Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Publishers Weekly Reduces Black Writers With Afro Picks

Below you will find the most recent cover of Publishers Weekly

imageThe cover story is African American Books in Today’s Marketplace.   This image is clearly reductive. It certainly conveys the message that the work of Black authors need not be taken seriously because it is somehow tribal and other.  I am surprised that they didn’t put a bone through the models nose. Is it any wonder that Steve Harvey can publish a book in this climate?  As long as we are not saying anything challenging, or speaking truth to power, then and only then, will our work garner attention.

There are plenty of writers that labour in obscurity and many of them are people of color because our voices and our experiences are not valued.  Black characters are continually recast as White or our work is rejected on the basis of being to ethnic.  How can a Black writer possibly achieve success if this is the image that Publishers Weekly has of our work?  If we are true to ourselves we are tribal and savage and if we compromise we are not speaking our truth.

There is a market for works by Black authors and to even suggest that there isn’t speaks  of a publishing community that is concerned with keeping White voices at the forefront.  If we continually cast the work of POC as backwards, they will forever be understood as “other” and therefore without value.  Only in a racist world could the above image be understood as representative of African American writers. While there are certain things that are definitely unique to an African American experience, we are still part of the human family and therefore commonality could be found should we choose to understand our equal value.  As long as images like about remain pervasive, we cannot possibly claim to be living in a post racial world.