Eyes on Austin, a non-profit, African-American community center in Austin, opened a small bookstore last Saturday, according to the Austin Weekly News. The store stocks a range of fiction, history and children's titles, but no African-American romance novels. "I want the community to read, but we have to be real picky on what we as a people read," project director James Hammonds told the paper.
OK this shit just pisses me off. Let me count the ways.
Yes, because your job as a narrow-minded bookseller (or librarian) is to force what you think is "valuable," "educational," and "enlightening" literature on to the masses. Basically you want to force-feed people not what they want to read, but what you think they should be reading. You don't want them to enjoy reading, you want them to start seeing it as a chore. Something they put on the same level as eating brussel sprouts, doing laundry and exercising. Shit - nobody likes to do any of that stuff, but we feel we have to. Reading should not be in the same camp!
Also, to add insult to injury, you just know these assholes are going to stock plenty of Walter Mosley and Octavia Butler (both genre fiction writers) - but they couldn't possibly soil their hands by throwing a Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson or Adrianne Byrd novel on the shelf. And will Chassie West be safe? I mean, she writes mystery, but she's "mass market original" so maybe they think she has The Romance Stink on her (actually she does - she used to write for Harlequin). And what about the fast-growing street lit genre? You single out romance, that awful trash about finding love and acceptance, but is street lit safe? What with the pimps and the drug dealing? Is that OK, or not?
Oh this shit just pisses me off. Besides the fact that they are shutting out a healthy segment of the AA writing and reading community, they're slamming the genre as a whole. She-it, if they're worried about "education" check out Beverly Jenkins! That woman loves to put bibliographic notes in her novels on the research titles she used! They could probably sell more history books that way.
Granted, bookstores are a business and should concentrate on stocking what will sell for them. But how do these idiots know? I mean, right out of the gate they're saying "Sorry, no icky romance!" They could be alienating a huge segment of their service population! They don't have numbers yet. Frankly this stinks of bad business practices to me, but what do I know?
I have this same issue with librarians who feel the need to "educate" or "better" their communities. Hey, I do think a large portion of my job is to help people "better" themselves and their circumstances. Whether that is helping them find a book to study for the GED or learning about some medical condition they were just diagnosed with. However, it is also my job to give people what they want within reason (so child pornography is out of the question). If they want to read Danielle Steel (lord help them), it is not my job to berate them or tell them "Oh no, you can't read that trash - you must read Barbara Kingsolver." It is my job to show them where the Danielle Steel books are (right next to John Steinbeck). And if I don't have any Danielle Steel novels? It is my job to move heaven and earth to get them some. That's just the way it is folks.
So when someone makes a sweeping statement with no basis in facts, or because they're narrow-minded assholes, it just gets my dander up.
And that's your Librarian Soapbox ranting for today. I feel better already.