Quoted: On Being A ‘Real Black Writer’

Image from Flickr via Aftab Uzzaman

You got your first edit letter from Brandon Farley in July of 2012. In addition to telling you that the tone of the piece was far too dark and that you needed an obvious redemptive ending, Brandon wrote, “There’s way too much racial politics in this piece, bro. You’re writing to a multicultural society, but you’re not writing multiculturally.”

You wondered out loud what writing “multiculturally” actually meant and what kind of black man would write the word “bro” in an email.

“Bro, we need this book to come down from 284 pages to 150,” he said. “We’re going to have to push the pub date back again, too. I’m thinking June 2012. Remember,” he wrote, “It’s business. I think you should start from scratch but keep the spirit. Does the narrator really need to be a black boy? Does the story really need to take place in Mississippi? The Percy Jackson demographic,” he wrote. “That’s a big part of the audience for your novel. Read it over the weekend. Real black writers adjust to the market, bro, at least for their first novels.”

By the time you found out Percy Jackson wasn’t the name of a conflicted black boy from Birmingham, but a fake-ass Harry Potter who saved the gods of Mount Olympus, you were already broken. Someone you claimed to love told you that you were letting your publishing failure turn you into a monster. She said that you were becoming the kind of human being you always despised. You defended yourself against the truth and really against responsibility, as American monsters and American murderers tend to do, and you tried to make this person feel as absolutely worthless, confused, and malignant as you were. Later that night, you couldn’t sleep, and instead of diving back into the fiction, for the first time in my life, you wrote the sentence, “I’ve been slowly killing myself and others close to me just like my uncle.”

—Kiese Laymon, “You Are The Second Person”

Originally Published in Guernica Magazine, whose current issue is “Race in America”.

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.

Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.

Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.

Follow Us on Twitter!

Support Racialicious

The Octavia Butler Book Club

The Octavia Butler Book Club
(Click the book for the latest conversation)

Recent Comments

Feminism for Real – Jessica, Latoya, Andrea

Feminism for Real

Yes Means Yes – Latoya

Yes Means Yes

Sex Ed and Youth – Jessica

Youth and Sexual Health


Online Media Legal Network

Recent Posts

Support Racialicious

Older Archives


Written by: