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Why Black Publishing Proffesionals MUST Go to Book Expo America

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The whiteness of publishing: Diversity an issue as book convention opens


NEW YORK (AP) — Three years ago, guest speaker Mindy Kaling joked that publishing's annual national convention, BookExpo America, resembled "a high school reunion where all the jocks were killed in a plane crash, and all the minorities, too."

 

This post was prompted by a conversation started on twitter between myself and author Brian Smith, in reaction to this article (above) about the lack of Diversity at Book Expo America (BEA).  BEA is the nation's largest trade show for the publishing industry. 

 

Brian has no interest in attending because BEA (which starts this week) has demonstrated they are not interested in our presence.  I believe that is the very reason we must attend.  Brian and Black People Read have greed to elaborate on their respective view points.

 

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Below are a couple of related articles than have been circulating among Black publishing professionals recently.

 

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? By Walter Dean Myers


"Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin."
 

 

MFA vs. POC (People of Color) by Junot Diaz


Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem.

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Let me start by saying I don't begrudge any AA author who wants to attend the Book Expo of America (BEA). If that's what you want to do - knock yourself out. I have attended myself, and it was because of that experience (and the times I've watched the event on t.v.) that I have no desire to attend again. In no facet of my life do I deal with people or go to places where it is clear to me that I'm not wanted. If a restaurant's staff displays a reluctance to serve "my kind" - I don't go again. If a retailer treats "my kind" in a less than respectable way - I don't go again. The BEA is an event that is SUPPOSED to promote the literary industry. The problem is, the expo doesn't come close to reflecting the "America" we live in. America is a diverse country. The BEAs (the agents, editors, publishers, and authors they feature) are predominantly WHITE...and when I say "predominant" I'm talking over 90% white. Anyone who has attended can attest that you can spend an entire day at the event and you may see ONE notable AA on a stage in front of any podium. The AA vendor booths/tables are usually huddled off in a corner and the major publisher booths are manned by white people (you may see a token AA staff member). So, I've decided to handle the BEAs the same way I deal my with restaurants and retailers that BLATANTLY show me I'm irrelevant, I CHOOSE to not to go back. Does that make me any less of an author? No. Does that make me less committed to my craft? No. Does that mean my literary career is destined for failure? No. As far as I'm concerned, not attending simply makes me a man/writer who has made a decision to not attend an event that has made it clear that DIVERSITY IS NOT A PRIORITY. I'll attend BEA when I see that organization start to display a desire to give AA authors (who work just as hard as our white counterparts) a platform comparable to OUR contribution to the literary world. Until then, I will continue to learn my craft, produce books that AA readers (and non-AA readers) enjoy, and live my life...BEA free. Being able to say I attended BEA does not define my literary career. However, consistently producing quality literature WILL define my literary career...and I can do that w/out producing souvenirs or ticket stubs proving that I attended the BEA.

~ Bestselling Author, Brian W. Smith

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