Sunday, May 20, 2012

TSS: What's A Reader To Do?

What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....
This weeks Sunday Salon I am going to rant about the lack of quality black fiction being published and about how hard it is to find something that I am interested in reading from black authors.

I got this post idea from Reads of Pleasure post entitled In Search of Satisfaction.  To sum up the post, there is a lack of god quality fiction by black authors being published.  The post at Reads of Pleasure explains it more eloquently than I can so I suggest reading of her post.

I have been not so closely watching the state of traditional publishing for a while.  With the popularity of Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc on the rise it seems that traditional publishers are a little shaken up and not sure what to do.  There solution seems to be to only publish books that they know will sell.  While this might not affected a well know black author like Toni Morrison, I have a feeling that this is having a negative affect on a lot of lesser know black authors.

In fact, I know it.


Because, every couple of months I hit the web in search of new books by black authors for my book club to read.  And every couple of months, I end up frustrated.  The members of my book club have set up a couple of rules.  They don't want to read books that are too long.  All of the women in my club work and have family and lives.  They don't always have the time to complete a longer novel.  They also don't want to read what Amazon titles "Urban Life" and what I call Hood Lit.  They are also tired of reading books about slavery.  What the members of my book club what is simple.

They want books about normal everyday black folks.  Books about people like them.

That was the response I got when we read Silver Sparrow (review) by Tayari Jones.  Even though the family situation in Silver Sparrow wasn't quite normal, the characters were and they could relate to them.

I am sure there are people out there that can relate to Hood lit books and who enjoy reading them.  If there weren't then the black book market wouldn't be full with them.  And that is my problem.  It seems that publishers are only willing to take risk on certain black books and most of them seem to fit the "Urban Life" genre.  Which I don't read, and member of my book club don't read.

This presents a problem for me when I go search out new and interesting books for my member and myself. I have a hard time finding stuff.  Especially from new authors.  I find myself stumbling over the same few tried and true names and my members have already requested that we don't read anything by Toni Morrison.  Not that they don't like Ms. Morrison but her work isn't light reads and she takes a lot of energy (for lack of a better word).

I really was hoping that self-publishing would be the answer to my prayers.  That black authors of general black fiction would start to explore self-publishing.  But that doesn't seem to be the case.  When I look at B&N and Amazon most of it is still Hood Lit.

Looking over my to be read list, I am noticing a lack of color and there is not much I can do about it.  Unless I take Toni Morrison advice:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

What's a reader to do?


  1. Sorry to hear that you're struggling to find good books. It is really sad to hear that books like this aren't easily available in the US. I think this is something that the rest of the world seems to be doing better and so you might have more success by looking for books in translation - although I appreicate this may be a problem if a whole book club is trying to get hold of copies.

    Have you read Salvage the Bones? That is amazing! I also recommend On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe and I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani - although I appreciate that none of these are about everyday lives. Sounds as though you should write your own book!

    1. Jackie,

      Thank you for those great suggestions. I have heard of Salvage the Bones but I have not read it, yet. I am writing all these books down for the future.

      If only I had time to write my own book.