One thing that I found disturbing was to see a section in the Reading Central library called Black and Asian Authors. I have been a member of many libraries in the UK, (Manchester, Burgess Hill, Wimbledon previously) I have never seen one with this section. It probably makes my life easier because then I could go straight to that section and get what I want, and there are usually good books, prize winners and works that I like to read about, such as Khaled Hosseini, Vikram Seth of A Suitable Boy, VS Naipaul, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Monica Ali of Brick Lane, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith etc. all very talented, colourful authors who had received the highest accolades in the literary world.
The section connotes a certain kind of stigma. The section feels like it belongs to another world, another world which is un-English. For the time I am there in the library, I don’t see a lot of library visitors hover around that section.
It is such a shame really. If you are a British-Asian or American-Asian author, do you really want to see your books sitting in this section? Wouldn’t you want your books to sit at the general popular fictions which runs alphabetically (the Reading Library has one too)? Do you want your books to be read for your literary genius or for the colour of your skin? If I hadn’t known Sadie Jones, Zadie Smith or some English sounding name is black-African, would I end up browsing the popular fiction and miss some of the wonderful stories from a writer of different ethnic origin?
And why do we need to classify books myopically? Why does the library has to classify books into sci-fi and fantasy, crime fiction, and general fiction? What happens if it is a Black and Asian author who writes about murder? What happens if it is sci-fi and also crime fiction? Which section should we place her /his books? The book stores don’t do that, why should library classify it this way? I am tempted to discuss or write about this to the library. Perhaps the catalogue system had serves me well so far, so I am not complaining, but if the Black-Asian authors knew about this, they might.
Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, is sitting at the best seller section now. Soon in a year’s time it will be placed back in this section called Black and Asian Authors. Would that upset him? If President Barack Obama wrote fictions, would his books end up in the Black and Asian Authors corner in the Reading Central Library? Most probably it would.