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The cultural ghetto of bookstores

There is a heated discussion going on right now at American litblog MaudNewton.com. Up until now, various readers, librarians, and booksellers have weighed in on the controversial presence of separate African-American Literature sections in Borders stores — with accusations of cultural apartheid on the side of naysayers and the claim that black readers often read exclusively black writers on the side of those who wish to maintain the sections.

Today, an African-American writer has her say. In an essay posted on the blog, novelist Tayari Jones calls her commercial success a result of the efforts of her publicists and various “coincidences which caused [people] to read [her] book … a work that they wouldn’t have read except for these extraordinary circumstances.” Having both black and white readers, Jones acknowledges that “the dismantling of the Colored Section may help a writer like [her]. Front and centre at Borders, [her novel] The Untelling could catch the eye of ‘mainstream’ readers who have heard [her] name before or seen the book reviewed in the major dailies.” However, she notes that the black sections of bookstores both acknowledge and provide a great service to the thus far underserved African-American demographic, adding that it is not the segregation of books we should concern ourselves over, but the conditions that help to make this segregation so.

Related links:
Click here for Tayari Jones’s piece
Click here for one reader’s take
Click here for a former bookseller’s take