Category Archives: matt johnson

The black’s only water fountain…I mean, reading section.

Christopher Chambers writes about the “blacks only” section popping up in many bookstores and supermarts. In his quest for Matt Johnson’s graphic novel Incognegro, he’s directed to the “black section”. Mixed in with the urban fiction is other classics like Richard Wright’s Native Son and Dorothy West’s The Wedding. ( must admit that I’ve only heard of and read Native Son.)

His frustration came from the fact that African American authors and pushed into one section regardless of genre, time period or quality of writing. This is how I feed about it. Until these big corporations start to care about black authors as authors, as opposed to African American authors, we can’t expect for them to include African American authors with the other “greats”.

But to be mad about the success of urban lit is…typical, yet natural. Urban lit follows the same pattern that other forms of entertainment in black America have taken. The best and most recent example would be hip hop. Black artists were making music that their people liked. Not every black person was down, but that wasn’t the point.

The point was that hip hop wasn’t tailor made for mainstream consumption.That didn’t stop the music from being made in makeshift studios. That didn’t stop the music from being sold out of the trunks of cars. That didn’t stop the music from finally making it mainstream. That also didn’t stop the music from being raped just like the jazz, blues and rock n’ roll that came before it.

And just like hip hop, urban fiction writer’s hustled their way into prominence. While the corporations swooped in to make some money from the trend, black writer’s of other genres tend to feel slighted and in return attack.

It makes me wonder if there is some literary Willie Lynch that held a big publishing event somewhere overseas. I bet it’s in a book. (Because we don’t read, right…) Pit the new African American writers against the old African American writers. Pit the intellectuals against the uneducated. Pit urban lit against African American romance…