It’s important to have awkward conversations unless you’re on a date. When that happens, its just sad for everyone involved.
I am consistently frustrated, frightened, and freaked out by the lack of people of color in the publishing world in 2009(!), and particularly in independent publishing. Whenever you see pictures from readings, there are rarely any black or brown faces in the crowd or on stage. AWP was… hugely depressing in this regard. I don’t think I saw a single person of color in our room sitting behind a table. As for attendees, people of color were there in small pockets, but we were underrepresented. Most contributors to magazines are white. Most editors are white. White white white with the token minorities thrown in for the occasional flare. And when you try to talk about this, everyone points to the one or two people of color they know or they tell you to lighten up. Me, I just look in the mirror. Quota, filled! It troubles me. It should trouble all of us. It is 2009 and we have a Black president and a Latina Supreme Court justice and we still have no consistent, successful way of fostering diversity in literary magazines (and I include PANK as part of the problem). Â How are we all okay with this state of affairs?
I also find that the indie publishing world is very much a boy’s club. I know there are many women writers but when The Rumpus has to issue a specific call for women humor writers and small presses are eagerly seeking manuscripts from women, you have to wonder what’s going on. When you look at a great many of the chapbooks being published, they’re written by men. That’s not a bad thing. This isn’t about seeing less work or editorial participation from men, but rather seeing more participation from women. Is it that men are better at self-promotion and more willing to put themselves out there? I find that sometimes male editors evaluate work with a double standard as if certain edgier styles of writing are acceptable from men but not from women. And on and on it goes. Now, I’ll be honest. Most of the time, I’m too busy being black to worry about being a woman. And I myself am really lucky to find great homes for my writing and work for a very inclusive editor who is in fact the only man on the PANK staff. This isn’t so much about something I feel personally but rather something I feel more universally. And I know everyone’s first instinct will be to list the women editors and writers and the editors and writers of color they know and that is sort of the point. As long as you can still come up with a list, we’re underrepresented.
I have no profound point here. I thought I’d open up a discussion about this Â stuff. Is it just me or are these valid concerns? How do we start to address race and gender and inclusion in more effective ways without pandering to political correction?
Holla if you hear me!