This weekend, the hubby and I went out to dinner with another couple. They’d never been to this restaurant, but I assured them this place had some of the best chicken wings in town. (We were in that I-need-another-beer-and-some-bar-food-kinda-mood.) This got us talking about some of the places to get some really good food in town.
One of my favorite places is this cute little soul food restaurant in an area of town that’s not got the best reputation. The restaurant’s been there for decades, and in recent years it’s gotten a facelift, along with other businesses on that block. I’ve never felt unsafe going there, and they have really good fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, lima beans – all that stuff I just love. So I go there, and on many occasions I’ve sung it’s praises to people I work with. I’ve managed to make a few converts 😉
However, some people give me a hard time, look at me suspiciously, and wonder why I like to go to “the hood” to eat. I just smile and tell them I’ll go wherever there’s good food.
So anyway, my friend tells me that she’s tried one of the fried chicken places in the neighborhood in question, and she didn’t like it. I tell her I’ll take her to the place I like. Then she says, with a little smirk on her face, “I think you go there to prove a point.”
I gave her my usual answer. Good food rules.
But here’s the thing – she’s partly right. I do go there, and other places like it, and then talk about it, on purpose. I want to show people (mainly other white, middle class people like myself) that’s it’s really okay if they go to black owned businesses. If they let black people cook their food. That even when the young black guy at the rib place gets arrested and shows up in court for some stupid possession charge that yes, I’ll still eat where he works. (Can you imagine not eating where potheads work? There’s not a restaurant around not staffed by people who smoke weed.)
So what does this have to do with books?
I approach my reading in the same way. I do thoughtfully seek out books from people of color. When I like them, I sing their praises. When I’m at the salon, talking books with the manicurist, I’m sure to tell her I’m reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, and I’m enjoying it. She’s never heard of it, so I tell her how it’s set in Florida, it deals with the 1928 hurricane, etc. She tells me that A Land Remembered is one of her favorite books. It’s also a book set in old Florida. I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that Their Eyes is by a black woman. It’s just a good book, plain and simple. (Well actually, it’s a great book, but that’s for my upcoming gushing review.)
But there are so many good books that don’t get the credit they’re due. Or someone reads one book by a Harlem Renaissance author back when they were in high school, didn’t like it, and now doesn’t ever want to tray another one.
It’s like not liking the friend chicken at one restaurant and then never going to try the place next door. It’s just waiting there, ready to knock your socks off.
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