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Color of Publishing 1, debrief of the PEN America Report
Episode 3523rd May 2023 • BookRising • Radical Books Collective
00:00:00 00:47:15

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On October 17th 2022, PEN America published a report titled “Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity and Book Publishing” with the goal to expose and explore the fact that the publishing industry has “entered a moment of moral urgency about the persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity among employees and authors.” In our three-part series focused on this crisis in publishing, we debrief listeners on this report and gather perspectives from publishing professionals in the United States (Elizabeth Méndez Berry & Porsche Burke) and the United Kingdom (Margaret Busby & Ellah P. Wakatama). In this episode, Bhakti Shringarpure and Suchitra Vijayan break down the PEN America report section by section while also revealing the industry’s problematic practices and bad habits through their own experiences. 

The report is divided into 5 parts. The first section offers a snapshot of the transitions taking place in the industry, and the crisis around racism and diversity exposed and expressed due to the uprisings for Black lives that began in 2020. The second section addresses the lack of diversity among the staff, editors and executives in the publishing world which then limits the types of books being acquired, produced and sold. In this long section, there are shocking revelations about hostile work environments, reported micro-aggressions, and the practice of typecasting editors and authors of color. The third section tackles pervasive prejudices such as “diverse books don’t sell” or that certain communities of color “don’t read” or the notion that one book per community of color is “enough.” Writers of color are trapped because they “are not only damned if they tell stories that white gatekeepers wrongly believe they've already read—they're also damned if they don't tell stereotypical stories that white publishers actually have already read and expect.” The fourth and fifth sections deal with questions of sales, marketing and promotion practices that continually disadvantage authors of color. 

Bhakti Shringarpure and Suchitra Vijayan are both writers and co-founded the Radical Books Collective. 

Read the PEN America report:

Other links:



Archive Editor Erin Overby's thread on racism at the New Yorker: