BOOK TALK: Carleen Brice on bridging racial divides

Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:31am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Author Carleen Brice is on something of a book publishing crusade, attempting to get the message across to readers that black American fiction isn't just for black American readers. It is for everybody.

Her first novel, award-winning "Orange Mint and Honey," was about a relationship between an African American woman and her mother, but it could have been any mother and daughter.

Her new "Children of the Waters" deals with half-sisters of different races -- one Caucasian, the other African American -- who are separated as children before reuniting as adults.

But the question of racial identification is simply a launching point for a story that delves into family secrets and multi-dimensional characters.

Denver resident Brice, who operates a blog called White Readers Meet Black Authors and who in December orchestrated National Buy a Book By a Black Author and Give It To Somebody Not Black, talked to Reuters about "Children of the Waters" and bridging the racial divide in publishing.

Q: You recently wrote an article for the Washington Post in which you said that in publishing, the accepted wisdom is that books by black authors should be marketed to black audiences first; after that, hopefully, they crossover to whites." Why?

A: "In publishing, companies tend to do what they have already done successfully. "Waiting to Exhale" was very popular with black readers, then white women started to read it and it crossed over. The powers that be tend to follow what works before. Unfortunately, it leaves a lot of things that might have been successful off the shelf."

Q: What do you do to change that marketing strategy?   Continued...