I recently had a discussion with one of my best friends. She is one of the most avid readers that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her appetite for reading, exceeds my own – that’s saying something. I (like other readers that know her) seek her opinion when they are looking for a specific type of book. They know that her knowledge about fiction – and specifically romantic fiction is trustworthy and her reviews are honest. Indie writers seek her out to beta-read because her opinion is valuable. Recently, my friend suggested a book to me and for the first time, I was hesitant to accept her recommendation.
My friend, my sistah found my resistance silly and not based on any specifics about the story. It frustrated her that I wouldn’t read it. It was afterall a love story. My objection was that neither the author nor the characters were “of color” and more to the point: This book was written by a caucasian man, and there were NO people of color mentioned in this story at all. I eventually read the book and I have to admit, it was a decent love story. BUT – I READ IN COLOR!
Those that know my background would probably scratch their heads and wonder why I was resistant to reading a book written by a “white man”. I am a mulatto. My mother is white and my father is black. “Is she denying her heritage?” NO! I’m not. I love my mother and her background is a part of my background. I’m as much my mother’s child as I am my father’s. Have I never read a book by someone other than an African-American or some other minority author? I’ve read many, I’ve been reading for over 45 years! Up until I was introduced to AA Romance, and IR Romance, I read pretty much whatever looked interesting – and I’ve always been an avid reader. But I’ve ALWAYS had my personal list of favorite authors and I admit that most at the top of my list are African American and they wrote African American fiction. I’d never read romance before I was introduced to AA Romance because I couldn’t identify with the heroine or the hero. Not my cup of tea.
Let me try to explain my reasoning: Over the years I’ve read many, many books. Most of the books up until about 4 or 5 years ago were written by a myriad of authors, admittedly mostly caucasian. I’ve read some great books. Wonderful stories. Here’s the deal though: The books I love most are the characters I can identify with. No, I’m not every woman and there have been more than a few AA female protaganist that I didn’t like or didn’t feel I had much in common with; lived a lifestyle that I couldn’t identify with, whether that was a super rich diva or a straight outta the hood hoochie. That isn’t what this is about. It’s about seeing folks that look something like me, have a commonality in their life experiences (yes I am the child of a white woman – but I am an African American) and more importantly, this is about SUPPORT. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that it is my responsibility as a reader and lover of African American fiction to support “our” authors. If we don’t who will? I have a special affinity for Indie writers. If you pop over to Amazon and read the reviews for the book that I finally “gave in” and read, you’ll see that book had more than 2000 reviews. Two thousand!!! Most of the authors I’ve read – even the most popular ones have at most 200 – and that’s a SUPER popular book to have garnered that many reviews. Some of the writers I love the most have the least reviews and yet, I’d read their books over that guy with the 2000 reviews in a New York minute! I look at my Kindle content and I have over a thousand books. I’ve read most of them – and more importantly, I’ve paid for most of them. I love my people and more importantly I love it when I can lose myself in a story when I identify with a history that I too share and I can do that AND support their creative endeavors.
People may take issue with my stance regarding my reading preference because it is their argument and belief that it doesn’t matter who wrote a book, as long as it’s a good book. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an AA story and a “mainstream” story – that the characters in the stories should be interchangeable and you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That may be true to some extent as well, but personally, I like stories that involve “markers” that distinguish them specifically as having folks of color. We are the same and yet, we are different. I don’t say or mean that in a polarizing way, but in a loving way and in acknowledgement. I READ IN COLOR.