July 4, 2015

Invisible but They Exist

I often surf the Internet for reviews and critical articles about black crime writers. Sometimes I get lucky and stumble on an article that hits home with me. That is how I came across “Colored and Invisible” by Rachel Howzell Hall on the “The Life Sentence” website.

In her post, She observes

”If you’re a writer of color and you attend Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, or any of the writing conferences, you already know that there are more robots on Mars than there are colored folks in the banquet room.

Weird because the mystery genre has always been a great equalizer — you can’t get more equal than dead. And mystery writers are the ones who call out social ills and inequities. We kill the bad guys. But when it comes to diversity in the real-life room? Yeah, we have a problem.”

The absence of black nominees for the many awards for crime fiction certainly isn’t due to a lack of books by black writers. I have run out of room on my bookshelves and now put the books I buy in boxes on the floor. I sometimes have a difficult time finding reviews of books by black writers, but they are reviewed. In fact, Ms Hall’s novel Skies of Ash was reviewed in the June 21, 2015, New York Times Book Review. Why no black attendees and no black winners? As Ms Hall suggests, they are invisible to the white folks who select the attendees and nominees.

But, I’m optimistic things will get better. I say this because, when I was growing up the 1940s and 1950s, black writers in any genre were not a part of the curriculum in the segregated school system. They weren’t invisible, for invisibility means you’re present but not seen. They didn’t exist as far as the white school officials were concerned. Oh, we black kids knew about some of them, especially Langston Hughes, my favorite even today. We knew because during Black History Week (yes, it was only a week long before it became a month long) our teachers, not the white school officials, required us to study Negro history, including literature.

I didn’t know black crime writers existed until I entered college and read Chester Himes’s novels and Rudolph Fisher’s only detective novel, The Conjure-Man Dies. In the 1980s black writers entered the genre of crime fiction with amazing productivity. So, I’m optimistic they will sometime in this century attend the writing conferences and be nominated for and possibly win some of the awards. Ms Hall’s presence at the Bouchercon is evidence that my optimism is not misplaced.

During the era of Jim Crow in the south, the one thing that our teachers and parents and leaders inspired in us was hope. No matter how bed things were, we would overcome. 

As Ms Hall points out, the mystery genre is an equalizer.

Now go celebrate the Fourth of July! 
Curtesy of Hubpages

1 comment:

Rick Ealno said...

I love reading articles and specially about history .. I recently read an article about African American history .