Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Hidden Guidelines for Literary Fiction Written By African Americans

The site All About Romance had an interesting blog dealing with guide lines for literary fiction. Robin Uncapher suggested in her article that while everyone likes to pretend there is no formula for writing literary fiction, everyone who publishes literary fiction knows exactly what the rules are. Read the full article here

Black people and women of all colors please take note of Ms. Upcapher’s first rule of the literary fiction formula.

“If possible the book should be written by a man and have a male voice, a white male voice. Women and minorities will be published but with the exception of a few designated hitters, they will not be eligible for the big prizes and kudos. If the narrator is African American she should sound like one and, if possible, write something historical. Writing about slavery is good but anything set prior to 1950 is okay. For example, an AA female writer who wishes to write a book about a female black lawyer in Boston involved in a major civil suit, should make sure the suit has something to do with being African American. Otherwise, she should forget about literary fiction and write romance or Chick Lit. If a female author is white she should write the way John Updike would write if he were a woman.”

The truth is funny but it hurts. If you are black and writing literary fiction you have to be aware of what is driving agents and editors choices of your work. Think about this folks. Go to books stores and check what’s on the shelves in the African American section especially in the category of debut fiction. See for yourselves what narrow portions of the black experience is allowed to be published. What new literary fiction there is by African Americans, and there is not a whole lot of it, fits this hidden formula and it’s a darn shame. What to do about it? I really don’t know. The novelist Bernice McFadden put on her blog a fictitious letter from publishers. Read it here unfortunately it is the absolute truth.


Bernice L. McFadden said...

Thanks for the referencing the post -- my name is Bernice McFadden -not Brenda :)

Great blog!

Carleen Brice said...

Sorry to hear you're getting this kinda feedback. Not surprised, but I'm here to say hang in there until you find your right home. Do NOT let these bastards get you down, ok?