So some authors who can follow close on the heels of this Obama moment may have an in.
But even if Obama’s success doesn’t translate into more and bigger deals for black writers, some hope it may make publishers more willing to consider a broader range of approaches. “I have hopes that Obama’s high profile will go a long way towards supporting the idea that one’s racial background is part of the conversation, but not all of the conversation,” offers Lise Funderburg, a journalist and author of the new memoir, Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home. “This would liberate a lot of us who are often pushed by editors to make race play a more melodramatic role in our writing—versus the organic role it should play.”
“What it will do very profoundly,” Adero says, “is that it will challenge the assumptions of editors and publishers who think in limited ways of black people’s abilities.”
It is unclear what shifts, if any, will take place in the publishing industry. Ultimately, Obama’s impact on the literary community may be first felt among writers themselves. “Where I think Obama’s effect may become more apparent is in how empowered and driven literary writers now feel about getting our voices out there in the world,” Southgate says. Street lit, move aside. This may be a new day in more ways than one.
Lori L. Tharps is the author of Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. She is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia, PA and blogs at MyAmericanMeltingpot.com.