Doret posted an interesting video over at Color Online; author Elif Shafak discusses the trouble with circles—if you enclose yourself in one, you’ll wither from insularity and the lack of exposure to diverse people. But if you think of yourself as a compass, then one foot will remain rooted in your own world while the rest of you circles the globe—or whatever part of the world is within reach. And the point is, you SHOULD reach for what you don’t know.
I have trouble with circles. In a way, they represent closure and I could definitely use some of that in this struggle to create greater diversity in publishing. But most days I feel like we’re just going around and around, not really making any progress. When I read this PW article by Diane Patrick, I was heartened and put out. Heartened because I love it when a marginalized person refuses to be pushed offstage. Kwame Alexander was sick of authors of color being excluded from the National Book Festival in D.C. and so he started his own festival, Capital BookFest. But Alexander didn’t stop there:
Next year’s festival schedule will expand again to include Richmond, Va.; New Orleans; and an as yet undetermined city in the Caribbean. Alexander’s goal is to have festivals in 15 to 20 cities in the next five years. “We are targeting cities that do not have a proper book festival, and have a strong or emerging arts/literary scene,” he said, emphasizing, “This is a community-based effort, and we are bringing our expertise. So we build it from the community up; it’s not us telling them what to do.”
I have *such* respect for that rationale, and yet I wonder what these “alternative” literary events do to increase the involvement of authors of color in the big mainstream festivals. How many festival organizers now say, “We don’t have to have more than one or two authors of color because they have their own events to attend.” And round and round we go…Authors of color can’t afford to wait for publishing insiders to “act right,” yet when we establish our own awards, our own conferences, our own anything, does it send the message that we’d rather be on our own? I like to say, “Things wouldn’t need to be separate if they were equal.” Ideally, we’d all work together, right? But when doors are closed again and again, some of us get tired of knocking.
On a related note, how do we get bookstores to carry more titles by writers of color? Because if bookstores carry the books, they have a better chance of selling, and if they DO sell, publishers will have to admit there’s demand for stories with multicultural perspectives. Right? Stop by ShelfTalker to read Elizabeth Bluemle’s post on “Selling Color in a White Town.” I’m getting dizzy just thinking about all of this…good night!