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Reading While Black

woman readingAuthor and journalist Carleen Brice did something unusual. The activist/author of Orange Mint and Honey started a blog, WelcomeWhiteFolks.blogspot.com , and declared December to be National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month.

Then she told folks about it. As one of her twitter.com friends, I got the invite and thought 'wow, that's great.' You see, I not only write fiction, I also blog about racial stereotypes in fiction (at 17Seeds.com ), especially in December. So I was naturally happy to see someone doing something similar. Other readers, upon hearing about Ms. Brice's call, have unfortunately called her racist (and maybe a few other things that we can't print here).

Yes, I know that on one hand it is a clever publicity stunt. Her latest book is doing quite well, and is optioned for a movie. New York Magazine listed her on their Approval Matrix. Her YouTube video inviting white readers to 'read black' gets more hits than my book trailers (but I'm not hating). Her books are in Target, on their Breakout Book list. Despite all the hype, her 'unusual' stunt raises more than a few questions in my mind.

 Why do we read what we read? I know blacks that only read black authors. They do it on purpose, and at times, with more than a little vehemence, declaring that they're 'read white' long enough. Is that any better than a white person avoiding 'black fiction' because they're afraid of what they might find between the covers. Lets face it some of the covers of so called African American Literature is downright trashy. I don't know about you but I don't like holding trash for too long. That has nothing to do with race or racism.

 Honestly people do read things that are racially and culturally relevant; things that they are comfortable with. What we read as children, or rather what is read to us the adults around us, shape our adult literary choices. Similarly, other art forms that we consume or allow to consume us, affect what we read or don't read. We know what we like and we like what we know. Getting readers to cross over, to read more black or white, is like moving water uphill. I know, I've been trying for many years now.

Getting that water to go in an 'unusual' pattern, though difficult, is not impossible. At least that's my prayer. What are your thoughts?