Black Authors on New York Times Top 10 Book List Get Backlash


While The New York Times Book ReviewThe annual list of the ten best books of its long been considered the gold standard of literary criticism, insufficient attention has been paid to black authors on the list. This year’s list fix this problem, but still elicited a critical reaction from people who thought the list was “too wide” for their liking.

The top 10 list of 2021 included both fiction and non-fiction from a variety of authors, four of which are black: Imbolo Mbue ‘s “How beautiful we were” Honorée Fanonne JeffersWEB DuBois love songs ”, Clint smith ‘s “How the word got around: a review of the history of slavery across America”, and Annette Gordon-Reed‘s “June 17th.”

“Invisible child: poverty, survival and hope in an American city,” through Andrea Elliott was not written by a black author, but covers poverty in New York City through the eyes of a homeless black girl and her family.

Author Imbolo Mbue (Official site)

Although these kinds of books and their subject matter do not deviate much from the pass New York timelists of s of the best books, for some, this year’s review of books written by and about blacks was deemed too “awake” for some readers. Eight of the ten books chosen this year may also have been written by women.

An Irish commentator wrote: “Fiction should not be a tool to promote a specific program. The best fiction has always subtly highlighted social issues, injustices, etc. So frustrating to make 50 pages in a novel that the agenda takes precedence over the script.

Another agreed, also saying the list was too “politically correct” and suggesting that a book be added by an award-winning white writer.

“I’m super liberal, and this list is an overwhelming collection of politically correct revivals. What about [Jonathan] Franzen ‘s “Carrefour? “It’s fantastic,” said a poster from Los Angeles.

“This list is so awake it got canceled,” wrote a commentator from Greensboro, North Carolina, sharing similar sentiments with a poster from Connecticut that shot, “Far too ‘awake’ to have one. Any value. I can’t help but notice the overtly liberal tone of these choices. Many better books than these were omitted because they did not fit into a certain paradigm.

A poster wanted to know about additional books that could have been on the list instead of those Times the editors chose.

“Will people who complain about the contents of the list (being too ‘awake’, ‘depressing’ and ‘leftist’) kindly list the books they found so interesting that were excluded? It might actually be useful, and readers might understand if you’re just blowing hot air, or if there are some amazing books that weren’t mentioned.

Despite the fact that the four books were NYT bestsellers and were shortlisted for numerous awards and recognitions from other prestigious literary or media organizations, some readers believed that the inclusion of the books had to meet a certain “agenda” or, in the recognizable language of racism and the whistle of dog, suggested that the books were not selected specifically on merit.

Yet in 2011, just ten years ago, the top 10 book lists consisted of a single book by a black author: “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”, a controversial look at the life of Malcolm X through Manning Marable. Four authors were female in 2011, and the omission of any black author from previous lists has not received the same scrutiny or contempt that the inclusion of more black authors or black subjects appears to do. .

Author Clint Smith (Carletta Girma)

The publishing industry has resisted accusations of racism in its publication, promotion, and prestigious awards for everyone except a very select set of black writers. In the book “Redlining Culture: A Data History of Racial Inequality and Postwar Fiction”, published earlier this year, the author Richard Jean So extracts truly breathtaking data.

According to his research, Random House, a major publisher, published books by an astonishing 97 percent white authors from 1950 to 2000. He also notes, according to the Los Angeles Book Review that “91% of novelists who win major awards, such as the Pulitzer” and “90% of most reviewed novelists” are white. Thus, points out that “white authors receive 90% of the attention of books, while black authors and POC ([…] American authors of Asian, Latin American and Native American origin obtained 6% and 4%, respectively.

If that wasn’t enough, 98% of best-selling authors, who benefit from promotion, marketing, and book tours, as well as media attention, are also white.

While the New York Times The comments section is not necessarily indicative of a wide range of public opinions, it gives an insight into the mindset of many serious readers, as they are the obvious demographic targeted by the list.

It makes worrying that so many potential book buyers think the inclusion of black authors is an attempt to pimp, instead of acknowledging that a larger group of talented authors should be read and recognized.

“The way the industry is organized, you would think black books don’t sell; you would think there are only a handful of black stories worth telling and you might assume black writers don’t exist, ”award-winning British author Candace carty-williams wrote in a item for Vogue United Kingdom in 2020. “The truth is so far from that.”

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