Allow me to rant on a very delicate topic, and thus offend numerous people.
For weeks, even months now, I have been not-so-patiently awaiting the publication of Colson Whitehead's new novel. If you are unfamiliar with Whitehead, I encourage you to check him out. His two novels, "The Intuitionist" and "John Henry Days," are two of the most imaginative books I've read. He's currently #3 on my list of favorite authors (behind Tom Robbins and Margaret Atwood). And his new book, "Apex Heals the Hurt," came out this month. So I was stoked.
I walked over to Borders to pick up a copy. I looked in the "literature" section where most non-mystery and non-scifi/fantasy authors can be found ("literature" includes everyone from James Joyce to "Shopaholic" Sophie Kinsella). No "Apex." Not even "The Intuitionist," which was a relatively popular book. Confused, I used the "Title Sleuth," Borders' in-store computer directory. I discovered that Whitehead's books were in the store - in the "African-American Fiction" section.
"African-American Fiction?" Why the hell is my bookstore segregated?
Seriously, does Borders think books like "Invisible Man" or novelists like Toni Morrison and Richard Wright - and Colson Whitehead - are only accessible to people with a certain skin pigmentation? I know I'll never experience personally the kind of soul-crushing discrimination and abuse related in "Invisible Man" - but that doesn't make the book any less powerful or any less great.
Here's my point - it is an insult to black authors, or any group of authors, to place their books in a separate section because of their ethnicity/skin color/what have you. Not only that, it sends a message to non-black readers that these books "aren't for them." Chaim Potok isn't just for the Jews, Margaret Atwood isn't just for women, and Amy Tan isn't just for Chinese-Americans - why should Zora Neale Hurston be just for black people? The segregation of black authors "otherizes" them and their work and takes away from what should be considered, quite simply, great literature.