“You Will Be Tokenized” [Go Read This]

“But if people in publishing genuinely believe that books save people’s lives, their output shows they believe only certain lives to be worth the trouble.”

“You Will Be Tokenized”: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing”

I had the privilege of being one of the fifty voices included in Molly’s excellent feature at Brooklyn Magazine (the interview for which inspired my last post), and it’s a must-read for everyone in publishing. It left me with mixed emotions, no less frustrated with the industry and still vaguely optimistic that real change is on the horizon. Maybe.

These are some of the quotes that really hit me the hardest, but you should go read the whole thing and find your own. And then share them widely on your favorite social networks to keep the momentum going. This is an important conversation that needs to move past talking into real action.

  • “I haven’t quite figured out ways to undo the structure other than living in it.” Megan Reid
  • “How many stories have I not heard because this editor was in charge?” Mira Jacob
  • “None of us are laughing—this isn’t a learning moment. This is all a game to you. You are trying to figure out situations where you win.” Daniel José Older
  • “But there is a mediocre white dude in the Midwest who believes that just on the strength of his own name he won’t succeed. That’s progress. Maybe.” Angela Flournoy
  • “One thing I have found especially for erotica, some reviewers will cover a 50 Shades of Gray, but if I send them a Zane book, I get an email: ‘“I’m not really interested in this books. I’m not really into this kind of erotica.’ You mean African America erotica? And then I don’t get a response.” Yona Deshommes
  • “People are quick to judge me by the clothes I wear, rather than the human I am. I don’t even get a word out before they’ve come to conclusions.” Hafsah Faizal
  • “So, what happens at that last moment in a bookstore? Why is it that the person doesn’t end up going to the register to buy it? That’s a question I constantly struggle with because I’ve had the great privilege of a huge amount of exposure. I think it’s impossible to say it has nothing to do with my ethnicity.” Porochista Khakpour
  • “The positive public response has been unexpected. There are no pitchforks. Part of it is about timing, the fact that I am white and it isn’t an intersectional story.” Alex Gino
  • “I can’t believe there is a conspiracy, but publishing is failing in this way. The truth is people help the people who they are most comfortable with, or who they think will bring them more power and glory.” Elissa Schappell
  • “The worry there is always that I’m going to be labeled as problematic and hard to work with, that editors won’t want to work with me anymore because they don’t want to be labeled a racist.” Danielle Henderson
  • “I’m half Asian, I almost forget that as a reader. I kind of subconsciously identify as white as I’m reading. I’ve never really looked for a half Asian narrative because I don’t expect to find it. Even when I find Asian American novels, that’s not really my experience either.” Kirsten Carleton
  • “I found and read the Spanish versions, loved them, and pitched them to my supervisor. She decided not to pursue because no one else in the office could understand Spanish and vouch for my gut feeling. It went on to be bought by a big time editor at another house.” Shelley Diaz

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