Mad Words Turn To Positive Action

On the 4th day of this year, I had an experience that I was tempted to write a long rant about. However, I didn’t want to start off 2014 on a negative note. I pondered and pondered what I would write and then came up with this experiment and call to action. First off, a bit of background.

Between Christmas and my birthday, I received quite a bit of book money, including a gift card from Barnes & Noble. I went through my book list, trying to decide what books I wanted. List in hand, I went to Barnes & Noble hoping the majority of my book list would be at the store. I knew a number wouldn’t because they are books by authors of color. What ended up happening had me steaming mad.

flames on the side of my face
The second book of Ellen Oh’s Dragon King series, Warrior, had just come out 5 days before I went to the store, so I expected it to be there. The book was a new release by Harper Teen, not a small imprint in the least. It should have been in the newly released section. I should have found it. I didn’t. I searched and searched and a brand new book, a second book from a popular series, was not on the shelves of one of the largest book sellers in America. In fact, only two of the books on my list were there Matt De La Pena’s “The Living” and N.K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”, of which I bought the ONLY book.

warriorthe livingJemisin_Hundred-Thousand-Kingdoms-TP

Needless to say I was vexed at Barnes & Nobles’ dismal representation of diversity and was kinda mean to the checkout person (sorry!). I ranted to my husband, who ultimately ended up saying, “well, how will you let them know?” And after I tired myself out from my tantrum, I thought about what he said. I let it settle in my heart and thought…what is the most productive way to express my rage? How do I let Barnes & Noble know that their stores are lacking in diversity and while yes, I can order the books online, book store visibility helps novels by authors of color been seen and sold. Barnes & Noble needs to do their part in promoting diversity and not just shelving books by authors of color in their respective “ethnic” section.

So I propose an experiment, a call to action, and I urge many of you to take part. Here is what I would like you to do:

1. Make a list of books you could potentially buy – all by authors of color (this even includes non-YA books).

2. Visit your local Barnes & Noble and check the shelves. If a book is listed, note how many and where it is shelved. If it’s not, note that as well.

3. Go to the checkout and ask the sales clerk, or even manager (remember to be nice) and ask why the books you want are not there. Ask why they are not shelved, not visible and that you would like to see these books (and others like it) sold at the store and not just online.

4. Write a letter (or email) to Barnes & Noble about your experience.
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Attn: Jaime Carey, Chief Merchandising Officer
122 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10011
(I hope this is the right address. If someone has better GoogleFu than me, please let me know and I can update this post.)

5. Report back here with your findings and/or if you have a blog, turn your letter into a post and share the link.

In my February essay/OpEd, I’ll share my findings and letter and hopefully some of your experiences. Hopefully we can get a movement going and have Barnes & Noble change their business practices. Let’s put our frustration into action.

Please signal boost this post. The more voices calling for change, the better.

2 Replies to “Mad Words Turn To Positive Action

  1. That sounds like a great idea! I don’t shop at Barnes and Noble much because we have a great independent bookstore here. But I do wonder if the books shelved in the African American section are also shelved in general fiction, or in the various genres. If they aren’t, that cuts out a lot of reader visibility. So, I’m going to go in and ask about it.

  2. This is a wonderful idea, and one that should be repeated in your local indie, as well–they tend to be more responsive to community requests, particularly if they hear it from several people. You can make a real difference in your community’s indie bookstore offerings if you show the local stores that there’s a demand for diverse books.

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