Equity & Diversity

Friday Reading Roundup: Diversity, Censorship, and Libraries

By Mary Hendrie — May 02, 2014 2 min read
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As the week winds down, dive into some of the recent literary discussions you might have missed.

Diversity in Publishing

The organizers of BookCon, a one-day event during BookExpo America, set off a firestorm of criticism last week when they unveiled a lineup that included, as Book Riot editor Jeff O’Neal notes, “more cats than people of color.” In addition to prompting blowback in the blogosphere, the lily-white lineup has spawned a popular Twitter campaign with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The campaign has mobilized thousands of Twitter users to implore the publishing industry for greater diversity and share personal reflections on the importance of representation.

In an essay for Buzzfeed, author Daniel José Older points out the lack of diversity in publishing is not limited to authors, noting that the positions of power in the publishing industry are predominantly held by white agents and editors. “Lack of racial diversity is a symptom,” writes Older, “The underlying illness is institutional racism.”

Also attesting to a lack of diversity among the gatekeepers of the literary world, author Junot Díaz recounts his experiences with an MFA program for The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog, concluding that “the default subject position of reading and writing--of Literature with a capital L--was white, straight, and male.”

For further reading on diversity in the publishing world, the aptly named Diversity in YA website pulled together a relevant list of April news and commentary on the subject. The School Library Journal has devoted an entire issue to the subject of diversity, offering resources, articles, and opinion on representation in publishing.

Controversial Reads

The dispute over Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in Meridian, Idaho, escalated recently when the police were called on a high school student distributing the controversial book in a public park. After the Meridian school board garnered national attention for removing Alexie’s book from the school reading list, opponents to the new ban mobilized to buy several hundred copies of the book for free distribution during World Book Night. The police reportedly spoke to the student organizer before concluding that there was nothing wrong with the giveaway. In response to the incident, Little, Brown, the book’s publisher, has offered to donate another 350 books to Meridian libraries and teachers.

The beloved Dr. Seuss picture book “Hop on Pop” has also come under fire by an irate parent, according the annual Toronto Library report. The complainant, concerned that the book incites children to violence against their fathers, urged the Toronto library to remove the book and “pay for damages resulting from the book.” Unfortunately for the anonymous anti-Pop-hopping advocate, the library committee rejected the proposal, noting that “the children are actually told not to hop on pop.”

Libraries and Happiness

National Library Week may have ended, but the value of libraries is still getting ink. A new British study found that library patrons experience a happiness boost equal to a £1,359 (or $2,292) annual pay raise. This study comes on the heels of a Pew Research Center report released in March that affirmed the continued value of libraries in a “digital era.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.