Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Barnes and Noble, what's up?

I left this message on Barnes and Noble's website tonight because I went book shopping. I was looking for something by Toni Cade Bambara, Paule Marshall, or Alice Walker. I went all through the fiction section, but I couldn't find any books by these authors. I was directed to the African-American section - I didn't know where it was because I don't shop for books very often, but there it was, stretched out along a wall near the entrance. I walked over to the section and I felt very uncomfortable. All I saw were half naked people, guns, seductive mouths licking on candy... I didn't want to be anywhere near that trash - I don't read that crap. I don't want to read that crap. Call me bourgeois - whatever, I don't care - I didn't want to even look like I was looking for books like that. And from what I could tell during the thirty or so seconds I stood there, those kinds of books vastly outnumbered the kind of black fiction I was looking for. I just walked away. I asked a salesperson if there was a suggestion box, and she said there wasn't one, so I told her my issue. Since I don't know if she'll have the ability to relay my message to what she called, "corporate," I decided to find them on the web and type the following message, using the customer service feature of their website.

"In the same way that romance books and science fiction books are shelved differently from general fiction and literature, African-American urban/sexual books should be shelved differently from general African-American fiction and literature. It is embarrassing and somewhat demeaning to have to look for prize-winning literature among this relatively new and tawdry genre of urban/sexual fiction. I declined to even look through the 'African-American fiction' section for the literature that I could not find in the general 'Fiction and Literature' section, because standing in front of those books is as embarrassing as I imagine renting pornographic films would be. Your company lost my business because of this issue, and will continue to do so.

I can be reached at this email address and would love to help if your business is interested in addressing this issue with customer input.

Thanks for listening,
glory [actually insert government name here],
Philadelphia, PA"

I figure that if you're going to separate the black authored books from the other ones so that their readers can find the books easier, I think that burying general black fiction/literature books among less literary, more romance-caliber books makes no sense. I don't think they'll actually adequately respond, but I figured it's worth a shot. I only wish I had a vast readership who agreed with me and would be willing to do the same...