Sunday, August 16, 2009

Susan Says: What We Can Do

Steph wrote a great post about the Liar controversy and the comments that ensued are the expected, praise and then confusion, "What can we do?" Okay, let's talk more about what we can do.

We cannot remain powerless victims. Why do we keep circling the wagon of "What can we do?" and sounding as if we don't believe we have power? Even after we DID affect change.

For starters, can we grow a pair and concede the dollar talks? We're speaking truth to power. We're speaking truth to Corporate power. You don't shame a corporation, you affect their bottom line. Justine is nobody's naive little girl. She was fully aware of the potential financial risk here and she took it anyway, and if you don't think she considered the money factor shame on you.

We can confront the issue of under-representation of POC characters in books and on covers by reading and promoting those books.

In response to the controversy, Color Online launched the Color Me Brown Challenge. I asked readers to read and blog brown. If you want publishers to know you do believe in diversity, that whitewashing is unacceptable, then show some love. Blog brown.

Color Online, Reading In Color and Taste Life Twice and Black-Eyed Susan's exist as response to the the absence of color among book bloggers particularly YA blogs. And Color Online existed before the Liar controversy. We are activists. We are committed to expressing the social commentary necessary to elicit dialogue and change.

I have been an outspoken advocate for diversity and multiculturalism before Liar. And before me there was Mitali's Fire Escape, Paper Tigers, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, White Readers Meet Black Authors, Diversity Rocks! and more. There are bloggers who have been actively advocating for greater diversity in the publishing industry for years. Join the ranks.

When you visit your library, evaluate the collection. How diverse is it? What's on display? Offer suggestions to the YA librarian or the general collection librarians. Ask them to purchase titles you've discovered and enjoyed. Do the same at your favorite bookstore.

Check out the school library. Talk with the librarian and teachers about their reading selections for the school. Ask if diversity and multiculturalism is part of the curriculum. Suggest schools broaden the variety of people of color writers they are requiring students to read. Morrison, Wright and Baldwin are literary icons, but we want to also foster diversity in students' leisure reading. Ask the educators to look to writers like Mitali Perkins, Neesha Meminger and Zetta Elliott.

Weigh in more regularly on forums and panels that are addressing issues of race and diversity in publishing. Create space for dialogue on your own blogs.

Bloomsbury didn't act in a vacuum and not all readers were unaware. Now that you know what will you do?

John F. Kennedy said every person can make a difference and every person should try.
Spend less time lamenting what you can't do and get busy doing what you can. That's what you can do.


Anonymous said...

Well-said. If we want publishing companies to change, we have to affect their bottom line.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

You have done, and continue to do, so much. It's admirable beyond words! I don't know where you get your psychic energy from, but if everyone else just had a small fraction of it, we could change the world for sure!

Zetta said...

Amen to that! I really hope folks don't sink back into complacency now that Bloomsbury has changed the cover...thanks for providing everyone with OPTIONS for ACTION!