Today in a writer's group on FB, a question was posed about what things we like/dislike re: the publishing industry and books being released. The first response was from a reader who made some very astute observations about the chasm that exists between indie and trad pub writers as well as expressing her thanks for Black women writers writing stories that resonated with her. She says specifically, "I don't want someone who can't relate skin wise and lifestyle wise writing stories I want to read [...] I feel how black indie authors write is for us and by us." And I sat up in my little office chair and gave a shout like "YAS SIS YAS!" Because she was speaking the truth. And so very often when other people write us into their works, we operate in ways that are foreign to me, as a Black woman.
A few years ago one of my favorite writers, Tayari Jones, gave an interview to the website The Feminist Wire in which she says the following...
Black woman are the best readers. Nikki Giovanni told me to take care of your black female readers because they will take care of you. They’ll take care of you for the rest of your career. You can fall out of favor with the New York Times whatever and whatever…. [Black female readers] will always be there for you.
When I was in between books and I was having a hard time getting my book published, black ladies were sending me stuff in the mail, cookies, knit me an Afghan. All these things helped me write the next book, so I know who loves me. A lot of people read me, but I know who loves me.
A lot of people use the word….a lot of black writers say that a book is “just” for black people. Don’t use the word “just.” I hate the word “just,” I cringe at the word. Don’t talk bad about the base. That’s the base. You make sweet love to the base, you say hello to the base.
These words have stuck with me since I absorbed them the first time and are almost always the driving force and motivation for me to put ass in chair and hand to keyboard. I released my first book almost a year ago and the way that the readers in the Black indie romance community have embraced me is akin to that base Tayari describes.
Black women just have this way about them that often goes unnoticed when outsiders speak about us and our associations with each other. Being a black woman is like being a member of the most exclusive club in town because the sisterhood, camaraderie, and general support is unmatched. We look our for our own--holding them up when they seem to falter, championing them hardest when they win. Every single personal reader message that I have received has been from a black woman thanking me for writing stories to which they could relate.
Which is why I do what I do. I cannot tell you how much I am buoyed by the simple fact that my words are connecting with whom I had in mind as I write. So much of publishing is concerned about integration and inclusion, and...honestly? I'm not interested. Will I ever tell others that they can't read my work? Absolutely not. The work is for the consumption of everyone, but it is written specifically by this Black woman for Black women. I write to Black women because they are me.
I'm writing men with whom they could see themselves or have seen reflected in the world around them. I'm writing women that they can either relate to or see themselves being friends with. I write to Black women as a head nod of acknowledgement. A literary "I see you, sis!" And the reception? The love I receive back? The "ok sis, but where's my book tho?" snarky commentary. I live for it. Because as Tayari said, when no one else will I know one thing for sure...my sistas got my back and for as long as my pen is hot, I will forever have theirs.