Race and Speculative Fiction, or Where I’ve Failed

After the events of RaceFail ’09 (Google it if you’re interested), find it has come to my attention that my personal commitment to diversity is . . . flawed. Deeply, profoundly flawed.

I don’t mean to get horribly political, but I don’t think that a commitment to diversity is all that controversial. While I’ve chosen, generally, to limit myself to speculative fiction books (YA and adult), I can do my best not to read and review the same book over and over. Of course, there are differences between every vampire love story, but I can do better than that. I can try to read books by people who aren’t the dominant force in publishing.

Of course, the ‘dominant force in publishing’ can be seen as many things. It could mean ‘the major publishers in New York City,’ and I’ve done pretty well at encouraging that kind of diversity. I’ve had Small Press Weeks, Free Books on the Internet Week, and even a Self-Publishing Week. The ‘dominant force in publishing’ could also be men, and more than half of my reviews are of books written by women. It could also be heterosexuals, and I’ve tried to search out books by authors who are queer, or authors who include well-rounded queer characters. (It’s a little difficult when the majority of the books one reviews are YA fantasies, but still.) It could be middle-class and above people, but I don’t really know how to find books by working-class and lower-middle-class writers (other than, I think, Gennita Low, who works as a roofer — but she owns the company). (If anyone has suggestions on that last one, I’d love to hear them.) It could be authors who write in English, but I am only truly competent to read in English, and there aren’t that many spec-fic books published in other languages and then translated into English. (Cornelia Funke, obviously. Does anyone know of any else?)

Most obviously, the ‘dominant force in publishing’ is white people. This is where I fall down precipitously. I’ve reviewed, to my knowledge, a whopping TWO books by authors of color, and perhaps three more that, while written by white people, have significant amounts of non-white characters. (More specifically, the ones who treat them in a way where the race and ethnicity of the characters is actually apparent, not the ones where they are white people other than perhaps their coloring and clothing.)

I am certain, without a doubt, that not all my readers are middle-class educated heterosexual Midwestern-American WASP-y white women like I am. Odds are that most of them share at least one of these traits, and that a fair amount of them actually have the majority of them. That still doesn’t give me an excuse for not reading and reviewing more books by people of color.

So, to remedy this, I’ve got a date with a bookstore tomorrow. I’ve gone through and tagged both of my reviews of authors of color with ‘author-of-color,’ and the books with significant characters of color with ‘characters-of-color.’ I’ll continue the tagging with all the new reviews that I write, and I hope that my readers will be encouraged to search out more of these authors and books.

Also, because I am a shameless self-promoter, if any spec-fic authors of color, especially from small publishers, would like to send me a copy of their book (electronic or dead-tree), I encourage them to contact me at steph @ readalready. com (remove the spaces).

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