It has been awhile since I took a leisurely stroll through a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I decided to go after a late breakfast with my parents. Very little had changed other than some new sections for children’s books and toys. At least that’s what I thought.
Years ago, I could find Black authors on the shelves of B&N. I could find them in the fiction and mystery sections. At one location, there was even a section for Black Interests. Now it appears that time has passed, almost as if their print life and interest had expired.
As I strolled through the stacks there were very few new and current books by Black authors. There was a time when I could find them on most of the shelves in the fiction and mystery sections. I would even see them showcased in the new fiction sections toward the front of the store. Now, I am lucky if I can find more than one copy of Walter Moseley and Valerie Wilson Wesley on the shelves.
Before I continue, I have to say that I live in New Jersey, the New York Metropolitan area. So my expectation for diversity is quite high. Still, in the last two-ish years I have seen fewer books by Black authors on the shelves of major bookstores. In this case, Barnes and Noble is one of the few, if only, major bookstore retailers still left. I even ventured into the sci-fi section. (Shouldn’t have been surprised there, since we are not supposed to have Black sci-fi authors.) Again, very few Black authors.
I also recognize the 300+ years of persecution before that. That is beyond sad because our narratives add the gaps to American, European, and African History. I still like the sights, sounds, and vibe of a bookstore. I still like to search through all of the bindings and hold a real book
I know I can buy these books online and at independent bookstores. However, I am focusing on a larger issue. Ordering books from independent sellers meant that our stories were not mainstream. There was a point when our stories could be found in major bookstores. There was a time when mainstream media valued Black authors.
I guess we have moved backward. I guess mainstream culture and media still view the words of Black authors as a fad. Maybe they view our words as reminding them of the American history they want to forget. Maybe our words are only to be highlighted for the moment. Maybe they want our words to disappear from the fabric of American literary history.
I refuse to believe that we are a fad or a momentary fascination.
I speculate about the reasons for the lack of our books in major bookstores. But, as an educated woman, I need answers beyond the blatant racism. See, I want to believe that this was an oversight by Barnes and Noble (again the only large major bookseller in the area).
So, has mainstream literary become tired of us? That can only happen if we let our books disappear from the shelves of major booksellers.