Black Men Reading: Meet Bookstagrammer Reginald Bailey PART TWO

Have you returned to learn more about Bookstagrammer Reginald Bailey after having read Part One of our exchange? I hope so! Yesterday we talked about the books that upturned Reggie’s reading life three years ago; trends in publishing; how he came to prioritize reading authors of color; and where he finds bookish friends. Today’s post will touch on why Reggie values reading fiction; paradigms he would like to help shift; and interests he has outside of reading.

[LR]: That’s an interest statistic, Reggie – so, in 30+ years the percentage of adults who read a single work of literature dropped by 14 percent. I wonder if that’s because adults are reading other things like nonfiction books, blogs, and newspaper and magazine articles? This is a good place to segue into something I wanted to ask. What do you like about reading fiction?

[RB]: What I like about reading fiction, as cliché as it may sound, is the fact you see the human side of all the statistics you sometimes read about in nonfiction books. The best works of literature, to me, use a small story as a gateway to discuss and dissect large ideas. With its highly-developed characters, scenes, descriptions, and cultural references, fiction can drop you directly into a world – sometimes without any form of protection, filter, or barrier – and to me, that is a very effective way for us to understand and empathize, with issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, immigration, mass incarceration, religious intolerance, domestic violence, and many more issues that affect individuals on a daily basis.

Fiction is also extremely entertaining! I wonder if people really know how many movies and TV shows they watch and enjoy are adaptations of novels, short stories, and plays, if that would encourage them to read more? I always find myself trying to picture not only how the novels & short stories I read would translate to film and television, but I sometimes even try to cast existing actors and actresses for the characters in said works.

[LR]: Is there an under-appreciated author or work that you would like to recommend?

[RB]: Perhaps it is tough to call an author whose debut novel was long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction “under-appreciated,” but the first title that comes to my mind is A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. A Kind of Freedom was such a gorgeous novel. Centering a Black family in New Orleans from a little before World War 2 all the way to 2011 New Orleans which was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Sexton did a wonderful job of adjusting to each era with her language, setting, battles faced by her characters and much more. I loved how empathetic she was with her characters. She gave her characters plenty of trials and tribulations, some which they were defeated by, but you always knew she wrote them with love and that said a lot to me.

(photo by Leslie Reese)

[LR]: I forgot to mention this before, but I love that in addition to whatever readings you were assigned while earning your MBA in Organizational Leadership, you had a “self-assigned” reading list as well. Any favorites from that list?

[RB]: My favorite book that I read recreationally while getting my M.B.A. was Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It illuminated so many unsaid things that play a role in the success stories that we consume often in the United States. The important things like being born in the right era, putting 10,000 hours into a specific arena or goal so that you can master it, and The Matthew Effect which Gladwell used to expound on the reality of Biblical verse Matthew 25: 29, amongst other things. It is certainly a book I will have to revisit as my worldview has changed drastically since my initial reading, but I do remember reading it and recommending it to anyone who would listen to me gush over it.

[LR]: So, besides reading, what else do you like to do?
[RB]:  I am currently taking creative writing courses online. I’ll be quite frank with you and say that I enjoy the idea of writing much better than the process of it, but I enjoy reading so much that if writing is an avenue I can travel down that will expose me to more reading – whether that is revising and editing my own work or reading other books and constantly exposing myself to beautiful and innovative forms of writing and storytelling – then I am completely fine with doing the process.

Another thing I have been enjoying lately is going to the gym. I ride the stationary bike on level 12 of a program called “random” which increases and decreases the resistance of the bike during the time span of your workout. I have been able to consistently burn 550-650 calories per “trip.” I need to couple that with better eating habits, because I do have a specific, leaner look in mind for myself, but I know with each day I am improving and making better decisions with my diet.

I am also a huge basketball fan. I played basketball throughout my grade school years via school leagues, recreational leagues, pick-up basketball, and AAU. I continue to be a huge fan of the game and was even fortunate enough to do an episode of William & James Ballentine’s Old School New School Podcast. That was a lot of fun to do, and it goes to show that the transition from full-time basketball player in grade school to full-time basketball fan as an adult doesn’t have to solely be a transition from court to couch just because you do not work for a large entertainment company such as ESPN.

[LR]: To your point about “liking the idea of writing better than the process [of writing]” – I seem to remember reading Toni Morrison having talked about people liking to say they had authored something more than liking the work that goes into it. That’s too true on many days! I admire you for taking creative writing courses. Besides cultivating the writer in you, it can also enrich how you read and appreciate what different writers are doing.

Reggie, here’s a question I’ve asked in other interviews, and want to ask you: Is there an idea that you dislike, or a paradigm you would like to help change?

[RB]: There is this idea/phrase that I do not like because it is factually inaccurate. In the United States you will sometimes hear people say, “If you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book.”

Black Americans – as a whole – read more physical, electronic, and audio books than any other ethnic group in the United States. Pew Research released a report in 2014 that backs up these claims. This is just one of the many ways Anti-Blackness manifests itself in the United States, but I am – and hopefully many others are – working on ridding ourselves of these false beliefs regarding Black people. As Dr. Ibram Kendi says in Stamped from the Beginning “The only thing wrong with Black people is that we think there is something wrong with Black people.”

(photo by Leslie Reese)

Another paradigm I would like to change is the amount of male readers, specifically black ones, on Bookstagram. Bookstagram is an amazing community that is largely woman-based and there is nothing wrong with that. The women on there are leaders; they are brilliant, funny, and charismatic. But I know that this environment could use more men. Not even for the women’s sake. For men’s sake. Men could benefit from reading more books since women statistically read more than men, but they could also benefit from reading books and listening and learning from the many points of view that wonderful women readers and Bookstagrammers have – regarding the books they read.

I also think men could benefit from reading more fiction written by women authors. It would be a huge step in helping many men view women as people with valuable, intrinsic qualities – rather than here to serve as props in men’s lives. I’ve learned that women readers continue to be disappointed by the ways they are depicted by male authors. I wonder if that is because men aren’t reading enough women authors who are writing wonderful casts of characters that showcase fully-developed, complicated, and complex female (AND MALE) characters?
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You can connect with Reggie
on instagram: here.
on goodreads: here.
on twitter: here.
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“It is an unfortunate situation but literary culture is almost zero, you are an anomaly if you engage with books. There’s a saying that if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book, and to a great extent it’s true. I take my family as an example. There was a short-story version of the novel, and there were copies of that journal in my house for many years. I have eleven siblings, and only my dad and my younger sister have read it. No other person. Five times more Americans, and maybe British too, have read Things Fall Apart than Nigerians. Reading is seen as a taxing experience, whereas it’s easy to watch movies. But there’s something that comes with engaging in a text, it’s a conversation with your mind in a way that very few other art forms can challenge you, and I think you have to acquire the facility from a very young age.” -Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen; from “Chigozie Obioma: Tangled Lines,” by Mark Reynolds for Bookanista.

Read “Chigozie Obioma: Tangled Lines” by Mark Reynolds.

13 Comments

  1. Excellent interview Leslie! Thank you Reggie for sharing! I have to agree with Reggie about writing – it’s hard! However if we want to actually finish a book we’re going to have to suck it up and do the hard work. I enjoyed hearing about the paradigms Reggie wants to break. They add a lot to the resurfacing topic of diversity. Oh and thanks for reminding me to read A Kind of Freedom which I have been putting off. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked this interview/conversation, Didi! Speaking of A Kind of Freedom, it’s true that we haven’t seen it that much on bookstagram, on blogs, or on BookTube. 🤔

  2. A beautiful dialogue, as always–I expect nothing less from you, Leslie! And I need to look up Stamped from the Beginning. Our human natures are too bloody keen to brutalize others, and ourselves.

    1. Thank you, Jean Lee, for returning to read part two. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      You bring up something important: brutalizing another brutalizes the self. (I don’t know if that’s the meaning you intended, but that’s what I got from your comment). When the book club I’m in resumes after summer break, I’m going to suggest that we read Stamped From the Beginning in 2019. It may meet with some resistance as some members are tired of reading about racism.

  3. Excellent second part of the interview. Also, thanks for recommending A Kind of Freedom. I love New Orleans and this book sounds amazing, for a number of reasons. It’s now in my Amazon shopping cart, and being that it’s set in NOLA, I can imagine many food references for my blog.

  4. Dear Leslie and Reggie, Thanks again for a great conversation. I know some of the same joys of reading and writing that you do — yet I’m sure that both reading and writing are big enough to encompass our different experiences, too. I love the point about reading your own writing being part of reading — I am working on revisions now for a part of my book that I dipped into in small sections, and my cousin/reader has called my attention to problems I wasn’t paying attention to at first. I will be correcting the problems (mostly connected with what one character wears) in bigger pieces than I wrote them. Cheers and happy reading to you both!

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