She Has The Kardashians On Her Shelf, But Publisher Karen Hunter Seeks Socially-Conscious Books

July 9, 2014  |  

By now, most of us have grown weary of the media takeover staged by Kim, Khloe, Kortney and all the other K-named members of America’s most infamous reality TV family – or at least we claim to be. And in addition to the scores of reporters, bloggers and producers who ensure that we know exactly what shade of lip gloss Kim is wearing at all times, African-American book publisher Karen Hunter has actually (unfortunately, some might say) played an implicit role in the Kardashian Kraziness herself. It was through Hunter’s publishing imprint, Karen Hunter Books, that notorious momager Kris Jenner chose to release her memoir, Kris Jenner…And All Things Kardashian, in 2011, and on June 3 Hunter also published Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s novel Rebels: City of Indra.

Now, before you dismiss her as a sell-out or celeb groupie, understand this: Hunter is, if nothing else, very strategic. “As a business woman, if I did a string of books that didn’t sell a whole bunch of copies, I couldn’t still be doing this seven years later,” she says. “You do the books that are going to pay the bills so you can do the books that matter.”

In the literary world – where digital sales, legal conflicts between publishers and online retailers and the continued shuttering of brick-and-mortar shops threaten to hijack the traditional profit structure – it is more difficult than ever for smaller imprints like Hunter’s to remain viable. Thus the Kardashian Konnection, as well as upcoming books from Shaunie O’Neal, Adrienne Bailon, Tamar Braxton and others. Apparently, Hunter’s model is working. The celebrity format has provided seven year’s worth of longevity in a notoriously fickle industry, plus the platform to release those “books that matter.”

There’s Why Black Men Love White Women (2008), an introspective title that, among other things, delves into the notion that white supremacy has shaped the collective psyche of black men, often causing them to develop a negative view of themselves and their entire race. There’s Don’t Bring Home a White Boy (2010), a first-person narrative from a woman who, after finding herself single with few options, decided to dip her toe into the interracial dating pool, ultimately marrying a white man. And there’s Stop Being Niggardly (2010), Hunter’s own admonition for black folks to stop pointing fingers at “the man,” step up and take responsibility for our own destinies.

It is these titles that Hunter longs to publish – books that challenge people (African Americans, specifically) to examine their lives through a more critical lens, ultimately growing and maturing to reach their full potential. “We got beaten and killed, and a whole bunch of things happened to us for the desire to know how to read,” Hunter says. “The power of knowing how to read, for us, is the difference between being successful in this life and not. But [reading] is not part of who are as a people, and that is my next crusade – to try to figure out how to make that something that is part of our dynamic in a way that Malcolm X can go to jail, read the dictionary and transform himself.”

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