Pulling Up to the Table

Another Book Expo America and Book Con ended this past weekend. Last year’s brouhaha that resulted in the formation of WeNeedDiverseBooks resulted this year in BEA providing WNDB the opportunity to create their own panel for the event. It was energizing to see the tweets and facebook books from the authors, illustrators and publishers excited to be in the mix and I once again kicked myself for a very poorly time visit the previous weekend to NYC. Being allowed to create a panel is being provided a token from the 1%. Where is the opportunity to truly make a difference in what is being published for our children?

BEA has no mission statement that I found that recognizes a responsibility for diversity, literacy or any other social justice issue. it is simply an event to promote the sale of books. At the same tome, they do see the benefit of incorporating global markets in the annual exhibition.

BEA is the largest annual book fair in the US. It is always held at the same time of the year in a major US city and over the past few years, has gone back and forth between Chicago and New York City. In 2016, the event moves back to Chicago. Major US book publishers use the fair to showcase upcoming titles, sell current books, socialize with colleagues from other publishing houses, with librians and authors and to sell and buy subsidiary rights and international rights.

(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BookExpo_America)

BEA has an all White Advisory Board. While they pull from executive levels of publishing which are majority white, it would not be difficult to find people of color or with disabilities without creating an affirmative action seat at the table by simply recruiting members from other libraries, journals or publishing houses. Even looking at the Blogger Directory gives me pause. I’m very glad to see Girls in Capes on the list, but I’m really not familiar with any of the other blogs and question how diverse their reading selections are. I say that knowing that bloggers can often do read broad and wide and can be great places to introduce readers to books outside their norm, I just don’t know how many of these do that. We’re still in a place where diversity is spoken about from members of the choir. Rarely to all White congregations recognize the lack of Brown. It has to be pointed out, noticed and made into an issue of concern and in America, it’s an issue when it affects the corparte bottom line.

And what about those executives in publishing? Jason Low is ambitiously working to document the numbers of people of color.

Last week our company launched a petition pushing for more staff transparency in publishing. Forgive me if some of you are already aware of this, but this endeavor has grown into quite a challenge to personally reach out to everyone to get them involved. As it stands, we have 5 major reviewers and 15 publishers onboard, and over 500 signed supporters. It takes literally less than 2 minutes to sign the petition and another minute to pass this along to fellow diversity advocates you know. We appreciate any and all help you can offer to this important project. 

Here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/book-publishers-and-review-journals-help-increase-diversity-in-books-by-asking-publishers-to-be-transparent-about-staff-diversity

Here are the journals and publishers that have so far agreed to participate:

Review Journals
Horn Book
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
School Library Journal

Albert Whitman
Annick Press
Arte Publico Press
Cinco Puntos Press
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Holiday House
Just Us Books
Lee & Low Books
Peachtree Publishers
Pomelo Books
Sasquatch Books
Second Story Press
Tradewind Books

source: https://www.leeandlow.com/about-us/the-diversity-baseline-survey

It’s interesting that the some of the larger publishers do see a need for diversity, inclusion and social responsibility but are not participating in the project.

Scholastic’s Credo:

Scholastic produces educational materials to assist and inspire students
to cultivate their minds to utmost capacity
to become familiar with our cultural heritage
to strive for excellence in creative expression in all fields of learning, literature and art
to seek effective ways to live a satisfying life
to enlarge students concern for and understanding of today’s world
to help build a society of free of prejudice and hate and dedication to the highest quality of life in community and nation

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/aboutscholastic/credo.htm

Simon and Schuster

Mission Statement

“Seeking diversity in all facets of our business – by valuing our employees and authors for their unique perspectives, and promoting tolerance and understanding in the workplace – are the best ways for Simon & Schuster to fulfill its publishing mission for today’s increasingly diverse readership.”

— Carolyn Reidy, President & CEO

Diversity Councils at Simon & Schuster
The focus of the Diversity Councils is to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. It is our goal that Simon & Schuster becomes an
Employer of Choice, so that both prospective employees and authors of varied backgrounds will be attracted to Simon & Schuster and view the company as a superior publisher of quality books.

The Councils are comprised f employees from all divisions and levels of the organization, which supports the efforts of the company to develop an inclusive, respectful, and effective cross-cultural workplace. Each council member serves on a core committee and meet regularly to focus on the following initiatives:

Staffing, Retention and Career Development
Community Involvement
Diversity Events
Workplace Diversity Awareness
See more at: http://www.simonandschuster.biz/careers/diversity#sthash.tC0RciWF.dpuf
Source: http://www.simonandschuster.biz/careers/diversity
Penguin Random House

As the world’s first truly global consumer publishing company, Penguin Random House is committed to editorial excellence and long-term investment in creative and diverse content. With our broad range of more than 250 editorially independent publishing imprints, we provide readers with unparalleled literary choices. Penguin Random House works tirelessly to protect our authors’ intellectual freedom and properties, while giving them access to support and resources that help their works reach readers around the world. Additionally, we support legislation, initiatives, and organizations such as Poets & Writers and PEN that champion writing, freedom of expression, and cultural diversity.

Source: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/about-us/corporate-responsibility/

If you can’t get a seat at the table, you do like Cheryl and Wade Hudson who have been fighting this good fight for YEARS. They’ve taken control of their own message by creating Just Us Books, a company that for 30 years has published books that reflect African American history and heritage. But, they don’t stop there. They show up at events to remain a presence for people of color in the larger publisher sphere. This past weekend, they presented and/or hosted several panels which placed diversity on forefront. Cheryl Hudson post links to videos of several of the sessions on her FB page.

For too many, diversity has become the cause de jour. Too many of us do not want to whisper. We want our lives, our stories and our dreams to be as American as we already believe our lives to be. We want to breathe.