Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Dr. Bestseller

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Dr. Bestseller

Article excerpt

Dr. Venise T. Berry's reading materials these days are books on African mythology, healing water, spirituality and energy and conservation issues.

If this sounds like a strange summer reading list for a journalism professor, it's because the University of Iowa professor is hard at work on her third popular novel, Colored Sugar Water.

A prolific writer, Berry has already written So Good, a book about the relationships of four women living in Washington, D.C., that became a bestseller. And this summer, she's out on the road promoting her new book, All of Me, about a television reporter and her lifelong struggle with her weight. All this while trying to balance a deadline for an academic book, The 50 Best Black Films, to be published this fall.

Berry shrugs off the suggestion that many professors find it difficult to just write their academic books and papers.

"Many journalists go on to become novelists. And besides, I'm a workaholic," says Berry, who is comfortable with her feet planted both in the academic world and the popular world.

"I feel schizophrenic. But I like the creative and the academic side."

Her academic side includes research on hip-hop music and racialism. "I am studying images - looking at how the images impact the audience," Berry says. "I make the connection between the product and the consumption of the product."

But she is disappointed by what she now hears coming across radio's airwaves.

"Rap music has changed dramatically," she says. "It hasn't lived up to its potential. Now the groups on the scene are mediocre. There is no NWA or KRS1. The images and messages of the groups like Public Enemy that came before were so important."

One of her next projects is looking at what rap fans, especially White rep consumers, are getting out of the music.

"Venise was one of the first scholars to write about hip-hop, and one of the few to look at hip-hop within the lives of consumers of the music," says Portia Maultsby, a professor of ethnomusicology at Indiana University. "She has been unique in forging a new direction for the field."

Berry also is writing about racialism, a term she and other scholars say goes beyond racism. "Racism is too much of a loaded term," Berry says. "We need to expand our definition of racism. Racialism buys into stereotypes. It's not necessarily malicious."

She cites last year's hue and cry over the lack of minorities on network television shows as an example of racialism. "It didn't occur to the White executives when they were creating their schedule that there were no Black actors on their television shows," Berry says. "There was a lack of sensitivity. …

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