the black author: i’m tired

There has to be more to write about. There must be a cul-de-sac where black novelists live, afraid to go further than their stop sign. The world they know can only be as big as that cul-de-sac. And though I hope it’s not true, and probably only because I hate for people to be afraid of anything, that seems to be the only logical excuse I have to offer. I offer this excuse to those who may need it, because I have nothing else to say when they ask “why do black authors writer about the same thing?”

“Joe Schmoe must decide between his addiction and those who really love him. And in the midst of it all, he must overcome his struggle with his sexuality and the rocky relationship with his HIV positive mother, who prostitutes to earn enough money to feed her younger children. Can Joe find true love while fighting to pull it all together?” That’s every new black author’s book. The world does not exist beyond these things. Beyond that stop sign at the end of the block is nothing. There is no world, no forests, no woods. There is no Copenhagen or Nairobi.

I attribute folks’ ability to relate to these books to false identities, communities and lives made up by arts. It’s time to create a new neighborhood. So I am, and I know others who are. Even Terry McMillan has packed up a few of her bags, loaded the u-haul and made way for that cul-de-sac. Those exhaling women have become potential Maury and Jerry guests within the first few pages. Unable to make it to the back, I passed it on, hoping someone could make sense of the foolishness for me. “Good luck,” I told him.

Last week I hit borders books for a quick pick up of Decoded by Jay-Z, a few magazines, and a great piece of literature I hoped would stand out. Naturally, I found myself perusing through the African-American Interest section. B-More Careful by Shannon Holmes, and it’s sequel somehow managed to find their way to the shelves. I immediately walked out of the section, grabbed the magazine and Decoded, paid, and got the hell out of Borders. What happened to literature? What happened to a quality book about something of substance? These are books. These are words that sit on pages waiting for those of the dumbed down society to come by and scoop them.

I need literature to emerge from the brilliant minds of those I call my skinfolk. I’ve begun. The books I’ve published are literature. The writings I’ve had the honor of reading by several peers are astounding. Why are they are on the shelves? They will be. I will publish them myself. And when we have saturated the market with quality, we may let a piece of trash slip through.

There is more to write about. So I will take a trip down to that cul-de-sac, remove the stop sign while the people sleep, and pray they wake up, take a walk, and keep going.

peace.

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5 thoughts on “the black author: i’m tired

  1. Wow, this is sooo true! I didn’t even realize I was writing the same way those authors wrote those books. Thinking people will only buy/like my writing if there’s drama. I’m glad you wrote this, I have some re-evaluating to do.

  2. Bro I feel ya. I have purchased so many BS “novels” trying to be supportive of fellow writers when out and promoting my own and I something think everyone wrote the same book and just changed the names from Jamal to Rashad and the location from Chicago to Detroit. There a ton of brilliant black writers but what happens is they write something thats outside the norm and no one supports it because everyone is looking for the next Zane. I would love to see people drive out the cul-de-sac as well.

  3. I’m an avid reader of Black authors, and I have so many books on my “To Be Read” list that DON’T fit this stereotype, that I have no idea when I’ll be able to get to them all. The problem here is, the books that you described get the most attention. They are put in the forefront. Unfortunately, the really good books must be researched and almost hunted for. But they’re there. In abundance. I find them thru blogs, GoodReads.com, the Hurston/Wright nominee list, as well as the NAACP Image award nominee list. They may not be in the forefront on bookshelves or on Essence’ bestseller list, but they’re there.

  4. Great point of view. I sometimes feel that’s why we’re put in our own section because that what us a people like to read about (ie sex, drugs, prison, adultery, etc) I understand that every book must have a conflict to create a sense of substance but doesn’t have to go as low. I’m on track with you!

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