Saturday, July 10, 2010

I can quit anytime I want...well, just one more for the road

The other day over at Prometheus 6 I put my foot in it. We were on another topic altogether, the distracting, never-ending "whaddaya mean by 'acting white,' sucka" topic, and I veered slightly down another road, saying this:

While I'm advocating for skimming books that we believe in advance are going to suck (or which offer nothing new), I look around and realize that I have bunches of books written by and about African Americans/other minorities, and there are quite a few I only skimmed and will not read, and several I retain just because they look pretty good next to a book I really did read. I must "give back to the community" soon.

In a follow-up comment, I added:

Seriously, though, going electronic (as suggested in another thread by P6) is a good route when the physical book doesn't have any particular value for you. I also made significant headway a few years ago with a hard rule: Two books out for every book that comes in. Period. Then I fell off the wagon. Time to put that rule back into effect.

It could have ended there, but I kept seeing book omens (everything is an omen if you let it be such). Over at Racialicious, which is going through some kind of mutation/evolution but is still quite fascinating, they cross-posted the following from PostBourgie (snipped, go read the whole thing):


by Guest Contributor Belleisa, originally published at PostBourgie

There’s a game I like to play when I walk into a bookstore. Based on the the title, cover and store placement I can always interpret the marketing intention for a book meant for a black American audience. The best part of this game is that the books will, typically, fit into the following categories (they are, in no particular order):

1. Black Pathology or “What’s wrong with Black people?”
2. The literature of “sistah gurl”
3. Christian-oriented fiction/inspirational
4. Street-Lit or Hip-Hop fiction
5. The Slave Novel
6. The Civil Rights Book (This also includes Black Nationalism)
7. The extraordinary rise from street life/poverty/welfare into the middle class.
8. Poorly styled celebrity memoir, or well researched and documented hagiography
9. Black Queens and Kings
10. Hip-Hop analysis
12. The “Black” version of some mainstream topic (For example: “Black Girl’s Guide to Fashion; “Black Families’ Guide to Wealth;”) Guides will include slang, bright colors, and inevitably the phrase “the legacy of slavery.”
13. The Classics: Harlem Renaissance 101 and/or The Black Arts Movement. Toni Morrison.
14. Contemporary Classics or Literary Fiction (Mostly woman, mostly diaspora authors)
15. Non-black author writes really compelling story about black person(s); story gets awards accolades, lots of press and movie deal.

These topics produce wonderful books and poorly written books. They often represent a compendium of the black American experience, and just as often, they are simply a reflection of what publishing thinks black people read...

Well, I have a veritable sh--, er, a plethora of items in many of the above categories and they're possible candidates for being given away. I've just googled the phrase "getting rid of books" (with quotes) and almost drowned in the sanctimonious uncluttering of Midwestern spring-cleaning mavens. No extreme methods for me, thank you, just the original, comfortable slow de-booking.

So this marks the official, public start of "Two Out for Every In."

I'll report out on the candidates here, and whether they actually go or stay. Those of you with other, more unseemly addictions will immediately recognize the method. If you go public, you think you'll have a better chance of success, right?

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