In the UK, October is Black History Month (BHM). I’ve been thinking about making it writers of colour (WoC) month here on the blog, but I wanted to get thoughts from all of you.
I have lots of books I’m excited to read by WoC, and, personally, I want to stay away from slave narratives. This seems counter-intuitive for BHM but I keep seeing WoC talk about how they struggle to get published unless they fit with “proper” perceptions of their race or ethnicity. Nikesh Shukla recently set up a tumblr about people’s experiences of ‘diversity’ in publishing (which is well worth a follow because the stories are, quite frankly, shameful and ridiculous), which came about from this article he wrote on his own experiences. One (white) agent told him his characters weren’t ‘authentically Asian enough’, readers wouldn’t be able to identify them as Asian, and the story was too ‘niche’. I mean….wut. In a world where white (usually male) experience is seen as universal, and anything else is ‘niche’, ‘specialist’, and ‘other’, it’s hard to get published unless you write within certain boundaries. Roxane Gay talked about how for black writers that means slave narratives or maybe on micro-aggressions. If you write anything else, you are basically told to get back in your lane. That’s why I want to make sure I’m reading across genres and not accidentally getting sucked into this bollocks discourse. Because it is utter bollocks.
I am aware that by making it WoC month, I may in effect be doing that thing where an author is their race/ethnicity first, writer second (i.e. ‘black author so-and-so’ or ‘British Asian writer this guy’). I’m hoping that what I’m actually doing is trying highlight some great stuff out there in the context of a systemically biased industry (and I’m aware my own reading has been pretty white recently). But this is definitely something I’d like your thoughts on.
As I am a white person, I think it’s important I don’t talk over or for people of colour so I also want to make sure I have some blog posts on recommendations of great book bloggers and booktubers of colour to read and watch, and some guest posts too. Get in touch with me in the comments or on twitter if you want to post.
What do you think? I need thoughts! I’d love to hear what you think of the idea, and whether it should be black writers month instead of writers of colour month because it is BHM. And if you want to take part too on your own blog or you want to do a guest post. Let’s talk about it in the comments below.