I had this thought one day. I should qualify that it was between the hours of midnight and four am, generally not a great time for coming up with new ideas for me but a good time to work on ideas I already have.
I thought about how I didn’t always see a lot of non-POC authors discuss, read, review POC authors’ works or interview them despite doing so for various non-POC authors regularly on their blogs. There are some authors who don’t do that sort of thing on their blogs at all for anyone else’s work and that’s fine and up to them but there are some that do post reviews and interviews and one tends to go “Why aren’t you reading outside of your known frame of reference or culture or comfort zone? Why aren’t you reading diversely?”
So here’s a simple question for both the writer-readers and the non writer-readers: when did you last read a book by a POC author or an Aboriginal/Torre Straits Island author or a disabled one or an author that identified as queer or within the LGBTQIA community or as a culturally and linguistically diverse author?
Note: since POC/CALD/disabled/LBTQIA/ATSI is a large term, within this blog post it is interchangeable with “diverse”. Just so it is easier for you to read so any time you see “diverse” that’s what it means and this way I won’t forget anyone halfway through.
If you can’t remember, then you need to start now. Because if you are for equality for all (and you are reading my lovely blog so of course you are 😉 ) then you need to put your money where your mouth is and help support all authors, not just those that come from where you are from.
To not do so is to help support a system of unequal privilege based on an assumption that you, the Australian reading market, does not want to read and cannot relate to diverse authors save for cookbooks and memoirs of tragedy which tends to make us then feel like you only want our food and our assurance that our homelands/life experiences are awful/titillating and Australia is great but you don’t want our ideas, our stories, our creativity, our knowledge and that none of those things have any worth.
Now you and I know this is not true. So please, here is a list of ways you can help support us:
1. Buy the book. If you have the money. This is the quickest, easiest way to prove that there is a demand. Work out how many books you read and how often and in which genre and work in a diverse author’s book per week/month/quarter.
2. Borrow diverse authors from the library if you don’t have the money. This makes a dent too. The library is more likely to stock more books by diverse authors if they feel there is a demand for it. And borrowing books from libraries means authors still get some payment for it. So don’t borrow from a friend. Here is Robyn Mundy’s piece on this.
3. Gift books by diverse authors as presents – there are diverse authors writing across all genres so don’t worry. You can order in books that aren’t on the shelf so there will be someone writing about something obscure for a non-fiction book somewhere and you will be able to get it.
4. Review the books you have read by diverse authors and if they are female ones, submit them to Australian Women Writers so they (and your review) get even more circulation.
5. Have a blog? Already interviewing authors? Set yourself a goal of one interview with a diverse author per week/fortnight/month in your blogging schedule and start getting in touch.
6. Like one book? Hunt down the backlist.
7. Talk to diverse authors on social media. Become friends. Let your fans and followers, if you are a writer and even if you aren’t, let them know that such authors exist and you like their work and that it is something they should read.
8. Give diverse authors’ works away as prizes and giveaways. One easy way to do this is to look up the calendar of national holidays and independence days – if you plan in advance, you can find a book by a diverse author that fits the bill that you can then giveaway to a lucky fan/follower/reader for every day on the list. This gets the books out to a wider audience and you can choose how it will benefit you in what you want people to do in order to win a prize.
9. Got a bookish podcast? Invite them on to chat.
10. Go to their book launches, readings, plays and events. Hang out, take photos and videos (never at the plays though) and spread the word across social media (do you see how a lot of this works in your favour for promoting any literature/book related blogs you have?)
11. Share their posts on social media. If you write and remember how cool it was to be at your first launch event or signing, share those posts by diverse authors. Revel in their success. Share the posts about things that matter to them (like funding cuts or other political shenanigans).
12. Write reviews for a publication? Send in reviews of diverse authors’ works.
13. Take on a reading challenge and only read diverse authors for a year or a book from each country or an entire country alone for a year.
14. If they haven’t got one, create a Wikipedia page for them. How awesome would that be? *looks around for mine*
15. Part of a book club? Convince them to give one diverse author a go.
16. Tell your diverse author friends to join sites like Diverse Writers of Australia and other groups on Facebook so that they have safe spaces and solidarity.
17. If you write and work best with others around in writing groups, invite diverse authors you know that fit the vibe to join you. They will appreciate the invitation at the very least and most will probably be thrilled and will see it as you being supportive of their work and believing in them. That was my experience.
18. If you get the chance, offer to read their work and be part of any beta reader or feedback group.
19. Invite them to every writing/editing/publishing event that you think they can make it to. I get invites to east coast events that I cannot attend most of the time but I still appreciate the invites.
20. Ask them to speak at conferences, society meetings, events, schools, anywhere that you have a say in choosing speakers. By now you should know so many diverse authors that it should be easy to find an author that would be able to address specific topics and so on. I must also state that you must have more than one speaker out of many at a conference type event be a diverse person because otherwise it gives the impression of tokenism not true acceptance so aim for as many as possible.
21. If you are a writer/reader and your state literary events and festivals aren’t diverse then raise your voice and ask the organisers why very very loudly. You have a platform as a writer – use it to champion others even when those who should know better are very short sighted.
22. Support organisations that do try to support diverse authors and voices like the Centre for Stories. Try to donate or go to their events.
23. Subscribe/donate to journals and publications that publish diverse work regularly. Kill Your Darlings, Seizure Online and Meanjin are three you can start with. If you can keep these publications going, then your diverse author friends have more chances of seeing their work in print. The smallest things help.
24. Subscribe to the blogs of diverse authors and follow them on social media.
25. If you write, run your diverse characters past a diverse author or someone from the same background, please. The less stereotypical you make your diverse characters the less likely readers will be to think in stereotypes in general about such people and then the less likely it will be that diverse authors are asked to change their work to exoticise or stereotype those character representing them and their relevant groups. And we are asked. Quite often. Please help us stop it.
26. Send their books to editors and publishers you know as gifts and ask your editor and publisher why there aren’t more diverse authors on their lists.
27. Do something awesome and do what author Anna Spargo-Ryan did where she acknowledged ATSI people and the land in the book The Paper House itself:
This should be something all Australian writers do as a matter of course and at the front of the book. Let’s make it possible.
As always, any brilliant ideas and suggestions are welcome. Please add them in the comments below.