This upcoming Monday heralds Black History Month 2021. What started as a single week in the 1920’s now spans the entire month of February. I’m hopeful that with how chaotic 2020 was, we’ll see people come together next week.
Last year was indescribable, but if you’ve been following the news in the publishing Twitter-verse, I think there’s cause for hope. #PublishingPaidMe, started in June 2020 by L. L. McKinney, took off, highlighting compensation disparities between writers of different ethnicities. Further examination has revealed that this systemic issue reaches the highest levels in the industry. There just isn’t much representation in the big publishing houses.
But things are changing. As a hopeful, querying author, I’ve seen lots of agents opening solely to BIPOC submissions. Editors are offering services and giveaways.
So what can we, the masses, do? Read books written by black authors. Purchase art from underrepresented minorities. Show the publishing companies there’s a market for these stories. I’ve been reading a lot more in the last year, and I’ve discovered a few new favorite authors (although I’m a bit late to the game in some cases).
This past week I read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. It’s a novel written in verse about Will, a teen reeling after his brother’s murder. It was amazing. I haven’t read poetry since high school (which was basically eternity ago), and what I remember is partially blocked out by strong feelings of frustration and confusion. Not Long Way Down. It’s genius. I devoured the book in a day, and had to deliberately coach myself to slow down. The edition I read featured patterns on the pages’ backgrounds. I knew if I turned a page and saw a smoky darkness, I was about to encounter something heartbreaking and stunning.
Fantasy fans, if you haven’t already, read or listen to the audiobook of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi all the way to the end. The author’s note about the story’s inspiration, turning on the television to see the news of another shooting, is disturbing. Especially if you stop to think that the book released in 2018, and that turning on the TV today and seeing another shooting might not be too out of place.
For more of a science fiction bend, Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti novella trilogy was a great place to start in an unfamiliar genre. Like I’ve said before, if it doesn’t have a dragon in it, I don’t want it, BUT the worldbuilding was so thorough and clear that even a goobery fantasy reader like myself could picture and appreciate Binti’s voyage to Oomza Uni. I’ve read great things about her other works, and can’t wait to pick them up.
Guys, I don’t have enough hours in the day to read all the books I want, and I’m hoping to find more new favorite authors this month. Feel free to comment with suggestions!