Today, I went to Barnes & Noble to spend a gift certificate I received for Father’s Day. Given the occasion, it seemed fitting to use it to buy a copy of a book I’ve been meaning to read, Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.
Of course, I sought it under "biography." No dice. I scanned the shelf where the "O’s" would be repeatedly. I looked to see if it had been mistakenly placed under "New Biography." Nope. Then I looked to make sure it hadn’t been filed by "Barack." Nope. Not under the "B’s."
So I went to the "Current Affairs" section. No luck.
Finally, I did the thing I hate, and went to the information desk. The clerk made a beeline for the "Store Favorites" table, and handed me a copy. As one does under such circumstances, I felt constrained to explain why I had had to ask for help, muttering something about having searched and searched under "Biography."
The clerk told me it wouldn’t have been under "Biography." It would have been under "African-American."
You’ll note that on the Web site, it’s considered to be a biography. But apparently not in the store. In case you wondered, John McCain does appear under "biography." Yes, the subtitle of the book is "A Story of Race and Inheritance." I get that. But it’s still a biography — or, to be technical, and autobiography. If it was right to file this under "African-American" instead of "Biography," then the McCain books — which feature him as a Navy aviator on the cover — should have been under "military history." But they weren’t.
After I got home a few minutes ago, it occurred to me that I didn’t go check what the clerk had told me — I didn’t search the "African-American" section, assuming that such a section exists. I’ll try to remember to check next time. But I do know that there were no copies under "Biography."