Swirling My Launch Party

Launch Party - postcard (1)So my debut novel, UPTOWN THIEF, is a heist book with a romantic arc; it features women of color and has hard-hitting political content, plus it’s gritty and sexually explicit, with a cast of sex workers. It’s a literary/commercial hybrid, genre-straddling, wild concoction of a book. And I didn’t know how to launch it.

I dropped into my default position: compartmentalize. I had planned three small launch events. I envisioned a lefty Latina literary event, maybe in conversation with my good friend and hotshot literary writer, Carolina De Robertis. Then, maybe an urban lit event at Marcus Books, our local African American bookstore. And finally a more sex-positive event that featured sex worker activists and writers, either at City Lights books or the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco.

Padilha_headshot
Carolina De Robertis

All of these constituencies are segregated in the literary world, as well as the real world. Romance fiction is looked down on by the literary establishment. Books by people of color are marginalized. Among genre writers, literary fiction is often considered boring and overrated. The lives of sex workers are stigmatized and disregarded. Sometimes respectability politics among African American and Latin@ communities means sexually explicit material is frowned upon. Finally, the debate about sex work currently bounces back and forth between criminalization and rescue stories. But sex workers themselves generally support decriminalization, which is widely misunderstood. It’s easy for a well-meaning person to put their foot in their mouth. I think initially I was afraid a fight would break out if I had everybody in the same room.

But I didn’t end up having the bandwidth to do three parties. I needed to consolidate into a single event. So I am. I’m swirling the three parties together like ice cream. Swirl is a slang term that means interracial sex, and it’s perfect for this reading, because I’m also mixing groups that are usually segregated in a sexually charged context.

The party will of course include me reading from the book, with Carolina De Robertis doing the interview, but also with emcee/vocalist Vixen Noir doing a special performance. She shared her EP with me, and I fell in love with the title track. I thought: this is the theme song for my protagonist.

vixen noirDangerous
Lyrics by Veronica C. Combs/Vixen Noir
Music by Hermann Unterwurzacher

(an excerpt)

I am dangerous
I am murderous
I will eat you up, chew you and spit you out….I won’t have a choice if you’re steppin’ on my dreams
Keep on laughin’, keep on underestimating meSay I won’t make it, but that is where you lost me
Obviously you don’t know about me and my posse
Can never tell with a woman of my caliber
Step into my trap, ha
Where the hell you thought you were

I will eat you alive
I will step on your pride
And you will not survive
I am danger

I will swallow you whole
And I’ll dance on your soul

You will lose all control
[…]
see hell burning underneath
The soles of your feet
Your back breaking to the beat
You just don’t know who you’re messing with, you’ll see…

I was fortunate enough to lure Vixen Noir up from LA to perform.

It should be a wild show. I’ll keep you posted.

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Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Essence Magazine, xojane, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, My Brown Baby, KQED Pop, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, and she has been a guest on HuffPostLive. She is the author of the children's picture book PUFFY: PEOPLE WHOSE HAIR DEFIES GRAVITY. Kensington Books will be publishing her debut feminist heist novel, UPTOWN THIEF, in 2016. For more info, go to ayadeleon.wordpress.com.