Authors and Writers Blog

I Never Wanted to Be a Black Woman Southern Author

It was never my desire to be a Black author
To be a woman author or a southern author
I only wanted to be an author
Like other authors not compelled to carry limiting descriptors of themselves
other than possibly their nation of origin
I only wanted to be an author
Respected for my craft and my words
But the heaviness of those very same descriptors weigh upon my words
Spilling out through the sentiments I express 
because they are my lived experience as a human being

It is as human beings, first, with all the complexities of that experience, that shapes what we write, what we create, that the musings ate filtered through.

The lens I have been given to view this world could have been only as an American, but instead, before I was ever a thought, it was assigned that I couldn’t just be an American like other Americans. I had to have a qualifier.

As a writer I couldn’t be just an American I had to be a woman author or a Black Author or a Southern Author and in some cases all three.

I wrote a poem several years ago called Labels. I still feel this way, frustrated by the constraints others put on the words I can write or should write. Including other Black people and women.

I am frustrated because Americans are slow to buy books by Black women that aren’t about racism or oppression. Because my stories include Black people and women as regular human beings, not as accessories and secondaries only. Because I grew up a poor Black girl who believed that if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to, the American dream can be yours. 

No one told me then that there was a qualifier. The Black woman American dream can be yours. Remember your place as a Black person and woman and while there are some that will hit the jackpot, be satisfied you are able to play the game at all. Be happy when Americans who have no need to be qualified, accept you and give you the mark of approval. Sure, approval is nice, but I can’t let it get in my way of playing in my own sandbox.

No, thank you. There was a time when I had just begun writing that I submitted a few works for traditional publishing. Even recently, a children’s chapter book because the resources and money to create it were more readily available to a publisher. Unless I am given equal regard, why give away my magic to someone who doesn’t even understand it?

I sit here in this sixth year since I published my very first book, and I no longer seek the approval of those who never wanted me anyway. I will tell the stories I want to tell, filled with people who look like me, my family, and other walks of life. My stories will not only be about Black pain, which is real, but about love, spirit, human strength, joy, adventure and the magic that is as much a part of Black people and women as it is anyone else who has breathed and experienced life.

I am a writer. I am an author. I am an American writer and author. I happen to have lived and learned and witnessed this world through the lens of a Black woman who was born in and has lived in the past 28 years in the South (No, I’m not 28).

I hope people can appreciate stories from people like me as stories of people who simply have a different lived experience and not just women’s books or ethnic books. They are books, stories from the macrocosm of humanity.

Bernette Sherman with five of her published books
Books that are shaped by the very identities I’ve been given to carry, but containing the essence of our shared human experiences.

You can learn more about me and my work here.

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