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Minority authors push for more recognition in publishing industry

Jacqueline Woodson Wikimedia Commons/David Shankbone

Minority authors push for more recognition in publishing industry

Diversity in the publishing world is a hot topic this year at BookCon, a conference of more than 15,000 book lovers in Manhattan.

“We do need to step up things a little bit more,” said African-American author Jacqueline Woodson. “We have readers hungry for books that reflect their lives and the industry isn’t paying attention to them."

Last year’s line-up of all white speakers at BookCon helped initiate an advocacy group, “We Need Diverse Books” (WNDB), calling for greater diversity in the publishing world.

But attracting diversity to the writing field is difficult. When young minority students feel pressured to study more practical fields for economic reasons, writing gets pushed to the side.

Jasmine Gonzales, an aspiring Latina writer, chose to study political science instead of English because it was “more practical.”

“I think minority and first-generation students tend to flock to practical studies, like business and STEM, as a means of guaranteeing job security and higher quality of life,” she said. “Liberal arts degrees get set aside as a result.”

John Wilson, editor for Christianity Today’s Books and Culture, stressed that while the issue is not new, the discussion has increased a lot in the past couple of years.

“I don’t see this concern as something that is going to be solved and dealt with and everything worked out anytime in the near future because of the complexity of the issue,” Wilson said. “But in some ways there clearly has been progress.”

In fact, there are more women reviewed in Books and Culture now than there were a few years ago. But Wilson said he will would like to have a higher percentage of pieces by women.

Wilson takes diversity into consideration when selecting books for Books and Culture to review, but not in a quota sort of way. He tries to make sure the magazine reviews books by male and female authors as well as people of various ethnic backgrounds.

“The way to address the problem, is to write the books you think should be out there,” Wilson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Margaret Tazioli Margaret is a WORLD intern.


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