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June 04, 2008

Comments

David J. Montgomery

Whenever I think of Ghetto Lit, Michele Martinez is always the first name that comes to mind.

(I love it that there's a typo in that quote. Doesn't the Daily News have copy editors?)

Steven Torres

Hadn't seen the article. Makes me happy to be in the bunch. Many thanks for the link.

Cameron Hughes

Man, Jerry A. Rodriguez is a terrible writer. The rest are great though

Graham

If you can't fit in at Bouchercon - maybe the largest assembly of friendly people in the Western hemisphere - where can you fit in? Who really cares if 98% of the people there are white?

Barbara

I care, and I'm white.

David Thayer

Spanish is the novel's native tongue.

John McFetridge

I've only been to one Bouchercon so far, Madison in 2006, and I was a little nervous - I'm white but I'm not American. Canada may be almost America, but it's still another country. Anyway, I found the whole convention to be quite open and friendly and welcoming to everyone there.

On the last day a guy asked the panel why there were no, "black faces," as he said. Ken Bruen, the moderator of the panel said, "How could you have missed Gary Philips?" Then Laura Lippman said, quite rightly I think, that that was too big an issue to deal with in a post-panel Q&A.

But really, what's to deal with? The convention is as open and inviting as it can be, isn't it? The organizers did a terrific job then of welcoming everyone who wanted to come and I'm sure the organizers of this years are doing just as good a job.

I have a feeling Graham cares, too. I'm sure we'd all like to see the conventions reflect the culture we live in more. Maybe there's more the convention could do, but I have no suggestions, I think they do a great job. Sometimes people just have to make a leap of faith and go.

Graham

What I was getting at in my earlier comment is that anyone who wants to come to Bouchercon - or to be active in the mystery community in general - will find many people eager to welcome them.

In my personal opinion, black and Latino writers tend not to focus on genres such as mystery and science fiction as they do on memoirs and literary fiction, despite such luminaries as Gery Phillips and Samuel R. Delaney.

Incidentally, theres an NPR segment on ghetto lit here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1606270

I havent listened to it yet, though.

Tom

Barbara, I think it's great that you care. Can you outline some of the steps you've taken to address this issue? Maybe some of the rest of us can join you in battling this problem. I, for one, will be honored to participate.

Naomi Hirahara

I remember at my first mystery convention, I was greeted by "konnichiwa" at the registration table even though I'm American-born and bred. At another convention, an organizer kept confusing me with another Asian American attendee who is literally a foot taller than me. I find these instances amusing, and, of course, they reflect the larger society--not unique to mystery conventions (although it has seemed more prevalent/concentrated at them).

I think there may be a larger issue of Bouchercons and the like outreaching to new audiences, and that includes younger people, too. I didn't find out about Bouchercon (I had a heck of time trying to figure out how to pronounce it) until my first novel was purchased. I have a ton of acquaintances and friends who are avid mystery readers (and they happen to be Asian American), but how would they find out about these conventions unless they knew someone like me. Seems like more could be done in networking with mystery bookstores, libraries, and Amazon. And when I mean networking, I mean more active promotion, like displays and large posters. Maybe encouraging authors who have an Amazon plog to paste in a Bouchercon logo and discuss the convention in an entry and encouraging readers to attend. Have more varied events for youngish people under 35. More joint events can be initiated with writing groups/bookstores in the black and Latino communities.

When Left Coast Crime comes to L.A. in 2010, I'll certainly be telling my friends to go. Hey, can I get a discount on my registration for every first-timer I bring in? :-)

David J. Montgomery

Bouchercon attendance is nearly always at capacity -- if anything, there are more fans than can be handled. So outreach and publicity aren't very high on the agenda.

I hadn't heard that LCC is going to be in L.A. in 2010. That's good news!

Elaine Flinn

Ghetto Lit - Street Lit? I think that's really an egregious label. Crime fiction is crime fiction...no matter the ethnic background...and I hope ALL authors would feel comfortable at any convention. Hell, we're writers, right? That's enough of a wacky label...we need more? :)

Graham

Actually, I had "ghetto lit" in scare quotes when I posted my second comment, but Typepad seems to have eaten them. It also gobbled up the apostrophe in "there's".

Naomi Hirahara

Here's writer Christopher Chamber's take on Street Lit:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=naMS3UEeZCU

Steven Torres

Well, just to expand a bit, I think part of what Jerry R. was getting at is that the representation of different ethnicities in the mystery world at large (and I think he meant B'con to be representative though that's easily debatable) is pretty poor. If blacks and latinos make up 30% of the population at large, should they be 30% of the mystery world/B'con pop? Maybe, maybe not. ARE they 30% of the mystery world/B'con pop.? I can't imagine they come even close to that. Possibly not even 3%.

But does this rise to the level of a problem? (Leave aside laying blame since that seems like a useless game.) If it does rise to the level of a problem, what can be done?

Even if it's not a problem, I don't think it's too hard to see how it can still be discouraging to an author.

An anecdote: when my first book came out in 2002, I was told by the manager at one of NYCs mystery bookstores (one of the still standing stores) that they didn't think it would help to carry my books since Latinos rarely came in. Now. Why did they rarely come in and why did this manager think only latinos would buy the book?

Barbara

Er, I can't say I've done a thing to change the status quo. I just think it's very easy to feel unwelcome even among friendly well-meaning people if nobody looks like you.

Frankly, I feel intimidated at Bouchercon because of its size and the fact that so many people seem to know each other. Even though sometimes I do find a familiar face in the crowd, I mostly am trying to figure out how the hell it all works and where the nearest exit is in case I need a quick escape route. I'm just not good in crowds that size.

As for whether cons define legitimacy - I think they appeal to a certain, rather limited demographic. You have to have a fair amount of money and free time to travel to conventions, stay in pricey hotels and hang out in the bar schmoozing. Building a younger, more diverse readership can't really depend on that way of connecting readers and writers.

The US publishing world has opened up to international crime fiction lately - wow, Americans are willing to read about foreign countries, who'd a thunk it? I'd welcome a similar wave of interest in diversity within the US, which is a country that grows more diverse every year.

Naomi

"You have to have a fair amount of money and free time to travel to conventions, stay in pricey hotels and hang out in the bar schmoozing."

That's a good point, Barbara. Maybe the conventions are fine as they are, but new ways of gathering also need to be created. Write to the City (http://www.writetothecity.org) recently had a standing-room-only event in Los Angeles, the day before Book Expo. It combined the mystery genre with gentrification politics. This is just one example where we can rethink the way mysteries are introduced to and embraced by their readers.

Barbara

Naomi, that totally rocks. Thanks for pointing it out.

Gonzalo Baeza

The fact that there were just eight people "of color" out of 200 attendees at a Bouchercon is explained by how very few Latin American crime fiction writers publish in English or are translated and sold in the U.S. I don't believe that's the fault of the conference's organizers or its participants. These criticisms remind me of some of the people who complain every year about the lack of female authors among the different short lists of certain awards, as if gender and ethnicity should be legitimate criteria when judging literary quality.

Bouchercon is the reflection of what a British author (his name escapes me right now) said in a very controversial essay a year or two ago - and which sparked a lively debate in this blog too - about how crime fiction is dominated by middle class white authors whose writing reflects a very provincial outlook and whose claims to cutting edge writing are sometimes anything but.

This particular article is focused on authors of Puerto Rican descent, but there are numerous crime fiction authors throughout the Spanish-speaking world that people in the U.S. are not familiar with. I just bought a bunch of books by the Spaniards Eugenio Fuentes (some of his novels have been translated to English) and Francisco González Ledesma, who's a true classic in Spain, having authored hunderds of pulps during the Franco years and more ambitious novels over the last decade.

Likewise, the short list for the international Dashiel Hammett awards (not the North American version) was recently announced at Spain's "Semana Negra de Gijón," one of the world's largest crime fiction gatherings. The event is not only attended by Spanish crime fiction enthusiasts but fans and writers from all over Europe. I think Michael Collins was one of the guests this year. The award finalists were Juan Madrid, Juana Salabert, Ernesto Mallo, Juan Ramón Biedma and Leonardo Oyola. I've only read Mayo and Biedma, but it's a shame none of the five writers are available in English.

In short, I think Latin American authors are not being excluded from events like Bouchercon (all four writers mentioned in the article actually publish in English) but it is true that crime fiction publishers don't translate enough titles from Latin America and Spain. The latter trend only accentuates the provincialism that affects a lot of contemporary crime fiction.

Ernesto Mallo

May I let you know that the english editorial house Bitter Lemmon will publish shortly my novels"The Needle in the haystack" and "Argentinian delinquent", nameley "La Aguja en el Pajar" and "Delincuente Argentino".
Ernesto Mallo

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