Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Guest blog post by Margaret Johnson-Hodge
FYI, Good story in today's NY Times about black writers.
This week, we have a guest blog from Margaret Johnson-Hodge, author of Red Light, Green Light. Everything below is from her.
As a young girl, there were a few things I knew for certain. I knew my father was named Jesse and my mother was named Alma. I knew I was the youngest of three children and that I was named after my grandmother. And I knew that I would stay black and die (an old black saying). But I didn’t know that one day I would become a writer and I certainly didn’t know that when I did, my stories would be limited because of the color of my skin. When I became a “National Bestselling” author, I found out my stories were only ‘suited’ for a black audience. I wasn’t told this directly, but it was shouted to me by the places that the publisher sent me to on book tour and the type of ‘media coverage’ I received. I was able to secure mention in Ebony and Essence, but never made it to “People Magazine” I did a ton of book signings in black areas, but the ‘white’ ones were too far and few between. While I appreciated and understood being featured prominently within the black community, by my seventh book, I was hungry for something other, something more. I dreamed of being on “The Today Show”, but would have settled for “Good Day Atlanta”, but it never happened. The closest thing I got was community cable TV.
When I moved south, my world widened and I made all types of friends. I became best friends with Tara, an Irish-Italian, and fast friends with Liz, a white woman who had been born in Iowa. I also got to know a few of my white neighbors. They all bought my books and read them because they knew me personally. These white people were buying my books, reading them and enjoying them. But my publishers had convinced me that they were the ‘exception’. That only black people really read ‘Margaret Johnson-Hodge.’
So you could imagine my surprise and delight when recently I attended a book club meeting held in my honor and there, in the room, sat an older white woman who had not only read my book, but loved it. I tried not to stare at her, but I found my eyes looking her over closely, tying to determine how it came to be? How had she, an older white woman, not only found my book, but managed to ‘love it?’ Did she know that she wasn’t supposed to, that my books were for black folks only? And more importantly, were there more like her out there, somewhere?
The answer—Yes—came to me swiftly. I did have White readers and probably Asian readers, Hispanic readers and readers on the planet Mars. After years of being told it wasn’t it so, I now know that I do. This has become my newest ‘certainty’ in life. It is my goal to make it yours too…