You may have asked yourself if it’s possible for one person to amplify the voices of underrepresented authors. The answer is yes! We can create diversity within our own bookshelves by analyzing our book-buying habits, which will help amplify these voices. I’m a firm believer that money can talk (metaphorically speaking), so when we put our money forward in support of underrepresented voices, these voices are amplified. By carefully examining our reading habits, book-buying habits, and curating our bookshelves as an act of intention, we can amplify these voices.
But this requires effort from each of us. As publishing professionals, it’s not only our job to create diversity within publishing houses, but also create diversity within our own bookshelves. A few years ago, this wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I would read what was in front of me and buy from my usual places. I wasn’t thinking about my reading habits or my book-buying habits. Now, instead of buying from Amazon and other big box stores, I look on Bookshop or seek out Black-owned bookstores, and I read books on anti-racism and search for books from diverse authors and perspectives.
In doing so, I have discovered an incredibly beautiful, diverse world that I was unaware of because it wasn’t what was right in front of me. I had to seek it out. 2020 has given many like myself the opportunity to look and seek it out.
As the world shut down because of the pandemic and the largest social justice movement in history expanded, seismic shifts were—and still are—felt on a collective level that was not previously acknowledged. Publishing companies have created imprints that focus on stories written by BIPOC authors, and they have also put people in positions to run these imprints in a way that is representative of the stories that need to be told and the readers who need to be reached.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Tolkien or Neil Gaiman book, but if I don’t start reading and buying books that are outside of my own interests, nothing will change. The little changes that we make as individuals can ripple out and have a greater impact than we realize. One or two people making these changes will have a smaller impact, but when thousands of people start making conscious choices based on their own habits, the ability to amplify the voices of underrepresented authors can become quite large.
Authors like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi are penning best sellers about anti-racism and Black history in America. Books like these are able to come to the forefront because individuals are actually looking at what they are reading and the books they are buying, and they are making a conscious effort to choose otherwise. We are hardly there, and we have a long way to go, but the diversity seen and felt over the last year seems to be a step in the right direction.