One of the main things that I’ve learnt in the past year of book bloggery is that I read a pretty wide range of genres, written almost exclusively by straight, white people.
I haven’t specifically counted but I think there’s a pretty even split between male and female authors because I do enjoy a good paranormal romance where female authors seem to dominate.
My reads come from Twitter, Amazon recommendations, author requests and NetGalley for the most part and I choose my reads based on the cover and description (I never read the author bios because it has no impact on my choice to read a book or not).
What I mean by ‘Diversity’
In this context, I mean authors and characters who aren’t white, straight, cis, able bodied and British/American. I particularly love books from different cultures, featuring traditions that I couldn’t even imagine – I read a lot of fantasy and fiction, I know Middle Earth back to front but I couldn’t tell you about Thai national holidays or wedding traditions in Brazil.
What’s the problem?
The publishing industry employs almost exclusively white people, by all accounts. This has led to a discrepancy in the types of books being published and promoted by the heavy hitters, so the more diverse books seem to never see the light of day. If they’re being published at all, there seems to be a pretty lacklustre approach to promoting them to readers.
I personally feel cheated and a little bit creeped out that somewhere along the line, someone is deciding what kinds of books should be presented to me as a reader. It’s a VERY limited range of books too, so I’d like to offer a very wholehearted ‘fuck you’ to whoever is denying me the chance to choose my own books.
Why it matters
Reading is about learning. I learn something new about the human condition with every book I read, if every character I read about has similar life experiences to me then there’s a limit to what I can learn.
To put it bluntly, while gratuitously quoting Yoda:
Most of us fear what we don’t know and reading helps us to understand things in a nice safe environment (books don’t judge!).
Read the prejudice away!
What we can do about it
This is something that comes up a lot on the BookRiot podcast and what first had me thinking about this issue, first thinking and then grumbling.
There’s not a hell of a lot to be done until the publishing industry stops spoon feeding us whitewashed literature and it looks like that won’t happen until they at least start employing a more diverse workforce.
Until that day, we’re going to have to go hunting for these books and a lot of them will be self published with limited advertising reach…. so, that’s a pain in the ass.
If you’re anything like me, the books you read sort of fall in your path online with limited effort on your part but reading books in the ‘diverse’ category takes some actual work.
The things I’ve found lately to get me on the right path are:
Twitter hashtag #DiverseBookBloggers
Blog: Read Diverse Books
Podcast: Get Booked
Goodreads: Diversity in Fantasy and Science Fiction
What I’m going to do about it
As a straight white person, the only contribution I think I can make to this battle without being a patronising ass it spend, spend, spend.
I’m going to stop being lazy and if the publishing industry won’t put diverse books in my path, actively seek them out and promote the hell out of them (based on merit of course, positive discrimination doesn’t float my boat either).
What do you think we can actively do to change the way things are in the publishing industry, as readers and bloggers?