BookCon recently announced that John Green would be headlining at the NYC event in May. Not surprising, John Green has been the next big thing for some time now. If you’re wondering whether it’s deserved, I’d say it is. His books are fantastic. We at Eight Cousins all love them. The problem, however, is that BookCon has already been called out on it’s all white, mostly male line up. There was a tremendous outcry a few weeks ago when a panel of ‘hot shots in children’s books’ (not the official title) panel was announced consisting of Rick Riordan, Lemony Snicket, Jeff Kinney, and James Patterson. Again no questions there, all four are best sellers, prominently marketed, all have books that have become movies and, yes, we sell tons of their books. Their books are also quite good.
The biggest problem comes down to institutionalized racism, and I’m not going to address that question here, because it’s too big and too vague.
Another problem is why didn’t the Book Con organizers simply seek out authors of color to include in the lineup? That’s where I start to feel really uncomfortable. Because I cannot even begin to cast stones. I’m working on our summer event schedule now and it, too, is lacking in diversity. Events are scheduled in a variety of ways. Some are requests that I’ve made, because I loved a particular author’s book, some are because of proximity — “hey! author x has friends on the Cape and can swing by!” — some are requests from the publisher, some have connections to the store, some are random. And yet when I step back and look at the whole line up, I see a very disturbing pattern.
I’m not just discovering the bias in our events. It’s actually something I’ve known about for a while, so I won’t claim ignorance (which is not an acceptable excuse anyway). When I started to write this blog post a few days ago, I found myself spiraling very quickly. I became very aware of a certain amount of navel gazing, defensiveness, justification, hand-wringing, all of which comes down to discomfort and fear. Discomfort because I became acutely aware of my own contributions to the bigger problem. Fear because taking steps to correct my actions will require exposing myself criticism. And now we’re back to discomfort, because how did I make this about me and my discomfort?
Book Riot posted an excellent response to BookCon entitled, “What BookCon Should Be Saying.” The line I most appreciate is this one, “Of course we realize that including authors of color now might seem to be insincere tokenism. Unfortunately, our failure to include authors of color to this point makes it impossible for us to dismiss such charges. All we can do is start doing the right thing, right now.” Apologize. Promise to do better. Do better. I get it Book Riot. Thank you.
I’m sorry for not making a more concerted effort to create an inclusive event schedule this summer. Publicists, authors, illustrators, sales reps, Falmouth community, please help me to do better.