Note from BW of Brazil: Just a few days ago, I was telling a friend that I post a lot of material on this blog just to expose other black people outside of Brazil to the situation of Afro-Brazilians. From what I gather from comments in social media connected to this blog as well as in comments on articles that cover this topic, millions of people are still unaware of the challenges of being black in Brazil. And if I’m presenting relevant information to those who are may be curious about different countries with populations of African ancestry, then I’ve achieved my goal. But on the other hand, I have also reached a point in which African descendants around the world need to recognize the fact that, the power structure has no interest in improving the situation of Africa and its people around the world. If the powers that be continue to gain by maintaining black people in a certain place, what interest would they have in changing that situation? With that said, if we really want change, we have to start taking those steps, even little ones, ourselves. Today’s material is a good example of that.
Numerous articles on this blog have demonstrated how Afro-Brazilian authors are nearly invisible in Brazil’s larger book sellers. I challenge anyone to go into a bookstore such as Livraria Cultura, FNAC or Saraiva and see how long it takes to find a book authored by a black Brazilian or a book about a black Brazilian that isn’t an entertainer or athlete. While you’re at it, try to find a work of fiction in which the main character is black. The book market is just another genre in which black Brazilians are basically invisible. And it’s not that black Brazilians aren’t writing books, it’s just that major publishers and bookstores have very little interest in their material. Whenever I go to major Afro-Brazilian expos selling black-oriented products and I see literally countless titles by Afro-Brazilian authors, I always ask, “Why don’t I see this books in the bookstores?”, a rhetorical question, as I already know the answer, the response is always the same. Again, it ain’t hard to tell…
New in the market, Malê promotes Afro-Brazilian writers
By Bolivar Torres
Aimed exclusively at contemporary black authors, the publisher will release five books by the end of the year
Librarian and event producer in the area of reading, Vagner Amaro found it difficult to acquire books of contemporary black authors for the collection of the school library where he worked. The institution had already given the green light for the purchase, but titles with this profile were rare in the market. Many were exhausted, with no reissue predicted – a condition that reaches even works by renowned writers such as Conceição Evaristo.
“How could the work of Conceição, one of the most important living Brazilian writers, be inaccessible to her readers? Similarly, black writers were rarely in the literary events I attended, they were not in the school curricula, as they were not in my formation, either as a librarian or as a journalist, but even in elementary and high school,” Amaro says in an interview by email. “That is, there was a phenomenon that prevented me, librarian and mediator of black reading, from knowing them.”
The more he searched, the more he realized that black authors either were edited by small publishers or were forced to invest in their own independent publication, which made it difficult to disseminate and reprint their books.
“I noticed that there is a disinterest in the publishing market for blacks who make a literature of resistance, or combat, or a “contra-literatura”(counter-literature), using in their texts themes such as racism from the perspective of the black, that impregnate their literature from the perspective of the black, even when they approach all the common themes of other literatures,” he says.
Perplexed by this scenario, Amaro decided to open a publishing house that not only gave this voice to the authors he saw on the sidelines, but also helped them to ensure visibility and advice. Founded in July of 2017, in partnership with Francisco Jorge, Malê has since published seven titles. The first author to be part of the catalog? Conceição Evaristo, who published her last book, Histórias de leves enganos e parecenças (Stories of slight mistakes and appearances), by the publisher.
In November, in which the Dia da Consciência Negra (Day of Black Consciousness) is celebrated, Malê released two more works: Esboços de um tempo presente (Sketches of a Present Time), a collection of short essays by Rosane Borges, and O tapete voador (The Flying Carpet), a new book of stories by Cristiane Sobral. Already in the first week of December, the collection of 12 autoras negras da literatura brasileira atual (12 black authors of current Brazilian literature) arrived in the bookstores, as well as two titles that were out of print: Insubmissas lágrimas de mulheres (Unsubmissive Tears of Women) (2011), by Conceição Evaristo, and A lei do santo (The Law of saint) (2000), by Muniz Sodré.
“It is more difficult for those who proclaim themselves as black,” says Cristiane Sobral. “The literary milieu is a space of concentration of wealth and many black writers are peripheral, they are not in the great downtowns, they don’t have the necessary capital to challenge the editorial giants that navigate in a world parallel to ours.”
For this reason, she believes that black writers are even more vulnerable to a typical Brazilian publishing market problem, the difficulty of having their books well distributed.
“Many of them already publish, but they are not on the shelves of the big bookstores,” she explains. “I have a book that has already been published in three editions, with one thousand copies each. It is a success considering our Afro-Brazilian literature, but a drop in the ocean of the usual big runs in the market. We have an urgent demand to find the country’s largest reading public with more than 50% of pretos e pardos (blacks and browns). The thematic universe is vast considering cultura negra (black culture) and all its riches, beauties, buried memories, traditions.”
PRÊMIO MALÊ (MALÊ AWARD) HAD 180 REGISTERED
For Amaro, there are a considerable number of young people who, in recent years, have had access to policies to promote higher education and now search for texts about this universe. Many are, according to the editor, “eager for representativeness also in literature.” Law 10.639 of 2003, which obliges the study of Afro-Brazilian history and culture in schools, helps generate interest in the production of black authors.
The publisher is also creating projects that bring the production of peripheral events, such as the Sarau da Esquina da Cidade de Deus group to a wider literary scene. According to Amaro, for many black writers, especially the younger ones, these events are the only channel they find for the dissemination of their works. Another initiative to promote new talent is the Prêmio Malê (Malê Award), which in 2017 had 180 entries. The winner, Jhow Carvalho, and nine other finalists had their stories published in the collection Letra e tinta, released in September.
“The award gave space to young writers to talk about their experiences, about subjects that have no place in other spaces,” says Jhow Carvalho. “A recurring theme in the short stories, for example, is the genocídio da população negra (genocide of the black population). To read them is to think how young black people are seeing the reality to which they belong.
Source: Editora Malê