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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on Borders

Okay, so I know I've mentioned the segregated literature section before, right? The little island of "African American" literature in the middle of the regular literature section. I get that it's more of a spotlighting thing than a segregating thing, but writers like Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker aren't a subset of American literature. They are American literature. 
I learned in a literature class that Ralph Ellison hated being considered an "African American" novelist. And there he is, front and center in the colored section. I think of the opening scenes Invisible Man: the unnamed main character fights in a "battle  royal," in which he and a bunch of other young, black men fight blindfolded in the center of a boxing ring for the amusement of white people.
Took this in downtown Canton with the fancy new DSLR and
I'm pretty darn proud of it.
Another English major once pointed out that it's not so much the fact that the writers are African American, but that the books considered African American literature are African American themed. I don't know about that. Tons of great American novels have centered a great deal around the state of California, but I've never seen a special section in the bookstore inhabited by Amy Tan, John Steinbeck, and Dashiell Hammett. You know? 
I can be a little militant about this stuff. About women and minorities and gay people not getting a fair shake, and I can't say I'm sure why. What's it to me, really? And more importantly, why do I continue to shop at Borders? The second question is easy: I live in Canton. And Jeremy and I are so nerdy that a trip to Borders is date night.
The first question? I don't know. I guess I've always been a bit of an outsider, for better or worse. I've been the white one, the liberal one, the one with the mental illness. Not that that's a bad thing, not that people have always treated me badly because of it. Just, I know what it feels like to feel like an Other, when all I am is me. That sounds maudlin. I guess I'm saying I can be hyper-conscious of wanting everyone to have a seat at the table. And that's better than the opposite extreme, I think.
Also, Borders should probably reconsider having the Gender Studies books directly above the bondage erotica. Not that I think bondage is anti-feminist, just that for a minute I thought that Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution was some kind of prison fetish novel, and I was rather shocked to find Wally Lamb writing prison fetish novels.

1 comment:

Drew Hakeem-Zahir Tobias Line said...

On the gender studies section at Borders: Thank you! I have to say that I was a little put off when I went to look for books on transgenderism and I could find was fantasy erotica. We're not a fetish. We are people.