After work yesterday, I moved my car to a legal parking area, braved the cold and frugally skipped the tram(3.20 Swiss francs), and walked the 10 or so minutes to my favorite newspaper/magazine shop at Barfusserplatz in Basel. The goal was to purchase Ebony Magazine and O(Oprah) Magazine. The salesclerk dropped the first bad news. Ebony had been discontinued and Oprah boasted a huge 17.50(Swiss francs)(Almost 20 dollars for a magazine?? No way!)… Then the second floorer! The salesclerk mentioned that the store would be closing next week due to the inability to pay the expensive rent on Freie
strasse. Saddened and shocked, I left the store and trekked around the corner to my favorite English bookstore, Bergli Books. Oh no! Closing signs on the window.
A forlorn looking owner greeted me at the door. I had submitted manuscripts to her in the past for publication, but had no luck. I had also responded to a previous request that I read a book she was considering reprinting. The book is entitled The Bern Book by Vincent Carter, an African American unpublished writer’s story about living in Bern as an unpublished writer. Mr. Carters’s challenges are adeptly penned as is his historical account concerning a horrid murder of a black man and his lover, a white Swiss female in Bern, back in the day(I cringed while reading). After reading the book, I insisted that she reprint. I never saw the book again, neither old, nor reprinted.
Yesterday, I asked the owner about the closing. She responded, “‘I haven’t found anyone to take my place so we are closing! But I will continue my publishing endeavors… concerning Switzerland.'”
As I drifted through the rows and rows of good friends on the walls, I heard the owner thank individual customers for their years of loyalty. Finally, I settled on two books..a cookbook entitled olive+oil by Jo McAuley and Sula by Toni Morrison.
During the payment transaction, I asked her for a card and informed her of my interest in submitting new things to her. She irritably exclaimed, “Oh, don’t send me anything for the next two months, I have 150 manuscripts!” I recall that my earlier submissions to her were about actual accounts of my life, my experiences in Switzerland. Her board of readers all seemed to agree that the Swiss prefer to read about the pleasantries of Swiss life. My writing deals with the realities of life, not fiction. I felt a thread of connection between Mr. Vincent Carter and myself. The stories of African American writers residing in Europe warrant a public. Our stories have to be told.
I will continue to write. And just maybe, I must open my own bookstore…..and name it Not Sugar Coated.
Does anyone else out there have challenges when folk do not want to read your truth?