By: Alicia Hughes
I find it quite peculiar that the publishing industry is still struggling to bring in diversity to their companies. I mostly find it peculiar because of the students I’ve seen in my creative writing classes. A great majority of them are women; from all different races, cultures, and orientations.
So why is it that so many pieces of literature published today are from white straight men? This certainly isn’t indicative to who’s reading and it certainly isn’t demonstrative to who’s writing.
In the chapter of Literary Publishing in the 21st Century entitled “Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” Daniel Jose Older speaks on the topic of racial diversity in the publishing industry.
Older talks about the statistic that out 3,200 books published in 2013 only 93 were about black people. I’ve heard this statistic before and I definitely see the proof to back it up I can only count a handful of titles that I’ve read that featured a person of another race.
Many pass this startlingly fact off as an outcome of not enough diverse pieces being submitted or not enough need in the market for pieces showing diversity. This is certainly not the case. These books are being asked for, but the publishing industry is not answering.
If this were the case, it would be even more of a reason to seek out and publish diverse content. Literature should be a representation of all people and all viewpoints; how could we possibly expect to achieve that if we only show one perspective.
“Ultimately, editors and agents hold exactly the same amount of responsibility that writers do in making literature more diverse. The difference is, editors and agents have inordinately more power and access in the industry than writers do”(Older 158).
This quote showcases the amount of power editors have in diversifying literature. Yes, authors have to first write diverse literature, but editors have to then choose to publish this diverse work.
By publishing diverse work we not only create a more diverse literary community, we encourage a diverse future in publishing. If more people can see themselves in literature, perhaps they will be inspired to share their story, lending more insight into perspectives that aren’t are own.
I believe that it is beyond important for everyone to be able to see him or herself in literature and I hope that one day I may be able to make that a reality.
If you’re interested in diversifying literature the campaign #weneeeddiversebooks offers great insight into how to support books that are written by or contain characters that are diverse (whether it be by race, sexual orientation, disability, etc.).