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Robert Johnson's Freewheeling Jazz Funeral

Guest Whit Frazier

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Guest Whit Frazier

Hey y'all,


Just wanted to give a heads up about a Publisher's Weekly review for my novel, "Robert Johnson's Freewheeling Jazz Funeral." This is the second really good review I've received from PW. If you're out there writing, and the publishing world isn't giving you the time of day, it's not necessarily cuz your work ain't good enough. The publishing world isn't really all that interested in a lot of strong black voices; they have a couple of us, and they're sticking with that same old "we already have our black people" model. Get your work out there. Peace!






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Hi Troy,


Thanks for the response. My website is here:




It's mostly an academic website, but if you click on "Research Projects" there's a pretty cool project on there that I've been working on charting African American little magazines from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the Black Arts Movement, and looking at trends in African American author inclusion in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, and seeing what the correlations are. Preliminary results seem to suggest African Americans make the most inroads when they start to publish themselves. So my interest in the exclusion (actually, as opposed to inclusion) of black authors is something I'm pretty actively engaged in on an academic level.


Lately the trend has actually been to highlight more African authors than African American authors because they're seen as "more appealing." The voices of African authors are vital and important, no doubt about that, but this kind of attitude of "more appealing black person" is vulgar and oppressive. And it's not even my language -- this comes straight from a 2014 New York Times article:



"Some professionals in the book world say that too many literary publishers would rather put out work by writers from Africa than work by African-Americans because in the current climate the Africans are considered more appealing for what is seen as a “black slot.”


Publishers, not surprisingly, tend to disagree with the idea that African-American writers are being overlooked now. “Hogwash,” said Robin Desser, vice president and editorial director at Alfred A. Knopf and Ms. Adichie’s editor. “When the next Toni Morrison comes around I can say that publishers will go crazy.”




There's actually a "black slot!" Not that this really surprises any of us, I mean we all knew it already, but then there it is in the New York Times! And then that quote about the "next Toni Morrison!" Really? Someone actually went on record saying something that tone-deaf? Naw, Robin, I'm not the next Toni Morrison, all due respect to a great lady, but I can't be her. I can only be my own unique black self, and I can only write the world the way I see it. White people are allowed to do that. But if you're black you have to be "the next Toni Morrison" -- whatever that means. Damn. Anyway, sorry for the tirade, but I had agents and publishers shutting the door in my face all day every day, and I went ahead and published my own work my own damn self, and it's good to see the work validated. 




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@whitfrazier. African writers themselves recognize they are the "model" minority and are, understandably, taking advantage of this -- indeed I'm helping.


The ramifications of this are significant. When I talk about the marginzation of stories written by Black African-American men, people think I'm too sensitive or over reacting. I'm not talking about gay men, men or one with a white parent. I'm taliing about the absence of stories, like mine, in mainstream publishing. Still people wonder why Black men supposedly don't read. 


Self-publishing alone can't fill the gap. With Google controlling which content is discoverable, Amazon's monopoly on the sales of Black books, a few social sites dominating our attention on the web, and the lack of coverage of indie authors offline, these books rarely achieve even obscurity.


The problem with PW is that it is a trade publication -- and not even all booksellers read it. I have a subscription, but I can't get through every issue and when i do focus on the bigger books.


It is a good thing you posted info about your books here. You did this in 2018 too, so you have my attention and I will help promote your work. Please share more about what you discover over time.

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Hey Troy,


Thanks so much! That looks great!


I have the following video available (actually just uploaded this evening), which is from my reading at Eatonville Restaurant in Washington, DC for my first book, Harlem Mosaics:




The audio can be a little hard to hear at times, but overall it's a great exchange -- or at least I think so, biased as I would be! -- concerning the subject. I tried to edit the video in such a way that would make it more entertaining for a general viewing public. There's a lot of information about Harlem Renaissance writers in the course of the discussion, in any case.


Thanks again!


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Hey @whitfrazier thanks for sharing this video.  I have added it to the Harlem Mosaics page and to your profile page.


BTW copy this version of your book cover: https://aalbc.com/books/bookcover.php?isbn13=9781539967767 the one you shared above has the "copyrighted material" on the image that Amazon like to put on book covers  -- as if they hold the copyright. I'm even surprised a company like PW.

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