Saturday, April 5

overcast



At times there is simply too much information out there. For a couple of hours now I've been reading through my blogroll, catching up with you guys and your lives. There are some seriously great writers on that list, political and personal. You make me think and you make me laugh. Right now there's a focus on the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, his legacy and the present and future of race relations in this country. People have made statements I agree with wholeheartedly and some that strike me as seriously insensitive and ignorant. Since I believe that ignorance can be cured with information and I have a big mouth...let's just say it's been a busy morning.


There's something that has always bothered me and it's been on my mind in the past couple of days...something that may seem trivial in light of the historical implications of this election year and yesterday's anniversary but oh well. Many of you may know that I plan to open a bookstore next year and that I majored in theatre in college. If you didn't well now you do (see what I mean about ignorance being a curable condition?).


Why is there an 'African-American' section in most book stores? This drives me crazy. You want to separate the Biographies from the Romance novels? Fine. Crime from Sci-fi? Ok. Non-fiction from Fiction? Cool. Something is wrong when we start having Latino, Asian and African-American sections though. Does this mean that the author is of a certain race, or that the subject matter is or both? What if a white author writes a book about a Japanese cop who becomes a PI in Harlem, where do you put that book? As outlandish as my example may seem, that is exactly how ridiculous I think the racial separation of book stores is. Othello and A Raisin In the Sun are both plays. As I Lay Dying and The Celestial Jukebox are both novels. Romance novels geared towards African Americans and romance novels geared towards whites are both romance novels. If some white woman happens to buy a book about inflamed black loins instead of white ones I do not think it will be the end of the world. Basic genre and author - that is the information you need in a bookstore. The point of reading a book is to step into another world of some sort. If you get 'tricked' into stepping into a world filled with people who do not look like you and you get scared you can close the damn book. I'll make an exception for books written in another language, although you really should be able to tell that from the titles and if you can't what are you doing???
Some of my favorite books and authors were ones I found accidentally. They had cover designs or titles that intrigued me, so I picked them up. The more you segment the bookstore the less chance there is of this happening across racial lines. What truly drives me bat-shit insane is the notion that white authors are writing for an audience and black authors (or any PoC, really) is writing for a black audience. As if it is somehow normal for a black person to be reading a book by a white author but the reverse is not true. This is degrading to all of us. It is degrading to the power of the written word and of the form of the novel, especially, to transport us to a different place and open us to new experiences, to give us vicarious memories. It is true that people of color are more versed in the works of white artists than white people are of 'colored' artists and there are many reasons for that. Separating our writing does not seem to help the problem. Defining it as a problem might be a good first step...I tend to jump to conclusions which seem obvious to me, only to look behind me and see people scratching their heads...
It doesn't just happen in the bookstore either-
Right now there is an all black production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway. Wife #5 saw it and said it was fabulous. Is it a black show now? Was Hope Floats a black movie because Forrest Whitaker directed it?
If you are going to start categorizing works of art by race then you have to go all the way. I want to see a white section in the bookstore. I want to see each race broken down. Go all the way or realize that the entire thing is stupid, that art is a form of communication which we need to reach across racial lines now possibly more than ever before.


Stop pissing me off, it's my birthday month.

10 Comments:

Shelly said...

Hi WNG,

I had no idea you were going to open up a bookstore - what an absolutely fantastic thing!! And I couldn't agree MORE with what you say about the whole Black Writing section found in alot of shops. WTF?? So ignorant and unnecessary.

No doubt your place will be intelligent, integrated and harmonious and I look foward to checking it out (When I finally get my past my slight anti-US travel policy).

And when is your birthday exactly? So you're a fiery Aries, huh...

Jay said...

" Since I believe that ignorance can be cured with information and I have a big mouth...let's just say it's been a busy morning."

That made me LOL ... That's also why you rock! ;-)

I've never really noticed that they separate African-American authors like that, but now that you mention it, they do don't they? I don't see why either. It's almost like they are saying that white people don't want to risk picking up a book written by a black person. That's silly.

I'm surprised they don't separate books by male and female authors too. Or Christians, Jews, Muslim, Atheists etc. None of it would make any sense.

WNG said...

Shelly's Alive!!! YEA!!!
Well, of course my place will be fabulous when I finally get the $$$ to open it. (cross your fingers for me?)
The actual birthday is on the 17, but I claim the whole month as mine!
Oh and if I didn't live here I'm not sure I'd travel here either...

Jay - There are so many reasons why I rock, but I understand you need to keep a narrow focus...I might do that sectioning just to make a point, I'll end up with over a 100 sections...hmm...

The CEO said...

Could you please direct me to the female inflamed loins section? I definitely only do female inflamed loins. Others are free to choose any kind of inflamed loins they like. I just know my own preferences that's all. This is after years of preference testing, naturally.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You are so right. Even the QPB bulletins have pages devoted to African-American fiction, whatever that is.

Here's an idea: How about bookstores just filing them alphabetically by author? Are they going to refuse to sell me books by Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Z.Z. Packer or Andrea Lee because of an irrelevant technicality?

If we could somehow stop separating ourselves by race, another fiction in this day and age when nearly everyone in this country is of mixed ancestry, we could begin to see all the qualities we share.

And yes, an inflamed loin is an inflamed loin, and romance novels suck no matter what color the characters are.

WNG said...

CEO - I'll send you some boxes of 'inflamed loin' novels from my sordid youth...

It spikes my blood pressure Hearts, seriously. And I would much rather shop in an actual bookstore than online, but sometimes...
Ok, you're going to make me write a post separating crap romance from good romance aren't you? Give me a couple days...I've got some other things working just now :)

Susan said...

My local book store is divided down to that level. It's divided to almost a point where it makes me sad. I like being able to find how I'm looking for easily but still...it's kind of sad.

Or maybe I'm just sad.

WNG said...

Don't be sad Susan, you can some visit me in Seattle when I've got my place up and running!

Big Man said...

I too despise segregated bookshelves.

WNG said...

That's because you're a good guy. But I already knew that. You'll get an invite to the opening :)