Tuesday, November 25, 2008

White readers meet: black sci-fi writers

Yes, Virginia, black folks write about the paranormal. The first specific request I received from a white reader was to highlight some sci-fi, fantasy and horror by African Americans. That's really easy to do as that genre or subgenre seems to be really taking off.

There seem to be three big, huge, stand-out writers in this area right now:

Tananarive Due: So far, I've only read her Joplin's Ghost, which I greatly enjoyed (I'd consider it literary fiction). I also have My Soul to Keep, which Stephen King called "An eerie epic...bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. I loved this novel."
L.A. Banks: She's the NY Times best-selling author of the Vampire Huntress Legend series, the latest of which is The Darkness. I have to admit I haven't read her work yet. The Darkness has been in my to-read pile forever! One big plus for her books is that her vampire hunters come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, not just Christian. You can see Banks in part of the HBO special Trueblood Lines here.
Brandon Massey: Massey writes suspence thrillers like Don't Ever Tell, which has been called "relentlessly gripping" and "a diabolical rocket sled of a book." Go here for Book Roast's conversation with Massey.

Coincidentally, these three writers have a new book coming out (Amazon says it's available today) together called The Ancestors. Go here to read an excerpt from Due's novella "Ghost Summer," which appears in The Ancestors.

Of course, the grande dame was Octavia Butler. She wrote some deep, disturbing, powerful stuff. I'd start with Kindred and The Parable of the Sower.

Walter Mosley writes science fiction in addition to mysteries and other books. And Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist might be called speculative fiction? Whatever you call it, it's very good. It's about a black woman elevator inspector in a society in which elevators are BIG things. (Lisa K., get thee to some Colson Whitehead!)
In his self-published paranormal novel, A Liar's Tale, Andre Coleman asks, "What would happen if all your lies came true?" Coleman says if you buy the book from him and give it to somebody non-black in December, he'll give you a discount! (Great promotional idea, black authors. Maybe for those who aren't selling directly, we can offer an autographed book or a little something for the person gifting the book to the non-black person? Anybody got any suggestions?)

Someone else to check out is Nalo Hopkinson, author of Mojo: Conjure Stories and The New Moon's Arms, amongst others.

Jewell Parker Rhodes' new vampire book, Yellow Moon, is supposed to be dynamite! It's her 2nd story about the Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau.
Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction's Newest New Wave Trajectory, edited by Marlene Barr, sounds a little academic, but also very interesting.

The white reader who asked me to highlight black writers in these genres turned me on to fantasy writer Leslie Ann Moore, author of Griffin's Daughter, which is about a half-human, half-elf woman. Check out Moore's great interview with Shauna Roberts here.

Lastly, but not leastly, Tina McElroy Ansa writes sort of African American magic realism that I really enjoy. Baby of the Family actually spooked me. Ugly Ways is one of my all-time favorite books. Ansa started her own publishing house to publish the sequel, Taking After Mudear. Order it directly from her and you might even get an autographed copy, like I did! Because she was also kind enough to send me a signed ARC (which I kept), I gave away the signed copy of the book to the president of the Wits End Book Club.

You might consider joining the Black Science Fiction Society to learn more about up and coming writers in the genre. Readers, what African American sci-fi, horror writers/books do you recommend?

TV gets in on the Obama action

Lots of writers have been talking about a hoped-for "Obama effect" on sales of books by black authors. Post-Obama, race isn't just on the minds of writers. NBC is developing a sitcom based on the book Making Friends with Black People. We know how Hollywood likes to steal, er, build on ideas. Hey ABC, CBS and FOX, how about a show called Making Friends with Black Authors? A white reader (or bookseller) meets a black writer and hilarity and warmth ensue. Any takers?

Thanks to thegritsbookclub for the link to this story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buy a book for somebody white this holiday

Update: As of 11/20 Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry have a post up on "crossing over".

Bernice McFadden and Shon Bacon got an interesting conversation going in the blogosphere about white folks not reading black books. Beverly Taylor mentioned introducing her new favorite author, Pamela Samuels Young, to white friends. Well, that got us all to thinking.

What if every one of us bought a book by a black author and gave it to a white friend? So I'm naming December National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month.

It might not be easy to actually get them to read it. Beverly mentioned that her friends were a little scared of the Ebonics they expected to find. But that's why your favorite African American authors really, really need your help. You, who they know and trust, can explain to white friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates that there are books without Ebonics, and that books by black authors are much like any other book.

I know times are hard, but if you're doing any Secret Santa thing at work or planning to buy something for your kid's teacher, think about giving a book by a black author to a white (or Latino, Asian, Native American) reader. And, hell, if you really can't afford to buy a new book, regift one off of your shelf. I won't tell nobody!

Oh, one other thing, white people already know about Toni Morrison, so please choose something else besides A Mercy.*

The books I'm buying to give to white friends this year include:

Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps
Going Down South by Bonnie Glover
No Place Safe by Kim Reid
Seen it All and Done the Rest by Pearl Cleage

What are you going to buy? Let us know in the comments!
* Listen to Morrison read from A Mercy (which, I do have, and is, of course, in my to-read stack)

You're invited!

Welcome readers of all races, shapes and sizes. Here is where you'll be safely, carefully introduced to books written by black people. Now, don't be alarmed. The books are written by black people, but like other books, they can be read by anybody. In fact, we WANT you to read our books. Don't let the fact that publishers and booksellers put us in the back in the special section of the store scare you. They do that because they want African American readers to be able to find us easily, which is a good thing. However, it has come to our attention that it also puts some of the rest of you off.

So we are extending an official invitation for you to check out our section of the bookstore. Much like in the rest of the bookstore you'll find books about thugs, hos, murder, revenge, sex, sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, husbands and wives, children, and God. You'll find romance, mystery, deep thoughts about the meaning of life and death, tear-jerkers and belly laughs.

I'm foreseeing actual in-store parties around the country one day. But first our humble little blog here will introduce you to some of the writers you may never otherwise know about, but I promise you will like. At least, I promise you will like or hate as much as any other writer or any other book you'll find in the rest of the store.

Please stop back here every Tuesday for news and introductions. Please leave suggestions in the comments for books you'd like to see introduced here.