Saturday, November 26, 2005

BOOKS AND BOOKSTORES

I'm continuing to commit time to reading out of my genre. It often helps to clear my head and understand writing essentials. Last time I mentioned I was reading Barbara Kingsolver. Um...I was disappointed in a general way about Kingsolver's novel, Pigs in Heaven, but I understand she wrote it before she wrote the Poisonwood Bible. She is sardonic, and there are some lovely passages in the book, told in a unique way and I appreciate that talent.

I wondered, however, why the library book I checked out came from the Young Adult Section and could be similarly found in the Adult Section. It has a child in it, but it's an adult novel. Which brings me to the question of the mishmash categorization of the African American novel. Perhaps you'll find African-American children's books categorized consistently. The rest? Well, maybe in a store devoted exclusively to selling African American books. But in the chains and other independent bookstores? Please. Why does one have to run all over the store as if on a scavenger hunt to track down "our" books?

And another thing. It seems to me that historically, there has been the kind of writing from the African American community that will forever appeal to Caucasians, is marketed to Caucasians, and is read thirstily by Caucasians--those works that open a window to black folks souls and let them peek in. These kinds of books are often found on a classic literature list somewhere and usually catalogued appropriately. Or maybe not. I've seen Richard Wright stocked smack next to Zane's books. ??? What could be in the bookseller's heads?
I like mystery/thriller books and so I trot dutifully to the mystery section of a store. I'd like to know if there are brothers and sisters writing in the category, but will I find their books there? No, and marketing by publishers "disguise" these categories, and so it's a hunt and search to find the kinds of books I'd like to read. Why is that? Can somebody tell me? I've learned more as a published writer meeting other writers and being introduced to their works than I have going into a bookstore. So what about GP? General public? Shouldn't it be an easy chore to select books? Hey, I'd like to hear some opinions on the subject.

In what section of a bookstore do you usually shop? Anybody? Somebody? I assume, if you've checked out Crime Sisters Blog that you have some interest in crime fiction/mystery/suspense? So tell me how you shop? Do you go straight to the African American section of your favorite bookstore? If you do, you'll find my books there. Or will you go to the mystery section? A few stores--that I've asked, or begged-- might stock my books there. Other writers? Where are your books found? And is anybody else disturbed about this?
Gammy L. Singer
Look for Down and Dirty, coming in March, 2006

1 comments:

sherri said...

HI Gammy.

I posted some thoughts about this on another blog. I'll try to paraphrase.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm one of those readers that deliberately seek out books by Black authors in addition to all the other books that I read. So I look in all areas, but I typically start in the AA section and then move on throughout the rest of the store.

I can understand how shelving a book in the Black section of a bookstore can limit readership. I've found a number of great books in with 'mainstream books': The Fall of Rome, The Untelling, Free, Resurrecting Mingus... I don't think any of these books had ethnic covers either.

But I also think having a section or identifying books is beneficial.
In my high school, there was 1 Black teacher. Ms Chaney taught English and my senior year she taught a minority writers elective the last semester. So I (and almost every other Black and Latino student in the senior class) took the class and was introduced to soooo many new books and authors. I found out that we had more authors than just Alice Walker and Maya Angelou! And Phylis Wheatley wasn't the only person of color writing prior to 1960. ;-) And we wrote more than slave narratives. We wrote fiction! and poetry! and satire! and sci-fi! So I feel in love with these new(to me) authors.

I know that most communities aren't lucky enough to have great Black bookstoes like Marcus and EsoWon. I want to be able to purchase books by Black authors so that I can support them in their craft. So, where does that leave us?

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