Sunday, April 11, 2010

Re-segregating Black Authors, Can I Get a Witness...

I sincerely hope that I can write this post and not melt the keys on my lap top. Going into this I know my blood pressure is going to rise. But as you will see, not without reason.Barnes and Noble is one of my most favorite places in the world. It probably has something to do with growing up in New York City and the original B&N being almost a second home, the New Public Library was first. Then B&N caught the expansion bug and went global. But I digress.

Moving to Georgia almost four years ago now, and discovering a B&N within five minutes of my house was a source of great great joy. I've spent a lot of time there sitting, sipping, wandering, listening, reading, and of course buying books.

Last night though, I wandered in to my favorite B&N and inquired, "I'm looking for UPTOWN, by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant." Now understand, I only inquired after trying on my own to find this new book that was just published a month ago! It wasn't with the NEW FICTION-JUST RELEASED. It wasn't in the Fiction section that also has a space for JUST RELEASED. By now I'm scratching my head and feeling slightly perturbed.

So the kindly well trained clerk rapidly begins walking away from the fiction section, actually it looks like she's heading to the kiddie section, then a detour around a couple more areas that look like research and non-fiction and voila, she points to the African American section. Huh? To add insult to injury it is a right pitiful African American section at that. It can't rightly be called a section as it is only one book case and it isn't full. Hello. What's wrong with this picture?

My kindly clerk checks the few books in Afr Am, UPTOWN is absent. Like a run away slave, I wonder, maybe it ran to another section? So back we go toward the fiction section but we only get as far as the entrance to the golden gates for there on what I now know is called an end-cap, there are more books by Black authors! About six of them, and at the very bottom, there is UPTOWN. Your two or three year-old might find it, it would be at eye level for them. But for adults? I don't think so.

So even if not in the Af-Am section, just in case you don't get the message, it is "segregated" with other books by Black authors because they just have so so much in common.

Sensing the heat radiating from my head, the clerk inquired, "Is there something wrong?"

Is there something wrong? Hell yeah there's something wrong. Because as I looked around the fiction section, prominently displayed in the front so that it can't be missed with all the other books they want you to see as you come in the door is a book, Little Bee, by a white male British author, telling the story of a Nigerian girl in England. Excuse me! Why is his book featuring a story about a black female considered "General" fiction and put up front but a book by two black authors about black people is considered Afr Am and relegated to the back of the book bus? To read the rest of this post, click here.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 4:19 PM 0 comments

Monday, April 05, 2010

Author vs Writer

The Author, DeBerry & Grant, just got back from book tour, and we are tired but happy. Isn’t that the same as The Writer DeBerry & Grant, you ask. Nope, The Author and The Writer have very different jobs.

First, let’s clear up the singular versus the plural. Yes, we’re very close friends, but really we’re two very different people. Except that when we are writing it has always been extremely important to have one voice. Readers should never be thinking, “Did Virginia write this part, or did Donna?” That would mean they have been taken out of the story and are thinking about the behind the scenes business and we don’t ever want that to happen.

So, what’s the difference between The Author and The Writer?

The Author is the public persona. The Author goes on book tour, meets with book clubs, and does interviews. The author wears clothes that go together and has combed hair. The author gets up at 4:30 A.M. to catch flights, takes off her shoes and is patted down in the security line when her bra hooks set of the magnetometer again, and graciously signs autographs. If you have taken a picture with someone whose books you like to read, you have a photo with The Author.

The Writer does not like having her picture taken—way too scary. The writer wears whatever is comfortable—matching doesn’t count. The writer hasn’t noticed whether her hair is combed and hasn’t gone near lipstick or mascara. She hasn’t actually looked in the mirror—only at the computer monitor. In fact, the more unkempt her appearance, the happier The Writer is—it means focus is where it should be, on the work, not the wardrobe. The Writer may have eaten left over Chinese food for breakfast or a bowl of cereal for dinner. The Writer gets up at 4:30 A.M. because she woke up with words in her head, or the solution to that knotty plot problem she went to bed thinking about and has to get it down before she forgets. The Writer smiles when the writing flows in a pleasing rhythm or she finds just the right word to express what a character is feeling.

During The Writer’s time, The Author is under house arrest, but given half a minute to daydream, may contemplate future headshots, manicures—(no raggedy cuticles when signing books) and what passages she might read aloud at signings—when The Writer finally finishes the darn book. In other words, The Author gets to take credit for all of The Writers hard work. But that’s OK. It’s how the deal works. Fortunately, we have learned how to manage our multiple personalities and get the most of being The Author and The Writer, Virginia and Donna, The Individuals and The Friends.

Is it The Author or The Writer who answers fan mail, Facebooks and Tweets, designs and orders bookmarks, and writes blogs? Hmmm—good question. Guess it’s really a little of both. And right now, we’ll be transitioning back and forth between the two as we work on our next book, while still going out to talk to readers about our current one, Uptown.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:36 PM 2 comments
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