GalleyCat Readers Confront “Seg-Book-Gation” in Publishing

By Jason Boog Comment

bm_pic2.jpgNearly forty GalleyCat readers contributed passionate and productive responses to our recent interview feature with novelist Bernice L. McFadden.

McFadden thought that publishers “have placed all African-American authors in one box, forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience”–a practice she called “Seg-Book-Gation.” GalleyCat posting is light during the Thanksgiving holiday, but here are a few responses from readers–food for thought over the long weekend.

AALBC commented: “From the perspective of someone who runs a book website; the whole notions of categorizing books seems like an artificial construct; a vestigial requirement for physical book stores and libraries… antiquated, like the Dewey decimal system… ‘Seg-Book-Gation,’ while a problem today, will work itself out in
the foreseeable future.”

Author Caridad Pineiro wrote: “Literary segregation also affects Latino writers. For many years, both African-American and Latino writers have come out to speak about how literary segregation may limit them as writers … as a Latino writer who has broken into the mainstream, I am often asked why I write books that don’t have Latinos or if my book with Latinos is ‘Latino-enough.’ It’s a two-edged sword.”

Another writer added: “Hang on. Part of the problem is not just black/white, it’s the American penchant for pigeon-holing. We, those bookish folks among us, like to think that publishing people are brighter, more open than the average dumbell. Wrong. Their number is Money, just like your banker.”

Finally, one reader concluded: “Cross promotion is important. But, in reality, if the African American author wants that break through he/she is going to have to do it themselves. I understand that many of us are depending on the publisher to market us, but that’s not getting us to where we need to go.”