12 February 2017

Sunday Salon: On Reading More Black Authors

You would think that since I am a black woman I read a lot of books by black authors. Sadly, that is not the case. When I was a teen, I read a lot of poetry and there were poets like Alice Walker and Nikki Giovanni in the mix. I had a fascination with the 1960s and 1970s so I gravitated towards works that came out of the feminist and Black Power movements. I was the one who banged the gong for Walker's "The Color Purple" and tried to get my friends to read it long before it was turned into a movie. That was the last time I remember consciously choosing to read something by a black author.

I read sporadically after high school graduation and while my kids were young, but I didn't really get back into reading on a regular basis until about nine years ago when someone introduced me to Christian historical romances. I fell down that rabbit hole hard! This subgenre appeals to the same part of me that enjoyed previewing middle-grade books for my kids. I get a good story with a guaranteed happy ending, and I can recommend the books without hesitation to a friend without worrying about whether the language or love scenes would offend them. There was something calming about these books that got me through my mother-in-law's death and two years of stress on my last job. It never occurred to me that the books were written almost exclusively by middle-aged white women until recently.

My quandary is that I want to read black authors but I'm having trouble finding books that interest me. Books written by and/or for black people tend to feature a lot about "the struggle". Just because I am black doesn't mean that I spend all day every day thinking about how difficult it is to be a black person in America. I'm confronted with enough articles and nonfiction books about the issue that I want my fiction to be escapism. Historicals are out because, well, slavery. Urban fiction or "thug romance" may appeal to a certain demographic who recognize that as their reality, but I am a lower-middle-class woman who lives in a subdivision. Can't I have romances where a doctor or millionaire sweeps the heroine off her feet, and she just happens to be black? Clearly, I will have to do more research to find what I want instead of just taking random recommendations from the algorithms on Goodreads and Overdrive.

LAST WEEK: I read and wrote reviews for the first two books in Penny Reid's Knitting in the City series, Neanderthal Seeks Human and Neanderthal Marries Human.

UPCOMING: After all that talk, I have a black romance next on my reading list. I've read five books so far this year, and four of them have been contemporary romances. This is unusual for me and I am really craving a historical romance. Luckily I still have that new Jen Turano novella on my iPad!


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Yes, this book is about "the struggle" but it was a wowser of a read...March, Books 1, 2, and 3.

I'm also reading a great book called Homegoing by an African-American right now.


Anne Bennett said...

As a high school librarian I am always trying to find authors who represent the multicultural identity of our student population. Here are a few black authors that I think are excellent. They don't necessarily write from the point of view of black characters but I find their writing to be very reflective of the diverse populations in schools today: Alaya Dawn Johnson; Nicola Yoon; Kekla Magoon; Stephanie Kuehn; and, of course, Jaqueline Woodson. I pay attention to the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and purchase those books/authors if they are appropriate for the high school level reader. Jason Reynolds is certainly an author to watch. His books are very popular in my library.

My Sunday Salon

Dani S said...

Deb, I haven't read "March" yet, but I consider it one of those books that you keep on your shelf to let your children know how it was. I guess when I say I don't want books about "the struggle", I mean that I want black people to be able to have books that are all sunshine and rainbows, too. We know that all white people don't have perfect lives, but they get to have at least some books with white heroes and heroines in which nothing too awful happens to them.

Bryan G. Robinson said...

I know even at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Overdrive, the offerings are limited for African American fiction, but there are some anyway, and at least they're making an effort. I think many of the books are romances, which I notice you read.