Friday, October 05, 2007

Terry McMillan Goes Off on Authors/Publishers of Sensationalist Books

A fellow author (an amazing one actually and a great person at that) was forwarded a letter writtten by Terry McMillan to Karen Hunter. In it she goes off on Karen for helping her ex Jonathan Plummer to write his novel as well as Simon & Schuster for publishing it. Below is what was forwarded to my peer so I don't think it's the entire letter. Nevertheless, these are Terry's words. In any event, I'd love to hear what you think of what she has to say.
The three of you, along with the other publishing houses who have been kind enough to add "special" urban/ghetto imprints are all about to see a major shift in your ongoing and relentless publication of exploitative, destructive, racist, egregious, sexist, base, tacky, poorly-written, unedited, degrading books. Like a number of Black bookstores who are starting to refuse to sell this trash, I, along with other Black literary organizations, supporters, book clubs as well as writers are about to make our opinions known, to aid in making clear to the public just how demeaning these books are and what it means to our community.
It is sad that it took years of selling trashy sexually-driven as well as tell-alls before so-called black writers were ever allowed in the Big Publishing Houses's Little Rooms enough to FINALLY get our own imprints. Why hasn't Walter Mosley or Edwidge Dandicat or Barak Obama or Terry McMillan or Jamaica Kincaid among others ever offered our very own imprints, I wonder?
I've heard that Simon & Schuster has even gotten some of its authors out of jail just to go on a book tour. Karen, you should be ashamed of yourself, but like Jonathan, I can tell that you (along with your sister-in-law Wendy Williams) are all cut from the same cloth. You care nothing about pride as a Black woman or you wouldn't align yourself or even put your name on some of the ugliest words and stories possible. You are an embarrassment and for someone going around bragging about being a Pulitizer Prize winner (which I understand you are not, that you were associated with other writers at the Daily News who actually deserved it) you should be ashamed of yourself for relying on such a prestigious literary prize to co-write some of the despicable and outrageously base books that you can. I find it sad indeed when a Black woman of your so-called reputation was willing to help my ex-husband write a tell-all describing "the juicy details" about our so-called relationship. You know he is a liar and a thief and that he played me and you didn't care. As long as you got paid, and this is precisely why no one (last week I understand according to Book Scan a whopping 600 copies had sold nationwide, and only 87 on the entire west coast) is buying it. Karinne "Superhead's" book is tanking just like Balancing Act, and RJ's book is not going to fly either.
This is the beginning of a brand new trend, so be prepared for it. Years ago white folks bought us and worked us as slaves. You're doing the same exact thing. The only problem is that back then we didn't go willingly. Malcolm X and Dr. King and Rosa Parks, among others, didn't fight for us to get to This, and this is precisely why you are beginning to see a lack of support for these disgusting books.
So Karen Hunter, you can put your name on them if you want to, and you along with Louise and Carolyn have already been reading on Black Voices (among others) what they have to say about Simon & Schuster (but they're referring to all of the Houses with these ghetto imprints) among other sites, how people are getting fed up with these books, even the "reluctant readers" are bored with who's having sex with whom and degrading tell-alls that show black people in a negative and stereotypical light, have no respect for these type of books, for you Karen Hunter ("run the other way when you see her name") and you have already seen the beginning of downward spiral in your sales department, I'm sure. It's going to continue, because with all things exploitative, the reign always comes to a halt.
Jonathan's reign of terror is. And the publishing industry's exploitative role in all of this is too. And Karen, there are only so many scandals out there, and people are getting tired of reading about others' sex lives. Why don't you write about yours. Give 'em something to talk about.
Terry McMillan


max said...
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Anonymous said...

This doesn't have anything to do with Terry or that situation but I didn't know where else to post this.

I was just wondering why you haven't spoken about the Jena 6 or the protest that happened on the 20th of September. I'm very interested to know why you haven't acknowledged this at all.

Black Artemis said...

Dear Anonymous,

I will most likely comment on the Jena 6 case as it unfolds. At the time of the protest, however, I happened to be recovering from shingles. I appreciate your question and hope that you are visiting other blogs of similar authors and holding those who have not acknowledged the Jena 6 case in the same way. Have you? If so, who? And what have they had to say?

Sofia aka Black Artemis

Brother OMi said...

i will say this: Terry McMillian is nuts. i feel bad about what she is going through but before she can point a critical finger at her ex husband, she too has made some money off of her situation. pain sells. so it works both ways.

i have to agree with her on this one though. Simon and Schuster has put out some very wack books on their "colored" imprints. they have really destroyed the black fiction genre and made it extremely difficult for some writers to get on.

Black Artemis said...

You make an interesting point. HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK is based on her romance with her now ex-husband. Some could argue that if she can use her life as fodder for novels, why can't Jonathan Plummer. The major difference, however, is that Plummer has nothing more to his credit than being Terry McMillan's ex-husband. That makes S&S particularly pathetic in giving him a publishing deal. We all have stories to tell, but that doesn't mean that we're all writers.

I've heard about the difficulties that some Black authors are having getting published because they do not write erotica or street lit. I mean, these are folks with many books under their belt and a base of loyal readers. Do to they make their publishing houses tons of money? No, but they don't lose them money either. So it seems that it's not just about turning a profit anymore. It's as if you don't have a certain margin of return, they cannot be bothered to publish you. The result is that very narrow representations of Blackness are out there. The worst thing of all: for the most part, it's NOT Black folks making these publishing decisions.

I recommend that everyone read ERASURE by Percival Everett which is a satire that critiques this issue.

Black Artemis said...

On another note, I do think that as hard as it may be to not speak out, it might help Terry to ignore Jonathan. He has no visibility that Terry doesn't give him so as much as she wants to stand up for herself and call him out, restraint on her part might be more effective to dilute what little leverage Jonathan has. I mean, I found it mighty suspicious that they had been split for a while but no one knew about the divorce -- never mind how acrimonious it was -- until her latest book THE INTERRUPTION OF EVERYTHING was released. Apparently, they had been separated for a minute, but the news wasn't public until the book dropped. Or is my recollection off?

Brother OMi said...

not to gossip, but we didn't know the real deal until the book came out and McMillan was on Oprah.

but was that her or the marketing machine?