We need diverse publishing

Recently, one of my students asked me if we had any fantasy books with an “awesome rockin’ black girl” as the main character. I struggled to think of one, partly because of my own ignorance and partly because I just don’t think there are nearly enough awesome rockin’ black girl leads in books.

This got me thinking about the We Need Diverse Books campaign and just how right they are. I started wondering if perhaps the problem wasn’t that writers aren’t writing diverse books, but that publishers are not willing to take the risk of publishing them.

As I’m chewing on this I read the Seattle Times article about Amazon Crossing, the Amazon publishing imprint that has been translating books recently. While there are pros and cons about behemoth Amazon taking on this aspect of the literary world, I was thinking about the immense benefit we could reap from it in the form of diverse books.

Currently, most of the books they are translating and publishing are from very white populations in Europe and Scandinavia. A lot of what they choose to translate is based on data about what English speaking readers are enjoying. I think they could still harness the power of data to find what is popular to read, but expand their reach to less white countries and expose us to some of their greatest literature. Maybe my student could finally read a fantasy about an awesome rockin’ black girl straight from Africa.