Monday, April 4, 2016

No, I'm Not Done Talking About This

I've been thinking a lot about diversity panels and diversity months and visibility. Bandwagons vs. real change. How to be seen and how to be heard. It's sticky and tangled and problematic, and I know some people wish I would shut up about it. But I can't, because I know I'm not the only one with questions. There are others who don't feel comfortable asking the room. Bull in a china shop that I am, I don't mind shouting.

There's a backlash right now about the word "diversity" and how it's pretty much just lip service. An empty buzzword being tossed around You also see a lot of big-name authors of color turning down diversity panels and landing on "diverse books" lists because they want to be part of the larger picture, general panels, general lists, and not pigeonholed by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

I get it. We all want to be a part of that larger conversation, and to bring meaning to our identities in the process...not just have it be an empty word that people dismiss as a "trend." But, as I said on Twitter the other day, most lesser known authors can't afford to turn down panels or say "don't put me on a list." Sometimes, that's our only visibility.

For a lot of us, in our particular genres, we're starting at square one. "Diversity" is the easiest word to use to educate people on a basic level and get the concept of a mixed bookshelf off the ground.

Today, I saw one of my publishers kicking off a diversity month...and while I'm all for the author side of it and thrilled for the people I know who are being highlighted — it's a hustle, so get in there! — the publisher side of it bugs me just like the conference side of it does. Why must representation come with strings and limitations? Why does a conference place a higher value on a white straight midlist author talking about general topics than on a queer person of color? We can talk about marketing and craft, too. Why does a publisher think promoting white, cis, straight authors year-round and then dedicating a diversity month to everybody who's brown, gay, or disabled is more sensible than promoting all authors and titles equally all the time?

This, I don't get.

Like I've said before, being marginalized in some way is not fun or trendy or something to jump on. We're not kale. We're just trying to be seen, we're just trying to get our books read. We're just trying to live our lives and pay our rent.    

Are there answers to the things I wonder about? I don't know. Can we fix this? I don't know. Will I stop trying? No.

No comments:

Post a Comment