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12.12.2009

Happy BABBABAAGITSNB!

Happy Buy A Book By A Black Author and Give It To Somebody Not Black Month! Yes, it's that time of year again, according to an article in Poets and Writers by Carleen Brice. She established it last year. Along with a hearty announcement, she gave a short list of recommendations for anyone looking for that special BABBABAAGITSNB Month gift. Among her suggestions are The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, and The Air Between Us, by Deborah Johnson.

Personally I've heard many good things about these books. I haven't read them, but I've heard good things. Many people have heard good things. But have they read these?

Probably not. It's publishing's dirty little secret: segbookgation (you gotta love it when people try to make a pun serious!) You know, that marketing strategy where you take all the books by Black authors, and instead of censoring them or not publishing them at all (like the good ol' days!) you give them their own nice little corner. So what you have is a corner of black authors writing different genres (from erotica to mysteries to literary) and overall ignored by everyone except teenagers who want to get that new Zane book, with the cumshot at the beginning (not that cumshots are all together bad). And yes, it does have cumshot in the beginning.

It's that corner that no one passes. It's the dirty urban fiction area, where no literate person would be caught dead in. It's partly because the covers--the ones hot pink and black with a half naked black girl. Those eyes telling you that's she might be a slut. And there's nothing wrong with being a slut. But when you learn that the other girls in the "general erotica and romance" section are dressed in suits, that they have perfectly done highlights, and they are stubborn, but willing to fall in love if only the right cowboy comes along, you see the problem. You see: segbookgation.


Segbookgation, as defined by author Bernice McFadden, is the phenomenon of "Publishers...[placing] all African-American authors in one box, forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience." Comparatively, Nora Roberts would never be in the same section as Joyce Carol Oates. Sylvia Day would never be in the same section as Henry James. Yet we have Toni Morrison next to Mary B Morrison. Zora Neale Hurston just a few books away with a title like Between My Thighs (classy!)

Not downplaying the urban fiction genre (it has its good and its bad), but marketing urban literature as African American literature and African American literature as only urban literature, has its problems. As McFadden points out, all black authors are made to compete with one market--those who visit the hidden corner of shame. Meanwhile, white authors have the option to be in several places, be it sci-fi, mystery, romance. Everything is white, unless we are told otherwise. The result is the underexposure of talented writers because of their skin color. When people see the signage "African American Fiction" they assume poorly written books written by writers "hustling" their books. From the covers, they assume that threatening Black sexuality that is assumed pornographic. Readers move away from the section. Avoiding the section because of the skin colors of the authors. All of which I thought we as a country agreed was wrong.



Anyways, some gift ideas for BABBABAAGITSNB Month:

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