Musings on the Black Book Section

A while back, I wrote a short piece for PEN American, working through some of my ambivalence about the “black book” section in a lot of US bookstores. Here’s the opening:

I first understood what people meant when they spoke of intangible white privilege when I realized that I read differently than other people. Literature had often asked me to identify with characters who were not only unlike me in terms of their experience of race, but were often actively hostile to women, or to Black people or to Black women. The strangeness of this identification didn’t occur to me until I heard my white classmates complain about having to do the same when we read books by Black authors. Years later, I would read DuBois and wonder whether my ability to identify with authors and protagonists who would despise me was evidence of a fractured self. But at the time, the inability to read outside, or even against, the self seemed as much a limitation as a privilege.

You can read the full piece here: Looking for Black Literature

I’m curious as to how other people have thought about these issues, as either readers or writers?

2 thoughts on “Musings on the Black Book Section

  1. It’s scary how often white students complain about feeling alienated by literature with non-white characters, or essays about non-white experience. Even the mildest mention of race-related issues can make them feel disproportionately attacked.

    This is when white privilege becomes most visible to me.

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