sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 3, 2017

armchair book expo: diversity and dining with authors
posted by soe 1:29 am

Today’s Armchair Book Expo topics cover diversity in the book industry and the always fun dinner party question. I thought I’d quickly tackle both:

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!

It’s obvious when you look at any article that gives statistics about the book industry that while we may have made progress in addressing issues relating to diversity, that we’ve got a long way to go. Book reviews in many major publications still cover more men than women and while an effort has been made to cover more #ownvoices authors, they are not represented at percentages remotely near what their populations merit. Partially this is due to who the gatekeepers are: publishers and reviewers often cover what they and their friends want to read, and if they’re predominantly middle-class white people, it is not surprising that that’s mostly what’s going to be put out or covered. So those businesses need to be more mindful in their hiring practices to address a lack of diversity at that base level in order to give a broader picture of the books that are out there.

That said, we as readers need to be better, too. I know personally that while I’ve been aware for a few years about the need to read more diversely that I’m inclined to over-inflate my success if I don’t actually check in on the numbers with some frequency. That’s partially why I’m trying to look at my statistics on a monthly basis this year, rather than waiting until the end of the year to reckon with my choices and feel bad about falling short of my expectations.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. Reading is a personal choice and if you’re only interested in reading cozies set in the Cotswalds, then by all means do that. You’ll get no hate from me. But I live in a city that is half comprised of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to mine, and it feels irresponsible for me to only read books about people who look or grew up like me. As is often said, books can be a mirror to let people see themselves reflected back in the greater world, but they can also be a window to let them peek in on the lives of others, much the way I do when walking around D.C. And in this new horror show of a country we’re living in this year, it feels imperative that I personally do better than I have been at meeting my neighbors, at least in the pages of books.

Dining with the Authors: Every year at Book Expo, children and adult authors are featured during breakfast. Who would you dream of enjoying a meal with? Would it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or simply coffee? What would your meal be? What would you discuss?

I’m a little shy in real life, so the idea of spending hours with strangers is daunting, even if these strangers have given me characters who are part of me. So, first off, we’re meeting up for tea (or coffee or cocoa) and baked goods at some kind of coffeehouse because that takes the pressure off having to spend hours together. It makes it more casual, and we can all feel like it’s acceptable to run off after half an hour if we’re feeling panicky.

Second, my BFF Karen will be there, because I cannot imagine inviting authors to tea and having to explain to her afterwards that I didn’t ask her, as well.

Third, I’d ask Rainbow Rowell, because she’s funny in real life; Jo Rowling, because Harry Potter; and Roxane Gay, because while I haven’t read any of her books (which clearly I’d fix before asking her out on a friend date), I enjoyed the pieces she wrote for The Toast back in the day and her books are on my TBR list.

As to what we’d discuss, first I assume we’ll talk about politics, because that’s what every sane person I know does initially these days. And then I’d want to see what they’ve been reading and what I should request from the library. And maybe we can all gush about Wonder Woman, but after that I’ll need the conversation to go where it will. Or, maybe we’ll all run off on our own separate, introverted ways at that point…

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