January 16, 2003

Mainstream My Behind

Mainstream Ahead in Black Publishing

Patrik Henry Bass, Essence magazine's book editor, sees this predicament: "Looking among the catalogs, publishers are not giving the readers what they want, which are books that are empowering, reflective, educational. Books are supposed to supply information, not just escapism." He continued: "The books they are publishing wouldn't resonate over a long period."

Citing Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange and others, all still in print, he said, "I don't see that level of quality, only quantity."

It's always been, and for the foreseeable future, will remain a question of dollars. The publishing industry still thinks Black readers are a fad. They are all waiting for the glorious day when "the Latina Terry McMillan" arrives — then they'll jettison Black imprints and backlists.

Posted by ronn at January 16, 2003 11:26 AM


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Tracked on January 18, 2003 02:35 AM

Funny. I had this conversation with bell hooks when I interviewed her a few years back. Yes it is good we have lots of black literature coming out, but at what expense? But I do not think this type of literature is going out of style. Did Blaxploitation flicks ever go out of style? Has hip hop music gone out of style? Seems that we as a people, in total, want to be entertained and medicated more than challenged. Dunno. Just my $.02. Posted by: lynne on January 17, 2003 01:31 PM
I agree with you totally. What I really meant is that there won't be an all out push to publish what is now published under "black" books. The cheesy stuff will always sell because (sadly) that's what people want. I just wish we would challenge ourselves and definitely create for ourselves. Posted by: ronn on January 17, 2003 05:17 PM
I'm torn.. on the one hand, I'm glad that the fluff exists if it means that people who previously found nothing in books that resonated with them are picking them up and reading them. On the other -- and this is the librarian/af-am studies scholar in me speaking -- when we're busy giving people what they want rather than what they need, are we doing them a disservice? On the other other hand (grin) who's to say what people *need* to read, anyhow? Isn't that a classist and highly subjective position? Funny..stuff like this doesn't ever come up in my liberry school classes. Maybe I should be startin' something. Posted by: Cecily on January 18, 2003 12:08 PM
We all need to start something Cecily. Too much talk, not enough action is what keeps writers like... Well, y'all know who and what I mean. Posted by: ronn on January 18, 2003 08:02 PM
*cough*Terry McMillan*cough* Posted by: Cecily on January 18, 2003 09:38 PM
We gotta do something about that cough Cecily. ;-) Posted by: ronn on January 19, 2003 08:50 AM
HA! Love it! Posted by: j. brotherlove on January 23, 2003 11:32 PM