Wednesday, December 24, 2008
  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?
 
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.


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Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too.
MoveOn.org. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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