Thursday, October 14, 2010

African American Section......

I have received so many emails and comments from my latest story on The Next Family and She Writes that I had to share the story here.  Normally I try and have different stories on my blog and Next Fam because  I don't want to bore!  =)  However I think this one needs to be shared on both sites.............

So I have a question: Did you know that in general books written by black authors are shelved in the African American section? Did any of you out there realize that? Unless of course you are Toni Morrison or friends with Oprah, black authors are pretty much housed in their own “special” section.

A fellow writer who happens to be black recently published her first novel. A few months ago, just prior to her publication date, she sent out an interesting request. We are all on a writers’ site together and one of her posts was: “Wanted: White Ambassadors to Help Me Cross Over”. Seriously, that was her post! After I read this request she sent out, I wrote about it on my blog at "I'll Be Your White Friend"

I thought she had such guts and honesty by asking that simple “favor.” She knew that unless she got the word out to others outside her “circle,” her book would end up in the African American section and her audience would be limited. Her post caused quite the stir and received both sympathy and “are you kidding me?” responses. I get it though. You spend all this time writing and coming up with this wonderful story that has nothing to do with being black or white, and then boom, you are put into a category that many readers will never venture to. It’s so silly. A lot of people who read her request had never thought of her situation because of course, if you are a white writer there is no “white section!” Romance, mystery, memoir, self-help, religious…yes…but “white section”? No way!

Why am I on such a rant about this issue so long after her post? Well, the writer that I’m talking about is now published and I promised her when the book was pubbed that I would buy it. So off I went to Borders this past weekend and I was so happy to find her book stocked in the store. There it was on the computer…Substitute Me, by Lori Tharps. I had looked in the store on previous occasions but it was only available online. I was thrilled to see that I could finally get her book, take it home and get to reading! Imagine the look on my face when I saw that her book was located in the….drum roll please….African American section! You have to be freakin’ kidding me! Yes indeed, that’s exactly where it was. I literally laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of it and how spot-on Lori was about where her book would end up!

Off I went to the African American section, perusing the shelves for Lori’s book while noticing the obvious glances my way. I truly wanted to share my dismay and story with the other women in the section, but I was so heated I didn’t want the guys with the white coats to show up for the crazy lady in the African American section at Borders! So instead, I bought the book, went home, and emailed my experience to Lori. She was irritated, but of course not surprised. Unless we stop putting people, books, music, and everything else in categories, that’s exactly where we are going to stay. Let’s all start thinking outside the box, people. You might be surprised at all the new things you will learn and enjoy. Until then, I’ll see ya at the bookstore…you can find me in the African American section. 


Nay K said...

Amy & Lori. I too am Not surprised by where the book ended up at. I guess respond to that I can say that major bookstores have always set up sections by the author’s races like that. I have seen in book stores a Hispanic section in English and Spanish and even a few Asian sections in book some bookstores in some cities. There is a positive and negative side to everything in life’s situations.
So the positive side is "hey we have our own section and we stand out, whoopee." The negative side is that yes it is sad that books by authors are sectioned off based on the author’s race and skin color.

I wonder how a book written by a Bi-racial (non Black) but racially mixed with for example, White and Asian or Asian and Hispanic would be sectioned in a bookstore.

Not to get off the beaten path of the subject here, but just last month, I was discussing with one of the producers on my (in the works) preproduction of one of my film screenplays.
He asked me why I did not write a story that would be more for Blacks i.e “In the Hood type” and it would cost less to produce and the financing would be lower instead of what I have written. He has produced many movies for African American middle class or lower income types i.e in the hood movies of comedies etc as well as some regular movies.

He likes to do such movies as the hip hop dance films and House Party movies or movies that would feature rapper actors Ice Cube and Snoop Dog. The truth is I am sick and tired of those type of movies, but I understand and respect his point because he is thinking more of movies that will appeal mostly to African Americans.

I told him that I like to write movies that always has a racially mixed cast and will NOT be in the hood type but regular stories that will reach across All skin color lines.

So does Lori’s book have multi racial characters or is it a book that has all Black characters in it? If so, that could be one reason why it is shelved that way. On the other hand that is like saying that Whites, Latinos and Asians will not be interested in books written by Black authors and that is so wrong. As for me, it does not matter who or what race the author is, if I know what the subject matter is and I feel strong about, I will read it.
For example, Amy because of what your blog is all about, I know without a doubt that I will buy your book automatically without trying to read a third of it for free in the bookstore. Until your next blog story, hang in there.

Anonymous said...

This is just wrong Amy.

Amy said...


Keep writing the screenplays with mixed race characters, and don't let anyone sway you.

Lori's book has black and white characters in it so it makes no sense that it ended up in the AA section, other than the fact she is a black author. I never would have found her book had she not put out the call "to white ambassadors" on She Writes.

I am the same as you when it comes to choosing books. If the story interests me that is why I buy the book...period. It doesn't matter what "color" the author is for goodness sakes. That would just be silly. I also think that black readers need to change this habit as well because I do know many that only read black authors and it's handy for them to have that section. If everyone branches out it will open up books and authors to readers that never would have experienced them had they just stayed in their comfort zone.

Thank you for already saying you are going to buy my book. It's getting there! Thanks for reading and commenting Nay!



I agree!


Quiskaeya said...

Many kudos to you for bring this up! It's not easy for people on the other end to understand the frustration and irritation of being pigeon-holed simply because of one's color. However, when one lives it on a daily basis whether it's work, writing, living, breathing it's a VERY poignant reality.

Thank you for this read!

Multilingual Children Have a Broader Worldview

Amy said...


You are so very welcome. It's really mind boggling to me that a black author would automatically be filed in a category based on the race of the author and not the story in the book. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! Have a beautiful night!


Anonymous said...

You can often find me in the African-American section as well. Often the books I want to read, non-fiction books on interracial relationships, are nowhere to be found. I usually have to order them online.


Amy said...


I think every book I have ever looked for on IR relationships has been available only online. Crazy! Glad to have you back...missed you!