BLACK BOOKS SOAR

Anti-racist works lead best-sell­ers

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY KARU F. DANIELS

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.”

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