Dealing with Barriers for Writers of Color, by Shawn Hudson [Poetic Thoughts #8]
“Gangsta (2002), they told me there’s no market for this. Black Lotus (2005), they told me YOUR readers aren’t ready to digest this. The Gabriel & DeMona stories, they told me a kid from the projects can’t write urban fantasy. Not one time did I listen, K’wan whatever he wants”-K’wan, best selling and award-winning author.
This is a quote from one of my favorite writers from his Twitter page earlier this year. I just released my new book “Poetic Thoughts of a Rebel” which was a re-issue of “Poetic Thoughts of a Young Black Genius” late last month. Now when my illustrator, editor and I began working on this project we knew that some people wouldn’t agree with the book’s message and would ultimately hate it. That’s cool. I don’t mind being the villain if I’m standing up for what I believe is right, but when someone is supposed to be objective about reviewing literature and they basically paint you as a racist and a shitty poet because they don’t agree with your views, that’s when the line is crossed. I submitted my book for review to Realistic Poetry International back in late December and got my review just last week. Now before I show you what was said let me clarify something, I don’t have an issue with constructive criticism – in fact I encourage it from my readers, friends and family at all times, but this was far from that.
Here’s an excerpt from Realistic Poetry Internationals’ review of my book; “Peace. Love. And harmony. Unity and division. What is the definition of a racist? Contradictory paradoxes in America. Author Shawn Hudson’s, “Poetic Thoughts Of A Rebel’, is a divisive, opinionated collection of poems that pridefully supports and endorses, solely, the minority community in America (African-American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican…), while unfairly targeting people of Caucasian descent (White), his “oppressor” and enemy. Why?”
You can read the rest of the review on the Amazon page once you look up my book and look for the review. Trust me, it’s a long read so make sure that you’re comfortable while reading it. My issue with that review is that for one I am nowhere near racist or hateful of any group of people, regardless of their skin color or anything else for that matter. Second, this review didn’t mention the hard work that my illustrator David Robles put in with his illustrations throughout the book, including the cover. The fact that the reviewer didn’t mention the poem that I wrote for my deceased uncle “Foot Prints on my Soul” and a poem for the LGBTQ community “Equality” was a slap in the face. The fact that this is supposedly an objective poetry website with resources for poets of all walks of life just seems like one big joke that no one finds funny. You see this is the issue that writers of color have to go through when we use our pens to speak on issues that not only affect us directly, but those that we care about as well.
It seems as if when people of color start to go against the grain and/or step outside of the box and take on new challenges we’re automatically told to stay in our place or that our views and voices are hateful and not adequate enough to articulate our pain, our joy and more importantly our stories. I wanted to highlight this review not to complain or gain free publicity for my new book, but to show everyone that writers like myself and K’wan deal with this type of backlash and doubt each and every day and our readers have no idea what that can do to a writer’s or poet’s confidence.
This is nothing new though. Writers from the Harlem Renaissance such as Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were under fire for their material during their literary reign as well. W.E.B. Dubois was so concerned with what white people thought about African-Americans at the time that he criticized anyone that wrote anything that he deemed as “stereotypical”. The Harlem Renaissance was writing about many of the topics of today back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as poverty, racism, being openly gay and colorism. Just like in 2018 it was met with resistance, but that didn’t deter them from painting pictures with words much like it won’t stop me from using my pen as my voice.
My message to writers from ALL WALKS OF LIFE, but particularity people of color and LGBTQ people of color, is don’t let anyone’s narrow-minded opinions stop you from expressing yourself and addressing the matters that you feel are important to you and others that are in the same situation as you. Also, do not look for validation or recognition from anyone but yourself because in this world if you’re different then you’re automatically going to scare people and when you when you scare people that’s when they try to silence you.
Read Shawn Hudson’s latest poetry collection, Poetic Thoughts of a Rebel, by clicking here.