Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What's Your Preference?

I am an avid reader who reads different genres with the passion of pure and unadulterated love. My love of reading encourages me to write, review and support authors. When I started my book club I was determined to support and recognized African-American authors because mainstream media acted like black folks didn't read. Oh we read, but for so long we only had a few folks who looked like us and shared our experiences writing about us. I remember being in high school reading Little Women or Rebecca and loving those books, but the day I discovered one of my favorite genre's with black folk on the cover I abandoned Harlequin - completely.

I am immersed in the literary world because of my book club and my reviewing of novels. And one of the most talked about discussions is the placement of African-American books in mainstream book stores. There are folks who prefer all books segregated by genre not by the color of the author's skin and there are those who don't wish to spend hours in the book store searching for an African-American author's book. There are pros and cons to both positions but here is my story.

One of my favorite books of all times is Waiting in Vain by Colin Channer (my friends know I have a love jones for his writing). I found his book in the front of the book store and was captivated by its cover and when I picked it up I was enthralled with the storyline. So I purchased it and the rest is history. What most readers don't know that in order for Channer's book to be in the placement it was in, his publisher had to pay for that space and in some book stores he would have been put in the African-American section of the bookstore. In either place I would have purchased it. However, if it had been among the hundreds of other fiction titles with only the spine showing, I would have never discover that literary gem. Why? I had never heard of Colin Channer. In fact the African-American section of the bookstores I used to frequent is where I discovered new African-American authors.

Montgomery used to have an African-American bookstore, Roots and Wings and I lived to go there. I would go and take off my shoes and sprawl across the floor with books I may or may not purchased but I was introduced to so many African-American authors. Now the books were a bit costly, but my book club received a discount and we supported them until the very end. I mean we offered to do what ever we could to keep our sanctuary open, but after years of struggling the owners (one was my legal mentor) felt it was time to let the doors close. I miss the many book signings I attended there, I miss the spiritual atmosphere I always felt when I entered its doors and I miss a place of our own.

Now I purchase most of my books online or at conferences. I know for me, if I had to wade through hundreds of books to find one good one in a place that doesn't emote the peacefulness I once took for granted, I know I'll miss out on a literary gem. Yet, I understand authors wanted everyone to read their books and being put in a position where others will read their stories. I often wonder will others think like me a good story is good no matter what? Although, I read 97% African-American literature, if I see a book that catches my appeal I'll purchase it, but my heart wants the stories that represent me wholly.

The literary world is no joke especially on this issue. It is always a hot topic with emotions running rampant. When I enter a mainstream bookstore, which is rare nowadays, and the books all placed together by author's last name I turn the books facing so others can discover the author. I am aware because of my inside knowledge and it is my way of helping the situation, but it is hard.

How do you purchase the books you enjoy?

P.S. I love literary fiction, romance (I like to take my mind off issues with these), contemporary fiction, poetry, thrillers, horror etc.



At 12:05 AM, Blogger nattygurl said...

I feel you. I used to read medieval romances. Before "us" was even discovered. I still want to read some, but there are so many books to which I can actually relate- when am I ever going to be a princess given to a new, fine baron from an enemy clan?- but I can be that sista from around the corner who's marriage has to find itself. or whose friends need her in different ways... just wanted to let you know you're not alone

At 12:02 PM, Blogger n'Drea said...

Hmmm, very interesting. I love the idea of a book club, and the fact that you review books.

Although, I'll read almost any genre, I also like literary and contemporary fiction, suspense/mystery, Caribbean works (of course, 'cause I'm Jamaican :D), works that handle women's issues, and poetry.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Cashana said...

I have read a few Caribbean anthologies and I enjoy them as well, because of their literary feel. I enjoy the imagery used in Caribbean writing. I am in a reading slump right now, but if I can read some stuff I really want to read I'll snap right out of though. Book clubs are fun, however, being in charge of one is a lot of work and takes a lot of commitment. Reviewing right now has me in a reading slump b/c the stuff I am reading is not all that great, except this one I have been trying to finish for 3 wks now. Hopefully I can get some real me time and just read soon.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Cashana said...


Thanks for commenting b/c I didn't realize there were many who looked like me who adored romances. That was until I went Romance Slam Jam and realized um I ain't that fanatical about it, I just like the take-me-away quality they have. It is just nice to read romance from the point a view of someone who looks like me and has some of the similar issues I deal with. Thanks for stopping through!


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