In 2008, author Carleen Brice started her blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors, inviting white readers to sample books written by Blacks. She took it a step further when she declared December to be " National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month", a move the New York Magazine called "brilliant". She's got all kinds of links to articles on the subject on her blog, but hers is not any angry rant. More like an activist's plea.
Not long ago, Elizabeth Bluemle asked, "Is race 'The Elephant In the Room' in the publishing industry?" The nice thing about her article is she goes past dialogue to outlining action steps for people in various publishing roles, and provides useful links as well.
Then, my favorite co-authors, Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant recently participated in a SheWrites radio broadcast about this very issue. They posted an eloquent missive on the subject here.
I've posted links to discussions of this topic from time to time. I thought I blogged about it myself, but it seems I haven't. Now is as good a time as any.
The whole thing saddens me as much as it angers me. Readers should be able to read whatever they like, but their sphere of choices should not be limited to stories about people like the one they see in the mirror, whether the limitation is self-imposed or not. If you have not read Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, Walter Moseley, Francis Ray, Sharon Ewell Foster, Victoria Christopher Murray, Carleen Brice, Claudia Mair Burney and too many others to name, you've missed some of the best contemporary reads of our time. That it seems white readers tend not to consider, much less purchase, books by Black authors saddens me.
On the other hand, the fact that the publishing industry operates in ways that support, if not perpetuate, this type of benign racism--if that's not an oxymoron--grates on and sometimes angers me. There's the case of Millenia Black who sued her publisher because when they insisted she change her white characters to Black ones. Or, the way the book cover was designed for Justine Larbalestier's book, Liar. This kind of stuff--anger.
Then, there are the shelving practices of bookstores, national chains like Borders as well as smaller, independent bookstores who segregate books by Black authors from others in the same genre. I'm more "betwixt and between" on this one. Just yesterday in Wal-mart, I saw gospel artist Kirk Franklin's latest title sitting next to a compilation of erotic tales from Zane because they were in the African-American section. Reading tastes are varied and nuanced to be sure, but something about that juxtaposition bothered me. Wouldn't have happened had the authors been white. Some have advocated for this segregated shelving while others, passionately against.
Still, there are pros and cons to the bookshelving issue and I have a foot in both camps, loving that I can find many of the books I'm interested in without having to scour the entire bookstore--which I do anyway because I read books by and about everybody--but hating that 95% of the store's customers will never see those same books.
In light of our upcoming celebration--by Americans of every hue--of our country's independence, a revolution that defined our national character as much as our sovereign state, I'm asking the question in particular of white readers: Do you read books authored by writers of other races, in particular, African-Americans? When you do, do you seek them out or is it more happenstance? If you don't, why do you suppose that might be?
Peace & Blessings,
Stay focused. Be deliberate. Believe.