A Moment of Jen
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006
posted by Jen at 12/06/2006 10:49:00 AM

There's a very interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Trachtenberg about whether black authors' books belong in the African-American section of the bookstore, or whether they should be shelved right along with the rest of us. (I'd link, but you need a password to see it. Damn honky capitalists).

Bottom line: there's not an easy answer. For every author who rails against being unfairly marginalized, ghetto-ized or categorized, there's another author, including my fellow journalist-turned-novelist Tananarive Due, saying, "Well, yes, but my books sell well because of how and where they're marketed."

It's a variation on the chick-lit debate. On the one hand, authors can bitch about the copycat covers, the derivisve labels, the lack of critical attention and publishers' mulish insistence on shoving the square peg of "anything written by or involving a woman under forty" into the chick lit's round hole (heh. I said 'round hole.')

But on the other hand, if your books are finding an audience, can you fairly complain about anything?

Anyhow. I'm quoted in the story more or less agreeing with author Millenia Black that if my books were marketed as Jewish-American fiction and plopped into the Jewish section of your local Book-plex, they might not sell as well as they have.

Of course, in a quote that didn't make the story, I pointed out that there is no Jewish section of the bookstore -- at least not for fiction (that would be....the bookstore.) I also think that non-Jewish readers have an easier time picking up a book with Jewish characters than non-black readers might have picking up a book with black characters, particularly if, in order to find those books, you have to go to a section of the bookstore that practically screams, "NOT FOR YOU."

Interesting issues. No easy answers. Discuss amongst yourself.
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