Standing in Solidarity? Really?

 
And here’s the post that most likely will end Patricia’s career in publishing. But, it has to be said, so here goes:
The publishing powers that be have “embraced” the #BlackLivesMatter movement. All of us authors have received email after email about big publishing houses standing in solidarity, big, national writers groups standing in solidarity, etcetera. And that’s great. But, have they, really? And if they have, why did it take nationwide outrage before they noticed how demeaning, demoralizing, and downright UNFAIR this industry is to writers of color?
 
Here’s what I know about my industry’s historic and systemic whiteness:
 
Nearly 80 percent who work in publishing self-identify as white. In Marketing and Publicity, 79 percent are white. There are very few women of color in positions of power in publishing. (And don’t get me started on the invisibility of other marginalized groups)
Before COVID, I had a look at some of the literary festivals which were to be held. One which would have been held in Berkeley, California caught my eye, and being a writer, I checked out who would be speaking at this literary festival. It looked like a line up of Republican Congress–-mostly male, mostly white, mostly middle-aged.
 
Look, I get it–every industry has its hierarchy. I’ve understood for a long time that writers of literary fiction as opposed to say, science fiction, crime, mystery, horror, romance, are held in higher esteem with the “literati.” I get that the myriad of young, white, female editors who work in publishing are going to identify with writers who are like them–went to certain universities, share the same background, and even age group. I’m older, I didn’t graduate from the right schools, I write self-help or fantasy, I am definitely not in their wheelhouse. I deal with that, don’t whine about it, (usually) and work my ass off to write the best books I can, and get them mentioned in newspapers, magazines, noticed by book clubs, etc.
 
But, you see, I have one thing going for me that still gives me a leg up. I’m white and straight.
 
Three examples of many, off the top of my head—people I know personally—Ace Antonio Hall, Tricia Skinner, and Georgia Kolias
Ace just won a Stoker Award for a YA adult sci-fi that knocks it out of the park. His novel, Oware Mosaic, written under the pen name of Nzondi, has eleven reviews on amazon. Eleven reviews. This is a man who works in Hollywood, who has a fantastic social media presence, and who does his darndest to help out and champion his fellow writers. His protagonist is a teenage girl, and I got chills over the accuracy of the depiction. It’s an amazing book, he’s an amazing writer, and the Stoker panel of judges agree with me. Ever heard of this book? No? Hmm. I wonder why not.
 
Let’s talk about Tricia Skinner, author herself, but also a literary agent. Ask her what she’s dealt with in the publishing industry. I’m going to mention that some of the authors she reps are Black romance writers. Did you know that up until not so long ago, romance novels written by Black writers were published with a white couple on the cover? And then, when the publishing industry realized how boneheaded they were being by doing that, they did put Black couples on covers, but those novels were separated out from the ones with white couples on their covers. In other words, the white authors romance novels were shelved in alphabetical order of white authors, and next to those were the Black authors romance novels by Black author. Why not all together?
 
Now, Georgia Kolias might not fit into this tirade because she too, is white. Ah, but you see, she’s ga/span> A gay Greek-American who has a huge online platform, works as an acquisitions editor for a fairly large publishing house, and has written an incredible novel, The Feasting Virgin, which all my Greek friends will love. It’s about a Greek woman who, realizing she doesn’t want to get married, prays to the Virgin Mary for a pregnancy–a conception without the help of male sperm. It’s funny, thought-provoking, and there’s great Greek food in this book. But, you know what? No big publisher would look at it, and she was finally published by an LGBTQ publisher. Nothing wrong with that, but I know a wider audience would also love this novel. As I believe Ace Hall’s novel would be loved and appreciated by a wider audience. As I believe white readers who love romance novels would love say, Nina Crespo‘s novels. (who’s agent is Tricia Skinner, by the way)
 
But do these writers get the same turn at bat? No, they do not, and they never have. Not in this industry. I invited Georgia to speak at a literary festival we we’re going to hold at Breathless Winery in Healdsburg, California, which was cancelled due to covid. And I will never forget what she said to me. “You know, Patricia, when you asked me to read, I almost fell off my chair. Gay writers don’t get asked to be in mainstream events such as this one.”
 
But now that a man has had his necked stepped on, and is dead as a result, and the whole country has gone ablaze, the publishing world bigwigs are “standing in solidarity,” yada yada.
 
Yeah. We’ll see how long it lasts.

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