Re: RARA-AVIS: Donald Goines

From: David Moran (
Date: 25 Mar 2004

I's a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Are there not many black-protagonist books because the demographic of black male readers is small or is the demographic of black male readers small because there is a lack of black male protagonists?

My experiences in this regard are wholly anecdotal, and therefore worthless in a sociological context, but in my experience there just ISN'T are large black male readership out there to be tapped, or, rather, it's probably there to be tapped, but it's a major change in marketing that'll bring them around, not necessarily a change in the number of black male protagonists. I manage and do the tradebook buying for a small/medium size independent book store in New York (Brooklyn, to be precise), and my customers are pretty evenly divided, racially speaking. It's not as if books with black male protagonists don't exist, aren't published, or are suppressed by retailers like me. When I get new novels, I put em in the window, put em on display, put em on a table, whatever I can to sell them.

However, as a merchandiser, I can't help noticing that the books seemingly marketed specifically to black males, having black male protagonists, e.g. Heru Ptah's "Hip-Hop Story"--which was pushed very heavily by its publisher, Simon & Schuster--do very, very poorly. Especially when compared to the fiction marketed to black female readers, which outstrips in sales pretty much any other kind of writing in my bookstore. Our all-time bestseller is Sistah Souljah's "Coldest Winter Ever."

Also, incidentally, in my experience, black males do not purchase Walter Mosley books. White males do, but I rarely sell any Mosley to a black customer, and when I do, it's usually a female.

And, personally, I love Donald Goines. Much more so than that wanker Iceberg Slim. If you haven't read him, i.e. Goines, I highly recommend him, particularly "Daddy Cool". I'm very happy they're making it into a movie...whenever I daydream about being a famous film-director, one of the first projects I've always fantasized about undertaking is an adaptation of
"Daddy Cool" starring Samuel L. Jackson. Or maybe Morgan Freeman, cast a bit against type.

David Moran

Michael Robison wrote:

> Mark Sullivan gave a link to a Goines article.
> *********************
> Thanks, Mark. It was a good article. I had to smile
> when I read the part about publishers being leery of
> marketing books with a black male protagonist. The
> general rule of empathy is that like attracts like, so
> that means they were targeting black male readers, and
> publishers don't think they read. If I recall
> correctly, Walter Mosley went through the same
> problem.
> miker

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