Confession: I am an intense book blerd.
Because of that, I love reading any and everything I can get my hands on. However, as an avid reader, I've noticed a lack of diversity in the books I come across and the characters that lead them. It's made me notice that as a whole, the publishing industry could use a little more color.
That's not to say that there aren't phenomenal writers of colors out there, because there are, but there is still more work to be done and ground to be covered. Prime example – two years ago, I interned at a literary agency in New York City. And it was there that I learned, on average, the black community only buys about two books a year. Compared to the 10 books the average white person buys, these jarring statistics systematically lead to the black community being underserved in the publishing world. What's even more interesting perhaps is the fact that says the demographic most likely to buy a book is the college educated black woman.
I can't help but think that there's a connection between not feeling like books are made with us in mind and us buying books. And that's where the issue lies.
In my quest for dope reads, I stumbled across four businesses that seek to prioritize POC representation in literature by bringing attention to books written by us and with us in mind. They are killing the game and redefining what it means to be mainstream reads. My reading list and I personally owe them a huge thank you, hopefully this article will do.
Well-Read Black Girl
Well-Read Black Girl started out as a personal blog and transformed into an empire of sorts. It is blog and brand dedicated to the phenomenal black women on our bookshelves – past, present, and the novel reads not yet born. What makes Well Read Black Girl stand out is their commitment to black women in literature. In giving a voice and platform to these readers, authors, and books, Well-Read Black Girl has created a niche audience and given them something never seen before in the book industry – women they can see themselves in consistently. Each month, members meet up to discuss plot twists and favorite characters over brunch. I'm so here for it.
Ebony LaDelle is the CEO and founder of Coloring Books™, a newsletter and Instagram page featuring authors of color and books with diverse casts. It's safe to say that Coloring Books ™ is here to put a little more color into your inbox and hopefully your reading list. Ebony had this to say about creating the platform:
"I started Coloring Books out of frustration. I had been in publishing for a few years, and unlike my experience at Howard University, where I was able to market books from some of the greatest black storytellers of our time, past and present, I had a bit of a culture shock coming into a predominantly white industry that didn't know how to reach minority consumers. On the flip side, I heard countless times from people of color that had a hard time finding authentic and native storytelling for them or their little one. And that's how Coloring Books was born, to sort of be a hub where people can go to find books of color, and publishers could go to reach consumers."
Noir Reads is a subscription box service featuring black authors that includes a reading guide and access to an online book forum. What I love so much about Noir Reads is that it allows black readers to connect with each other. While reading books by black authors is a treat, it is even better when you can talk about it with your fellow brothas and sistas. Noir Reads allows for conversation surrounding black literature to be normalized, which is the first step to black literature being highly regarded and canonized.
We Need Diverse Books
"Imagine a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book."
We Need Diverse Books is committed not only to finding more people of color in the pages of books, but also to finding more people of color employed in the publishing industry - particularly in the realm of children's lit. They serve as a blog and resource for many offering book recs, awards, scholarships, and events saluting diverse authors. What makes them stand out from the rest is that they embody intersectional experiences, and vouch for every minority's representation. Until all people are equal, none of us are. Seeing that in the books we read is more important than ever, and We Need Diverse Books knows that.
Is there anything at the top of your reading list this year? Let us know in the comments below.