Thursday, July 16, 2015
Frank Yerby - The Inside outsider
I never knew the true heritage of this novelist and Hollywood writer until a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed his work but now that I know his background I can see why some didn't. Not so much his work, but the elaborate masquerade he had to pull off to get it seen. But for me, it is no reflection on the man. He had to stay undercover. Not take center stage until, and if, his work hit with the audience that counts. I see his actions as that of a man who wanted to express his artistic side at any, and all, costs. And who refused to leave this Earth with his gift yet locked inside him because the outlet had been barred. I can't judge him. I DO cast epic side-eye at the short-sighted publishers and studios, and yes, at the audiences of the time.
It is amazing how this blocking of the dissemination of the "other" voice is still practiced in convoluted ways today in publishing and in Hollywood. IF, we writers of color are even considered to depict the "other" in our work, we writers of color are asked to write neutral, sterile, colorless characters so as to not disturb the "mainstream" reader's enjoyment or upset the storyline. WTF! I couldn't believe that nuttiness but it is based in truth because I've seen it, IN THIS ERA, in the comment sections of romance book review blogs. I, personally, have seen it in several permutations in two EXTREMELY POPULAR romance book review blogs. The aforementioned skittish reader (forgive me but all I see is a wobbly colt when I hear that adjective) specifically STATED that she have wanted to read "that certain book by that unfamiliar author" BUT had been put off by the possibility of encountering "unpleasantness" in the book. Again, WTF! I read that as code for "I'd like to read that non-White writer's romance book with the non-White characters but if ANYTHING REAL is in it...I can't deal. I'm too fragile."
Oy to the effin' vey.
Somebody, please pile the mulch up on that delicate, sensitive flower.
So, no. I do not fault Frank Yerby. The man was a creative being who refused to be silenced and he found ways, most assuredly "unpleasant" to him to be heard. Just like I salute Octavia Butler for daring to write Sci-fi, I salute Mr. Yerby for finding a path, no matter how restrictive, to living his truth. And for entertaining the skittish folks.