Responding to Your Letters

Farai Chideya and producer Christopher Johnson read from listeners' letters. This week, they go over e-mails about an erotic mystery novel, the need for black male teachers and a note of thanks.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

It's time again for your letters. And we've got producer Christopher Johnson on tap. Hey, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Hey, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Well, neither sleep nor snow nor a federal holiday this week, plus 100 degree-plus temperatures in parts of the West has stopped our listener e-mails. So let's get started. What have we got?

JOHNSON: Well, earlier this week, you spoke with actor Blair Underwood along with Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. They all discussed the sexy new mystery novel they've just written titled, "Casanegra." Now, here's Tananarive cracking everybody up during that lively conversation.

(Soundbite of archived NPR clip)

Ms. TANNARIVE DUE (Co-author, "Casanegra"): I think when we look at the story there are pieces of all of us in there although we'll never say which ones.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNDERWOOD: To what degree?

CHIDEYA: Aha.

Ms. DUE: And I don't think any of us has ever been a sex worker. I could speak for myself and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNDERWOOD: Well…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNDERWOOD: That's right. They are funny now.

Mr. BARNES: No actual money change.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHNSON: Now, as funny as that may have been, Farai, Nate Calgill(ph) of Nashville was not amused. He wrote: So what was the motivation behind featuring "Casanegra"? You do realize that thousands of deserving, accomplished, skilled novelists would love to have this kind of exposure, novelists who don't spend their writing time chasing dollar bills. Get real, NPR.

CHIDEYA: Oh, Nate, I know you've been listening when we interviewed pioneering Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe or the Caribbean Novelists Writers Conference organizer Colin Channer and Kwame Dawes. We just like to mix it up here at NEWS & NOTES, and for real "Casanegra" is beautifully written.

JOHNSON: We also got some less than satisfied mail about an interview you did with two men from Call Me MISTER. Now that's a program that trains, certifies and gets teaching jobs for black men in South Carolina's public schools.

Jason Naugh(ph) from Homestead, Florida, is a former public school teacher who had some problems with that segment. And he wrote this: You made the point about white people having trouble with the opinion that only black men, as teachers, can completely develop the black child's self-esteem, confidence and identity. And the responses by the gentlemen were flat-out reverse racism and way wrong.

CHIDEYA: Jason, we did cover similar responses to yours at length in a previous segment on mentoring and in a letter segment that follows. But remember, I acknowledged the controversy. I asked the question; I didn't provide the answers. So we report, you let us know what you think. Always feel free to drop us a line and go to our blog, News & Views. That's nprnewsandviews.org - no spaces - because we're going to open this one up to online comments as well.

Christopher?

JOHNSON: Here is part of what your guest Mark Joseph had to say. Mark is a fifth grade teacher who graduated from Call Me MISTER, where he now mentors.

(Soundbite of archived NPR clip)

Mr. MARK JOSEPH (Mentor, Call Me MISTER): On the television screens, our children, they are bombarded with so many different images of rappers, of entertainers, of African-American males and females in so many negative lights. Our children - you know, not just black kids - well, all kids need to be able to see African-American mentors in a positive light.

CHIDEYA: And finally, here's a note from Michelle Brooks(ph) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She writes: I just had to drop you a line to say how grateful I am for your show. I live in central Pennsylvania and did not find many media outlets that provide the same level of stimulating, thought-provoking opinions and information especially with an African-American perspective. It's such a refreshing reminder that there is not one correct way to think if you are African-American.

(Soundbite of music)

JOHNSON: That's it for letters today, but please keep them coming. If you want to drop us a note, just log on to npr.org and click Contact Us. It helps if you tell us where you're writing from and how to say your name.

CHIDEYA: You can also leave us a voice mail at 202-408-1271. That's 202-408-1271.

JOHNSON: And hey, don't forget about our News & Views blog.

CHIDEYA: You can also post your comments there by going to nprnewsandviews.org. That's no spaces - nprnewsandviews.org. Thanks, Christopher.

JOHNSON: Any time.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: That is our show for today. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

To listen to the show or subscribe to our pod cast, visit npr.org/newsandnotes. To join the conversation, visit our blog. Just go to nprnewsandviews.org. That's no spaces - nprnewsandviews.org.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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