From The BBC:
Suhmayah Banda, from Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, said he wanted to write stories that “would allow my kids to see characters that look like them”.
A report for the Book Trust said one third of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) authors and illustrators in the UK self-publish.
That compares with 11% of white authors and illustrators.
“As a family we read a lot together, and there are so many varied characters out there – animals, monsters, cars, firemen,” said Mr Banda, who is originally from Cameroon.
“But when it comes to ethnically diverse, in my case black or mixed characters, there is just not that much choice out there.”
A study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in 2017 found only 1% of children’s books published that year in the UK had a BAME main character, and only 4% included BAME background characters.
The 2011 census found 14% of people in England and Wales were non-white. In Wales the figure was 4.5%.
. . . .
[O]ne of the catalysts for his first story was a comment Tancho made after reading a book in school.
“He came home from school one day and told me that people in Africa don’t have water in their houses. And as an African, and a Cameroonian specifically, I was a little surprised,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Really? All of Africa?’…there are a lot of people who have and don’t have things everywhere in the world, so I didn’t like that generalisation.
“Books are the first exposure a lot of kids and adults have to the wider world. And if those books are always written to the same narrative, in many cases misleading or wrong narratives, then it is dangerous on a lot of levels.
“And I wanted to expose my kids, and hopefully others, to a lot more perspectives.”
. . . .
Mr Banda, whose day-to-day job is in IT, is sceptical about efforts in the publishing industry to improve representation.
“They have a lot of competitions going on about promoting diversity. I find them flawed at best….
“You end up having a black or ethnically diverse character put in a story that doesn’t really reflect their reality. A lot of the time that is just tokenism,” he added.
. . . .
Aimee Felone, who co-founded publishing company Knights Of, shares Mr Banda’s frustration with much of the sector.
The company’s starting point was to hire “as widely and diversely as possible to make sure the books we publish give windows into as many worlds as possible”.
It has just published its first novel, a children’s murder mystery where the detectives are two young black sisters in London and, in October, they will be publishing a story about a character who is hard of hearing.
They purposefully chose a deaf editor to work on it, to make sure the story was “genuine and authentic”.
. . . .
In her view, the approach of the industry to BAME stories often grouped together non-white people from different backgrounds.
“I think what is missed is that there are different challenges that are faced within each community,” she said.
“We’re not looking at representations of Asian women, Chinese women [for example], we’re just putting everyone together in one box [and saying] ‘Oh look we have a BAME character’.
“What does that actually mean? Whose story are we actually telling?”
Link to the rest at The BBC
PG is skeptical that traditional publishing can move beyond tokenism given the background of 99% of its employees ranging from unpaid interns to the CEO. Of course, traditional publishing also deals with traditional book stores which have the same problems.
PG suggests the possibility that indie authors who self-publish may be the only avenue by which authentic voices can actually reach readers.