Saturday, March 17, 2012

African American Interests

I live in Barnes and Noble.  As a lifetime bookworm, I find solace in my second home that houses thousands of books begging to be cracked open, whether it be travel guides, fiction, or how-to books for everyday life.  Although I love club B&N, there is one thing that peeves me about this place. Aside from the fact that the Starbucks Cafe/unofficial library is inexplicably packed at all times of day, I can't ignore the nagging feeling I get every time I lock eyes with the African American Interests section. 

Today, for example, I went through this weird process:

  •  I walk in and try to ignore the AA Interests section, walking past it as quickly as possible (although I can still see it staring it me from the corner of my eye!)
  •  I roam around the fiction section looking for something to catch my eye, or pretending to look as I'm really trying to snag a seat in that effing crowded Starbucks Cafe
  •  Suddenly I remember a book that I wanted to read entitled "How to be Black."  I forget who the author is..
  •  I can easily ask info or look it up on the computers, but, of course the computers are down and the info line is long
  •  I ask myself, "Wait! It MUST be in the AA Interest section, right? ...
  • Damn it! I make my way down to the AA section and lo and behold the book is staring up at me.  I gave in! Even though I hate this section and everything it stands for, I actually became that person that's black and has only African American interests.
  • I fall into despair and lose hope for the progress of the Black race. I feel cold and dead inside, like an Uncle Tom, a sell out.......

OK, maybe it's not that serious.  But I do hate the African American Interests section in Barnes and Noble. Why you ask? Well, for one, the title is misleading and limiting.  The implication is that these are books that only African Americans will be interested in and African Americans will ONLY be interested in these books, not the other thousands of books in the store. Neither of these things are true.  It must be awkward for non-AA's to venture in this section, despite the possibility that they might me be (gasp!) interested in African American topics as well!  Moreover as a Caribbean American can I get the Caribbean section too? Or maybe every other section should be labeled White Interests or "Don't Even Dare Read if You're not Black" get the point.

Apparently the African American Interests section has helped increase sales, and, from personal experience, it does make navigation slightly easier.  I also understand that it is comforting to unite with fellow blacks as we congregate around books that detail our experiences.  However, the whole concept still does not sit well with me because this section is unrepresentative of the scope of topics that blacks are interested in.  I think the only thing that would put me at ease is the possibility of black owned bookstores opening around the city.  Ahh, a girl can dream...

Do you like the African American Interests section in Barnes and Noble?

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