“Unity is strength while diversity is chaos”, you may want to say, but diversity is a concept that is beneficial for virtually all industries worldwide and particularly important for publishing. An online dictionary, Dictionary.com, defines diversity as “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socio-economic stratum, sexual orientation etc.” How does this relate with our topic and what impact does it have in the world of publication today? These and many more are explained in this piece.
The word ‘diversity’ is probably one of the most popular busy words in book publishing today and its true presence can undeniably contribute to the innovation of contents used in the publishing industries.
The word ‘diversity’ is probably one of the most popular busy words in book publishing today and its true presence can undeniably contribute to the innovation of contents used in the publishing industries. Diverse stories have the capacity to break the monotony of overly similar publications by providing readers with new contents and this is one reason publishers are concerned about bringing it to the mainstream. Publishers have even begun some programs in the name of bringing diversity in publishing. Nevertheless, true ‘diversity’ in publishing has not been seen in its practical sense but largely limited to words.
Diverse stories should primarily originate from diverse sources. The not-for-profit organization, We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), which has been working for the promotion of diverse experiences in publishing, defines diversity as “all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.” Do the big publishers think equally about all diverse areas when they plan of enriching their publications with diverse contents? An article by Karen Zeigler and Steven A. Camarot, stated that the number of the US immigrant population is rapidly growing thereby bringing with it the various resources available for more cultural and multicultural stories. In this context, has any publisher identified the immigrant population as the source of cultural diversity? Not in any way that satisfies many immigrants who love reading but struggle to see themselves represented in literature and this needs to be addressed.
Looking at it from a very interesting perspective, the children’s multicultural book publisher, Lee and Low defines diversity as “to share power, share advantages, share opportunities, wages, respect and cultural development together.” The definitions of diversity by WNDB and Lee and Low seem perfectly inclusive, but in many ways, it seems that the publishing industries have missed the mark in truly seeking diversity. What interested me the most was when some publishing professionals speak of a need for diverse stories in publishing, they are often only referring to one or two segments of the minority population. Consequently, the term diversity has slowly become synonymous with a certain culture and this is opposite of the movement’s real objective, because of this, a major section of diversity has been untold and remained far from the mainstream publishing. Publishers should begin to concentrate more on publishing stories that focus on all possible diverse areas including the minorities, less known cultures, geographies, and the immigrant diversities.
Consequently, the term diversity has slowly become synonymous with a certain culture and this is opposite of the movement’s real objective, because of this, a major section of diversity has been untold and remained far from the mainstream publishing.
Although there seems to have a reasonable coverage on unconscious bias on diverse employees in publishing workplaces, this is even truer on representation of diverse authors and diverse stories. A writer and an immigrant rights activist Maria E. Andreu, who came to the United States from Spain as an immigrant, opines that, “Once books are designated as ‘diverse’ or about immigrant experiences, many average readers think there is nothing in it for them. It becomes a book about an issue rather than just a story.” Now an opportunity for publishers has come in which they can navigate into newer areas and justify that they are offering unique contents to their readers. Maria is not the only one who feels this way, in Ilana Masad’s article titled ‘Read Between the Racism: The Serious Lack of Diversity in Book Publishing’, Ilana gives her opinion on why publishers are unable to bring true diverse stories to publishing. She states: “If one book by a white author doesn’t sell, no one at the publishing house says they shouldn’t acquire any books by white authors the next season. But if a book by, for instance, a Puerto Rican author doesn’t sell, the publisher may take its sweet time in ‘taking a risk’ on another.” Ilana’s explanation clearly reflects the mainstream publishers ‘unconscious bias’ to look at the diverse authors and diverse stories.
“Once books are designated as ‘diverse’ or about immigrant experiences, many average readers think there is nothing in it for them. It becomes a book about an issue rather than just a story.”
On a final note, ‘diversity’ is an open-ended concept for publishers and their impartial perspective to look at diverse issues increases an access to the wider range of diverse contents. I would say that diversity is an opportunity to explore and invest in new areas of storytelling. It’s time for publishers to exclusively focus on diverse areas of contents as much they have been doing for their white counterparts and publishing technologies. This, I believe, can add good values to them and their publications.