The literary invisibility of Afro-Brazilian authors - 10/14/2021 - PerifaConnection

Invisibility still hangs over the literature produced by blacks and, even though we recognize that there has been some advance in the last decades, there is still considerable disproportionality in this area.

Despite the increased demand for a greater presence of works by Afro-Brazilian writers on bookstore shelves, the publishing market has not yet fully opened up to the publication of works that reflect the experience and social, political and cultural issues of black people in Brazil.

There is an opportunistic use of the figure of blacks who have already achieved consecration in the literary canon or simply in sales success. The publication and dissemination of well-known authors is not enough: the black presence on the shelves of bookstores, physical or virtual, cannot be limited to the black author who, after hard sentences and a thousand closed doors, reached consecration – that, often, despite the publishers, given the biography of Lima Barreto, who in his lifetime only managed to be published by paying for his editions himself.

This type of presence —important, but diminished in light of what we produce— seems to be a marketing action to give a good image to large editorial groups. This is explained by the fact that the past of these groups presents many problematic issues that can be exposed from the forceful work of social movements that fight for greater representation of blacks in society.

My trajectory as an Afro-Brazilian published author is not proof of meritocracy or that it is enough to have quality in writing for a black writer or a black woman writer to be published and read.

The publication of my novel “Shine the Darkness of Your Eyes” and my work “Introduction to African Literatures”, by Alpheratz, are part of the specific awareness and planning of an editorial house in the dissemination of African and Afro-Brazilian cultures, as well as of Afro-Brazilian writers not yet known to the general public.

But these are movements that can be seen among independent publishers, mostly small and medium. The same phenomenon of giving voice and space to black authors can hardly be found among the big publishers. In addition to the search for quality, for the work of a black writer to be published, a sense of political struggle and social resistance on the part of editorial media is required.

It’s no use publishing a black author to meet a social quota and be well regarded by the public, publishers need to be aware of and concretely act on the fact that structural racism in Brazilian society has always affected and often also underpinned structures of the publishing market.

The propagation of the myth of racial democracy, which is allied to the concept that in Brazil there is only one literature, Brazilian literature, which theoretically would include everyone, is one of the causes of the problem.

By not understanding and not being sensitized to the need to give visibility to a literature that reflects the experience of black people in a society that has not yet included them widely and in which there is still the presence of a strong structural racism, publication is discouraged and the dissemination of authors who meet this social demand.

The consequence of this is that society is deprived of access to a considerable number of quality black authors, as there is little of them on the shelves of bookstores and in the publishing niches of large publishers.

As for the Afro-Brazilian author, writing is a political act, being published is a weapon in the fight to have one’s voice heard and being read and recognized is always the final battle, the most difficult one, which does not depend only on the writer, but always on the community.

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