There’s a very interesting article at Buzzfeed where five women who work in publishing talk about identity in the business. They really get into the nuances of what what happens when writers from a marginalized group achieve mainstream success (or at least recognition):
KB [Kathryn Belden]: To my mind, the more the industry opens up to acquiring books from a wider array of voices and experiences, and the more the market responds positively to reading these works, the better for everyone: for book sales, for the world of literature, for cultural understanding…Anecdotally, I have seen the very positive impact publishing books can have on individuals. While publishing can be a disappointing process when the sales and attention don’t meet expectations (this happens a lot), a book can have a significant impact on career opportunities, acknowledgment by peers, and financial stability.
IO [Ijeoma Oluo]: I definitely see the benefit to marginalized writers. Anything that has us telling our own stories is of benefit. I don’t necessarily see any drawbacks, but I do see real limitations that need to be addressed. These books are often not taken seriously by booksellers or reviewers. Often, memoirs or essay collections are hidden in the back of bookstores where they keep their “feminist studies,” “gender studies,” “women’s issues,” or “race and ethnicity” books — even when the books are selling well or are written by more popular writers, unless they are new releases by Ta-Nehisi Coates or Gloria Steinem, they don’t get any front-shelf placement.
This might be in response to the rewrite’s that were made after Kiera Drake’s new YA book The Continent got some major pushback about the way she handles race and identity. In response to the pushback she ended up recalling all the books (that had already been printed), revising the book, and then reprinting the new version. It’s well work a read.