This morning around 6am I was shelving books at Borders in the Literature/Fiction section. At the end of this section is a section called African-American Fiction. Before working at Borders I never noticed that African-American literature was shelved apart from the rest of the literature section. It really bothers me and it seems like such an out-dated concept to separate African-American books.
Why do book stores do this? I could think of no good reason, so I did a little bit of online research and it seems that many people have asked this same question but have not gotten satisfying answers.
In one article, "Separate but Equal Shelf Space," it said bookstores aren’t prejudice – they’re just trying to make the shopping experience more convenient for its customers. The article quotes Kate Ellis, an English professor at Rutgers University, who says, "A separate section makes more likely that someone who did not know about a particular author or book, but was interested in African-American literature of various kinds, will find something of interest in a section so labeled."
Most other people interviewed for the article think that books written by African-Americans should be shelved just like any other book and not in a separate section, which is what I also believe.
Why segregate just the African-American fiction? Why not also have an Asian-American section? Or Israeli-American? I often look for books written by female authors, so why isn’t there a section by female authors and one for male authors? Or maybe there should be a section for books written by people with brown eyes and one for blue-eyed authors.
Organizing books according to the author’s physical characteristics is a little silly. All books should be categorized and judged by the content within the book. Maybe book-by-book, while no one is looking, I will start combining the African-American fiction books with the main Literature/Fiction section.