Quite the interesting week we’ve had as a people! First of all, there was that Wall Street Journal article Dividing Lines: Why Book Industry Sees the World Split Still by Race, in which the author, Jeffrey A.Trachtenberg, raised the issue of whether or not the last bastion of racial segregation – bookshelves – would forever limit our earning potential as writers. I wasn’t even aware that we folks rated with the WSJ. Then, of course, there was John Ridley’s December Esquire magazine piece, The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger, that literally left me with my mouth hanging open in complete surprise. As I head to The Bahamas to spend the holidays with my family, I begin to extrapolate the themes raised in the two articles (i.e., stunted potential, black unity or the lack thereof, positive versus negative representations of us as a people, etc.) into my own life as a writer.
As you know, I’m famously of West Indian descent. I think it’s the law that you must be if you’re black and born in Brooklyn! My Bahamian parents moved to New York, had my sister and I, and, craving warmth, the beach, and possibly an endless supply of rum drinks, did the reverse migration thing and headed back to Nassau. Thus began my life as a cultural mulatto, straddling two worlds. When I moved back to the States – this time across the Hudson to Jersey – I was subject to some of the dumbest questions people could ask about a country that’s only a ninety-minute plane ride from Miami. Here’s a sample: “Do you wear grass skirts?” “You’ve actually been on a plane?” and my personal favorite, “Say something native.” Back in Nassau, I’d be accused of being too American, especially about how I “tawked” about my “dawg.” Nonetheless, as much as I do love America, the Bahamas is my ancestral home… the facilitator of my Muse. This is why multicultural characters predominate in my fiction. Unfortunately, this warrants me very little support from my fellow Bahamians.
You can read the rest at my December 14, 2006 posting at Blogging in Black.