I’ve been reading Mat Johnson’s blog Niggerati.com since Tayari hipped me to it. In a recent post he tests whether Black Lit is for White People by looking at the type of black literature given prominent awards by mainstream literature critics. I’d like to know whether the tendency he identifies is one that occurs in non-black lit. It could be that there is a preference for historical literature in general.
But more importantly I think the librarian is wrong in her assumption. The reason why black people in general prefer black fiction to black literature is the same reason why Americans in general prefer fiction to literature. They are more interested in consuming disposable culture (paperbacks were designed to be literally thrown away after being read; it doesn’t take much of an intellect to figure out what “Who Ya Wit” is about) than they are in consuming “high art.” Do you know how many book clubs have fractured over the choice between reading Zane and reading something like The Untelling?