We live in a diverse world, and with today’s technology, we can connect with people from all walks of life with just a couple keystrokes.
Yet even with the ever-growing diversity, the publishing industry often appears stuck in the mud, trailing behind other artistic industries that embrace showcasing diversity, head on. According to the Diversity Baseline Survey released in Jan 2016, 79% of the publishing industry is white. Is it any surprise then, they the authors and protagonists of these stories are also largely white?
The publishing industry is also 99% cis-gender, 88% straight, and 92% able-bodied. This makes for quite the homogenous group that make the decisions about what gets published, what sort of edits get made, and what a book’s campaign is going to look like.
This has lead to awesome new movements, such as #OurVoices and We Need Diverse Books. #OurVoices is a hashtag you can use on social media to discover LGBT+ books by LGBT+ authors, and We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots campaign to get diverse books into the hands of children and teens. They even have an app, OurStory, to help you find a title about a specific minority group or cross-section. There’s also a new internship program partnering The Association of American Publishers and the United Negro College Fund to get African American students a foot in the door at some of the largest publishing houses in the United States.
So what else can we do?
To start, we can read diverse books. Prove the need. For decades, the argument against publishing diversely was that there was no market for it. Prove there’s a market.
At Publisher’s Weekly Star Watch, Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, gave a largely ignored speech about racism in the publishing industry that anyone with a stake in encouraging diverse books should take note of. One of the most vivid points is as follows:
“Here is the thing about how discrimination works: No one ever comes right out and says, ‘We don’t want you.’ In the publishing world, they… say, ‘We’re not sure you’re relatable’ and ‘You don’t want to exclude anyone with your work.’ They say, ‘We’re not sure who your audience is.’
“I believe that. I believe that there are still some people in this industry who are not sure who my audience is. But I do not for a minute believe that is because my audience doesn’t exist.”
It’s time for all of us to step up and support minority voices. At SparkPress, we’re proud to have some titles for readers of all ages to add to his or her reading list!
A Chinese boy struggles to adapt to American life–and discovers baseball. Despite his impulsive and curious nature, twelve-year-old Leon is determined to follow the Emperor’s rules―to live with an American family, study hard, and return home to modernize China. But he also must keep the braid that shows his loyalty―and resist such forbidden American temptations as baseball. As Leon overcomes teasing and makes friends, his elder brother becomes increasingly alienated. Eventually, Leon faces a tough decision, torn between his loyalty to his birth country―and his growing love for his new home.
If Will Fletcher’s severe bipolar disorder isn’t proof he shouldn’t be a parent, his infant daughter’s grave is. Once a happily married, successful veterinarian, he now lives with his sister and thrives as the small-town crazy of Half Moon Hollow. But when a fifteen-year-old orphan claims she’s his daughter, Will is forced back into the role he fears most: fatherhood.
Her biological dad isn’t the hero Regan Whitmer hoped for, but he’s better than her abusive stepfather back in Chicago. Still haunted by her mother’s suicide and the rebellious past she fears led to it, Regan is desperate for a stable home and a normal family―things Will can’t offer. Can she ride the highs and lows of his illness to find a new definition of family?
The time is 1968. The place is Montgomery, Alabama. The story is one of resilience in the face of discrimination and bullying. Using the racially charged word “Negro,” two Caucasian boys repeatedly bully Miss Annie Loomis–the first African-American teacher at the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. At the same time, using the hateful word “harelip,” the boys repeatedly bully Miss Loomis’s eleven-year-old Caucasian student, Lisa Parker, who was born with cleft palate and cleft lip. Who will best the bullies? Only Lisa’s mood ring knows for sure.
The art of hula is thriving in cities all over the country and the world, but it is not always understood. In The Natives Are Restless, journalist Constance Hale presents the largely untold story of the dance tradition, using the twin keyholes of Kumu Patrick Makuakane (a Hawai‘i-born, San Francisco–based hula master), and his 350-person arts organization (Na Lei Hulu i ka Wekiu). In the background, she weaves the poignant story of an ancient people and the resilience of their culture. In the foreground, she tells the story of an electrifying new form of hula that has emerged from a restless generation of artists like Makuakane. The crisp narrative is complemented by full-color photographs and illustrations. Her love for hula, and her history with the dance, inform Hale’s prose on every level. She makes Makuakane’s exuberant, fierce, sensuous dance style come alive on the page.
Apron Bramhall has come unmoored. Fortunately, she’s about to be saved by Jesus. Not that Jesus-the actor who plays him in Jesus Christ Superstar. Apron is desperate to avoid the look-alike Mike, who’s suddenly everywhere, until she’s stuck in church with him one day. Then something happens-Apron’s broken teenage heart blinks on for the first time since she’s been adrift. Mike and his boyfriend, Chad, offer her a summer job in their flower store, and Apron’s world seems to calm. But when she uncovers Chad’s secret, stormy seas return. Apron starts to see things the adults around her fail to-like what love really means, and who is paying too much for it. Apron has come unmoored, but now she’ll need to take the helm if she’s to get herself and those she loves to safe harbor.
Seventeen-year-old Melanie Kennicut is beautiful. Her entire life revolves around this beauty because her overly controlling mother has been dragging her to casting calls and auditions since she was four years old. According to Joanne Kennicut, Melanie was born to follow in her footsteps. But Melanie never wanted this life. When a freak car accident leaves her with facial lacerations that will require plastic surgery, she can’t help but wonder if this is the answer to her prayers. For the first time in her life, she has a chance to live like a normal teenager, at least for a little while, away from the photo shoots and movie sets that have dominated her entire existence. But after Melanie allows her best friend to come to the house to see her, Joanne decides to hide her daughter in Montana for the remainder of the summer. There, Melanie won’t be seen by anyone they know, and her face will heal in time for the scheduled surgery in late August. Joanne’s plan backfires, however, when Melanie meets Sam, a Native American boy hired by the home’s owner to tend to the property. Sam is nothing like the Hollywood boys Melanie knows. He’s poor, his father’s a drunk who possesses a bizarre gift inherited from a Kootenai Shaman, and his only brother disappeared into the mountains after the death of their mother eight years before. What transpires over a mere 36 hours after Sam and Melanie meet changes both of their lives in ways they never thought possible.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah McKnight has a secret. She’s in love with David Brooks. Sarah is white. David is black. But Sarah’s not the only one keeping secrets in the close-knit community of Kalispell, Montana. Her father George, who owns a local gun shop and proudly drives a truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker, hides his own complicated past. When he discovers Sarah’s relationship, George decides to share his feelings with Alex Mackey-a lonely classmate of Sarah’s whom George has taken under his wing. As Alex embraces the power of George’s dark hatred, the hopes and dreams of young lives hang in the balance. In just a few short months, Sarah and David will graduate from high school and leave Kalispell for a new life together in Los Angeles. Maybe in California, they can stop hiding their love-and the other secret they share…something George McKnight-and Alex Mackey-will never accept.
Sometimes you have to go back before you can move forward.
Meg Monahan was born to be a secret keeper. From the moment she became a peer counselor in high school, Meg has been keeping her friends secrets – from sordid family drama to their sex lives – that she never wanted to know. Flash forward to adulthood when Meg is a recruiter for the world’s hippest (and most paranoid) high-tech company – and now Meg is a professional secret keeper.
When sudden tragedy strikes before Meg hosts the wedding of her childhood BFF, Anne Calzaretta, the women are forced to face their past – and their secrets – in order to move on to their future.