Is there too much white noise …or not enough?

Forgive me, I think I’ve spoken about this before.  But I think it’s an issue worth re-discussion, if that indeed is a word.

Every now and again, I suffer from internetus overloadicus.  It’s bound to happen when you have a website, a Myspace, a Facebook, a blog, are a member of several Yahoo groups, regular visitor to a handful of blogs, and cofounder of a group that communicates solely via the internet.

I’m involved in so many writing networks and various other web marketing initiatives that sometimes, I swear to you, I forget I have books to write. So I’ve pulled back, way back on my internet presence. #1 I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to quantify its usefulness and #2 I’m beginning to think there’s so much white noise out there on the ‘net that a lot of the essential information isn’t being heard.

Except, when it comes to children’s books for and by African Americans. In that case, the lack of chatter relating to concrete tools to help locate such books is deafening.

What got me thinking about it recently is Denene’s Millner’s article, which Varian mentioned in yesterday’s blog post. Denene’s article was a shot in the arm to those of us in the trenches of the YA for African American reader battle. Anytime readers and gatekeepers are reminded that there are choices, it’s a good thing.

But I was disappointed that the article didn’t mention how a gatekeeper or potential reader might decrease their learning curve as to the myriad of African American authors out there offering alternatives to hot niche genres of the moment.

Surely there must be one or two resources that are used widely enough to become the official go-to source of choice.

I’d love to see that be The Brown Bookshelf. But that’s my and my cofounders job to take care.

In the meanwhile, aren’t there any others that could have been mentioned? Places where parents and librarians alike can quickly browse exactly what is out there – to know what to ask for before acquisition or purchase?

I started at home, with the Brown Bookshelf’s partenrs. Among them is the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. BCALA was created as a guide for librarians and they offer many good programs, including literary awards. But the awards are for adult fiction. There’s very little mention of books or specially focused programs for children.

RAWSISTAZ, a literary reading group focused on adult fiction by African Americans, partnered with BBS specifically to point their adult visitors to a site dedicated to books for children. Founder, Tee C. Royal, intends to one day launch a RAWSISTAZ site for children’s literature, but has her hands full with the organizations current endeavors.

It’s our partner, the African American Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, that may best serve those searching for good children’s books.  Although AACBWI’s mission is to help nurture the writers and illustrators, their site exposes a visitor to a number of children’s books currently available.

Other resources, like AALBC (African American Literature Book Club) and BIBR (Black Issues Book Review) will serve those seeking adult literatue, but falls short on providing in-depth insight into children’s fiction. When sites and resources dedicated to supporting black literature fail to make children’s literature an essential part of their information, there’s little hope of an African American children’s lit author (one who is not an award winner) accomplishing Stephanie Meyer/Gossip Girl/Harry Potter levels of recognition.

Where are the sites talking up all children’s fiction by and for African Americans?  One which spans Picture Books, Middle Grades, Young Adult, non-fiction, fiction, commerical and literary?

We keep hearing the books are out there. And they are…but having them on shelves does little good if there aren’t more outlets showcasing what those books are and who are writing them.

When I was researching authors for the 2008 28 Days Later, I went to several book stores and my local library to see if they carried the authors we were considering.  Of the twelve authors on my list, I only found the books of one in the chain store. One out of 12.

I had better luck at my local library. The library had about half of the books I mentioned, but only one or two were well-circulated.

It’s the chicken or the egg syndrome.  Are children’s books by African Americans not readily available because they don’t sell well or do they not sell well because they’re not readily available? And once out there, does anyone know about them?

If you know of a site that promotes children’s books by and about African Americans, please let us know. The Brown Bookshelf is dedicated to making it easier for folks to identify such works and their authors. I’m not usually a proponent of creating more white noise, but I’d rather see a glut of sites dedicated to this initiative than leave readers wandering the online galaxy.

Meanwhile, please visit The Brown Bookshelf library. We try to keep the sources updated with current releases and have recently added links to those publishers and imprints dedicated to multi-cultural children’s books.

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3 Responses to Is there too much white noise …or not enough?

  1. Hey there,

    I’m Denene Millner, the author who wrote the PW piece of which you speak in this post. I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, but I do feel the need to note that in an essay about my disenfranchisement as an author, as stated in 500 words or less, it’s extremely difficult to take a left and list all of the great resources you list here. It simply wasn’t the point of the piece. However, I think it’s GREAT that you’ve added to the discussion by listing these wonderful organizations and sites; I plan to forward this post to all my mom friends who, too, are desperate to find a central place where they can go to find out about all the wonderful books that are out there and written specifically for our babies. At the top of my list is The Brown Bookshelf, you better believe it.

    Thanks for all that you do!

    Denene Millner, author, Hotlanta, and If Only You Knew: A Hotlanta Novel

  2. Paula says:

    Denene thanks for stopping in. By no means was I calling out your article. I wanted to point out how few resources actually provide this information, as evidenced by our own partners and their lack of focus on good children’s books.

    I think the problem is that there are few sites with African American children’s books as their focus. While there’s been an increase in the number of kid lit bloggers in the African American community, there’s still not any one place one can hit.

    Your article reinforces the need for this.

  3. cloudscome says:

    This is a great post. I am always looking for sites that feature children’s books by and/or about African Americans. I’ve been following this blog for the past year and I really appreciate all you are doing. The resources and links you are offering are very helpful and I look forward to more. If I run across more sites like what you are looking for I will certainly let you know.

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