White Book, Black Book

Posted in Books, Racial Identity, Racial Reconciliation, Reading for Reconciliation, Social Justice on by Linda – 2 Comments

black bookFor Whites Only?

Book covers sell books. But there are a few tricky things about book covers. Covers can be misleading. A fact that many publishing companies seek to work to their advantage.

Case in point: In 2009, Australian author Justine Larbalestier’s book Liar was the topic of much discussion. Released with the face of a young white girl with straight hair on the cover, the YA novel was about a young black woman with ‘nappy hair’. The cover was eventually changed—thanks to outcry from the author and her supporters.

Why did Ms. Larbalestier’s publishing company feel the need to put a white girl on the cover of a book about a black girl? “Black” books don’t sell. This is an unfortunate perception with no hard and fast numbers to back it up but it persists. After the Liar debacle, many other authors in several genres spoke up. They recounted similar whitewashed book publishing experiences.
This is what Ms. Larbalestier had to say about the situation:

The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often, we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers.”

For Blacks Only?

Are certain books only for black folks? My answer is no. True, there are many black authors who write strictly for an African American fan base. There’s nothing wrong with that. These authors are writing to their prefered audience, writing about their black American experience for a specific slice of the public that can relate to that experience. Depicting their black characters on their covers is only natural. This a normal and acceptable marketing strategy.

Whitewashing “black” book covers is not a normal or acceptable business practice. The printing of the original Liar cover was an intentional choice made by a majority Caucasian leadership in a large international publishing house. A bad move, in and of itself, made worse because the book was written for younger audiences. The very audience that we want to convince that race no longer matters.

Bad Books?

Yes, I know that some ‘African American literature’ is substandard. To be honest, some of them are vulgar books, rife with lewd language, violence, and eroticism. But so are some ‘white’ books. No one race of writers has a corner on the market of bad writing.

Whitewashing book covers is a form of systematic racism. Plain and simple. Some have tried social marketing strategies like selling books with bland, text-based covers. To me, that’s no better than banning words. Some publishers, like the one I wrote two novels for, do not publish books with words like nigger, spic, picanniny, buck, sambo, and jigaboo. Banning words won’t make the racism go away, no more than whitewashing the faces on book covers will.

My three books are written for the Christian audience. Not black Christians. Not white Christians. All Christians. The story lines in my books revolve around racial reconciliation and forgiveness in the South. Most of my characters are black. I chose to prominently display people of color on my covers. During one of my first book signings, a black woman angrily accused me (a black woman) of writing a book about a white man.

Her reaction blocked out my explanation to the contrary. She walked away empty handed. The book happens to be about a biracial man who prefers to identify with his black heritage. Unfortunately she had wrongfully judged the book by its cover. It was her loss.

So what do you read the most of? Are you a one-genre reader? Have you ventured out to read works by authors who don’t look like you?

Christian Race Fatigue

Posted in Racial Identity, Racial Reconciliation, Reading for Reconciliation, Social Justice, Supper Club, Tip Sheets, Writing on by Linda – Be the first to comment

to recocile peopleI’m Tired Too

Recently on Facebook, I saw a post from the ministry of a well-known international television evangelist. It read: “I’m tired of hearing about race! If you’ve been to the cross, we’re brothers and sisters.”

Brother, I’m tired of hearing about it too. Every time we turn on the news we’re hearing about some sort of race crime—some perpetrated by the very establishment that have been hired to serve and protect all citizens regardless of color.

As a mother and a Christ follower, I’m tired of seeing that kind of thing happen in the world.

The Knee Jerk Response

Yes, we are all one in Christ but have we taken it to the level that Christ prayed about in John 17:21… “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Here’s a question I want to ask that TV evangelist: How has the world’s idea of race and racism changed because of our oneness? Is our oneness so strong that the world is turning to Christ. I don’t think so; not yet.

I hear a lot of rhetoric. Lots of scriptures tossed around. John 17:21. Galatians 3:28. Ephesians 2:13-16. And on and on. But I still feel that we’ve not moved past Rodney King’s plea, “Can we all get along?”

The media has a way of gnawing on a bone of news until we are so tired of hearing it that we get numb. That’s not news-casting. That’s social Novocaine.

When we Christians get tired of race talk, we go straight to the ‘cumbayah’ platitudes and nothing ‘God’ happens.

Start Doing Something

I’m so tired of hearing about race that I’m ready to do something about it so that this conversation stops coming up. As for me and my house, I’m going to keep talking and writing about racial reconciliation until that change happens.

The world might talk about it one way. They’ll say, let’s make up a new law or reform the existing ones. That’s a good move. But we as believers need to talk about and address race in another way. A way that does not lead to this race fatigue. A way that draws unbelievers to Christ in big and small ways. A way that fulfills MLK’s Dream and Jesus’s Prayer. A way that eradicates even the last vestiges of racism, classism, and sexism inside the very Church itself. Because unfortunately even though Christ removed the “dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesins 2:14) of skin color, class, and gender we are still separated. In some cases, we’re in the same ‘multi-ethnic’ church but miles apart.

We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We’re the bridge builders. The justice people. We are God’s children. Let’s start doing something.