s mom, only that she’d caught the lump herself and that they’d had a hard time diagnosing her because it didn’t show up on the mammogram. That’s probably how I learned to be persistent in demanding my health concerns be taken seriously.

My grandmother didn’t die from breast cancer. Neither did my college classmate’s mother. But my friend did.

I’ll call her Jenny. We worked together for two summers at a Christian camp. She’d grown up in it; I hadn’t. I was introduced to this camp when I was recruited as a teen.

Jenny and I couldn’t have been more different. I was an apostate Jew who somehow fell in with the evangelicals (don’t ask). She was from a non-religious household but had become a Christian at the camp when she was a child. She was taller, blond, lean, and athletic. I was shorter, dark, curvy, and had two left feet. She was open-minded and open-hearted; I kept a lot to myself. (In fairness, I was trying to hide things a Christian camp wouldn’t have been pleased about.)

We lost touch after that, as happened in the days before instant internet connectedness. I saw her again some years later when I was running the camp and pregnant with my oldest. We didn’t see or hear from each other again until the early days of Facebook.

I think it wasn’t long after that when I learned she had metastatic breast cancer. She was only in her mid-thirties when she died, less than a year younger than me.

She kept a diary of her journey, telling the world about each test and procedure and medication she tried. I read every single one of her updates, hoping each time for good news. She always kept a positive spirit, right up until the end. Her husband had the last word, sharing her final moments with all the people who had followed her saga.

My screening will likely be fine, despite family history. But these things go through my mind every year when I do this.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what in the world any of this has to do with books or writing or publishing, so let me explain. I had the privilege of proofreading one of BTP’s recent releases, The Killing of Tracey Titmass, by Estelle Maher:

Jo Kearns has breast cancer.

While juggling her job, her boyfriend and the cancer, she discovers that her home has been invaded by Tracey, her tumour in insidious human form.

Jo’s diary tells the story of her battle to evict the malignant Tracey from her house and the disease from her body.

Based on Estelle Maher’s own cancer journey, this book is at times hilarious, at times poignant, but always unflinchingly honest and inspiring.

The story is delightful and funny and moving and uplifting. Although I’ve never personally gone through it, having known enough people who have, it was an emotional read. The author herself is as wonderful as the story, and I’m so glad she put these words out into the world.

I’m not sure we talk directly about this enough. Sure, we have Awareness Campaigns and Awareness Ribbons and Awareness Month and Awareness Memes. Everyone always says, “I know someone who had breast cancer!” But it often stops there. We don’t see the intimate details and the feelings and the ways in which people cope.

In the same way my friend Jenny’s online diary did, the book brings all of that into the light in a way that’s relatable and humorous and sometimes devastating. Fortunately, it has a different outcome than Jenny’s story, but the principle is the same: these aren’t things we need to keep hidden and secret.

My challenge to you is to read this and absorb it. Whether you’ve been there yourself or know someone who has, I hope the story will be as meaningful to you as it was to me.

You can find the book here or at your favorite bookseller.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Monsters under the bed and ghosts in the attic

 

We’re a week away from one of my favorite holidays: Halloween!

Not that there will be too many trick-or-treaters at my door this year.

Since I’ll be missing out on seeing the kids’ costumes, from the sweet to the sinister, I’ll have to content myself with spending a night in, reading. Good thing I have a long list of books (and all the candy we won’t be giving out).

Just in case you’re in need of something holiday-appropriate to take your mind off all the social distancing, we’ve got you covered. Check out these links for some of our spine-tingling books. What are you in the mood to read?

Horror

Crime, Thrillers and Mystery

Paranormal

Supernatural

Dark Romance

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Black Lives Matter - black voices, white privilege, our responsibility

Black Lives Matter
Beaten Track Publishing is fully committed to treating all people equally and with respect, so yes, of course we believe all lives matter, but it’s not ‘all lives’ when black people are murdered and subjected to violence daily, repeatedly, systematically. It’s only ‘some lives’. This is why, right now and for as long as it takes to eradicate racism, black lives matter.

#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.

White Privilege
Beaten Track isn’t like other publishing houses. It is more of a collective of authors, editors, proofreaders and illustrators, many of us from marginalised communities. We have come together because our voices are not welcomed elsewhere, and as such our existence is a form of resistance. But we can do more. We must do more, do better. As a collective, we possess a lot of white privilege; recognising that, we have a choice what we do with it.

We will not be bystanders.
We will speak up against racism.
We will share black voices.


Black Writers’ Guild Open Letter
The Black Writers’ Guild (BWG) is a newly formed organisation representing the black publishing community in the UK. On 15th June 2020, the BWG released an Open Letter requesting that all UK publishers provide a full audit of their books published by black authors, their acquisition process and management/editorial structure. The letter begins with the following statement:

We are the Black Writers’ Guild, representing the black publishing community in the UK. Our membership group includes over 200 published black writers, including some of Britain’s bestselling authors and leading literary figures.

The protest movement sweeping the world since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forced an international soul-searching to understand the pervasive racial inequalities that haunt most sectors of our society – including our own major institutions and industries.

Publishers have taken advantage of this moment to amplify the marketing of titles by their black authors and release statements of support for the black communities who have been campaigning for equality for decades.

Although we welcome your support at this time, we are deeply concerned that British publishers are raising awareness of racial inequality without significantly addressing their own.

We are calling on you to help us tackle the deep-rooted racial inequalities in the major corporate publishing companies and support grassroots black literary communities such as booksellers, book clubs and the Black Writers’ Guild.

Equality is our destination, and we have a hard journey ahead of us.


Black Voices at Beaten Track
Authors who publish with Beaten Track:
DEE ADITYA
Dee is an author of M/M romance, an accomplished proofreader and brilliant cover designer (find out more at decorousanarchystudios.wordpress.com).

By Dee Aditya:
A Boy Named Khwahish – a young adult gay romance;
part of Take a Chance anthology.

IMANI TAFARI-AMA
Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama is the author of: Blood, Bullets and Bodies: Sexual Politics Below Jamaica's Poverty Line, Up For Air: This Half Has Never Been Told (an award-winning novel) and Lead in the Veins (poetry) as well as several book chapters and articles. She is also a multimedia journalist who has produced several audio-visual documentaries including 'Setting the Skin Tone', which explores the catastrophic social practice of skin bleaching. This eight-and-a half minute video documentary (produced in 2006) is an excerpt from her Doctoral research.

LARRY BENJAMIN
Bronx-born wordsmith, Larry Benjamin considers himself less a writer than an artist whose chosen medium is the written word rather than clay or paint or bronze.

By Larry Benjamin:
Novels: Unbroken (Lambda Literary finalist); In His Eyes; The Sun, The Earth and The Moon
Short Stories/Novelettes: Black&Ugly; The Christmas Present; Vampire Rising; Damaged Angels

L.D. VALENTINE
L.D. Valentine is a self-confessed nerd who loves fantasy but could never see himself in the characters, so he did something about it and decided to make his own.

By L.D. Valentine:
Novel: Rising (Coven of Zora #1)
Blog post: Black, Queer, and Nerd?

UNOMA AZUAH
Unoma Azuah teaches writing at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Valdosta, GA. Her research and activism focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Nigeria, and her recent book project is Blessed Body: Secret Lives of the Nigerian LGBT. Some of her writing awards include the Aidoo-Synder book award, Spectrum book award and the Hellman/Hammet award.

By Unoma Azuah:
Embracing My Shadow: growing up lesbian in Nigeria

Self-publishing authors who work with Beaten Track:
JADE CALDER
Jade Calder is a mum and author of children's books featuring black families.

By Jade Calder:
The Magic Hair Stick

coming soon…
I Am NOT Too Small!
Mummy, What Is Black Lives Matter?

KEYSHA NAOMI BINNS
Keysha is a qualified nursery nurse and psychology graduate whose writing is inspired by years of encouraging children to brush their teeth at nursery through engaging stories.

By Keysha Naomi Binns:
The Gum Chums – Decay in the Fruit Garden

KUKUWA ABBA
Kukuwa Abba is a Health and Social Development professional with over thirty years experience, specialising in Public Health Education and Policy, Health Literacy, Mental Health Promotion and Culture and Health.

By Kukuwa Abba:
JA Herbs – 40 Jamaican Medicinal Herbs