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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Diversity is Not Enough:Race, Power, Publishing

Here is a lucid look by Daniel Jose Older at the racist parameters of the publishing industry and how insiders are loathe to take on the onus of change. As noted as far back as 1965, the sea of faces in children's literature does not recognize young readers of color as the industry then (and now) kowtows to the racist market instead of trying to change that market. Thank goodness companies like Cheerios and Honey Grahams have decided enough is enough and let their racist customers be damned. If publishers would do the same, you would find a plethora of wonderful, diverse reading matter no matter the genre.

As noted in the article:

The disproportionally white publishing industry matters because agents and editors stand between writers and readers. Anika Noni Rose put it perfectly in Vanity Fair this month: "There are so many writers of color out there, and often what they get when they bring their books to their editors, they say, ‘We don’t relate to the character.’ Well it’s not for you to relate to! And why can’t you expand yourself so you can relate to the humanity of a character as opposed to the color of what they are?"

So we are wary. The publishing industry looks a lot like one of these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive.

Yes, I've heard the line about mainstream audiences not "relating to the character." Reciprocity is necessary in these cases; if they deem our books not worthy, why continue to contribute to their coffers? Why continue "relating to their characters" through our monies? It doesn't make sense to me.

As the article further notes:

We’re right to push for diversity, we have to, but it is only step one of a long journey. Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism. It walks hand in hand with sexism, cissexism, homophobia, and classism. To go beyond this same conversation we keep having, again and again, beyond tokens and quick fixes, requires us to look the illness in the face and destroy it. This is work for white people and people of color to do, sometimes together, sometimes apart. It’s work for writers, agents, editors, artists, fans, executives, interns, directors, and publicists. It’s work for reviewers, educators, administrators. It means taking courageous, real-world steps, not just changing mission statements or submissions guidelines.

Read the article in full.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 4/19/2014 02:59:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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