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Diversity - Does it apply to the AA reading audience?


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Hello All,

Early this morning, when I started playing the Zoo game on Facebook, I read the newsletter that author Bernice McFadden just published. The topic of the main article was diversity, or lack thereof, in the white reading audience. Basically, telling white folks to give authors of color a chance by reading their books too. I initially thought that McFadden was referring to everyone, you know, I'm pretty diverse--although not as diverse as I would like to be at times--I will leave the rivers and lakes that I usually swim in. It got me to thinking, depending on when a person was born and/or became a book reader, it is possible for some AA to have been reading nothing but AA titles without reading one title written by a non-black writer. Is diversity equally important to the AA audience as it is for all of the other book reading audiences?

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After reading your post, I set it on the stove and brought it to a simmer. Well, not a simmer, but I had to think about it. See, I don't think I can answer this question... "Is diversity equally important to the AA audience as it is for all of the other book reading audiences?"

The question implies that I should know what "other" book reading audiences read and what's important to them. However, maybe I can address the question by taking a poke at this... "it is possible for some AA to have been reading nothing but AA titles without reading one title written by a non-black writer"

Although it may be possible for some AA to have been reading nothing but AA titles, we, for the most part, live in their world. I don't care if we are reading their novels or their short stories, we read about their lives and their stories on a regular basis. Their cupboards has never been bare. If can jump into the skin of the "others" I am trying to figure out why I'd want to read your stories. I mean, were is my vested interest in reading stories about a culture that I really do not have socialize with? You can't make me, you can't make me. You can't shame me into reading your books, and I don't want my friends to know that I even care about you.

But Thump, maybe I missed the question.

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Well, Thumper, I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as useless knowledge. Knowledge is, indeed, power. I don't think a reader can ever go wrong by broadening his/her outlook, rather than limiting it.

So, in response to your question, I would say, yes, black people should diversify their reading habits. A good book is always a learning experience, and the universal themes that characterize good books are made even more compelling and enlightening when they are filtered through a culture other than one with which a reader is familiar.

One of your and my favorites, "Gone With The Wind", was such a successful paragon because of a universal story line that was not only about love but about survival. In the process of reading this book, the culture of the old South was brought to life, which was something black people needed to know about no matter how galling it was. Bottom line is that one of the main things that this historical novel had going for it was that it was very interesting!

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  • 10 years later...

I don’t think that the African American community has a problem with not being exposed to European literature. Where they may be lacking is in the area of African Literature, Caribbean Literature, Asian Literature, South American literature. The majority of people don’t read, however it maybe a marketing issue. When I think of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, I believe many Americans of European descent have read them. 

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9 hours ago, daniellegfny said:

I don’t think that the African American community has a problem with not being exposed to European literature.

 

Obviously. This is one of the reasons AALBC exists.

 

9 hours ago, daniellegfny said:

Where they may be lacking is in the area of African Literature, Caribbean Literature, Asian Literature, South American literature.

 

AALBC expanded its scope years ago to include writers in yhese categories. In fact one of the site's most popular pages is, 25 African Male Writers You Should Read and 25 African female Writers You Should Read

 

9 hours ago, daniellegfny said:

The majority of people don’t read, however it maybe a marketing issue.

 

Yes narketing is definitely part of it. The other part is our culture and educational system.

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I am a Black educator, and I've had unusually cold responses to reading within my local community.  Forgive me for an admittedly subjective take on this issue: 

 

I've witnessed Black children actively avoid reading regardless of the identities presented.  In their defense, it seems to me educators are going about it wrong.  Often, reading is presented to Black children in in a punitive way (some oppressive punishment contrasted to physical activity).  And in some cases it seems youth start to associate the written word with culturally irrelevant messages at best, hegemony at worst.   

 

They're smart.  They don't need Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory to understand the world they've inherited.  Black children and parents both seem indifferent if not suspicious. I believe they think educational content may equate indoctrination.  Some don't understand why messages to them need to be encoded in books.  They would prefer a video, computer game, or song; probably because these conveyances have more "neutral" histories to them.

 

These recurring ideological conflicts produce adults who either do not read or read Black content that relies on familiar and safe tropes.  I know this sounds weird, but it's just one person's experience and perspective.  

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@Jeffrey I grew up in NYC the publishing capital of the world. As a kid, and to this day, NYC publishing is lilly-white. The vast majority of my teachers were jewish women. The first book i saw with a black character was written by a Jewish man.

 

It is wonder any Black boy grows up with a desire to read for pleasure.

 

I would have loved to have been able to read books with Black people in them, but i just was not exposed to any. Many it is one reason I feel strongly about sharing info about Black books today.

 

 

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I really don’t understand. My parents read to me when I was a child. Victor Hugo, Golden Legacy Comics, Dick and Jane and others. I remember listening to Richard Wright’s Black Boy repeatedly. I remember Monthly Scholastic Reader and wishing I could order more books.

 

Race and color were never a consideration of reading. While I like audiobooks because I am very active, I find the thought that books aren’t being read because of race alarming. 
 

My concern used to the type of Black literature people were reading, but your comment @jeffery is horrific.

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5 hours ago, daniellegfny said:

I really don’t understand.

 

Danielle your in ability to understand something does not mean that thing does not exist, right?

 

You usually have to look outside your own personal experience to understand something? That said, have you ever taught?

 

Do you think if the publishing world was run by Black people and inner city children, like myself, were taught by loving Black educators that Black people would read more books?

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I appreciate your respective points, @daniellegfny and @Troy.  Dick and Jane (or any projection of American values within a nuclear family) would feel at arm's length from my youth and the experiences of most of the Black children I've encountered. 

 

I am happy race and color may not affect some of us as immediately as others, but we should all be mindful of those most affected by cultural marginalization.  Just recognizing the plurality in your use of the word parents, Danielle, could be a starting point for understanding.  I believe it's much more than a marketing issue.

 

 

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