Somehow in my last post I forgot to connect the two issues, but I think they’re related, which is why I wrote about both of them. There is a problem with people thinking that audience is the same thing as genre, and then booksellers and librarians shelve books in the wrong way, and then publishers don’t realize that they don’t have to be marketing books the way they are. The reason we don’t have more books with nonwhite people on the cover is partly because the covers that do have them are in the “urban fiction” section or somewhere similar. And this is also the problem with developing a national literature. We want to have one, but we try so hard to divide things by race and ethnicity because black people are the only people who want to read “black fiction,” so we can’t just have one place for everything.
I’m terrible at explaining this stuff. Someday I’ll do better.