Thursday, 3 April 2014

*Yawn* (Again)

Irenosen Okojie on … oh, it’s the same old, same old, isn’t it?
It seems the industry likes to champion one or two of us at a time, but no more. There also seem to be few black and Asian male writers. Lack of diversity overall is a problem on the literary landscape.
Only for those whose concerns aren’t so much reading good books as trumpeting their cultural and moral superiority, and frankly, I think we’ve heard enough from them, don’t you?
Perhaps these writers didn't have the full support of their publishing houses, or were seen as risks and therefore not marketed properly – then dropped as soon as their books didn't make enough sales.
Or … maybe they just weren't very good writers? I mean, that’s a possibility, isn't it? And maybe there’s just not enough people around who want to buy sub-standard books just to be seen with them to make up the shortfall?

But it seems that it’s not the case that no ‘authors of colour’ are celebrated at all:
Last year I was intrigued to see the hype machine in full effect following the arrival on the scene of two international black female authors, Taiye Selassi and NoViolet Bulawayo. NoViolet's We Need New Names is a blisteringly good read, which deserved every bit of attention it received. While it was heartening to see black female authors getting that much of the spotlight, I was also bothered by an uncomfortable, niggling realisation. A black British female author wouldn't be celebrated in the same way.
Well, make up your mind!
Unfortunately, Britain doesn't champion the voices of its female writers of colour enough, preferring to fawn over international writers.
So which is it? Minority authors are ignored, or the wrong minority authors are lauded?
There needs to be more support and diversity in the publishing industry all around – grassroots bookshops, publishing houses and prizes acknowledging the rich tapestry of authors in this country.
Translation: “Buy my books, not theirs!”


MTG said...

"Or … maybe they just weren't very good writers? I mean, that’s a possibility, isn't it?"

The list of memorable athletes is certainly gargantuan in comparison to the only two black novelists who spring to mind.
I'm pleading the Nietzsche amendment on this one, Julia.

Robert said...

The simple fact is that hardly any published authors sell enough books to make a living.
I remember reading that some of the novels shortlisted in the most recent Booker Prize has sold in the region of 1-2,000.
I know someone who a few years ago had two novels published by one of the biggest publishing houses in the world.
You can find copies in many branches of Waterstones even today.
He currently works in a supermarket.
So there's no need to invoke racism etc to explain an author's failure to sell copies, because almost every author fails to sell copies.

Anonymous said...

So they don't seem to think that readers judge them by the content on the page rather than the pic on the cover...writers?

Ed P said...

A well-written book does not make one think of the author's colour, etc. when reading it - this is just more PC insanity.

Is "niggling" an acceptable word nowadays?

AndrewWS said...

Oh ffs. If books (by authors of whatever colour) are any good, people will read them and recommend them f2f or online. Nobody with any sense thinks they're going to make money out of 'literature' anyway, because few people read the stuff. Now a black version of Game of Thrones or a "50 shades of Brown" might be another matter ...

Anonymous said...


How about a novel about Rorke's Drift written from a bullets perspective?

Ancient + Tattered Airman said...

Apparently most of the Zulu dead at Rourke's Drift died by bayonet thrusts. Ignore the film as its details were wrong in nearly every case.

Dr Cromarty said...

OT Julia but I'm sure you can't have missed this:

'Vigilantes', eh? "Grandmother was the widow of travellers’ rights campaigner Eli Frankham"

Ah, now I see.

Anonymous said...

Rorke was sensitive about his 'drift' - just so you know.

Anonymous said...

@Dr Cromarty. Jeez, what a bunch of genetic abberations. Some severe sterilisation needs to be applied to stop the incest amongst that bunch of psycho-mong-TGBs.

As for whinging BLACK writers. Write something interesting and it will get read.

Anonymous said...

Here's one;

Anonymous said...

Thank you RWG.

I'll be ordering her books because they are something I want to read.


JuliaM said...

"I'm pleading the Nietzsche amendment on this one, Julia."


"The simple fact is that hardly any published authors sell enough books to make a living."

True enough. Even the giants of the literary world often make their money elsewhere...

"Is "niggling" an acceptable word nowadays?"

Of course! I wouldn't want to be niggardly about it...

JuliaM said...

" Ignore the film as its details were wrong in nearly every case."

Still a cracking film with a rousing theme though!

"OT Julia but I'm sure you can't have missed this"

Ooh, I actually did!