Racial Color Blindness and its Negative Effect on Authors of Color

Hey guys, just some light topic discussion to get our Thursday going.

Half kidding.

It’s not light, but, it is something I’ve wanted to discuss!

It’s an important topic and one that doesn’t get enough discourse [outside of Bookish Twitter].


Picture it:

You walk into a bookstore, you browse the books, pick one or two off the shelves, maybe they’re a cover buy, maybe they’re on sale. [Ignore an auto author buy for the moment lol]


I would do this often, I would pick a book for its cover or simply because it looked interesting from the blurb. I never once thought of the author, what I knew of them, who they were, I was ‘impartial’ and really most of us can’t resist books on shelves in this community lol.

You would think buying books this way leads to new favorite authors and books, and you would be right, but you know what it DOESN’T lead to? Authors of Color.

Why?

Because bookstores are not giving Authors of Color the same shelf space as white authors.

Is this changing? A little, it’s a slow-going process, but in some places, it’s happening.

Still…for the love of Doritos, why is it so slow? Why are we only just now getting to this point?

It’s not just white authors, but specifically, those heavy hitters we all know and a lot of us love. Tolkien, Jordan, Adams, Sanderson, and with good reason, there are some great books! But why do I need a shelf at a store with 40 editions of each of their works?

I thought by just buying books from stores because I liked the titles, blurbs, or covers was the only way to do it, well not the only way, but it was how I did it.

Now, I realize, if I want to promote diversity, if I want a truly diverse bookshelf, then I have to look for books by AoC, and I have to promote them.

It does NO harm to promote Girls of Paper and Fire, or War Girls, I promise you if we all suddenly find a love of AoC books that Lord of the Rings will not vanish from the shelves, in fact, Lord of the Rings and other popular ‘classics’ have influenced a few of AoCs as well, so, why not acknowledge that we can love Gimli and still raise up, say, Fonda Lee’s Kaul family in The Green Bone Saga.

Color blindness when book buying, it’s not helping promote new books until we help Authors of Color acquire the shelf space that they have earned and deserved already for so long and have gone without. So, maybe we have 2 editions of Lord of the Rings and then room for The Poppy War, RayBearer and more.

I’ve been thinking about this for years. I realized when I saw Fonda Lee’s Tweet that by not seeking out Authors of Color I was inadvertently promoting the lack of AoCs on shelves.

The Tweet for those of you who may not know or remember:

She didn’t even specify Asian or authors of color, and people went crazy over this because these books re so great they deserve like five shelves to themselves…

But…

What if we just gave room to other authors?

Who are we really hurting?

So, I guess, if you want to promote diverse reading, you need to reflect it in yourself not only by being interested in new books but actively seeking out Authors of Color and promoting their works all you can, whether it’s by reading, reading and recommending, or even using your bookstagram/blog/twitter to promote if you use these.

What do you think?

What are some amazing books from diverse authors?

4 thoughts on “Racial Color Blindness and its Negative Effect on Authors of Color”

  1. “Because bookstores are not giving Authors of Color the same shelf space as white authors.”

    This!!! When I was still in college and could access Waterstones regularly, I’d often go in and peruse and over time I noticed so many AoC are not on the shelves. If they are you have to go hunting for them and you may be lucky enough that there’s a copy in. Also Waterstones have the displays and buy 1 get 1 half price books, majority of those books weren’t AoC out of maybe 24 (if we’re guessing how many they have spread over the table) I’d say less 10 books were AoC on the buy 1 get 1 half price table. It’s only by being part of the book community that I’ve realised just how little shelf space AoC are given :/

    Also I haven’t read LOTR but here’s a crazy idea…you know why don’t we decrease the amount of shelf space given to say “classic” books and give it to AoC since a lot of the classics authors are dead…where is the money going to? Cause they’re not going to be getting it in whatever comes after this world. Whereas living, breathing present day authors do need that space, those sales even if they don’t make a lot of money it’s a baby step towards something.

    I used to make lists of books I was hunting for when I went to Waterstones and I think the list I’d gotten at the time I’d written all AoC. I found no books on the shelves, which really hit home for me then, that we need to be boosting AoC because they deserve shelf space. Love this discussion Haley!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post has me shook because it is so true and yet, I’ve never even thought about this before now. When I’ve gone to bookstores, I see so many different editions displayed for the same book but when I’m looking for a more “obscure” author, I can never see their stuff on the shelf. And even when I ask, they usually don’t even keep the book in storage and I have to order it online. There needs to be a much bigger movement for there to be more variety on the shelves, specifically allowing authors of color to be displayed!
    Great post – really eye-opening and well worth talking about!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! I’m so glad that people are talking about this issue. To be honest, at my bookstore Tolkien has a an entire shelf devoted to his books and different editions of them. Imagine how many more authors of color that could be promoted with the shelf space instead. It’s ridiculous and I’m glad to see more people calling it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never thought about this! Thanks for shedding light on this issue. The struggle is real. The literature I engage with is more in the form of plays, since I teach theatre. In my world, knowledge of shows circulates a bit differently. Even in my realm, however, playwrights of color still have to struggle to push their works to the surface. This industry is trying to fix this, but we still have a long way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

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