I was talking to family about the slow sales of my paperbacks when I was told that many of the Black writers during the Harlem Renaissance received the same apathetic response I’m getting right now from Black readers. In the face of such indifference, I have to wonder: Do Black people really want positive fiction?
A lot of Black people talk about wanting to read about the positive stories of African-Americans and the African-American experience; however they rarely put their money where their mouth is. When it’s time to buy, they pick up that street lit book or that erotica and pass on the positive fiction pieces like I produce.
It saddened me to hear about the parallels between my experience and many of the great Black writers of the Harlem Renaissance. It hurt my heart to learn that positive, uplifting work of my brothers and sisters has always constantly been overlooked for the stories that validated the worst stereotypes about Black people.
I have to wonder if Black people have just been too brainwashed to even see themselves the way I’ve been taught to see my brothers and sisters. Back in the 1980’s I grew up in a time of The Cosby Show, Kid n’ Play and The Fresh Prince. Growing up I saw Black doctors, Black lawyers, Black scientists, Black engineers and Black people achieving and taking themselves to the next level. Whenever I turned on the TV or read a magazine there was a Black face staring at me.
Seeing so many Black faces made me proud. It instilled a sense of value and self-worth in me.
But over 25 years later most brothers and sisters don’t see themselves that way.
And I’m thinking there’s no way to convince them that it’s possible to imagine themselves the way I see them. In a time where there’s a Black man in the White House, the Black community seems to be eager to regress instead of progress. There’s more niggerdom and coonery in Black American media today than it was when I was growing up. The sad part is it’s accepted as perfectly normal, while work like I and my writer friends produce is considered “Acting White”
That’s why I have to wonder if I’m wasting my time writing these kinds of books. Since I was seventeen years old I’ve dedicated my life towards creating stories which presented the positive side of the African-American experience. I’ve spent close to 22 years of my life working towards this dream and poured thousands of dollars of my own money into writing and publishing this kind of work with no return on the investment.
If my brothers and sisters don’t want it then I’m a fool for continuing to produce it.
Is there a point where perseverance doesn’t pay off? Is there a point where I should just quit writing my kind of fiction? Is there a point where I’m just throwing good money after bad.
Money that I just don’t have anymore. When you’re down to your last couple of hundred dollars in the bank after investing your savings in pursuing your dream, you come to a point where you just say enough is enough.
I don’t want to quit. But a brother can only spend so much time and money pursuing a dream before he faces the realities of life. I’m getting older and it seems like it’s just not worth it to keep writing these kinds of stories if no one in the Black community values it.
If Black people don’t want the type of fiction I produce, then maybe I need to move on to doing some other type of work. Ten years after self-publishing my first book, I’ve got lots of stories I still want to get out there. But I’m seriously putting a period on this writing thing and moving on.
So Black people: Do you Really Want Positive Black fiction? Or do you want more Coonery? The way you spend your money speaks volumes to small publishers like me.