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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Yes, this shit has been going on for too long

Millenia Black is one bold sister to take on a whole industry but I say more power to her. Maybe in history she'll be known as the Rosa Parks who paved the way for black writers to break out of the niche they are presumptively boxed into. Short history synopsis: Millenia is a black writer who wrote a book with white characters, a book her editor/publisher lauded as great 'cept for one "liddle problem": she needed to change her characters to black. They couldn't see her audience expanding beyond black buyers, so they basically admitted they weren't going to market her beyond this niche audience, curtailing any possibility of crossing over to a larger market. Some stinky shit, in my opinion.

Instead of backing down, Millenia chose to speak up, and for a second, it seemed that the publisher had seen reason. Why should a writer be ghettoized simply because of the color of her skin? Racism is what it is. And who wants to support racism (or at least, admit to it)?

Now, an update from Millenia's blog informs that the situation has gone from bad to worse, and she is in the process of suing her publisher for racism. Cool that. It will be a David-Goliath battle, but remember, David kicked ass. Even if she doesn't win, she will have stirred the waters, letting publishers know that it may not be smooth sailing as usual when they decide they want to limit a black person's market and dreams simply because of the color of their skin.

When AGAIN first came out, I worried whether a white audience would buy the book because it featured a black person on the cover. My publisher made sure that I was placed in the romance section as opposed to the African-American section, where it would be viewed by fewer book shoppers (because we know white shoppers do not even venture into the Af-Am section). I appreciate that Kensington/Brava took that chance on me. Whether or not their decision will pay off is yet to be seen. But even so, non-black readers can't use the oft-given refrain that they couldn't find the book and didn't know it was out there.

In the end, people are going to read what they want to read. That is their privilege and right. But too often, the nonblack audience is denied the opportunity to make an informed decision whether they even want to read a black author or not. The decision is taken totally out of their hands when publishers ghettoize writers, not based on the color of the characters (which is bad enough), but based on the race of the writer. This myopism presumes whites and others are just that racist. I'm hoping that this isn't the case.

So kick ass Millenia. I'm rooting for you. Just remember, one woman, Rosa Parks, made a mighty wave by taking a stand (well, actually refusing to stand) and I have a feeling you will too.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/11/2006 09:28:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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