Follow Harriet on Twitter
‘Afro Picks,’ Publisher’s Weekly, & the Racialized Pun
thx to all who commented on my first post here, & to all the well wishes i received thru facebook, email, & blog. however, i don’t appreciate all the negative emails i’ve received from those saying i ‘sold out’ by joining ‘the foundation.’ nor do i appreciate those even purer purists who tell me i should stop blogging and focus on the ‘real work’ of writing poetry. to all you haters, i say this: as i woke this morning several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a 21st century Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which I possess so enormously–I mean Negative Bloggability, that is, when a man is capable of blogging in uncertain opinions, mysterious logic, and doubtful conclusions, without any irritable reaching after supporting facts and reasonable arguments.
thus, my second post for this week follows below. i hope everyone will feel free to comment–i will, of course, respond–and will have my third post ready next monday.
I don’t even know where to begin in deconstructing this bizarre image. The black woman as the exotic, wild creature with crazy hair is not, perhaps, the wisest choice of images. Why not just have Venus Hottentot bare breasted and holding a book parading around the cover? Also, can we talk about the fact that black people haven’t had afros that required picking for roughly 20 years, save for a few people who like a little throwback and even then, they aren’t walking around with a head full of picks? The saddest detail of all may well be the black power fist at the end of each pick (see: Black Panthers, 1960s, things we have let go). What does this image have to do with writing? What is the message PW is trying to convey? This image is offensive and weird and creepy and that the people involved in the editorial process didn’t stop to ask themselves how this image might be perceived is kind of funny and very sad.
first, let’s be real: if PW used Venus Hottentot on the cover, she would not be holding the books in her hands, if you know what i mean. second, while i don’t find the image as offensive as gay does, i do think its use–and the accompanying “!” in “Afro Picks!”–to be annoying and offensive. why not just be serious have the main title read “New Books and Trends in African American Publishing”? why make such a racialized spectacle? clearly, the editorial board so fully fell in love with the aesthetics of the racialized pun that they didnt quite think through its ethics.
what do you think about the cover?
gay goes on to writes:
I understand, historically, why there was a need for the term African American books to exist and why the little section in the bookstore was (is) needed but at the same time, I personally think that when you start to segregate books what you’re saying is that some of these things are not like the others. I’m sure every black writer has a different opinion on the subject but I would prefer my books to be found in the fiction section because that’s what I write. My books would be cranky in the African American section because they would want to kick the asses of books written by Maya Angelou. There would be a RUMBLE in that aisle and then the Women’s Studies books would cluck their tongues and the Asian Books would shake their heads and soon, everyone would want to riot.
first, dont underestimate the ass-kicking ability of a maya angelou book. second, i actually like the fact that many bookstores have these racialized sections. makes it easier for me to find maya angelou’s latest books.
the real issue that gets my ethnic studies motor going is that there are no sections in major bookstores for white writers! i feel so bad for all my white writer friends because how can they get their books into readers’ hands if they have no section in the bookstore? white writers, if you start a petition on Facebook to demand that major bookstores sell your white wares, i will sign up! support the existence of white writers!
(tho i have heard rumors that there is a ‘back room’ in Borders where they keep all the books by white writers–imagine the bounty!–but you need a special password. my guess is that the password is ‘the American canon’.)
anyhoo, maybe someday Publisher’s Weekly will do a special issue on white writers. let me help. i have a few ideas on cover images and catchy titles.
my first suggestion is: “Premium Crackers! New Trends and Books in White Publishing.”
my second suggestion is: “Vanilla Extracts! New Trends and Books in White Publishing.”
and finally, my personal favorite: “Toasting White Bread: New Books and Trends in White Publishing.” my ideal cover:
and wouldnt it be cool if, instead of toast popping out of the toaster, they can photoshop in a copy of matthew and michael dickman’s books (two books i enjoyed reading last year)? there could be a speech tag above the man that reads: “look, honey, twins!”
which title/cover is your favorite?
i shall end this post with another attempt to get kent johnson to join facebook. besides good gossip, FB is a great place to find funny jokes. one of my recent faves comes from a poet who lives in new york. this was his status update during the winter snow storm:
“It’s so white outside, I’m going to nominate the weather for a National Book Award.”