Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jackie Collins on the Racial Divide in Publishing

Friday, September 07, 2007

Writing White?

Co-authors Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry examine the subject and ask some very interesting questions:
"When an African American writer or entertainer achieves success with a wider (read White) audience, a la Will Smith or Terry McMillan, they are said to have cross-over appeal. Why isn’t the reverse true? When Blacks watch CSI, Spiderman 3 or pick up he latest John Grisham, no one attributes that to cross-over. Is it assumed that everyone will find these diversions entertaining? That race doesn’t matter as long as it’s White? That Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, Lakhota Sioux, Lebanese and whomever else the census separates out will “get” the storyline and generate the dollars requisite for success?

Even in the racially diverse “Grey’s Anatomy”, the central character, intern Meredith Grey, is a White woman, despite the fact series writer/producer Shonda Rhimes, is African American. Happenstance or economics? Quiet as it’s kept, in our first novel, Exposures, we “wrote White”, deciding it was the surest way to test our joint writing chops--and get published. It worked; the novel sold in two weeks. It took a lot longer to find a home for our first book with Black characters. At the time we didn’t fit the established categories (we weren’t Toni or Terry), so many editors didn’t believe we would find an audience. They were wrong."
I think the observation about the blockbuster show "Grey's Anatomy" reveals much about the state of our union. Shonda Rhimes knows the key to reaching the largest audience is doing what works. Clearly her interests weren't in merely targeting African Americans and becoming marginally successful when compared to the "mainstream" TV echelon. She wanted to produce something that could reach all people......Which leads to an interesting question: suppose the suits and cuff links at ABC had refused to air "Grey's" if Shonda hired a white actress for the lead? What if they'd demanded that Meredith Grey and the other main roles be black so they could target AA viewers? Sound familiar?

I think it's great that Shonda Rhimes was allowed creative freedom without any apparent regard to her race. Why even bother pointing out that she's black, yet has a white female lead? I'm sure this ticks off many black racists as much as the day is long, but the bottom line is we shouldn't deny people freedom we've spent hundreds of years fighting for.

Join the discussion!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Something to Whine About

The wonderful Tess Gerritsen blogged recently about the insecurities of successful writers and their right to whine about them. The post ended with:
"Writers love their jobs. But sometimes, they deserve to whine."
Tess also blogs about a "fan" who's intent on ruining TG's career because one of her old romance novels was re-issued.

Oh, to have the problems of a Gerritsen, Clark, Steele, Roberts, Brown, etc.

Now granted, I'm sure even JK Rowling has her share of writer woes, but I just had to shake my head at Tess' line up there when I finished reading her post. I mean, when I think about how much Millenia Black, Monica Jackson, and many others who are being denigrated in publishing--not allowed an equal shot at their job--deserve to whine, my heart moves. How about when folks who are in a position to make some difference insult writers, calling them liars when they whine about it? And others totally ignore you as if you aren't worth the time?

How about when the disparity is glaringly obvious-- but there's dead silence from anyone who can help raise awareness and/or make some difference? If similar affronts were being thrust upon certain others, it's all we'd ever hear about from the more popular literary venues and notable peoples.

Now there's something writers deserve to whine about. Something real, of painful gravity. Something substantive.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Book of Many Faces

Millenia Black's been MIA from blogland for a while now, and I'd begun to wonder about her lawsuit and how things were progressing. While she's understandably silent on any of those details, she's posted for the first time in months to share the Turkish cover of THE GREAT PRETENDER, her debut novel, named in the lawsuit as being 'blackified' by Penguin/NAL when they acquired it and found out she was an African-American writer. This is despite the fact that the book contains no black characters whatsoever! This still outrages me to no end.

Anyway, before I get carried away.....just wanted to comment on Millenia's recent post. Her post says she's been out of energy, no doubt from the stress she's under. Who wouldn't be when you self-publish a book that attracts foreign editors, only to have those doors closed by racist treatment from a NY publisher? From the look of the covers, her foreign publishers clearly had a different, more commercially viable interpretation of THE GREAT PRETENDER. It's a book of many faces......too bad Penguin had to choose one that unfortunately made a non-black book marketable only among blacks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing"

It's not my title, I swear.

Check out this great observation from Bella Stander over at "Reading Under the Covers":
"The bigger picture is that the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white. Don't believe me? See the photo above for Exhibit #1. That's Book Promotion 101 workshop alum (and Harvard man!) Baratunde Thurston, my perennial date for the Saturday Book & Author breakfast, holding a spot for me in the endless line (more about that in another post). Every year we joke about how easily I'll be able to find him in the crowd; every year the joke gets less funny."

And EditorMom, Katherine O'Moore-Klopf, chimes in with another great inquiry:
"How skewed are the worldviews presented in American books if most of the authors who get published and most of the publishing professionals who work on those books are white and if authors of color who do get published see their books placed in ethnic sections in bookstores? And how do we make it possible for more writers of color to be published by the big publishers? How do we make mainstream book publishing more accessible and desirable as a career to people of color?"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Observation

This may already be out there somewhere as a point to note, but I just have to comment. I just finished reading this NYT bestseller cover-to-cover at the very enthusiastic recommendation of a friend I meet up with at the local Starbucks each morning.

Now, if you plan on reading "Something Borrowed" by Emily Giffin, DON'T READ any further because I'm going to spoil it by going into the details of the plot. You've been warned.

Okay. Girl (maid of honor) carries on affair with fiance of her Best Friend--complete with sneaking around, lying, backstabbing, manipulating--you get the picture. But Best Friend is also cheating with guy Girl is loosely dating but only pretending to be interested in to keep Best Friend off the scent of the affair she's having with her Fiance. Best Friend gets pregnant with guy's baby, but pitches a fit when she discovers affair between Maid of Honor and Fiance.

Now, this was the first book of an unknown, and it hit The List, labeled and marketed as chick-lit because its author is snow white. What if Emily Giffin was black? Would "Something Borrowed" have been categorized as chick-lit? Would Emily Giffin's debut novel have been likely to land on the bestseller list and be the runaway success that it and its sequel are?

I think it's a legitimate question. AA relationship fiction is often criticized as being "soap opera" material, but when "soap operas" are penned by a white author, it's good chick-lit.

When was the last (or first) time you saw a black author's debut novel land on The List when the characters do nothing but bed hop?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Author Jennifer Weiner Whines on Oprah

Well, she obviously wishes she were the one on Oprah instead of "dead white males" like Cormac McCarthy. That much is clear from this very bitter rant I read on a visit to Weiner's blog.
"By choosing The Road, Oprah demonstrates the folly of believing that she'd revive the book club and emerge as the savior of literary fiction in general, and lady-penned lit fic, specifically.

She picked a book that’s already reaped a lion’s share of acclaim and critical attention…and, in the time since she’s revived the club, Oprah hasn’t picked anything written by a woman (yes, there’s THE SECRET, which is another animal altogether).

Not that there should be gender-based quotas, or affirmative action, at the Book Club. Not that Oprah has to answer to anything except her own taste. But maybe it’s time for the Big O to look to the ladies again.

After all, it wasn’t a girlie author who held her nose and complained about the low-brow, stay-at-home, soap-opera-loving nature of Oprah’s audience, a la Jonathan Franzen.

It wasn’t a girlie author who made up outlandish tall tales in her memoir of addiction, like James Frey.

Surely, in the wide, wide world of books, there’s something that would appeal to the big O that was written by someone with ladyparts."

Why denigrate Oprah for her choices? Because I'm betting that if one of them had been one of Weiner's chic-lit books she wouldn't be waxing condescending on how "the big O" "did not turn a disaffected generation of non-readers into fans of important works of fiction," but rather, "Oprah turned a disaffected generation of non-readers into consumers of all things Oprah."

I visit Weiner's blog every so often and I'm aware that her tone tends to be snobbish, but this particular post annoyed me. The tone implies that Oprah herself has proclaimed to have some huge, booster effect on the literary world. It's a given that it's the audience of people watching her show that are going to be influenced by her choices. Duh. The only reason anyone would need to spew that and dress it up as some type of
insightful point is because their just plain bitter.