This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.
In response to earlier posts about the practice of shelving “African-American” and “Gay and Lesbian” fiction in separate sections in bookstores, reader Charlie Quiroz writes in with a welcome dissenting opinion:
I am troubled by the comments made on your site about the practice of “segregating” fiction. This is because for a period of time, I worked at a Borders and would hear similiar comments made about the separate black fiction section, always coming from white customers who were offended at what they were too quick to assume was a condescending distinction.
Contrast this with my time working at another bookstore, the Strand, which does not have a separate black fiction section. Customers would occasionally ask, black customers (if that makes a difference, and I think it does and that is what the point of this is), where the black fiction section was. I would sadly have to tell them we didn’t have one, and some of whom on hearing this, left for a different bookstore, rather than slog through the whole fiction section.
There are publishing imprints that specifically print books marketed to black readers, and the fans of these books and writers, Omar Tyree, Zane, Terry McMillian, Eric Jerome Dickey, etc., want these books all grouped together in one section. And this does then create the problem of having to put treasures and classics in with all the genre fiction, but Borders is merely (and rightly) satisfying the demands of the market, and reaching out to an audience of readers that has been historically underserved by most bookstores. They do the same thing with gay fiction at Borders. Sometimes you just want one of those genre gay books and don’t want to have to look through the whole fiction section. It is hardly “cultural segregation.” Even though it is a big mean chain, Borders should really be commended for its efforts to satisfy various customer bases.
Thoughtful opinions always welcome. Drop Maud or me a line: maud [at] maudnewton.com and annie [at] maudnewton.com.