Buy a book by a black author and give to a non-black friend month
Ok, so you've never heard of this "month" either. Literacy month? Read to kids month? Poetry month? Sure. But give a white friend a novel authored by a black person month?
Carleen Brice makes an excellent argument for doing so in this article
in the Washington Post.
She suggests a trip to one of the major chain bookstores... "Walk past the general fiction section, and you'll find the African American fiction section. The shelves there will be lined with all the same subjects you find in the rest of the bookstore. The one thing linking them is that the authors are black. It's very handy if all you read is fiction by black people. You can go right to your "special section." Someone like me, who enjoys a wider variety of reading, might look in both general fiction and the black fiction section. I'm black and would never feel out of place browsing in the black books section. A white reader, on the other hand, might not take that same look and might not know that the books exist at all.
After describing how a local bookstore is being asked by black readers to have a section for black authors she continues...
"To me, it seems a bit ironic that, at a time when black authors are fighting not to be marginalized, some black readers are asking for African American fiction sections. But I can understand their reasons. Some blacks read only books by black authors out of loyalty or a desire to keep seeing stories about themselves in print. It makes sense that they'd like to find those books in one location, but it also speaks to the way readers have come to expect a dividing line, books clearly marked "us" and "them.
Most of the writers I know, and that includes people from all races, write with the assumption that our work can touch anyone. Some of us write specifically to touch people who may not have our perspective, come from our ethnic background. The ghettoization of African American authors to a "black writers" section, while it may be an attempt to serve a particular readership, at worst excludes valuable points of view, interesting stories, and, most importantly, prevents the building of bridges.
As a writer, I believe the written word, especially fiction, has an immense power to put us in other people's shoes. White Americans, especially thoughtful, liberal and progressive types, often say, "I can't really, truly know what it is like to grow up black in America because I didn't grow up black in America." Fiction (and non-fiction) has the potential to help us understand, not on an intellectual level -- the level that talks of systemic discrimination, underfunded schools, and underground racism that no longer is fashionable to mouth aloud, but which colors every day interactions -- but on a visceral level, an emotional level. It also has the power to reinforce the idea that we are all human first, with the same loves, fears, hopes and dreams.
Brice writes, "My first novel, "Orange Mint and Honey," is about the adult child of an alcoholic and her now-sober mother. A few months after it was published this year, I got an e-mail from a reader. "I bet you never thought a middle-aged white guy would read your book and cry," he wrote.
I guess I'm naïve, but yeah, I did kind of hope that I might get a few teary-eyed white-guy readers. While I was writing, I wasn't thinking about the characters being black, and I certainly never thought of their story as "a black story.""
That, I believe, is the most important lesson fiction can teach us. We may celebrate different holidays, wear different styles of clothing, eat different foods, but fundamentally, the human experience is universal.
So, mom, what do you want for Christmas? Brice's book? Or how about a sci-fi book off one of the Carl Brandon
lists. They have Black, Asian Pacific, Latino, and American Indian. Or maybe books by and about Muslims