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"The Great Internet Debate Over Not Reading White Men" by Saladin Ahmed

'Bestselling author' is, functionally, a job. And nearly every single one of those jobs goes to a white person (quite often a white man). When women still make only seventy five cents for every dollar that men make, and 98% of the New York Times bestseller list is composed of white authors, anyone who reads primarily white male authors is contributing, quite directly, to the economic inequalities that pervade our culture. Now, some readers — particularly those of a politically conservative or libertarian sensibility — don't give a shit about this. Indeed, they may be actively hostile to the very notion of egalitarianism. The market, in their view, is a pure meritocracy. But many other book buyers believe, as I do, that the market itself is racist and sexist in all sorts of unseen ways. Choosing to buy and read books by women and people of color is one small way to address this.

More selfishly, though, seeking out the voices of women, people of color, and LGBT folks will lead you to wonderful books you might not have found otherwise. Indeed, there are a great many wonderful books that you are likely to miss unless you are consciously choosing to privilege those voices.

This is not simply because, as one commenter on Scalzi's response to the debate put it, "humans tend to default" to what they know. It's because, despite the heroic efforts of many agents, editors, and publicists, publishing's marketing machine is a long way from treating all authors equally. It is my sincere belief that most readers don't know just how slanted the publishing industry is toward a narrow sliver of voices. Unless one deliberately seeks out fiction by marginalized writers, the vast, vast majority of books that cross one's radar via TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, and, yes, the internet, are going to be by white people — and most of those white people are going to be straight men.


( 4 comments — Add your .02 )
Mar. 12th, 2015 03:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link! That was an interesting article, and I enjoyed reading the others it linked too. I actually did set myself a project like this at the beginning of 2015. I've read six books so far, and I've definitely discovered authors and books that I would probably not have encountered before. What has surprised/disturbed me the most is how little African-American fiction crosses my path. I don't know very many African-American authors outside the literary canon I read in college. And it really shouldn't be quite so hard to find African-American authors, but even clicking on the African-American fiction tab on the Barnes & Noble website is shockingly uninformative -- I got about 75% romance novels with erotic covers, some books like The Help, and the tiniest smattering of literary fiction.
Mar. 12th, 2015 04:26 am (UTC)
Oof, I can imagine that so easily!!

Since these debates started popping up last summer, I've been trying to add more POC and LGBT writers to my recreational reading (school work is trickier, obvs). Interestingly, there have been a fair number of kickstarters on the topic too (including the forthcoming Octavia's Brood and Queers Destroy SF.) I've also spent more time poking around Goodreads looking for recommendations and stuff.

On the flip side, when I bring this stuff up to people in conversation and there's the dimissive "I'm not going to read women/POC/LGBT writers for a year" response, or "I'm not interested in that," I get really upset. Like, if the topic were anything else, would you say that? Would anyone ever say, "LOL, I'm not going to read Shakespeare/The Bible/Moby Dick"? Pfft, no.

Edited at 2015-03-12 04:27 am (UTC)
Mar. 12th, 2015 03:02 pm (UTC)
Wow. I haven't gotten any reactions like that. Most people have said that it sounds interesting or asked me if I've found any good books. But then, I haven't really discussed this project with white males...
Mar. 12th, 2015 04:52 pm (UTC)
Your blood pressure is probably better than mine, then.
( 4 comments — Add your .02 )

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