Lack of Publishing Diversity

We have written about this topic before, particularly as it relates to literary works by, for, or about black women or women of color. It is what prompted us to start doing book reviews at Tayé Foster Bradshaw’s Bookshelf.

Year-after-year, we confronted a lot of the same issues with regards to the miniscule titles coming from the major publishing houses. Year-after-year, we encountered a lot of stereotyped images or storylines from YA fiction (like the entire Buford High Series that upon further investigation is written by white males and a grandmotherly white female) to fiction aimed at African-American females.

The topic has reached more general conversation in the last few years with Lee and Low being one of the booksellers advocating for more transparency on the gatekeepers at the publishing house. This recent article with compiled statistics and easy-to-understand graphics helps illustrate the issue.

The recent pulling of the “happy slave” whitewashed historical fiction children’s book, , one of  Scholastic’s recent children’s book offering s,helps propel the need for more diverse books to the mainstream. It not only quenches a thirst of women of color who do read, opens opportunity for writers of color, but also helps Caucasian readers explore cultures they are unfamiliar with, even within their own community, helps white children see children of color (black , Latino, Native, and Asian) in non-stereotyped roles, and helps to further efforts for a more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive society.

Let’s hope that with efforts from a broad spectrum of writers, publishers, agents, parents, teachers, readers, and booksellers, that we won’t have to worry about a miniscule amount of diverse reading materials, but a bounty of too many to read in one year.


Literary Criticisms

I started writing literary criticisms of black female literary works almost ten years ago when I became extremely frustrated by the generalized, stereotyped, and hyper-sexualized stories being pushed out by a lot of publishing houses.

My now middle-school daughters and I were visiting a local mall in the St Louis area and wandered into a bookstore that still held space in that mall. We ventured to the dwindling African-American literature section and started looking at books. Well, I was looking, they were drawn to the back to the children’s sections and brightly colored blocks.

Book-after-book from the shelf left me more and more disappointed in what I saw.

At the time, I was mentoring a group of middle school girls from challenged backgrounds. I would have been concerned to introduce them to the books that either showed a scantily clad woman or one drapped in jewels seductively drapped on the hood of a luxury car with a shadowy figure of a man in the background.

There has to be more, I thought.

After our visit to the mall, I went home and looked at volumes and volumes of books I had on my shelf.

I decided to take Toni Morrison’s advise and write what I was missing. I’m still working on the stories and poetry, but I could immediately give what I wante in terms of book reviews and suggestions.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw’s Bookshelf was born.

The books reviewed have been by black woman across the diaspora. Being of West Indian (Haiti/Dominican Republic) ancestry and ties to New Orleans Creole people, I knew there was a global aspect to our stories that was waiting to push through the marketed clutter.

It also prompted me to keep asking why only some stories made it to the stores. Surely there were other women in general and black women in particular who wanted to read stories of fully actualized characters with real lives, real challenges, and real dreams beyond some contrived assumption of what we were about.

One of the things I am challenging myself to do this year, 2016, is to increase my reviews beyond black women of the diaspora and discover women of color across the globe. I have found that oftentimes our hopes and dreams are universal. It is a hope that in connecting that universality that publishers will take more chances and let the people decide what is marketable beyond a stereotyped image of our lives.