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#WeNeedDiverseBooks Has Left Its Mark

30 May 2015

From National Public Radio:

Publishing’s big week is almost over. The industry’s annual convention, BookExpo America, ends Friday in New York, and on Saturday the publishing world opens its doors to the public with BookCon, where avid readers will get the chance to mix and mingle with their favorite authors.

Last year, the lack of diversity on author panels at BookCon spawned the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which in turn sparked renewed conversation about the lack of diversity in publishing. Ellen Oh, one of We Need Diverse Books’ co-founders, says anger about the lack of diversity in publishing had been brewing for a long time, but when BookCon announced its guest list last year, it struck a nerve.

“It was 30 authors that were all white and the only diversity was the Grumpy Cat,” she says. “And I think at that point the anger and the disappointment of a lot of people just kind of overflowed and we decided to really talk about why this was so important.”

The campaign, aimed at the lack of diversity in kids’ books, urged people of all ages to tweet about why diverse books were so important to them. It used the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and the response was enormous. “These were clear reflections … that diversity was not just important to a small section of authors who had been talking about it for years; that it was actually important to the world,” Oh says.

. . . .

Among the authors who will be taking part in BookCon is Daniel José Older. His panel will address the issue of diversity in science fiction. Older thinks the diverse books campaign did provoke a wider discussion in the publishing world, and he has seen some change in the past year, but he says the industry has a long way to go. “I think we have yet to see how deeply rooted that change is,” he says. “So it’s one thing to put the word ‘diversity’ on banners and things like that, and then it’s another to actually achieve equity and stop racist practices in publishing. Those are two different things.”

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

PG says one of the greatest weaknesses of Big Publishing is its insularity.

Big Publishing

15 Comments to “#WeNeedDiverseBooks Has Left Its Mark”

  1. Self-censored.

  2. “…stop racist practices in publishing.”

    Damn, I forgot to send in my DNA swab to KDP.


  3. Yes we need diverse books. And we are hip deep in them in the indie world. There’s a reason they’re called gatekeepers.

  4. Isn’t there at least one bestselling and outstanding black woman author in SF?

    • “Isn’t there at least one bestselling and outstanding black woman author in SF?”

      … that admitted to her true sex and color when trying to get her books past those nurturing gatekeepers?

      That’s the thing, you can make up a new ‘handle’ and be whoever and whatever you want to be. And if you can stay in ‘character’, no one will know any better.

      It’s about like that joke that the only ones claiming to be young girls on the internet all have fbi badges … 😉

    • I vote Octavia Butler for adult SF and Malorie Blackman for children’s/YA SF.

    • I vote Octavia Butler for adult SF and Malorie Blackman for children’s/YA SF

    • Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor are names that come to mind. Doesn’t mean that there couldn’t and shouldn’t be more.

  5. How about diversity, as in trad-published authors, hybrids, and indies on the author panels?

  6. In Indie it’s the norm to be diverse, but that’s because we’re free to be so…and simply not make a big deal about it. Never has anyone ever commented negatively on the peeps in my books, because I don’t think it actually matters that various characters aren’t the same race or gender to the readers.

    Given, I write SF and that is a little different from say, literary fic or steamy romances, but honestly, that the trad pubs have this problem at all demonstrates to me yet again why their “nuturing” and gatekeeping is wrong-headed all the way down into its essence.

  7. I don’t think diversity has to do with ethnicity but rather the type of story that gets to be told and read. there are a lot of good stories out there that don’t appeal to the narrow range of New York publishers but that should reach the light of day.

  8. The campaign, aimed at the lack of diversity in kids’ books, urged people of all ages to tweet about why diverse books were so important to them.

    We should be able to measure a lack of supply for any good by looking at price and retail stocks.

    If supply is not meeting demand for some good at a given price point, that good usually disappears from retail shelves. Consumers buy it up and quickly clear the shelves.

    That typically results in an increase in price to the point where demand falls to meet supply at a higher price.

    However, if a good is stocked on retail shelves, and has not had an increase in price, that is a sign there is not a lack of supply.

  9. Working on my WIP at the moment and wondering–if I want diverse characters in my romance novels, how best do I show it? “LaTisha poured herself a second cup of coffee.” Do I slip in the fact that LaTisha, a physical therapist, is black? Which of my readers will care? She’s not a principal character. She doesn’t turn up often, only when a PT is needed for the story. What difference does it make? The shade of her skin has nothing to do with the fact she’s a wicked-good PT who can help my main character back on his feet.

    Or do I use names such as LaTisha and Antwon and D’Ante to “show” they are people of color? It seems so contrived to me, since I know black people who are Sandra and Bill and Reggie. I mean, you call a physical therapist Nguyen Le and the reader knows they are from Southeast Asia. But how do you show this in an African-American character?

    Or does it matter, and people in your books are just people?

    • You should describe POC to the same degree you do white characters. If you never mention the color of a white person’s skin, then don’t single out the POC either.

      Or follow what feels natural to your POV character. If this person would notice that someone is black, then mention it.

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