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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Confessin' my ignorance

At times, more often than I care to admit, I am caught up short in the wisdom department. I make assumptions based on my limited life experience and am then surprised when my assumptions are shown to be wrong. I got a nugget of knowledge today by way of reading reviews of Neil Gaiman's new book, Anansi Boys. I kept noticing references to Zora Neale Hurston in the reviews and wondered about the connection. I then found a reference stating that Mr. Gaiman had graciously tipped his hat to a few authors, including Ms. Hurston, as inspiration for his new tale. And I have to admit I was totally taken aback.

Why was I surprised? Because I always believed that most males don't read women's fiction, and that, specifically, non-black males are hands-off when it comes to literature penned by black women. (I often give them the benefit of the doubt, though, when the works are by black males such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin or the more contemporary Walter Mosley or Edward P. Jones.)

Ignorance on my part? Probably. Or more like a superiority complex. I read anything I enjoy whether written by male, female, black, white or other. Different genres, different formats, considering myself a true lover of the written word without discrimination. Obviously, I have not given this same benefit of non-discriminatory literatureship to non-black males. I am a product of my world, my culture, my society, where most contributions by Af-Am women are glanced over and easily dismissed out of hand. I remember when Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize Laureate in the early 90s. Soon after came the talk about her being an "affirmative-action" pick, these statements (bitter grapes) made mostly by white male authors. Maybe it was then that I formed my assumption that no matter how talented a black female writer was, she would always be questioned as unworthy by white male readers and writers.

I am an admirer of bell hooks, who delves into the psychological impact of racism, lookism and sexism on black females. She is candid, intelligent and presents logical premises. So, why should I have been surprised to read an account where a white delivery guy, quite young, dropped off a package to ms. hooks and wanted to get into a discourse with her about one of her books? And yet, I was surprised that someone of his demographics had taken the time to read her works.

So, as of this moment, I am willingly dropping my uninformed opinion that white or basically non-black males do not read literature written by black females. Because, I really don't know this. I would have to take a poll with a varied cross-section of respondents. Even then, my numbers might be skewered.

Just to be fair, I have not read any works by Ms. Hurston (a fact which I hope to remedy in the near future). So, Mr. Gaiman has a fair advantage over me.

And BTW, I loved Gaiman's Neverwhere.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/09/2005 02:20:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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