Terry McMillan Is Fed Up!

Have you read about Terry McMillan taking a stance against urban/ghetto fiction? She makes some valid points, so check out the following letter addressed to Karen Hunter and Simon & Schuster. (Story provided via Playahata.com)

The three of you 1.karen@karenhunterpublishing.com, 2.louise.burke@simonandschuster.com, 3.carolyn.reidy@simonandschuster.com 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.

Sincerely,

Terry McMillan

What do you think? Happy reading, ya’ll.

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11 thoughts on “Terry McMillan Is Fed Up!

  1. Her argument weakens, in my opinion, when she personalizes it.

    “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.”

    From that point on, McMillan takes a few more unnecessary low blows. If this were attack on the ghetto fiction industry, I think she should have come with a stronger approach that doesn’t have light tones of vengeance in it.

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  2. In my humble opinion a lot of what Ms. McMillan said is very valid. This society is on a downward spiral and African Americans are helping to perpetuate this travesty. However she sounds a bit venemous, scorned, and bitter. I think this was more of a personal attack and not quite about taking a stand against the industry.
    A lot of what was said was better left unsaid…

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  3. I’m afraid I too see this as just part of her anger at her ex husband. And as long as the publishers are making money (ie as long as black folks snap up these books like candy) they’ll be around. And I don’t think the authors and smaller publishers (I’m thinking mainly of Triple Crown) particularly care what Terry says, and would call her a ‘player hater’. Having heard two of the speak recently, they could not care less about our criticism.

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  4. Regina – I agree with you. Is she really taking a stance against the industry or is there something more personal here?

    Chinua – Where was she? Working on a new book! 🙂

    Reggie – Yeah, I think it will take much more than a letter from Terry McMillan to shut down this particular industry. She should organize more black writers…

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  5. I think Terry is Dead Wrong on this one. Terrys writing was “ghetto lit” until her publisher told her to clean it up. I don’t think thats it’s fair for her to hate on others when writers who like what they do, do it for their audience. Terrys books have been out since i was in high school, and if you ask me i thought it was considered black men bashing. Stella was a ok book, but why can’t Terry just admit that she was in the Carribean for more than a vacation. She was doing what alot of European and North American woamn do. She was just touring the sex trade down there. Don’t try to sugarcoat it with sorries of a new beginning. i can go on and on. Whoever dont like my opinion well too bad. I speak it as i see it.

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  6. C, would you really categorize McMillan’s first publications as ghetto fiction? I don’t know about that.

    Several authors have also been accused of black male bashing, including Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. But without these male characters and storylines, would the authors be able to create the same literary impact with their texts?

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  7. In Stella, Terry McMillan describes Jamaican men as having “dicks the size of firehoses.” If that’s not ghetto and degrading and exploitative of our men, I don’t know what is….she has some nerve calling out anybody after she wrote that rubbish. But then again we rushed out and bought it and Hollywood bought it…..anything can be sold these days

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  8. If you know anything about the industry, or anything about writing and the use of rhetoric at all, you should be able to understand that various topics/subjects appeal to various audiences. I enjoy reading and writing what many consider “urban fiction” because it’s what I’ve observed my entire life. I don’t agree that blacks shouldn’t write, publish, or purchase these books because of their content. Some of us are unable to write about finding love in the Caribbean or success in business or family relationships because we have not experienced them. Perhaps we have only experienced living in poverty, relationships with local drug dealer, prostitution and other criminal acts. The content not only depends on the audience but on the experiences of the writer. If you don’t want to read a book, don’t pick it up off the shelf. We can’t control the music that’s being made these days, so why control what’s being published?

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