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Ain't I a Author?
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Isabella Van Wagenen aka Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in Hurley, New York in 1797. She was released following the New York Anti Slavery Law of 1827, however slavery was not abolished nationwide for 35 years. She lived for a time with a Quaker family who gave her the only education she ever received. She became an outspoken advocate of women's rights as well as blacks' rights. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner Truth gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio

"I want to say a few words about this matter. I am for woman's rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have borne children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman?"

For the second year in a row Penguin Publisher's (publisher of all six of my literary titles including SUGAR) asked their authors to tell them which books they'd most like to receive this holiday season.

There were exactly 42 authors profiled and not one was an African-American author?

Why is that?

I know for a fact that Terry Mcmillan and Eric Jerome Dickey publish with imprints under the Penguin Group umbrella, but they and others were noticeably absent from the list.

What message are they sending readers? Is the message once again that AFAM writer's are not as important as their white counterparts? That we are second or even third class writers entitled only a marginal portion of the book loving population?

Publisher's Weekly released its Best Books of 2009 list and correct me if I am wrong about this - but there was only one AFAM writer on that list (that I saw) which was Colson Whitehead's book Sag Harbor. (Congrats Colson!) but surely there were other great books published by AFAM writers in 2009, right?

If you thought SEG-BOOK-GATION was a fairytale - the above information confirms that its not a fairytale, but a nightmare.

Pardon me, while I borrow parts of Sojourner's speech to express my own outrage:

"I want to say a few words about this matter. I am for Black writers right to be read by all people of color. I have as much intellect and imagination as any white writer, and I create well written, thought provoking stories that rake the readers heart over coals of emotions. I have written novels to see them published without any support from marketing or publicity and when I cried out with an authors grief, none but God heard me. And ain't I a author?"

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I really appreciate your comments

Hi Bernice,

I really appreciate you writing about these issues on Red Room.

The Publishers Weekly "Best of" list was a double-insult: No African-Americans and no women.

You might find it interesting to know that we have some stats showing that Red Room has a significant (a percentage much larger than the pencentage in the general American or global population) African-American female readership. We know who reads, who cares about books.

Why doesn't the publishing establishment believe that the black community will buy and read millions of books? Why don't they understand that black characters don't have to be (ahem) "urban"? Why don't they believe white readers will read stories with black characters in them?

The facts are on our side.

Ivory Madison
Founder and CEO, Red Room

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Ain't I an Author?

Thank you so much Ivory. We AFAM read books by ALL people and the industry understands that. What they refuse to do is market books written by AFAM writers across the so called "color-line" - the result of which has been devasting. Because of this our sales numbers continue to dip and our contracts are not being renewed due to slugish sales. But if you don't market and publicize us - how are we supposed to get a fair shot?

We're also suffering because so many of our independent black owned bookstores have gone out of business. At least we had people hand-selling our books to customers. That does not happen with the larger chain stores and publishers aren't pushing AFAM books to white owned independents.

We are expected to sell our books out of our car trunks like our urban/street lit colleagues - but we are not hustlers - we're writers.

I can only pray that something will turn around and soon, because we are losing some wonderful voices.