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)


Lisa said...

I already have three of those books! OK, one is an ARC I (ahem) have to return. What a great idea! May I also recommend, "Leaving Atlanta", by Tayari Jones? I haven't read "The Untelling" yet, but I've got it. I would also recommend "Orange Mint and Honey", by....who is that author...oh yes, that literary star, Carleen Brice! I have some inside scoop that even middle aged Jewish men have been known to get a little choked up over that one...but don't tell anyone I told you.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

I love this idea . . . and I'll second Lisa's recommendation for OMAH. I also loved Kim Reid's book (and bought it for my parents, who are white like me, this fall.)

Carleen Brice said...

Lisa, give that ARC to another white person. Seriously.

Judy, Yay, that's the spirit!

Marilyn Brant said...

Well-written, Carleen, and an excellent idea :).

Shonell Bacon said...

OK - I'm geeked, :-) This is a great idea, Carleen. Now, my goal is to figure out what books and what people...Fun!

Sustenance Scout said...

Carleen, you rock! This is what it's all about. How about The Wedding by Dorothy West or The Known World by Edward P. Jones? Also Lady Bird by Sheryl Mebane; Sheryl's a genius and a drummer originally from North Carolina; music plays a huge role in her novel.

Lisa, your note cracked me up! K.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. I have so many books that I can recommend, yours being one of them :)

kim reid said...

Brilliant idea Carleen! And thanks for including me on your list. You know you're on mine.

And hey Judy - thanks!

They probably don't need a lot of press, but they can definitely turn a phrase: anything by
Edwidge Danticat or Chris Abani. Maybe some Colson Whitehead, too.

For the YAs on your list: Bil Wright's "When the Black Girl Sings" or Angela Johnson's "First Part Last"

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Yes!! thank you for the list. Awesome, worthwhile undertaking. I will sure work on this.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

your blog url cracked me up! And what an awesome idea! I think I'll start by handing your awesome book out!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Carleen.

We haven't formally met, but Bernice McFadden forwarded your blog to me. I think your idea is great and I just want to say, yep, white people DO read us. I've sold my latest novel Red Light Green Light to more white people than black. Who knew I could? I sure didn't. Sure, I've had friends that are non-black that love my works, but I figured that it was just because they were my friends. Now I know better. Everybody will read us if they get the chance. This is an excellent way to give them that chance.

Angelia Vernon Menchan said...

that is a cool idea, however, I had to chuckle, a couple years ago when I wrote my first book, several of my coworkers bought it...all white, and most feedback was good, however, one person didn't say a word, I was later informed that my writing reminded her I was Black...too funny...I guess I had blended better than I intended...great IDEA


Anonymous said...

Carleen, how refreshing to see your challenge in print! I applaud you. I am an author, African American, and it pleases me to say that I receive email from readers of all nationalities who say they enjoy my books. However, I must say, if I, and so many other AA authors had more white readers, perhaps more of our names and works would be more widely known. Many of our stories are not so much different. So, I hope more white readers will pick up a copy of any one of my books or any of writers like Bernice McFadden, Margaret Johnson Hodge, Donna Hill, etc. They won't be disappointed. Gloria Mallette, www.gloriamallette.com

Carleen Brice said...

I think I've been pretty lucky. I have a lot of white readers. (Maybe because I have white friends and relatives, LOL.) However, as long as readers and reporters still ask black authors "Is your book for everybody?", it seems necessary to make what feels like an obvious point.

At some time on this blog, we're going to look at encouraging black folks to read more than just so-called African American fiction too. I know a lot of us read everybody, but there are some who don't and they're missing out too.

Shauna Roberts said...

Since people have started recommending books already, I'll suggest the romance novels of my critique partner, Farrah Rochon. Deliver Me and Release Me are already out, and Rescue Me will be out at the end of January. All have a strong New Orleans flavor.

Also, if mixed-race authors count, I just finished reading the fantasy Griffin's Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore. It's really good and has a fresh, original take on an old theme. There's an interview with Leslie Ann this week at my blog at http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.com/2008/11/debut-fantasy-author-leslie-ann-moore.html .

Lisa said...

I just went back and read several of the posts that inspired you to start this site and I don't know where I read it...maybe you said it...but something that would be helpful would be a "if you liked _____, give ____ a try". I'd love it if someone who knew my taste (hint: everything I've read all year long is on my sidebar :)) would make some recommendations. I don't really read much genre fiction, but I love what most people probably call literary fiction. OTOH, lots of people do love romance, sci-fi, mysteries, etc.

Bella Stander said...

To show how liberal and open-minded this white reader is (and to throw down the gauntlet), I just posted Interracial Reading 2.

Word verification is GATEDU. How apt!

Carleen Brice said...

Lisa, I will be doing such a post. But 1st up (1st come, 1st served) will be a post on sci-fi & fantasy.

Bella, Most excellent pics! I'll add it to my links. Word verification: uncent. How's that for appropriate?!

Professor Tharps said...

I love this! You are fantastic for doing this. I will spread the word!!!!

Anonymous said...

Carleen!!!! How are you? I had just said to myself, "Self, you can give Carleen's book for Christmas" and what do I next see? Your post!
great, great idea. And for the men your life, I recommend Preston Allen's ALL OR NOTHING.


Lisa said...

Aha...after I read Bella's post, I wondered what books I do actually have and that made me realize that I don't necessarily know what race the authors of the books I buy are. All of these books I do have and I THINK they've all been written by non-white/non-Asian authors, but they're not all American. But I may have more and not know it. But having to go through and figure it out may sort of be the point, right? In alphabetical order, these are the ones I have (you know -- in case anybody is planning to give me a new book :), or wants to add some of these titles to another list):

So Long a Letter, Mariamba Ba
Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, Carleen Brice
Orange Mint and Honey, Carleen Brice
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Going Down South, Bonnie Glover (on loan)
Like Trees, Walking, Ravi Howard
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones
The Untelling, Tayari Jones
The Man in My Basement, Walter Mosley
Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama
The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
The Street, Ann Perry
No Place Safe, Kim Reid
Push, Sapphire
On Beauty, Zadie Smith
The Fall of Rome, Martha Southgate
Third Girl From the Left, Martha Southgate

Lisa said...

oops, and Beloved

Carleen Brice said...

We may be having too much fun with this! :-)

Thanks everybody for really getting into the spirit! GIVE BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Anonymous said...

I should have my first post about books white people should read up on Tuesday next week. Thanks so much for doing this.It's one thing to talk about a problem but we have to rembember to do things to help change the situation or nothing gets done.

Claudia said...

Carleen, I love this idea and I'm looking forward to adding YOUR books to my own list! I wonder, since I'm an A.A. lit professor and most of my students are white, does that count? LOL.

But seriously - I often use this idea when I am looking for gifts for my pre-school daughter's classmates (and their never-ending birthday parties). So here are some children's books to add to the list:

*Honey, I Love, and other Poems
*Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story From Africa
*Jambo Means Hello
*Not Norman: A Goldfish Story
*Lola at the Library
*Please, Puppy, Please
*Amazing Grace
*The Skin You Live In

Anonymous said...

Carleen, I love this idea (as I told you on twitter). I'll be writing a post on crossing the color line in Christian fiction during my December series on race, faith, and fiction.

Linda Leigh Hargrove
The Making of Isaac Hunt (Moody Publishers, 2007)
Loving Cee Cee Johnson (Moody, 2008)
Reconciling Faith & Race, 17Seeds.com

Michelle H. said...

This is a fantastic idea! Strange how people are missing out on wonderful books simply based on the white/black distinction.

Anonymous said...

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Anything and everything by bell hooks

Silly Mammo by Gebregeorgis Yohannes (He's Ethiopian)

Amy Hodgepodge by Kim Wayans

Great idea!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting on The Brown Bookshelf yesterday. Last year I had the pleasure of reading four books by Sheila J. Williams.

Girls Most Likely
The Shade of My Own Tree
Dancing on the Edge of the Roof
On the Right Side of a Dream (sequel to Dancing)

I believe all four books would appeal to white readers who enjoy a good story. All of these stories revolve around women who are middle age, a bit wiser, and finding happiness on their own terms.

Another great author that I adore is Diane McKinney Whetstone whose books are filled with lyrical prose, all set in Philadelphia.

Kyra said...

What an idea! Thanks for sharing!


Doret said...

Tumbling by Diane McKinney Whetstone
72 Hour Hold by Bebe Campbell Moore- (especially is they liked I Know this much is True by Wally Lamb)
Kyra Davis for Janet Evanovich fans
Octavia Butler
Tananarive Due
The Air between us by Deborah Johnson
Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter ( but I think White people already know about him)

Carleen Brice said...

This is so cool,y'all! This is exactly the kind of conversation I was hoping for. And I'm finding some books & writers *I* need to check out, so thanks!

Anonymous said...

I completely LOVE this site. The concept and energy are FANTASTIC. I'll be putting a link on my blog. Thanks for this wonderful idea.

Marion Gropen said...

I think I applaud this idea -- I'm all in favor of expanding horizons, and of anything that gets more books by more authors into more people's hands. But, I do worry about one aspect. Wouldn't it be better if we could build a world where the ethnicity of an author was utterly irrelevant? And is this effort going to get in the way of that one, or help it?

No, I'm not posing that question as a criticism. It's really a question. I want a world where color is only important when you're picking clothes or make up (as in what color works with your skin). (Yes, Don Quixote is a hero of mine, why did you ask?) I'm just not sure which roads take us closer to that goal.

martha said...

Two things: This is a fabulous idea! Thanks so much for including my work on it (I'm Martha Southgate). And finally--where's "Drinking Coffee Elswhere" by ZZ Packer?! Nobody mentioned it. Everybody--give that to some white folks this holiday season. It is a great short story collection!
Also very fine are "Crystelle Mourning" by Eisa Ulen, "Shifting through Neutral" by Bridgett M. Davis and an oldie but a goodie, "Erasure" by Percival Everett. This last is especially good to read right after you read "Push."

Miss Kitty said...

I too had planned on getting Morrison's latest book.

EXCELLENT idea and blog--I'm SO glad to have found you! Now if I can get my lit students to come here, we'll be doing really well. I'm a (white) college English professor, and about 70% of my students are non-black.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through GalleyCat (BTW I love your blog title, LOL!) and I gotta say, as a white girl, my thoughts are spinning. IS there an AA section at my bookstore? How weird. Don't I see Hurston and Morrison in the lit section where they belong? Why do I care what color the writer is? It would never even occur to me to think that a book by an AA author would have to have Ebonics in it. I'm hoping that train of thought is in the minority. It makes me feel weird to be associated with that kind of thing. (Not saying I'm offended - just sharing my thoughts.)

So, all that aside, I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for good book suggestions! :) But everyone's taste in books is different, so I rarely get my book recommendations from unknown sources like a blog. I love what was suggested in another comment, an "If you loved ___ then you'll love ___" but along with an explanation why. Sometimes even those kinds of recommendations miss the mark, because WHAT I loved about the first book isn't to be found in the second at all.

So even better is a brief description of the book, along with a sense of the style of the book. I tend to avoid things that are dark and depressing, have disturbing things like rape scenes, lots of foul language, etc. These things aren't always talked about in reviews, which is why I tend to get my book recommendations from people whose taste in books I know is similar to mine. Most of all, though, I'm picky about quality. I want characters and plot lines that are fully developed, logical, etc etc.

I usually troll sites instead of leaving comments, but since I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog, I thought I'd at least try to be useful and throw in my two cents. ;)

You have a good idea here. I'll bookmark you and keep an eye on how your site develops. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm the anonymous person above. I just checked out a ton of these books at Amazon, and some do seem like the dark literary stuff that's so popular but that I haven't read in years (college spoiled me of it - sorry). But what DID grab my attention was "The Untelling", "Orange Mint and Honey", and "The Known World". I ran out of time when I got to Lisa's long list, so I'll have to check that out later. And I ONCE AGAIN have too many books on request at the library. Hee hee. Not such a bad habit, right? :) Thanks for giving me more books to look forward to! :)

Esther said...

I love anything that gets people reading, especially if it's a book outside their "comfort zone." So I think this is a terrific idea.

I'd recommend Andrea Levy's "Small Island," which is partly based on her own family's experience as Jamaican immigrants to Britain after World War II. I's a beautifully written novel with very engaging, memorable characters.

I'd like to second "Dreams from My Father," too. It's a terrific memoir, honest and so timely.

For something completely different, I've also enjoyed "The Emperor of Ocean Park," by Stephen Carter and "The Intuitionist" by Colson Whitehead.

And since I blog a lot about the theater, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a play. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Broadway debut of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun." A copy of the play, along with a dvd of the movie or the stage version that aired on tv recently, would be a terrific gift. (In fact, I may give it to myself!)

Even better, I know of at least a couple of theater companies that are mounting regional productions in honor of the anniversary, so you could give theater tickets, too.

Carleen Brice said...

Marion, I agree with you: the world will be a great place when there's no need to point out the author's race at all. Until that time comes I'm doing what I can to help black authors gain a wider readership. I hope this tongue-in-cheek blog & holiday shines a light on some good writers.

Miss Kitty, I hope you do buy Morrison's book. But since she is so well-known, I'm trying to spotlight those who are less known, but very talented. Send your students on over!

Anon #2, Not all bookstores have an AA fiction section--many independents don't. The chains tend to. Hurston & Morrison are often "double-shelved" so that readers like you can find them in the general fiction section and browsers in the AA section--who typically are AA themselves and specifically want to read black authors--can also find them. I'd like more of y'all to come over and find the rest of us. There are some books that won't appeal to you, but some will and it's a shame that so many assume that none of them will. I'm betting they're wrong.

FYI, I'm kind of a reading wimp too, so I'll be pointing out some books safe for wimps. Pay special attention to whether or not I mention I've read the book. Usually if I've read it, it won't have graphic rape, incest, abuse or violence. Though I don't mind language. :)

ensie said...

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

A great idea, absolutely! I'll have to check out your work, Carleen, but meanwhile I already followed the link on your blog to Pamela Samuels Young's page-turner, Murder on the Down Low, for which, thanks! I look forward to finding out more about the other books and you recommend.

Let's not forget, in addition to the many wonderful black women writer today, such forefathers of African-American literature as Chicago's Cyrus Colter, author of "A Chocolate Soldier" and "City of Light" and John Oliver Killens, co-founder of the Harlem Writers Guild. One of the first black literary novels I read -- way back -- was John A.Williams' "The Man Who Cried I Am." And a few months ago I did the author photo for the lovely Jennifer Baszile whose "The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir" is due from Simon & Schuster in January of 2009.

Finally, one reminder about libraries. If you want not only to give these books as gifts but to read them yourself but your budget is tight, look for them at your local library. If a book is not in the library's catalog, you can request it -- it just might be added to the collection. And if more people ask, more copies might be bought. In fact, you might even want to Email a link to this blog to your local librarian!

Anonymous said...

Let's see . . . novelist John Edgar Wideman, novelist Wesley Brown, poet Charles H. Johnson, novelist Mat Johnson, Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler.How's that for a start?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Carleen! I'll definitely be watching your recommends. :)

Anon #2

Anonymous said...

Carleen I'll be sharing this link for sure and promoting it on RAWSISTAZ & BlackBookReviews.net. I already share titles with anyone willing to listen, but I'll go the extra mile this month. :)

For starters, here are some of my favorites:
The Tribe by Gregory Townes (Horror)
A Woman's Worth by Tracy Price-Thompson (Fiction)
My Mother's Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius by Lynn Toler (Non-Fiction)
Living Consequences by Brittney Holmes (Young Adult Christian Fiction)
In Another Man's Bed by Francis Ray (fiction)
Demon Hunter: Book One by T. L. Gardner (paranormal)
Rising by Darnella Ford (and all her other books)
The Osguards by Malcolm Petteway (sci-fi/military techno-thriller)
Pretenses by Keith Lee Johnson (thriller/suspense)
The Legend of Morning by T. L. Gardner & Michelle McGriff

Whew...more later!

-Tee C. Royal

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Carleen, what a cool idea! I've blogged about whites visiting the AA section of a bookstore here:

Anonymous said...

Another author to consider: Carolivia Herron. She has children's books (Always an Olivia is the most recent and Nappy Hair the best-known) and a novel for grownups called Thereafter Johnnie. More coming, too.

Unknown said...

This is brilliant. I love it!!!

Anonymous said...

Another great author people might want to check out is Maryse Conde - she's a Guadaloupean writer of great reknown and many of her books have been translated into English (she writes in French). I discovered her in college, as well as poet Kamau Braithwaite. I once photocopied one of his out-of-print poetry collections because it was so beautifully written (should I admit that?:)

There are so many great authors - of all colors. I personally think the 'segregation' in book stores should end, and I applaud your efforts, Carleen, in bringing attention to this practice. Maybe we need to organize non-violent sit-ins to address this nationwide;)

Carleen Brice said...

Most Recent Anonymous, Forget sit-ins. We're thinking parties. Stay tuned....

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? It sounds CRAZY! I'm an African American who reads White authors all of the time! Did I need an invitation.

This is a bunch of foolishness.

Carleen Brice said...

Most recent Anon: This is and is not a joke. Your point is also my point; I'm just trying to make it with humor. Guess not everybody gets it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Miss Rebecca said...

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.

"In 1859, eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, which is a haven for slaves fleeing the American south, uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family's freedom."

Anonymous said...

just wanted to report to you that i bought an audiobook by sidney poitier for my sister-in law (who is asian not white, i hope that counts :). and while i was at it, i bought "black boy" by richard wright, als as an audiobook, for my own white self.

Robyn2184 said...

I am a white female and I read almost all books by AA authors. I love everybody from Sister Souljah, Eric Jerome Dickey, to Mary Monroe to Octavia Butler and Bernie McFadden. Some people think I'm nuts for doing this and some people even think its racist. However, I like to tell people I spent fifteen years in school reading books by almost all white authors. Wasn't that racist?

On the topic of why white peple don't read many books besides Black authors is most people don't get exposed to it they don't even know these authors exist. Yes of course they will read a Toni Morrison novel or The Color Purple, or Native Son in school or maybe even Danzy Sensa's Caucasia. But thats where it draws the line.

I did not even know that there were thousands of contemporary novels by AA authors until somebody recommended True to the Game by Teri Woods. I found the book in the AA fiction section at Borders and was shocked to find so many books. Then from there I discovered Mary Morrison from a classmate. A co-worker recommened Kindred by Octavia Butler. I love AA novels in every form and fashion but the only reason I started to enjoy them was because somebody recommended one to me.

Bottom line many whites have no idea that there is such an array of novels by AA authors that exist. There is something for everyone from sleazy romance, to murder mystery (Walter Mosley esp.) to historical fiction, but most of us don't know these books exist. People of all races can relate to some of these books the key is finding the niche within the genre. That being said there are still a lot of whites that don't like to venture out and read books by AA authors unless its a New York Times bestseller. However, there are many people that just need exposure to AA authors.

Escorts London said...
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Ireland said...

I totally agree

escort said...

I love this 2 books . . . and I'll buy the 3th one. I also loved Kim Reid's book (and bought it for my parents, who are white like me, this fall.)

John said...

I think I'll start by handing your awesome book out!!