Saturday, July 17, 2010

Black Authors - Single Focus Promotion

Black authors are usually only marketed to Black readers. This is an injustice to the artist and the art lover. Literature is art that should be shared, loved and appreciated by all those that deem it beautiful. Unfortunately, many Black authors don't get a chance to reach as many people as they can. Yes, I know this happens to all authors though if you walk into any bookstores and look at the display there is no denying that this impacts Black authors more.

I've been following author Carleen Brice's blog White Readers Meet Black Authors since the beginning (2008). Brice did a fun video called Welcome White Folks. Its an introduction to the African American section in the bookstore. I don't remember a time when African American literature hasn't been separate from literature written by author of other ethnicity's.

When I was in high school I like it. I always knew the books I wanted to read could be found in the back of the bookstore. Now, I am not a fan. I realize that there are a lot of really talented authors with a limited audience thanks to this separate but not equal separation. Also many Black readers are being cheated as well. I love Black authors but would hate to only read Black authors or limit myself to one section in a bookstore.

Today, I wanted a book to read while I ran a few errands. I decided to pick up Trading Dreams at Midnight by Diane Mckinney- Whetstone. I've already read and loved it and decided to revisit it. Mckinney-Whetstone inspired this post, she is a very skilled writer. Her novel Tumbling is one of my all time favorites. Though, Trading Dreams at Midnight is McKinney- Whetstone's fifth book, I know many people reading this have never heard of her. That makes me so sad.

To read everything or everyone is impossible. I haven't nor to do I plan to read every African, Asian, Indian, Latino author I hear about. But thanks to single focus promotion many aren't given the opportunity to hear about Black authors and decide for themselves if they want to read their stories.

I used to not recommend Black authors to White readers, I suppose I was feeding into the whole separation and I wondered/ worried what customers would think about the recommendation. That all changed when I started following White Readers Meet Black Authors.

Now I am like you loved Wally Lamb's I know This Much True, you should read 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell. Or you like Janet Evanovich's- Stephanie Plum series you should try Kyra Davis's - Sophie Katz's series.

It feels good to suggest stories I love without hesitation. To be fair to my customers, I don't think I was giving them enough credit. Many readers just what a good story. (surprise) I still get a few blank stares but happens with many book suggestions no matter the race of the author.

Enjoy the video




Before I started blogging my reading selection was not as diverse as it could be. Now reading novels by author of so many different backgrounds is one of the best things that came out of blogging.


11 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I hate that stupid segregation in the bookstore. And I notice when I am in front of the AA section, I get looks from whites AND blacks!!! If you ask me, all it does is help make sure that whites never see any books by black authors.

Jenny said...

This is a great post! I see that in the bookstore and have often wondered why it's so separated. I remember back in the day one of my favorite books was Liar's Game by Eric Jerome Dickey and I would recommend it to everyone. Then I realized later that his books were placed in a separate section and it totally shocked me that it was like that. LOVE the video you included!!

wdjenkins1 said...

Diane Mckinney- Whetstone is one of my favorites also. She is one of the many authors of color who deserve a much wider readership.

Doret said...

Jill - I love when White readers browse Black authors. I am always ready to offer a few suggestions.

Though you are right there are many Black readers who get territorial about books by Black authors only being for Black readers.

Part of that I believe has to do with thinking. You (White readers)have everything else can't you leave us (Black Reader) this.

But that is such an awful way to think. There should be no them or us when it comes to art.

Jenny - Eric Jerome Dickey knows how to write an entertaining story. Years back I was on a serious Dickey kick. I've heard his new stuff is suppose to be really good.

Wdjenkins1 - Mckinney-Whetstone should be much much bigger. She is so very talented.

Does anyone know how big Mckinney- Whetstone is in Philly, her homestate and where all her books are set.

MissAttitude said...

I think I've heard of McKinney-Whetstone.

Doret I want to visit where you work and see you in action, I love that you are so good at making recommendations!

The same thing applies to YA. As in the AA section, many people only know the big names like Terry McMillan, Colson Whitehead and Walter Mosley (although at my local Borders he was in the mystery section which made me happy). In YA people mostly know Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Draper, Rita Williams Garcia. Now I know about so many more authors, I've learned about Carleen brice, Deberry & Grant and Ernesta Carter. Dia Reeves, Tanita Davis and Charles R. Smith and so many others. I love blogging for introducing me to so many great authors.

Carleen Brice said...

Doret, You are one of the reasons I have a little hope in this world! Thank you for all you do, and thanks for writing this post!

Doret said...

Ari - Edi and I were just talking about Tanita Davis books the other day. Her debut A La Carte is so good but YA books with Black characters get piegonholed and aren't marketed towards a larger audience, so there is no audience at all for it. Which is a shame.

Anyone who has a teen who loves to cook or is a vegetarian do check out A La Carte. 17 Lainey dreams of becoming a first celebrity vegetarian chef.

Carleen - Before White Readers Meet Black Authors, I was not suggesting Black authors to non Black readers. I know I am not the only one to be impacted by your blog. So thank you.

Carleen Brice said...

It's incredibly fulfilling to know my blog has had even a little impact. Thanks for being so open to it! And Color Online thanks for all you do too!

Danielle Nicki said...

I find it frustrating that I have to search so hard for books written by Black authors. The fact that the bookstores separate by ethnicity rather than genre seems totally ridiculous!

People pull from their experiences and background so it's very logical to me that many Black authors would write books filled with other Black people going through the things that we go through. Since deciding that I wanted to pursue a writing career I was surprised to find that there are very few (if any) mainstream authors/screenwriters of color. It seems if you're Black or Latin or Asian, you write about people and situations within your culture and that's it. And then the bookstores and movie studios lump them within those racial categories.

It seems like a cycle.

I find it encouraging when writers of color create work that can't be lumped into anything BUT a specific genre by the powers that be.

Shonda Rhimes, for example, is the creator of the TV show Grey's Anatomy. I was surprised when I learned that she was Black and my surprise annoyed me. We shouldn't only be expected to create shows like Are We There Yet and Meet the Browns.

If you've never heard of Shonda Rhimes here's a link to her blog :)
http://www.greyswriters.com/2010/05/shonda-rhimes-on-sanctuary-and-death-and-all-his-friends.html

Mrs. Pilkington said...

Love this post, Doret. Many thanks to you, and to Carleen! (and ditto on Bebe Moore Campbell).

-Olugbemisola

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