Oh man! My head is throbbing.
This week, Lee and Low Books, a publisher of children’s books, release the results of a survey they commissioned. Here’s a fascinating tidbit. White, heterosexual women are the gatekeepers to publishing.
They call it the Diversity Baseline Survey and they conducted it April – December 2015. The goal was to finally get a count, a snapshot on who the decisions makes were when it came to who was published by publishers or lit journals.
Frankly, I and other writers of colors always knew that the decision makers in publishing were white. But the theory was always that the majority of the decision makers were white middle-aged male. This survey only proved one part of that. It proved race but it disapproved gender.
Overall 78 percent of the industry identifies as women. More specifically 84 percent in the editorial department are women. Book reviewers, the folks who tell other folks what’s good to read, is made up of 87 percent women.
While I was reeling from that information, another report was reported on. The most likely group to read books? College-educated African Americans
I’m sorry, what?
Slate reported on the PEW Research Center’s findings back in 2014, (The article linked above says African American women read the most but after looking at PEW’s finding myself, the headline is misleading.)
The report was to find out about reading habits, specifically delivery — tablet, phone, or physical book.
Of the adults who read at least ONE book, African Americans read the most, 81 percent. And they read print books! (About 75 percent).
We can debate whether they are buying them or borrowing them in another blog post, however, this begs the following question:
If it’s white women who are making the decision on who is published but it’s African Americans who are doing the reading, why are there not more writers of color being published?
This makes me believe that a suspicion I had earlier about the a segment of the mystery reading audience has some validation. The reading audience isn’t what we think it is much like the gatekeepers aren’t who we think they are.
I stand with my fellow writers that more voices of color are recognized and published by mainstream publishers. I’m tired of the same voice earning awards and accolades. I’m tired of hearing that there are not writers of color that write at a high enough level to be published. I’m tired that stories of people of color are only seen by publishing not as valid artistry but an exotic flavor of the season tale showing the establishment a glimpse of the other people.
I am one of the readers in that 81 percent the Pew Center has reported and I don’t want to read another book where I don’t see me or people who look, sound, act, think, like me and my friends and the people I know. There is no excuse for these stories to not be more abundant and readily available, no matter who is making the decision.
I guess I expected better.
Reaching for the aspirin,