Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Are you the Gatekeeper?

There was a good if short post on Critical Mass - "the blog of the national book critics circle board of directors" - about the NBCC/PEN discussion Beyond Margins: A Critical Perspective, wherein authors and editors dicussed "the question of gatekeepers in the publishing, book reviewing and awards communities." The publisher involved in the event was the terrific Brooklyn-based independent Akashic Books, with appearances by two of their authors, Chris Abani and Amiri Baraka. They all discussed marginalized writing, with two resources those of us committed to such voices should keep in mind: blogs and academic departments, such as ethnic studies, LGBT studies, etc... It's worth a read.

Joseph Marshall III had interesting comments to make regarding the efforts of native writers:
"Anyone who's native deals with various attitudes," he said, including "narrow-minded condescension" and "benign curiosity." "Gatekeepers who work for publishers are no different," he added. "Once we get past the gatekeepers, we have things to say."

The post is a good reminder that some of the most important, prescient, and ultimately valuable writing comes from unexpected or overlooked places with their ears to the ground. Sometimes "the next big thing" isn't manufactured to be just that by a big corporate house, but instead bubbles up and demands attention. So... what's next?

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