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Read Rage

This week, I finally got my hands on a Kindle Fire, which means that I can now fit more leisurely reading into my schedule! Yay! But what I find in my book search sometimes leaves me frustrated and disappointed.

At first I was happy…but then…

I’ve always loved reading. My mother introduced me to books at an early age. I was around 2-years-old when I started reading on my own. She tried to put me in timeout, but whatever lesson she was trying to teach me didn’t work, because I would get excited, go get my favorite rocking chair and read in the corner. Yeah, I was that kid. Unfortunately, between being overwhelmed with my choices of what to read, not having the time, and not having the organization to remember or even carry books around with me, I have read less than my desired amount of books. But no more! I have found the way!

I win! I win!

I win! I win!

For the last few days, I have been excitedly searching and cramming as many interesting books as I can find into this device, genre by genre. Today, I decided to explore Amazon’s collection of “African American” reads. But after browsing for almost a half hour I…was…pissed!

Why…can’t…I…find…good…Black…books?!

I was met with pages and pages of ghetto/gangster/ball-player/stripper/good-girl-gone-bad/Christian porn noir everywhere! What the hell, man?! Is this all Amazon bothers to curate?! Is that all my people can come up with?! I know it isn’t. I’ve read such good books. There must be some science-fiction, some historical non-slave narrative, something outside of the realms of the American ghetto. For goodness, freakin’ sake!

My inner nerd, it struggles.

This…can’t…be!

I like to read stories that express the beauty of life from all perspectives all over the globe, but I find it so hard to find those experiences of my own people that expand beyond the boundaries of “hood noir”. We are so much more than that! I sincerely wish that these “writers” would stop proving the rest of the world right by reflecting nothing but racial stereotypes. If we’re not super-Christians, we’re strippers, pimps, loose women, the lonely-under-sexed female executive, the ball player and his groupies, the rappers trying to make it into the music industry, or whatever cliché you want to throw out there. I’m sick of it!

I’m sick to damn death of it!

Look what you’ve done! You’ve upset the Huxtables!

Where are the other stories?! Do they just let anyone publish a book?! Where are our sci-fi, mythology, our horror stories, our historical fiction (again outside of the slave narrative or racial oppression piece)? Where are our graphic novels?! Where are the coming of age stories?! Are they buried under the first two dozen pages or urban smut in my Amazon book search? Must I search deeper than just the first 10 pages?! Is it buried deep in the mind of a talented writer who doesn’t believe that they are more than the world’s stereotype? Is it locked away in the chained up imagination of another writer who was told that “that shit won’t sell” or that “Black people don’t read that kind of stuff”? Is it trapped in the mind of some creative soul that doesn’t know how to read or write? Where? Where are these good books?! I sincerely want to know.

I don’t know anyone in my immediate circle that can relate to these urban stories, yet I can’t go into a single Black-owned book store or search category without being bombarded. Every other book cover looks something like this:

Seriously...?

Seriously…?

Awww, come on! I’m done. I’m going to Barnes and Noble in Harvard Square.

These books do nothing to stimulate the imagination, and only hammers into the minds of those reading it that this is all there is to their reality. It glamorizes unhealthy lifestyles and perspectives, and causes young men and women especially to set their standards toward what they read in these books. They also have very little in the way of proper spelling and grammar, and they don’t expand the vocabulary. As a result, there is little learning to be done from reading them, and the mind is not challenged or given room to grow. You might as well watch a Friday night BET movie special. It has the same effect. Unfortunately, these books are in abundance and are readily available.

I have so much more faith in my people than what I’ve seen so far, but what I’ve seen makes me throw my hands up sometimes. I’ll keep looking, because I have found some gems, but it shouldn’t be this damn hard.

Whoever, wherever, whatever you are: Have you ever experienced similar frustration in your book selection? What good books would you recommend? (Please don’t mention Maya Angelou or anything from the Harlem Renaissance or I will just scream. They’re already on my list.)

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4 thoughts on “Read Rage

  1. I ran into this issue awhile back. My friends aren’t big readers so I was really lost…then Clutch posted a list of the Top 100 Books by African-American Women that you should read. I committed to read all of the books and I haven’t been disappointed.

    A few personal recommendations: Kindred (Octavia Butler)…instant classic, anything by Tananarive Due for Sci-Fi (Octavia Butler does Sci-Fi as well), Ernessa T. Carter for Comedy (32 Candles is hilarious and heartwarming), Zane for more *ahem* risque reading, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is awesome as well. I also still love the classic authors (when people began to realize that black people actually read for leisure). Terry McMillian’s last few releases have been good, the writing team of Virigina DeBerry/Donna Grant, JD Mason has an awesome series (start with One Day I Saw a Black King). I really could go on for days.

    Here’s a link to the Clutch 100 list on Goodreads. Goodreads is another way to get some recommendations based on what you’ve already read. You can also connect with other readers and see what they’re reading (or want to read). Hope this helps a bit.

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/10305567-moneque?shelf=clutch-100

  2. Have you read anything from Beverly Jenkins? She writes very good multi-cultural historical romantic fiction, which includes lots of eye-opening information on Black heroes and heroines from eras past that most people probably never heard about. She always includes her bibliography, so you can do further research. She also does contemporary fiction (romance and otherwise) and has the Blessings series. If you haven’t already, please check out her work here http://www.beverlyjenkins.net/books.html.

    I have run into the same problem myself, especially since I’m a romance novel fan. Some of these “authors” better thank The Good Lord Himself for self-publishing, because I just can’t. The success of these pathetic publications makes it harder for actual WRITERS to get their work out and find an audience. I side-eye the heck out of them all. Ugh!

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