Every week, Figment features a blog that we think is all kinds of wonderful. This week, we’re featuring Ari of Reading in Color!
Reading in Color first began in 2009: founder Ari felt impelled to blog after learning about the inclusiveness of the book blogging world and realizing that she, too, was interested in sharing her literary knowledge and passion. As a woman of color, Ari also felt that the world of YA (and of publishing at large) often underrepresented minorities; as a general aim, then, Reading in Color seeks to feature minority voices prominently. Implicit in that goal is the ideal of living a global life — says Ari: “I believe it is absolutely vital that this generation focus on becoming global citizens. Books are a fun, thought-provoking sometimes heart-wrenching way of helping to increase tolerance.”
Figment asked Ari: One of the impetuses for starting your blog was the feeling that people of color were underrepresented in YA fiction and reviews. Since starting your blog, do you see any positive changes in that regard?
I definitely see some positive changes. There are at least 89 YA/MG books this year being published about kids/teens of color. That’s not a lot compared to the 40 or so books published each month featuring white main characters, but to me, it’s progress. The biggest sign of positive change was when the book blogsphere united against the whitewashing of the cover of Liar by Justine Labalestier. The main character was a black girl but the original ARC cover featured a white girl. There was enough public outrage (including from the author herself) that the cover changed and now that I’ve read it the current cover fits the book splendidly. However we still have a LONG way to go: there are still more white authors writing about people of color being published than authors of color writing about people of color, and that needs to change.
What are some of the biggest challenges you envision in regards to making publishing a more inclusive industry? What do you think would help to ensure that people of color are more represented in the industry?
The biggest challenge is getting young people to enter the publishing industry not just as authors but as editors, agents, cover designers, CEOs, etc. I know there are more than a few youth of color who would probably love to have a job in the publishing industry, but they aren’t even aware that that’s an option. If it wasn’t for this blog, I never would have known that I could be around books without being an author. I also think that the argument that teens of color don’t read is preposterous. We don’t buy books because why would we want to buy books whose message is that we are inferior, that we’re not even worth being mentioned? Since we don’t buy books, publishing houses assume we don’t read. But I would ask them to visit schools in which white students are in the minority, distribute the few books they publish about people of color to the students, and watch them fly off the shelves of the school library.
Tell us about some of the blog programming you’ve either already enacted or envision.
I’ve started C.O.L.O.R. the Coalition Of Librarians and Online Readers. The goal is to help libraries that are hurting financially due to budget cuts by donating books, but all the books must have main characters of color. This way I can not only ensure that students don’t have to suffer due to library budget cuts but that they are introduced to books they may not see displayed front-and-center at bookstores, books that feature kids/teens of color. Youth who look like them. We go through universal experiences but it’s a pleasant surprise when our diverse world is represented in books and we can say that (for example) the Nigerian American daughter of immigrant parents is just as stressed about college applications as a Nicaraguan immigrant guy or an American Irish student.
Visit Reading in Color at blackteensread2.blogspot.com!