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December 14th, 2009 / 6:05 pm
Mean & Random

This is Why Black People Always Seem Angry

Once again demonstrating a baffling deafness for tone and a pathetic grip on reality, Publisher’s Weekly offers this as the current issue’s cover:

PWK121409cover

I don’t even know where to begin in deconstructing this bizarre image. The black woman as the exotic, wild creature with crazy hair is not, perhaps, the wisest choice of images. Why not just have Venus Hottentot bare breasted and holding a book parading around the cover? Also, can we talk about the fact that black people haven’t had afros that required picking for roughly 20 years, save for a few people who like a little throwback and even then, they aren’t walking around with a head full of picks? The saddest detail of all may well be the black power fist at the end of each pick (see: Black Panthers, 1960s, things we have let go). What does this image have to do with writing? What is the message PW is trying to convey? This image is offensive and weird and creepy and that the people involved in the editorial process didn’t stop to ask themselves how this image might be perceived is kind of funny and very sad.

I understand, historically, why there was a need for the term African American books to exist and why the little section in the bookstore was (is) needed but at the same time, I personally think that when you start to segregate books what you’re saying is that some of these things are not like the others. I’m sure every black writer has a different opinion on the subject but I would prefer my books to be found in the fiction section because that’s what I write. My books would be cranky in the African American section because they would want to kick the asses of books written by Maya Angelou. There would be a RUMBLE in that aisle and then the Women’s Studies books would cluck their tongues and the Asian Books would shake their heads and soon, everyone would want to riot.

The PW cover story, about African-American books in the marketplace, treats African American books like they are some strange, mysterious kind of book–that African American books are markedly different from all the other kinds of books out there in the world, requiring special care and handling and that African American readers are elusive and quixotic, requiring a very special kind of book, bookstore, and marketing campaign. For example, Zane is releasing a book in conjunction with a song by Kenny Lattimore. Next up, video hos marketing books. BET Books.

I learned quite a bit about African American books in the marketplace in reading this article.

Street Lit is the primary subgenre of African American books but, sadly,  Street Lit may not be as hot as it once was.  Time to find a new niche, black writers. Gritty urban tales about drug dealers and baby daddies won’t cut it anymore.

If you’re a black celebrity you can still get a book published though it is best if you are an athlete. Good news, Tiger Woods!

Obama has not only created change in national politics, he has parted new waters for black writers. Holy Moses!

People who want to read African American books are very very very very hard to find. Unless of course, you go to a Barnes & Noble. I’ve seen black people there and the most shocking thing is that they were roaming throughout the store and not in just one tiny little section crammed with Alice Walker, Maya, Toni Morrison and some thug life novels.

Zane (the spokesperson for all black writers) does not feel we get the respect we deserve even though she is one of the worst writers I’ve ever read and is probably not getting respect for being a black writer, but rather, being a BAD black writer.

Publishing African American books, and finding readers for those books is a complex issue that is far bigger than this ridiculous article but maybe, just maybe if publishers stopped publishing crappy books that pander to tired stereotypes, they’d finally sell some books to black people and maybe if the publishing industry started to understand that black readers share more commonalities than differences with the rest of the reading world, they wouldn’t feel the need to publish absurd covers like the one featured in this week’s Publisher’s Weekly. I’m just saying.