Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seg-Book-Gation: A Letter to Book Lovers from Author Bernice McFadden

Fellow Book Lovers,

The following came across my email yesterday and I felt the need to share it, with the author's permission. I'm a big fan of Bernice McFadden's works under her own name and also her pseudonym, Geneva Holliday. We've all walked into one of the big name bookstores and had to search for the "black lit" section. It's usually reduced to a small corner or a few shelves, as if our lit isn't relevant. And what is there is the poorly edited, fly by night, urban/street lit.

It's lengthy, but please take the time to read the letter below from Ms. McFadden. Let's not lose a good author.

Dear Book Lover:

You may not know me, or my novels, because I am a

member of a growing band of African-American writers of literary

fiction who are slowly disappearing. And not because I am lacking in talent and credentials; in fact I have already published a number of books with major publishing houses and have been reviewed by national newspapers and well-respected literary journals, and have received critical acclaim and awards for my efforts. My work has been hailed as vivid, thought provoking and brilliant. I have been compared to Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor.

The fact that my novels may disappear is not due to the downward spiral of the economy or the pound of flesh it has taken from the book-publishing industry. No, my demise began long before the floor of the housing market began to rot away and the stock market crashed through.


I don't rightly know why publisher’s market fiction written by African-Americans ONLY TO African-Americans - but it has become common practice. And by doing this, they've placed all AA authors in one box forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience.

The word that has been coined to describe what is happening to AA writers is: Seg-Book-Gation

Segregation is an abominable practice no matter how you slice it - but when you apply it to art -- it becomes a sin. Art of any medium should transcend color, race, class, religion and ethnicity, but alas, that is not the case in the publishing world.

AA literary writers like myself are being pushed out of the industry all together as we are no longer able to secure book deals, because publisher claim that AA readers are only interested in buying books about sex, street-life and drugs. We know that this is not the case. We are a diverse people, interested in a variety of subjects.

On January 9th, 2010, my debut novel, SUGAR will celebrate its 10th anniversary. In order to commemorate this occasion It is my great hope that this moving story of friendship and acceptance will sell 10,000 copies between now and the anniversary date.

Please try your best to purchase from an independent bookstore. It was the independent bookstores that made SUGAR the instant success it was 10 years ago.

It is my dream that the surge in sales for this decade old novel, will send a message to the publishers that we readers desire ...crave and DEMAND a variety of literature from our AA writers because their stories are just as riveting, thought-provoking and universally appealing as the stories coming from their non-African-American counterparts.


Please purchase at least one copy of SUGAR for yourself, a friend or family member and spread the word as far and wide as you can.

Peace & Light,
Bernice L. McFadden


  1. Seg-Book-Gation. I completely agree with this post. Often people miss out on great books by African American writers simply because they are in the AA Lit section and the books that are prominetly displayed in that section are usually about the streets, drugs and sex. I've also recently discovered that some YA books with AA main characters can be found in this section. As a teen, I would never think to look there even though I'm Black. The books all look like they are geared for older audiences.
    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. It is like this with books, movies, TV shows, etc. When I go into a book store and ask for books by Black authors, I usually get a funny look from the employees (since I am white, according to them I shouldn't be interested in books by Black authors) The selection is paltry at best, and most of the time, I have to put in a special request for a book I am interested in. Usually I just end up buying books on Amazon instead. But, I recently have found some independent books sellers online that I have been making a point to purchase from. Though it ends up being more expensive, I prefer to support individual businesses (especially Black owned) then to give my money to a huge corporation.