Friday, June 4, 2010


Lately, I've had several conversations about reviewing books. How one should review a book, whether one should review a book, and if one does happen to review a book, how balanced should it be, etc.

I do not review books. I offer my thoughts and impressions about books primarily by and about PoC (Debs Blog tour notwithstanding). I do this because it is important to me to shine the spotlight on writing by and about PoC (especially by). I do this because PoC do not get published in the numbers that white writers do, we usually don't get lead title status, we are lucky to be picked up by large chain bookstores, and we struggle to get second, third, and fourth books published far more often than our white contemporaries because we first must prove that people other than those who look like us actually want to read what we write.

For that reason, I tend to look for what I like in books written by PoC. A famous person (I don't remember who) once said, "when new shoots poke through, you must shelter them so they can become strong." Or something to that effect.

Authors of colour generally don't get editors and publishing houses saying (or exhibiting behaviour to the effect of), "that's okay - you grow. I'll shelter you until you are strong." If you look at the histories of some of the white authors we celebrate today, a significant chunk were nurtured until they found their readership and built a following. Here are a couple of quotes from this post, by children's author Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE):

About Where The Wild Things Are, "I knew, I knew, I knew it would cause a lot of trouble. And my editor knew it and all she did was encourage me. 'Go for it, go for it. Don't worry about anything or anybody'."

About his editor, "Her name was Ursula Nordstrom. She made me who I am. She gave me a book every year. She kept me working. I mean, can you imagine mentorship from a publishing house? She intended that I should be an important illustrator. She knew I could be. I had bad habits, I never went to art school, I drew in a clumsy fashion, but she could see beneath that."  [Emphasis mine]
As a new author, it's important to be allowed to find your audience, to be able to build a following, to find your style and voice and unique contribution. Most publishing professionals are quick to tell authors of colour that there is no audience or market for our work. And it becomes almost impossible simply to begin that journey.

So, if you come here to read my thoughts on books by authors of colour, you're going to find a whole lot of support for them - those young shoots breaking through the earth and doing their best to survive. That doesn't mean there isn't work to be done, or that the books are without flaws. And I will, without hesitation, call out PoC on homophobia, class and race issues, gender, etc. But it doesn't mean I have to cut them down just as they're (we're) beginning to grow.

Besides, somebody had to love Twilight despite its (numerous) flaws. If you read a book wanting to love it, you find a way to forgive its shortcomings (see aforementioned Twilight reference).

When I see new works (or reprints) by authors of colour, I read them knowing something about the journey of the author on the other end. And I offer whatever kindness and generosity I can. This path, I know, has not been an easy one for any of us.

If you want "critiques" of these works, you'll no doubt find them in abundance elsewhere on the internet. Especially if these works break new ground, are experimental in any way, or simply offer a perspective not often seen. But here, on my blog and in my space, you will find me with my hands around the new shoots, saying, "Grow."