Whitewashing of the Literary World and How it Can Change

An article published by the Washington Post last month about the “whitewashing” of the literary industry was shared on social media recently by Reyna Grande, speaker and author of The Distance Between Us, a memoir of her life as a Mexican immigrant.

The article, written by freelance writer and native Australian Sunili Govinnage, detailed Govinnage’s decision to read only minority authors for an entire year and what it means for the literary world that there were major challenges for her embark on such a journey.

Despite the fact that authors around the world are often writing about “universal themes”, Govinnage explains, the industry has yet to reflect that by publishing an equal number of white and non-white writers. In fact, many of the minority authors who do get published are the ones talking about their “‘othered’ experiences” as a person of color, a tool “used merely to highlight differences and reinforce stereotypes.”

Reyna Grande

Author Reyna Grande

The lengths Govinnage had to go to in order to find and purchase minority-authored books and her research into the subject paid off. Not only was she exposed to countless titles she may never have come across otherwise, she also discovered a handful of organizations dedicated to doing the very same thing. Thanks to their hard work, the percentage of female authors reviewed by the New York Times rose by nearly 10% over the last 5 years.

It is time that books and their creators reflect the diversity of the communities and countries for whom they are written, especially, as Govinnage so eloquently puts it, “in the era of globalization, when we must increasingly interact with and understand cultures other than our own.”

It is the belief of Books In Common that books and literary events can bring people of all kinds together. Please contact us if you would like to schedule an event with Reyna Grande or one of our talented speaker authors.

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