July 13, 2009

Being REAL about Culture & Writing ~ Author King Dhakir

The Writer

King Dhakir (pronounced Dha-kear) blazes “edutainment” in literature and music that sparks the mind of those who come across his work. Whether through songs or books, he strives to not only educate, but also provide the pleasure of learning through comedy, drama, history, and other forms of writing. The Chicago native pushes emotions from his work which seeps through the feelings of listeners and readers as he takes you to a journey that touches the five senses and various stages of consciousness.

As a music artist, the no nonsense MC sparks the inevitable gift of a true lyricist. Chi-Skilz, short for "Chicago Skills, is his performing name, and has performed across the Tri-State area. He’d developed a love for music by experiencing basement parties in the early 90's, and listening to his sister's collection of vinyl records on turntables.

Releasing a music video in the summer of 2006, and two albums in 2005 and 2006 (Sun of a Field Negro EP and Charismatic Superfly, respectively), he would later work on his debut novel I Hate My Job in late-November of 2007.

I Hate My Job is now available @ http://www.kingdhakir.com; the King prepares to serve another dish of that “feel good” to take the readers for the ride of their lives.

King is all over the cybersphere; you can check him out at MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube!

The Book

Surviving while earning scraps and living under the roofs of others, Justice King is a college graduate who struggles with finding his calling in life. Unruly customers, demanding managers and sophomoric co-workers push his patience to the edge as he earns a steady pay-check that only lasts until the next. He faces the challenge of steering away from the temptation of fast money and thinks about the future once rent and property increases evict long-time residents from their homes. As smiles and laughter come in the form of side hustles, skirt chasing, and passing jokes with a close friend, the temporary high outside the workplace is what keeps his mind from exploding. The story of I Hate My Job is the vision of people who inspire to live the life of their choice with the sacrifice of getting out their dreams and creating their own vision. It’s the story of laughs, cries, pain, and joy, and the battle of lifting the spirits of the inner self.

Click the cover above to order your copy of I Hate My Job today!

On Culture & Writing

How important is it for you to integrate your cultural experiences into your writing?
It’s very important to showcase my own cultural experiences as well as others so people wouldn’t think so damn ignorantly all the time.

What’s funny is that by me being a born and raised Chicagoan, the characters of I HATE MY JOB originally used Chicago lingo until one of my homeboys, who is a native New Yorker, went over the manuscript and pointed out how New Yorkers didn’t use words like “mayne” instead of man, “pop” instead of soda, “naw” instead of nah, and so forth.

The story is based in NYC, and I had to go back and change some of the dialogue, and remember how New Yorkers talked to capture the authenticity of the story.

A few examples of cultural differences are expressed in I HATE MY JOB. It’s funny how folks love to talk slick about you in their native language when they assume you only know how to speak English.

Felicia’s (one of the main characters) mother, Ms. Moreno, doesn’t like Justice (the protagonist of the book). Ms. Moreno knows English pretty well, but only speaks Spanish whenever Justice is around, knowing full well he doesn’t know her country’s language fluently.

“Hey, Ms. Moreno. How are you?” I waved, but she never turned toward me. Ms. Moreno’s bronze complexion reddened as she blasted Felicia. Her mom’s knew how to speak English, but only spoke Spanish whenever I came around.

While the language barrier is one part of cultural differences, there also comes popular culture.

Jo Jo is a supervisor in the department store where Justice works, and they get into a small debate over the Jacksons and Osmonds. Both families have had carried on a rivalry back in the day, and I used their situation as a metaphor of a slight cultural bias between Blacks and Caucasians.

“What’s good?” I greeted Jo Jo. He was surprised that I uttered a sound to him.

"Hey, what’s up?”

“Nothin’. I’m diggin’ your Wu-Tang shirt.”

Jo Jo raised his eyebrows at my unusual friendliness. “Oh, thank you.”

“Aight. I thought you only listened to the Osmonds or somethin’.”

He laughed and gave me eye contact. “Yeah, I like the Osmonds. And I like The Jacksons as well.”

“The Jacksons? What you know about The Jacksons?”

“I know a lot about The Jacksons. But they aren’t better than the Osmonds.”

“What?” My shriek alarmed folks in the shoe department. “Tito’s afro got more talent than the Osmonds.”

“Whatever, dude.” He smirked.

“Whatever, nothin’. Hell, even the Partridge Family got more talent than the Osmonds.” I grabbed a few shoeboxes from Jo Jo’s stack of new products and stamped stickers on them. “The Osmonds are better than The Jacksons my ass.” I laughed to myself, and got a kick out of the small talk.

Another important part of that small scene is Jo Jo wearing a Wu-Tang Clan shirt. Without giving away the background story between Justice and Jo Jo, I used Hip-Hop as a symbol that different cultures can come together. Music is universal, and as bad the media love to portray rap as evil, a person cannot deny that you’ll see different ethnicities at a rap concert having fun as if the color of their skin didn’t matter.

I also made a point to have Justice’s potential love interest, Nandi, portrayed as a dark-skinned woman with locs, also known as “dread-locs.”

What bothers me is when most of the main female characters of a lot of Black authors’ books have “Asian” eyes, long “Indian” hair, and are light-skinned. I don’t know if it’s subconsciously a form of self-hate, but Blackness comes in all forms of shapes, sizes and complexions when it comes to looking “exotic,” whatever that means. I wanted to balance out our image in literature by saying that dark is not only exotic, but its juices of beauty also flows deep.

Not only Nandi represents a strong woman of dark-brown melanin, her name comes from the Zulu, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. My glossary further elaborates on many cultural references I displayed in the book; figures such as Nat Turner, Emmitt Til, the Black Panthers, Haile Selassie, etc. and also the vernacular used by characters in the book.

Examples of culture are flooded throughout the whole book. I just gave you a taste. You’ll have to buy the book to see for yourself (laughs).

In viewing media - TV, movies, books, radio, etc., how do you see your culture being conveyed?
The question is broad, so I’ma break it down to books since that medium is the primary focus.

Street-Urban fiction is the genre that’s catching the most flack because it’s the most visible, at least when it comes to Blacks and Latinos. Street fiction is the dominant genre in the African-American book section in mainstream stores as if the Black experience is nothing but living in the ‘hood and underworld stories. This is not a direct shot at the authors of that genre, it’s just an observation.

Not for nothing, but if I was a foreigner who traveled to America, I’d think that most Blacks, if not all, were a community of over-sexed, violent, ignorant, and materialistic group of people based on most of the book covers and storylines flooding street vendors and the African-American book section.

I can care less what people write and their motives. I say, “Do you.” However, there’s a difference between exploitation and exploration, especially when I see the same storylines with little to no creativity involved. And what kills me is when Black authors say, “Well, white people write the same stories, too.” What they fail to realize is that white authors are heavily marketed across the board in their respective genres. So if a Stephen King gets burn, best believe Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, and John Grisham will eat, too.

I’ve lived amongst white folk in the suburbs, and I know that most of them did not live vicariously through characters on TV, music and books as opposed to many young brothers and sisters when I used to live in the projects. So once again, there lies a difference, especially when you have parents who aren’t responsible with their duties to raise their children, and when the youth is searching for a role model that represents strength in their eyes.

So the problem is a lack of balance. I think authors who write other genres need to step up their grind and create their own industry just like how street fiction did in the early 2000’s. Therein comes another problem because once a section of the Black experience becomes popular, it automatically cancels out other explorations of our community in the mainstream.

It seems as if the WHOLE Black community cannot be marketed at the same time. It’s either one or the other, and just like how street-urban fiction knocked the chick-lit-sista-girl books of the 90’s out the box, I wouldn’t be surprised if another genre does the same to the former in the future.

What do you look to convey about your culture through your writing?
An understanding of other lifestyles without any biases involved. I may disagree with certain aspects of your lifestyle or way of life; however, that doesn’t mean I’ll belittle you as a person and disregard your dogma. I will say this, though. I won’t touch on every culture or sub-culture, but I will touch on cultures that run parallel with my own, which is striving for righteousness.

Do you think writers are (or can be) spokespersons for their culture?
I think writers can be, depending on their format, but overall, no.

As far as me, I represent myself. And as long as I represent myself well as a man of respect, everything will fall in place.

If a writer claims to represent a certain demographic as the so-called vanguard of the community, then that individual should show and prove in his or her writings.

If a writer is just writing for creative expression, then that person shouldn’t be held responsible, UNLESS it’s reckless and detrimental to the wellness of the reader. Controversy sparks debate, but there’s nothing great about sparking debate when it’s done tastelessly.

To quote Andy Worhol, “Art is what you can get away with.” And some writers are just plain reckless when they try to get away with controversy just for the hell of it.

If you are a writer who writes outside your culture, talk to us about that experience. What have you learned about yourself during the process?
I haven’t had the chance to write outside my culture as of yet. I will in the future because ever since I was young I’ve always been around different cultures. Northside Chicago is the most diverse area in the city, and I grew up in a melting point of cultures. Not only that, I’ve also lived in the West Chicago Suburbs for a few years. So writing outside of what I know is nothing to me.

I’m cooking up some marvelous ingredients for the next book as we speak.

Any closing comments you'd like to make regarding culture and writing?
Just be original and find your niche. It’s better to stand out than finding yourself washed away by walking with the crowd. I ask myself everyday, “what can I do that’ll separate myself from the others?” And once you read my books like I HATE MY JOB, you’ll find out I’m in a league of my own. PEACE!!!


Anonymous said...

I have read his book and I must commend him on being so descriptive in use of metaphors and flow that some Authors well seasoned in the game are not able to do. It kept me engaged and had an interesting story line. This is a solid read that you should cop for sure


Shonell Bacon said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tyrenna, :-)

I enjoyed reading his book, too, and it was nice to read something different than the normal AA fiction out there.