Finding literature that reflects the various facets of the black experience does not come easy. For every writer like Toni Morrison, whose works often intersperse the African-American experience with mythology and cultural insights, their are other writers who, some will say, are eager to pander to the “street literature,” and urban pulp markets that reflect a one-dimensional view of the black experience.
Supporters of such work, which does sell, will argue that the writers are only portraying their own experiences and beliefs. However, critics will note that these books ignore a large percentage of black readers who want to find other reflections and broader scope of the culture.
One African-American writer and avid reader in particular is Mark Allen Boone. Boone, already publishing industry veteran at age 23, recently announced the launch of Blacksmith Books LLC, a publishing company created to fill what many see is a void in quality writing reflecting the diverse African American experience.
Boone, a writer and editor, established Blacksmith Books to meet the needs of readers and writers, he said, especially those frustrated by the glut of “urban fiction” and “street literature” currently dominating the marketplace.
Boone said the mission of Blacksmith Books is to successfully publish high-quality fiction and nonfiction by and about African Americans.
“I’ve practiced this craft for many years and know firsthand the disappointment of rejection by publishing companies,” said Boone, the company’s president. “With the advent Blacksmith, I hope to open doors that have previously been closed to talented African American authors and aspiring authors.”
The impetus for founding Blacksmith, he said, was ‘What White Publishers Won’t Print’ an essay written in 1950 by Zora Neale Hurston.
“She lamented the lack of ‘incisive and full-dress stories around Negroes above the servant class,” said Boone. “I share similar concerns about today’s publishing industry, and through Blacksmith have endeavored to do something about it.”
Boone began his career as a teacher for the Chicago Public Schools and the Archdiocese of Chicago. He held jobs in various other fields, including banking. Eventually, his love of the written word led to a career in textbook publishing. At night and on weekends, Boone honed his craft by writing short stories.
He published his first novel “Reunion,” in 1989. The book focused on the estrangement of two male friends after one of them moves away with his significant other, and the single friend’s attempt to reunite with his attached crony years later.
In 1990, he founded the West Side Writer’s Guild, a forum for aspiring writers from Chicago’s West Side to share their work and hone their craft.
Finally, his dream of becoming an independent publisher was realized through the founding of Blacksmith Books. Based on his years of experience, Boone believes he is uniquely equipped to provide opportunities for these authors.
Boone in particular wants to publish more books that show the lives of upper and middle-class blacks often ignored in favor of tales of “urban warfare.”
The first title to be released under the Blacksmith Books imprint is “The Demise of Luleta Jones,” a literary mystery penned by Boone. It’s been available for purchase since Feb. 1.
The book centers around the head of the Fine Arts program at a public high school in a gentrifying Chicago community on Chicago’s Far West Side. The character is found dead in her apartment, possibly by suicide. The lead character, reporter Theo Pugh sets out to uncover the facts surrounding her mysterious death. His discovery leads to the exposure of an interclass conflict between black middle and lower classes.
Boone said he is accepting proposals for completed manuscripts and hopes to publish at least three more books by the end of the year.
To read a chapter from “The Demise of Luleta Jones” or for more information about Blacksmith Books, visit www.blacksmithbks.com.