So why do I care about this? After all, if a bookstore has access to a slate of funny best-selling authors that’s good, right? Independent bookstores are our champions and we should do all we can to help them make sales. The world would be a sorrier place without indie bookstores.
I care because of the message of exclusion it sends to girls and minority kids. I want them to see role models in that “extravaganza.” I want them to dream that one day they just might have a seat at that table. How will facing a row of white guys nurture that dream? The books being promoted at the bookstore “extravaganza” were all published by the same publisher. I checked their catalog. They have great books by female writers, including Newbery honorees. It’s possible other authors were invited and declined to attend. It’s possible that this bookstore works hard to promote diverse authors and books. It’s possible this is just an unfortunate oversight. But the end result was still an extravaganza of five white guys.
After my previous post I was accused of having an “agenda.” Well, if wanting proportionate representation for women and people of color on panels at writing conferences, book festivals and any book-related events is an agenda, then yes, I have one. If wanting the white guys who are invited to these events to notice the inequality and speak up about it is an agenda, then yes I have one.
Justina Ireland recently wrote a great thought-provoking post about how diversity panels (as opposed to diversified panels) won’t solve this problem — they’re preaching to the converted. Diversified panels should be our goal — a mix of authors who represent our culture at large talking about writing, books, and humor in general. So please, publishers, event organizers, authors, and bookstores, the next time you’re organizing an author panel, or accepting an invite to be on a panel, think about this issue. That’s all I ask. Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the the solution?