About a month ago, while on Instagram I read a post by Rachel Cargle (@rachel.cargle). The purpose of the post was about reading and owning literature by authors and writers of color. That post resonated with me. On a personal level, I have wanted to publish one of my own writings since I was a little kid. Also, I have a friend who just started her own blog (link to her blog is posted at the bottom) and when I messaged her to share my support and positivity towards her efforts on that endeavor she made mention to starting her own publishing company. That was beautiful words to me. A young, black female owning a publishing company. That conversation brought me back to that post.
If you haven’t already, think of your favorite book. Grab 4 books from the shelf or stack of books you own. Look at the back cover for a photo of the author, or Google the author. Are any of them by an African American? By a Caribbean? By a Hispanic?
I didn’t have to look through my book collection to know the chance of any of them being by a person of color was slimmer than slim. Growing up, and even now as a young adult, I’ve been I like “white people things” or “that’s for white people” or more simply it’s just weird. Plants, earth science, making things from soap and candles to a bird feeder weren’t interest of most of the people in my life and not typical “black people interest.” Getting older, buying more books so I can take notes in them or just have as a reference I never thought much about the author’s ethnicity. Sometimes I wouldn’t even search for the credibility.
Fast forwarding to this moment. I am at a small library in San Francisco. There’s sections that cater to the large Asian population and one of the top largest manga sections I’ve seen in a public library. Which, again, more or less caters to the large Asian population. I finished my recent book Compost City by Rebecca Louie. She is of Asian decent. My reasons behind checking out this book anyhow was 1. it was the set of information I’ve been looking to read 2. While not under the black spectrum, Asian American is a minority 3. it was a step towards diversifying the literature I took in. Now, looking for a new book to check out, I did want the author to fall into the “black” spectrum.
The lessons we learn, the words we take in, the experiences and ideas in all forms of media we are fed by a white person. Within the past 2 weeks, a post went around social media asking people in what grade did they have their first teacher that was of color. Coincidentally, I saw this post on Rachel Cargle’s Instagram. For me, my first black teacher was in third grade. The next time was 5th grade, Both were female. For others, it wasn’t until they got to university.
Point to all of this is, at one of my local libraries and even in my own home, I am being fed and feeding myself the words and knowledge of white people.
Stories, knowledge, journeys that cross and stem from beings of color are being told, retold, profited by beings not of color. Not just nonfiction, but fiction, children’s books, poem books, and how to books. I took a moment to Google how likely is a person of color to get their book published. First result was an article by The Guardian published in 2016.
Publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female, US study finds
In the third paragraph, Jason Low (publisher) states, “Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here…” “Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency – conscious or unconscious – for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”
I would love to know others thoughts on the matter. Don’t feel like you have to be of color to share your thoughts because ultimately this is a discussion for everyone. As a white person, how do you feel that you and your child or children in you life have little access to a diverse author/ experience base selection?
Amber’s Fatal Vortex (friend’s blog)