You raise an interesting question. In Odell's afterward, he talks about the conversation he had with an African-American friend who encouraged him to create "strong" African-American characters. The friend told Odell that no black person needed another "To Kill A Mockingbird," a novel that showed African-Americans benefiting from white power without being given any of their own. I think Odell was successful in creating strong African-American characters with their own source of power. In general, though, as a nation, we are in a "stronger" place now than before. No doubt the fact that Obama is president plays a role, but we have also lived long enough past the outward manifestations of racial bias - slavery, Jim Crow - for many of us to have no personal experience with it. The younger generation grew up in a more open-minded society, one that was wrestling with past injustice but was not actively participating in it, and the older generations have come to terms with the mistakes that they may not have contributed to, but that they lived through. As a group, we're used to having dialogues about race, and I think the emergence of novels that deal with these issues in honest, forthright ways is a manifestation of that openness.