Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Literature, Where Art Thou?

After a hiatus, we're back to further the conversation around black literature. To that end, we'd like to introduce our guest blogger: Edithe Norgaisse, a recent college graduate and emerging African American writer who has agreed to lend her voice to our blog on a regular basis. Below is her inaugural post. We welcome your feedback!

I tried reading a novel that is a currently a best seller and realized that I was forcing myself to read it. If a million people think that it is a good book, it just has to be! I thought if I just kept reading it would get better; but it didn't. It wasn't that this book was particularly terrible. The problem was that I could not for the life of me relate to any of the characters. No matter how much of that story I read, there was no way I could never really escape into the novel.

And then it happened. While shopping in Brooklyn I walked past a man selling urban books for a price so reasonable that I couldn't afford not to buy them. Urban books! Feeling like a child in a toy store, I ran to his table.

I became increasingly disappointed after realizing that most of the titles available consisted of either raunchy erotica or a comedian turned “relationship expert”. But the type of stories that dominated the table (and that I was informed sold best) were more or less created equally: a young attractive materialistic woman + a young man who happens to be the top drug dealer during the height of the crack epidemic = a story of true love and dedication. A few stories that I tried skimming were so poorly punctuated that I couldn't help but feel offended by the complete disrespect to the English language.

Where are the stories that represent the average black woman? Where's the real black literature (the good stuff)? Is there really nothing worth writing about other than selling crack or how to keep a man? As a writer who is still crafting her voice, it is imperative that I have the type of literature that I can relate to.

So I'm happy about ringShout's dedication to celebrating black literature. Most of all, I'm especially ecstatic about the book list. Happy reading!


Crystal Wilkinson said...

Amen! But I'm convinced that there is more Black literary fiction out there. I know a lot of really good AA writers who are not published yet or have had problems getting their work out there. Perhaps we have to dig a little further, write a little more, make a path for as many as we can.

Conseula said...

I wonder if we were reading the same recent bestseller?

Are you wondering where the black literary fiction is? Are you interested in genre fiction at all? If you want to give genre fiction a try and you haven't read her yet, I encourage you to check out Beverly Jenkins' historical romances. They are a great read, well-written, smart, and fun.

And I don't fear for the future of black literary fiction. Writers like Colson Whitehead, Z.Z. Packer and Edward P. Jones aren't done yet.

RingShout said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely check out those authors. I completely agree that there are good, strong voices that we have yet to hear. Because of that, I will never stop searching.