Friday, May 26, 2006

Millenia Black Gains Acceptance

Millenia has returned and announces that her publisher decided to accept her book, The Great Betrayal, with white characters after all. This is a MAJOR happening. She confirms that she got an attorney, so the rumors that were floating around about a month ago are obviously true. She explains somewhat (I think there's likely A LOT more to it) why she had removed the previous Jim Crow publishing post, and makes some pretty powerful statements about her feelings on the ongoing problem with how we black authors are treated in the publishing world.
I'm committed to stopping what I view as an extremely horrid industry practice. I think it's very important for readers to know - and to understand - what's been happening, not only to me, but from what I gather, to so many authors in the publishing industry....
She goes on to say:
To further illustrate the industry's severe racial inequity, take THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. Here's a debut novel (great book BTW) where the majority of the major characters are---yep, you guessed it---black. Yet, as I've observed, this novel was not classified as African-American fiction and segregated accordingly for marketing and distribution purposes. When I walk into a bookstore (any bookstore) I find this book as general fiction---yet, in my view, it would've been far more appropriate to niche BEES as African-American fiction than to have done so with THE GREAT PRETENDER.

But, Sue Monk Kidd is white. Publishing is currently a pro-white industry. So her work of heavy AA racial tensions and content was not restricted to AA media, AA bookstore shelves, AA foreign interest, and venues in general with predominantly AA interests.

See the problem? Boy, I certainly do. I feel it in my bones.

In its current state, before they've even written a single word, all authors are NOT created equal. I have learned this first hand. With a scant few exceptions, authors are being treated according to the color of their skin, even if they don't wish to be identified as black authors. Race appears to determine several key factors: 1) how your work will be handled, 2) who's expected to buy it and, in my case 3) even what you may be allowed to write....In fact, racial marginalization has become such a widely accepted business practice, that industry players seem virtually oblivious, or numbed, to what strikes me as corrosively suppressive and segregating ramifications.
My favorite part is the most powerful:
Was I born with the wrong skin color, or what? Being treated this way can surely make one feel as if they were - as if your skin is a liability. I can't even begin to express what an awful feeling that is. Not being able to go out into the world, buy a fishing rod and fish in the ocean like everyone else. Based on your skin color, someone will come along and impose upon you the type of rod you're expected to have, the pond you're expected to fish in, and the path you're expected to take to get there. It's like they're saying, "Just who do you think you are? You don't get to throw your line into the ocean! Look at your skin. There's the pond over there."
Boy does it ever make me feel like I was born the wrong color. I've felt that way ever since I started school.

I still applaud Millenia for taking this stand. She says it's not over yet, and my sense is, based on what she's said about her first book, The Great Pretender, her publisher's going to have to cough up some punitive compensation. Won't that be interesting? She's published by NAL (a division of Penguin Putnam), though I've noticed she never mentions them by name, which must be at the advice of her attorney. I'm eagerly awaiting the next revelation in this situation. Somehow I think it will be major and relevant to all authors, black and white......whatever happens.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, everyone's patting Millenia Black she ison the back, but I think she is being ungrateful. Do you know how many hungry writers are out there dying to take HER place?? A publisher gives you a book contract and this is how you repay them? By acting like you know the business better than they do? Why would they do anything to DECREASE or LESSEN their chances of making more money with a book? Has anybody from the Millenia Black peanut gallery thought about THAT? Why would her publisher target the Afro-American market if they didn't think it would be the best place for the book to succeed? Maybe they knew her work wasn't sophisticated enough to make it as a commercial vehicle. Ever thought of THAT???

5/28/2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger NuRawSoul said...

I prefer separate but equal in the literary industry. I'm for pro-AA for separate bookshelves and publishing companies. I believe most writers write from the heart of personal experiences, knowledge, and exposure of what they live,learned,or know. And most readers, read from what they can relate and reflect upon by seeing a part of self in the written words, or an escape beyond the words or characters... (it's called preference). For too long AA has taken a back seat in the literary industry, and its time to find our place by starting with our own self-promotion. If there's a publishing company that wants to promote an AA writer and classify it as AA genre, I'm for it--- there's no shame to who I support even if it's based upon the color of ones skin. Our country is based upon prejudice and we all have some form of it inside of us, whether we want to admit it or not. But my main point is thumbs up to to Millenia Black, for standing on the grounds of her own personal beliefs and whoever else that proceeds her. If your work is good, it will sell to those with an interest no matter what genre you're listed under.

Publishing is an unfair industry to people of color, in particular African Americans. But it only takes one person to make a difference. If I want my written words listed elsewhere other than a particular genre, than I'll fight for what I want! Why settle regardless of who you're doing business with? Never sell out your own convictions!

5/28/2006 12:03 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said... should know better---whoever you are. I won't waste anymore energy with you.

Nurawsoul....writers write whatever they want. There's no problem with the AA section but it should be about content, not the skin color of the author. Just because someone is a person of color doesn't mean their work should automatically be segregated on the book shelves and targeted primarily at AA readers with the only hope of a wider readership laying with others who may have an interest in AA material. Let's not get it twisted. I don't like talk of separate but equal. The very nature of that conviction is racist.

5/28/2006 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Vincent said...

Pontif has it right by saying:

"Just because someone is a person of color doesn't mean their work should automatically be segregated on the book shelves and targeted primarily at AA readers with the only hope of a wider readership laying with others who may have an interest in AA material."

I would kindly ask NuRawSoul to examine that statement very carefully. Because going contrary to that, is to have our society live with a malignant cancer-- one that's caused by racism.

Re-think the idea of separate but equal, for that is only condoning the perpetuation of racial divide-- rather than asserting a non-racial experience. Which position are we to prefer?

5/30/2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger Delaleuverses said...

I applaud you for this blog, I didn't think publishers would be so ignorant. I thought they would be more concerned about how the story is told and how marketable it would be instead of worrying about a character's skin color. It is so sad because as a writer I now must keep that in mind when it comes to my characters in fiction.

5/30/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Delaleuverses, it's a shame you have to be mindful of that. White authors are not plagued by such worries...and that's where the discriminatory aspect lay.

5/31/2006 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder who will be her targeted audience? Will blacks read a book, by a black author, in which all the characters are white? Definitely going to be interesting to see who will be buying and reading this book.

6/01/2006 1:34 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said... seems there are still folks out there missing the point. Millenia's race is irrelevant. It's the content of the book that drives the target audience. Blacks SHOULD NOT be targeted simply because she's black!

Yes. I agree it will be very interesting to see who will buy and read it. Based on the rumors going around, Millenia Black may own Penguin Putnam if they don't undo the damage of treating her racially when her books didn't warrant it. My hunch is they'll wind up throwing money at her.

6/01/2006 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Race does matter. If not, then it wouldn't have matter what race her characters were in the book. So, if the race of the characters matters, the race of the readers matter, then why does the race of the author doesn't matter?

If you hunch is correct, then she won't have to worry about selling one book to readers of any race.

6/05/2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Anonymous, you make no sense and you seem to want race to matter more than it should. Yes, obviously we know race does matter (which is why Millenia is in the position she's in) but it shouldn't matter. Should we say that because race mattered so much in 1800, slavery should still exist? Why are so many people against Millenia's right to write a universal story and reach the largest possible audience?

I don't think Millenia is worried about selling her book to one race or another, so much as she simply wants her book to sell, period. She definitely deserves the chance to reach the largest possible audience, as any author does, and it's a shame that because of the folks who wish to draw racial lines, it's such a difficult journey.

6/05/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Millenia Black said...

Amen, BSA Pontif. Thanks.

6/12/2006 10:16 AM  

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