Excellence and Black literature

Here’s some non-music related news: My wife, Bridgett Davis, had a piece published today on Henry Louis Gates’ new Web site, The Root.  In it, she argues against the lumping of all Black novels under the term "urban fiction".  For example, she states

When did we stop applauding excellence? Consider what it takes to write a book like The Known World, by Edward P. Jones. It takes courage and craft and time and vision. It takes a way of seeing the world and one’s place in it that’s expansive. It takes a greater black imagination. In fact, it takes those same qualities to create any kind of ambitious art, and black literature is an art form, quiet as it’s kept these days.

Sounds much like the effort those of us involved in Black rock are engaged in, right?  We should be heartened because there’s an effort being made around Black literary fiction, just as there is in our space: To stake out space for work that’s more complex, more diverse than so-called "street lit", itself the bad hip hop of the publishing industry.  There’s a growing awareness of the new Black imagination, and it’s taking root (no pun intended) in other areas of art and culture.

Even better, Bridgett along with a few others involved in the publishing world recently launched an initiative called RingShout, whose mission is to support Black literary fiction and create opportunities for audiences, particularly African American ones, to discover more complex literary works.  The group has several focus areas, including outreach to colleges and book clubs, as well as the creation of suggested reading lists and retail display packages that will help Black literary fiction stand out in bookstores.

Check out Bridgett’s piece on The Root, after which you can visit RingShout for more info on the group.

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