Under the Influence

As a writer I’m always in tune to what is going on around me.  That can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Right now, it’s a bad thing.  The racial climate of this country is the worst it’s ever been, and its forcing its way into my writing uninvited.

I don’t like that.

I just wrote three short stories and two of them had race as the issue.  I had to let the stories go where they needed because as writers we have to remain true to ourselves.

But….

When I envision my success as a writer, I don’t see myself as a writer who is popular only in Black circles.  I see myself as a writer who is as widely read as Stephen King or Jane Austen.  I see my books filed alphabetically on the shelves, and not limited to the “African American Authors” section in libraries and bookstores.

Does that mean I’m not proud to be black?

Absolutely not. 

But it does mean that I want my talent to stand on its own.  I don’t write well “for a black girl,” I write well. Period.

Yet the thought still crosses my mind of where my book will land when it is finally published: alphabetized on the shelves along side all other writers or placed into the African American Authors section in libraries and bookstores.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with being in the African American Authors section?  Well, nothing, in theory.  I mean it certainly cuts down on the search when I am looking for a book written by someone who’s black.  But I guess I’m just bothered by the hint of segregation it provides.  Or maybe I feel like a person who isn’t black may make judgments about the book before they even open it.

I want someone to pick up my book and read the story and be so moved by it that they don’t want it to end.  I want my skin color not to matter.  So I guess that’s why I’m angry that race keeps rearing its ugly head in my stories.  I just want to write good stories.  And if they happen to have race in them, I want it to be because I CHOOSE it, not because my heart is so overwhelmed by the utter lack of disrespect for black people that I can’t help but use my writing as a platform to bring attention to it.

And there is another huge issue.  Am I to be yet another black writer to use my gift to champion the plight of black people?  Is it a betrayal to my race if I don’t? Hell, I feel like a hypocrite even writing this post because I use #blackauthorsrock and #readsoullit as hashtags when I am posting my current read on Instagram (if the book happens to be by a black author).   Am I sticking black authors in the “African American Authors” sections in the proverbial sense when I do that? 

I really wish I could sit down with other black authors and have this discussion.

So…this is where my head is today.

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