Armchair Book Expo: Delving Into Diversity

Armchair Book Expo is an online book conference that takes place May 31st through June 4th this year. Every day bloggers take part in different discussion posts, twitter chats, and giveaways. Today we have a choice between the following topics: Delving Into Diversity & Dining With the Authors. I’ll be discussing the former for this post.

Delving Into Diversity: Book Expo sparked quite the controversy a couple years ago regarding diversity in books and authors. Where are we now? OR, let’s take a different direction and explore the diversity of the format of a book. Do we judge a book by its cover and/or content (e.g.,, audio, digital, graphic, etc.)? Or, combine the two topics and discuss diversity found in alternative content (e.g., representation in graphic novels). Get creative and maybe even controversial!

When it comes to diversity in publishing, we still have a long way to go. Yes, we are talking more about diversity and this can sometimes make it feel like the numbers are changing, but it’s important that we don’t fool ourselves into believing that real change is happening when it isn’t. While there has been an increase in books about PoCs in children’s literature for example, a closer look at the data tells a different story. Yes, we are seeing more diversity, but it’s what I’d call superficial diversity when you consider the majority of these diverse books are coming from white authors.

I’m not saying that white authors can’t write good books with PoCs at the center. If they do exhaustive enough research and are still open to criticism from those who are represented in their stories, I say go for it. However, there are certain stories about PoC that should only be #ownvoices. There are certain subjects that require tremendous care and actually experience in order for them to be written well. In all honestly, I just trust #ownvoices books more. I hesitate to pick up a book by a white author about my culture because I really don’t know what I’ll be getting. If I have a choice between reading a book about a Mexican-American protagonist that’s written by a white author or a Mexican-American author, I’m going with the latter every single time.

Having diverse authors, editors, agents, publicists, etc. is more important than having diverse characters. The invisible players in the publishing industry are especially important. These are the people who decide which books get acquired, which go to print, and are in charge of marketing said books. I think you can make a direct correlation between the lack of diversity among these invisible players and which “diverse” books get picked up. White authors are still the ones getting the deals.

It makes a huge difference to marginalized readers who they get to see on stage at an author event. This is especially true for all those teens with writing ambitions. It makes a world of a difference for them to be able to see someone who has a similar background making it in the publishing industry.

One last thing, as bloggers I think it’s really important for us to make an conscious effort to promote diverse books (please note that when I talk about diverse books, I am talking about books written by marginalized authors). Make an effort to buy, check them out from the library, and talk about them on social media. This is how we show the publishing world that these are the books readers are looking for, it’s how we show marginalized teens that their experiences are of value, and it’s how we begin to better ourselves, not just as readers but as members of a increasingly diverse society.

Do you make an effort to read more diversely? Why do you think it’s important to pick up diverse books? Share a link to your own Armchair Book Expo post in the comments!

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17 thoughts on “Armchair Book Expo: Delving Into Diversity

  1. Outstanding post, Alicia. I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to read more diversely. 2 5 star reads for me in May were It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The audiobook production for The Hate U Give is outstanding, by the way. Bahni Turner has quickly become a favorite narrator – she does a fantastic job of performing all of the characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do like variety for myself but I can also understand if some people just want to stick with the genres they know they will like.
    I like to try different/new/unique books and I’m always open to try something new!
    That’s also the reason I joined a bookclub 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I completely agree with you. While I think we are making progress in having more representation in the fictional world, it isn’t being shadowed by more representation in the physical world. White authors are able to write about characters who are different from themselves but it requires so much more effort and a lot of people in general aren’t able to fully immerse themselves into someone else’s experiences. People may be angry at the assumption that they can’t empathize or write about someone else’s experiences and somehow they don’t have the muster however it’s a fact of life that you know more about yourself than you ever will about other people and having a story with depth needs to be written by someone who has that same depth of experience. I think it’s just a general thing among most of the bookish professions that more diversity needs to be incorporated.
    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the way you put this. I know people don’t like to be told they can’t do something, especially in an area that involves a lot of imagination, but it’s true. This isn’t about imagining what it’s like to taste a cupcake for the first time, these characters represent real-life people and their stories deserve to be treated with care and respect. If you can’t be humble enough to accept this, then you’re not ready to write a diverse character.

      Like

  4. I don’t seek out diverse books, but I read many anyhow, because the stories are interesting to me. One thing that I have been really excited about is the number of #OwnVoices coming of age stories I have been reading. They have all been really wonderful and I have gleaned some new knowledge from them all. Recent stand-outs: The Authentics, That Thing We Call a Heart, Saints and Misfits, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, When Dimple Met Rishi. I guess a white author can do great research and gather a good panel of readers to help craft a good POC MC, but these YA stories are always better when they are #OwnVoices. I have so many thoughts about this after the BookCon panels I attended yesterday.
    Sam @ WLABB

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Armchair Book Expo: 2017 Wrap-Up | A Kernel of Nonsense

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