BLACK BOOKS SOAR
Anti-racist works lead best-sellers
America’s racial awakening in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd has been a boon for the book publishing industry, with titles by black authors and those dealing with race issues seeing an uptick in sales.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s 2019 book “How to Be an Antiracist,” described as “a primer for creating a more just and equitable society through identifying and opposing racism” found itself back on The New York Times’ Hardcover Nonfiction list days after Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers rocked the world.
The acclaimed title sold out at various retailers as it catapulted to the No. 1 spot and remained there consecutively for three weeks (through July 5).
Other nonfiction tomes taking up the majority of the 15 spots on the prestigious listing have included former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letter to his son “Between the World and Me,” and political heavyweight Stacey Abrams’ urgent narrative “Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America.”
British social media influencer and podcaster’s Layla F. Saad’s how-to guide “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor,” has received renewed attention on the best sellers list, as has Austin Channing Brown’s illuminating 2018 memoir “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.”
CNN analyst, attorney and politician Bakari Sellers’ debut literary offering “My Vanishing Country: A Memoir” is also a consistent best-selling title.
For Amistad Press, a multicultural imprint of HarperCollins Publishers specializing in nonfiction books that released it, Sellers being a part of this racial reckoning-related renaissance in the literary industry underscores the company’s longtime mission to celebrate black life and culture.
“It’s exciting to see an abundance of books authored by black writers on the best seller lists,” Amistad’s editorial director, Tracy Sherrod, told the Daily News. “It showcases the vast, powerful, entertaining and informative array of literature we have to offer.
“To know these titles are being read widely gives me hope that there will be lasting change, as our words are speaking to the consciousness of America,” she added.
Amistad also recently published prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump’s “Open Season:
Legalized Genocide of Colored People” and has political analyst Tiffany D. Cross’ “Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy” going on sale July 6.
“[It] also shows our literature is and always has been a resource for achieving change, initiating progress, and raising consciousness,” Sherrod continued.
Not only are people snapping up physical copies of the books during the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of the audio versions on race-related titles are soaring, too.
According to Publishers Weekly, audiobook sales have grown by double digits, year after year, registering more than 1.2 billion dollars in sales in 2019,
Titles about race relations are doing well in audio formats, too, particularly on Amazon’s audiobook subscription service Audible.
“We’ve been excited to see some of the anti-racism titles hit our best seller lists,” the company’s vice president of content, Diana Dapito, told The News. “At Audible, we know the inspiring power of listening to diverse voices and stories and will continue to use our editorial efforts to highlight black voices.”
The company has created its own black lives matter-related portal, Raising Up Black Voices, which leads users to their collection of offerings featuring black creators, performers, scholars, activists and allies “forwarding the conversation.”
Dapito said the company is offering works by diverse authors and anti-racism titles to approximately 85,000 public school students around the country free through its Audible for Schools campaign.
Sherrod said this current rise in sales by blackrelated titles is reminiscent of a time almost 30 years ago.
“Another moment that inspired interest in the work of black writers … was in the 1990s when Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker were on The New York Times best seller list simultaneously,” she said. “It made readers take an interest in what was happening in black women’s fiction.”
Tracy Sherrod (l.), editorial director of HarperCollins’ Amistad Press, says, “To know [books about the black experience, inset] are being read widely gives me hope that there will be lasting change.”