One of my favourite authors and “PC Monster” Saladin Ahmed shared this chart recently and I was a little bit disgusted.
The chart shows a breakdown of people reviewed by the New York Times by skin colour and ethnicity. The big blue part are the white people. Everybody else are represented by all those little wedges there.
Yeah, that really stinks. Out of 742 books reviewed only nine were written by Hispanic authors – that’s 1.2% of the books reviewed. According to 2010 statistics, 16.4% of the population of the US is Hispanic.
Similar disparities exist with other groups – 4.2% of reviewed authors were African Americans – the same statistics listed the African American population at 12.6%. When there is under-representation at a rate of three to one (or worse, 10 to one) this strikes me as problematic bias.
We, in the literary community, can do better than this. We should be seeking out diverse voices, not ignoring them. It can be hard to find work written by diverse voices sometimes and this is part of it. If the books aren’t reviewed they don’t get distributed. If they don’t get wide distribution people don’t read them.
And that’s not even considering straight-up censorship of minority writers, which still totally happens.