PHILADELPHIA – Charles Fuller screws up his face in mock confusion, then laughs.

The eminent playwright, who this month published his novel, “Snatch: The Adventures of David and Me in Old New York,” is trying to picture what it means to live in a post-racial America.

“When (Barack) Obama was campaigning (for the White House), I kept hearing that we are entering a post-racial America,” says Fuller, whose tense, Pulitzer-Prize winning 1981 World War II-era murder mystery, “A Soldier’s Play,” mounted a stunning critique of America’s legacy of racism.

“Well, that’s … absurd,” he says, laughing. “What does that mean, anyway?”

Fuller, 70, grew up in North Philadelphia and graduated from Roman Catholic High School and LaSalle University. On a bright afternoon, he is relaxing on a cream-colored couch in the high-rise apartment he shares with his wife, filmmaker Claire Prieto-Fuller. A slim, compact man, he sports closely cropped salt-and-pepper hair and a matching beard.

Softspoken and eloquent, he fields questions at a methodical pace. And he’s funny.

“It’s comfortable to feel that the (civil rights) work that went on in the 1960s has been completed. … We Americans are remarkable. … We like things to be over with,” he says, letting out one of many chortles.

Equality, Fuller says, is a promise, a process, which continues but is far from complete. He says “Snatch” and the dozens of plays that preceded it are part of a lifelong quest to contribute as an artist to the civil rights movement.

A rousing historical adventure for kids in fifth through ninth grades, “Snatch” tells the story of Charles and David, two prepubescent African-American brothers in antebellum New York who help a runaway slave from the South evade authorities. The first in a planned trilogy, “Snatch” is an exuberant throwback to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens’ best work.

In a move he says surprised his colleagues, Fuller self-published the novel so he could control its distribution.

“We wanted to make sure to get it into the community rather than rely on the corporate slowness, which would kill it,” he says.

Fuller’s decision isn’t all that shocking, says Publishers Weekly features editor Andrew R. Albanese. Self-publishing has exploded, he says. According to the publishing information agency RR Bowker, 764,448 titles were released by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers in 2009, compared to 289,729 in 2008.

And it’s a trend not limited to newbie authors who can’t find a publisher. Mid-level and A-list authors are part of the trend. “It’s something that is being examined more and more by popular authors,” Albanese says. Mystery writer J.A. Konrath and young-adult author Cory Doctorow are doing new books on their own, he adds.

Fuller explains that his primary goal isn’t necessarily to place “Snatch” in major retailers, but to have library systems and public schools adopt the book. He says he plans to present it later this month at the annual meeting of the American Library Association in Washington, D.C.

Fuller commissioned educator and author Marguerite Tiggs Birt to write a teacher’s guide.

“The guide has lesson plans in three subjects — language arts, social studies and math,” Birt says from her home in Savannah, Ga. Birt, 71, who is Fuller’s second cousin, taught college-level education courses and grade school until her retirement in 2005.