Monday, July 02, 2007

Readers of Discrimination

Tough, tough, tough and even more difficult to get works of literary fiction published. The idiots who buy books want entertainment, for feck's sake, and the mindless wonders who populate this earth don't know that they should be reading literary fiction and seeking out edification. Indeed, they prove their utter lack of sophistication by not living in New York City. Thank you, yes, I will take another glass of wine. This pinot noir is sensational. Lovely, the hint of cherry, yet not overly fruity. What were we talking about, again?

Author Martha Southgate goes to literary soirees and finds that she is the only woman of color present, not counting the Pakis and the Hindus, of a certain age, that being middle. Where are the forty-something and fifty-something black authors like Martha Southgate? Why are there not African-American Michael Chabons or Jane Smileys?

Malaika Adero, who is an editor at Atria Books, believes that the publishers don't push literary fiction written by those possessed of dark American skin. Book vendors don't order the books because they are not being promoted, so readers don't know about them and therefore they don't get sold and the publishers look at the numbers and it's a downward spiral. You don't sell through, you don't get another book published; sic transit gloria.

Au contraire, says Morgan Entrekin of Grove/Atlantic. The industry is looking for good, marketable work, the writing trumps all, and that manuscript your agent sends him is colorblind, is it not? Read between his lines, and it sounds as if black folks can't write good books, which is why there are so few of them out there. On the other hand, the Jewish Book Network is highly successful, and there's no equivalent for African American writers to heavily promote. Maybe therein lies the problem, and things would be far more rosy if Operation Push stepped up and came to the aid of black authors in America. I am....a reader. I may be poor, but I am....a reader.

Once published, do black writers go on to live on the pig's back? Ms. Southgate is less than pleased that this is not the case. Why, African-American writers have to juggle families! They don't have a financial cushion to fall on so that they can quit their day jobs and go off to write. It's discrimination that keeps them from becoming full time writers.

Anyone who believes that writers can make a living at writing has a most vivid and fertile imagination. Black, white, brown, red or green, writers work other jobs and write on the side because there's simply no money in the art. There's no discrimination, but there is a reality that is decidedly unpleasant, especially when a budding author's dreams of the bohemian life are crushed by the paltry advance and the minuscule royalties. Those that can (make a living at writing) do, those that can't, teach (creative writing at universities across the nation).

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