The African-American Writer’s Inferiority Complex

I spend a lot of time feeling like I cant. I think it’s an issue that plagues most African-American writers. Honestly, writing a New York Times #1 bestselling novel seems out of reach. Some days, I attribute this lack of confidence to the political nature of race in this country: To get to number one on the NYT list, I have to sell to everyone, not just black readers. But, the cards are just simply stacked against me. It’s challenging enough to sell a book to a publisher, and get them to market if for you.  If you get that far, you’ll realize that publishers and bookstores prefer to sell books by black authors that depict the “stereotypical” black experience of thug life and promiscuity; you know, the books with sluts on the covers.  And those books don’t sell to everyone.

Other days, I attribute this inferiority complex to a post-slavery era mentality that’s been imposed upon me by the collective subconscious.  I feel that my only option is get a good education, go to college/grad-school, graduate and get a job. It doesn’t matter if my degree is in a creative field. I can’t have success on my own. submitting writing to literary journals isn’t for my kind. Nope. How could I possibly be talented enough for that?

Is it just me? Or do other African-American writers (or artists of any kind) feel this way too?

I want so much for myself.  I’m bursting at the seams with ideas.  I’m going to keep moving forward, regardless of how I’m feeling. I’m going to keep blogging, writing, thinking, planning and moving. I’ll never make it if I don’t try, right?

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Where are the real Black authors?

Okay, so this isn’t a book review.  Selecting a book to read and write a review about is a huge commitment. I thought I would make it interesting  and review books by black authors.  And right now, I can’t find something. That’s when it occurred to me.  Where are all the black authors?

I work in a bookstore and my access is greater than most.   I have the opportunity to see many of the books that come in that many people will probably never notice.  There are so many authors that stay under the radar and will never achieve bestselling success because book marketing and promotion is so political.  But considering my job I should have been able to find something.  All I find, however, is another type of fiction.

The bookstore where I work has an “Urban Fiction” section.  This loosely translates to Black authors writing erotica and gangster dramas. (BAWEGD)  The section has now been less appropriately titled “African American interest.” Even this British guy I work with finds the section offensive and politically incorrect.   I have no interest in BAWEGD lit and I am African American woman.

There may be an entire subset of the the black population who applauds Zane and other black authors who write BAWEGD lit.  And you know what, good for her and good for them.  But I, as an African American woman who is hoping black people will eventually move forward, want to read about something else.

Now aside from the BAWEGD lit, there is a whole other topic that seems to be popular with black writers.  And that is the slavery, and racial injustice experience (SRIE).  I do not demean or deny the validity of those experiences. However, I’m tired of reading about it.

Where are the authors writing about experiences like mine? I’ve never heard gunshots in real life, nor have I seen actual illegal drugs in person.  I grew up in suburbia, went to a good high school and a great college (Go Canes!) I know nothing about BAWEGD lit.

My experiences are vastly different from the racial inequities experienced by my parents and grandparents.  We have a black president, so racial inequality seems pretty far off. I would love a book that mirrors my experiences;  Mirrors a struggle that may have nothing to do with being black.  I would love a book that inspires me, or speaks to me.  And what would make it even greater is if it were by a black author.

I’m not just going to review black authors who write the types of books I’m looking for. I’m going to review anything that catches my interest.  That being said, I just want to give African American authors a fair shot.