Publishers Flood Market With Relationship Advice

THE WASHINGTON POST

Light a candle, they tell readers. Imagine the ideal guy, the one you want to marry. See him in a business suit. Watch him take a bath. Picture him in the kitchen. Envision him in every, and they mean every, possible situation. Now put that image into a pink bubble, release it into the universe and forget it.

If all goes according to the plan of Monique Jellerette deJongh and Cassandra Marshall Cato-Louis, authors of the new book "How to Marry a Black Man: The Real Deal," your Mr. Right should float into your life within two years.

This is just one piece of advice--some of it substantive, some less so--being offered to readers in a growing list of books by mainstream publishers about how African American men and women respond to one another.

Although "relationship books" have traditionally sold well in the black community, most have been published by the authors themselves or by small houses. New titles, however, such as Doubleday's "How to Marry a Black Man," Warner Books' "How to Love a Black Man" by Ronn Elmore, HarperPerennial's paperback edition of "The Best Kind of Loving: A Black Woman's Guide to Finding Intimacy" by Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant, and Ballantine Books' paperback "Getting Good Loving: How Black Men and Women Can Make Love Work" by Audrey B. Chapman, have popped up in recent weeks.

"I don't know when there's ever been such a crop of relationship books targeted to African Americans," says Elmore, a Los Angeles psychotherapist. "There is a trend. I don't think it has peaked."

Elmore believes that African Americans are trying to get beyond political and sociological self-examination. "We are allowing ourselves to look at ourselves on a personal level," he says. "I think we're going to see the whole gamut--we're going to see titles that touch every part of our interpersonal relationships."

Sources in the publishing industry trace this recent spate of interest to the Million Man March in October and to the popular movie "Waiting to Exhale," which is based on Terry McMillan's novel about African American relationships.

An excerpt from Elmore's book was last month's cover story in Essence. "One million Black men marched on Washington," reads the article's introduction. "But untold millions more Black men and women are also heeding the call to heal the wounds within our communities and families and lay claim to that inner power that can enrich our personal lives."

In his volume, Elmore lays out 73 "Satisfaction Actions" to help women understand black men, such as, "Expect Black men to be very different from the women who love them," "Praise in public, protest in private" and "Learn to live with mystery."

Comparing their book with Elmore's, deJongh says, "The approach is lighter, but the subject matter is heavier."

Cato-Louis says "How to Marry a Black Man" is written in the language of the women it will appeal to. For example, the authors use creative spelling to get their points across: "Together" becomes "togethah" and "brother" is written as "brothah."

Cassandra Burton, of Sisterspace and Books in Washington, D.C., believes that the rash of relationship books is proof positive that large publishing houses are waking up to the African American market. She cites a recent Gallup study, commissioned by the American Booksellers Assn., showing that more than half of black adults have bought at least one book in the last three months.

According to the survey, 9.9 million black adults buy nearly 160 million books, calendars and multimedia products a year.

"The two genres that seem most popular among African American readers are novels about women and relationships, and books about relationships in general," says Philadelphia literary consultant Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati.

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