Book Publishing Employees Draw Attention to Industry’s Lack of Diversity on ‘Day of Action’ Supporting Protesters

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As national rallies against police violence and racism continue, book publishing workers are organizing a “day of action” to support protesters and draw attention to the industry’s lack of diversity.

Participants said in an email that the action was “in solidarity with uprisings across the United States in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and others.”

“We protest our industry’s role in systemic racism, its inability to hire and retain large numbers of black employees or publish large numbers of black authors, and its pursuit of profit through books that encourage to racism. ”

Suggested actions include donating a day’s salary to anti-racist organizations, participating in marches, and promoting works by black authors. Monday’s statement also comes as anti-racist books topped the bestseller lists on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. According to NPD BookScan, which tracks about 85% of the print market, sales have jumped for works such as “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.

The initiative was an unusually public statement from an industry where, until recently, employee objections to diversity and other issues were made anonymously or privately. The initiative’s organizers are five staff from Farrar, Straus & Giroux, including editorial assistant Deborah Ghim and editor-in-chief Carrie Hsieh, who say more than 1,300 workers have expressed their support. In a joint statement emailed to The Associated Press on Monday, FSG employees said they were disgusted by publishers’ efforts to diversify.

“We have enough experience with corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives to know that they are largely toothless and built on a top-down model that ultimately only benefits a privileged few and often exploits the marginalized workers, ”they wrote. “An effort to build collective power, we realized, was required. “

Throughout 2020, the book industry has been pressured to confront its past and present, with around 75% of employees being white. The year began with the resignation or resignation of many Romance Writers of America board members due to low diversity. One of the year’s most anticipated novels, “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, was criticized for its stereotypical portrayal of Mexican immigrants and sparked an extraordinary forum in February. Oprah Winfrey, who had selected him for her book club, invited some of the novel’s main critics to join her and Cummins in a debate about the book and the absence of Latinos in publishing. Winfrey herself was berated for not choosing more books from Latinos and vowed to change.

Over the past few days, Roxane Gay, NK Jemisin and other prominent writers have used the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe to highlight the story of black people receiving small advances over whites. Jemisin, the acclaimed speculative fiction novelist, called the advances “an indicator of” consumer confidence. ” More specifically, the publisher’s confidence in consumers.

“And ‘yes’ racism does impact that confidence,” added Jemisin, whose own advances were often well under $ 50,000. “In a racist industry trying to sell books to a racist audience within a racist society? Go on. The implicit prejudices alone will make negotiations more difficult. “

Monday’s protest is not the first time publishing workers have rebelled this year. Hachette Book Group employees quit their jobs in March after the publisher announced he had acquired the memoir of Woody Allen, who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter Dylan Farrow. Hachette dropped the book, titled “Apropos of Nothing,” which was soon published by Skyhorse Publishing.


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