I’m impressed by the strategy of a blog called White Readers Meet Black Authors by Carleen Brice. The idea of the blog is given by its title, to encourage White readers to explore books (mostly fiction) written by Black writers, with an emphasis on what are sometimes called “mid list” writers, not the folks on the bestseller lists. The problem the blog addresses is the segregation of books into sections of what are now called “brick and mortar” book stores, an issue I hadn’t really thought much about until recently.* Any given book can be in only one section. It’s either romance or sci fi, but not both. People trying to sell books to publishers have to tell them what bookstore section to put them in: this is a major structural part of how the business works.
African American readers like to be able to find books by African Americans that feature African American characters. So having a special “African American” section helps to sell books to African Americans. But at the same time, having one’s book in the “African American” section hurts sales to Whites. So the site is trying for outreach, profiling books and authors who write in a variety of genres, including science fiction, adventure, mystery, fantasy, “chick lit,” romance. I’ve gotten brave myself and tried a few new authors, including Brice’s own Orange Mint and Honey, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
Sociologically, the only way to integrate is to cross boundaries. The usual assumption is that the role of Whites is to welcome minorities into “our” spaces. There’s lots of research that shows that most White people are uncomfortable moving into a space dominated by other groups. I’m just impressed by a strategy of friendly outreach trying to overcome that discomfort, and feel like it is an effort I want to support.
*On-line bookstores don’t have this constraint, and the significance of that is another issue.