Go Beyond Reading Diversely: Buy Diversely, Too

Aimee Miles

Staff Writer

Aimee Miles is a newly-minted librarian, mother to two small children, and former grand champion goat showman. She has collected two citizenships, three different driver’s licenses, and approximately 300 dearly loved books. Sadly, she currently has zero goats. You can see her quiet Twitter at Icanread4Miles and her blog on children's books at https://bringthemupbookish.wordpress.com

I’m guessing you are here at Book Riot because you love the content as well as the specific commitment to highlighting under-represented voices. It’s one of my favorite parts about Book Riot, too.

My reading last year consisted of about 25% books by POC authors. That’s—well, it’s kind of the most basic okayish that I could/should do. This year, my reading is currently about 26% by authors of color, so I’ve got plenty of room for improvement and plenty of time to improve.

Anxiously awaiting Book 3. . .

However, I’m a heavy library user so my reading and my purchasing are not the same data. When I look at my bookshelves at home, they are not even scraping the bottom of racial diversity. Of my book purchases last year, only 15% were by authors of color. Slightly better than my 12.5% from the year before. Currently, I’m at 28.5%, which is a good start. Ok, well, at least it’s better than last year.

My personal purchases aren’t going to change the perspective of the entire publishing industry. But just like the way that my personal reading habits won’t diversify the industry, collective consciousness about our collective purchasing already makes clear statements to publishers. Book purchases offer easily measured quantitative data to publishers about their books. This data impacts which authors are picked up, the kinds of contracts they get, and how publishers promote their book.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but find it pretty patchy when looking for books to listen to by authors of color. Children’s books are very white author-dominated, as are romance books. And can someone find me a fantasy series by an author of color with four books or more? Sabaa’s not done with her series yet, and even beloved N.K. has written her stories in trilogies (whether by her design or designed by her contract, I don’t know.)

#WeNeedDiverseBooks has opened conversation about the diversity of narratives we are consuming (or the lack thereof). But after that, we need to talk about the diversity of our purchases. Who we are giving money to? Who are we telling publishers are the authors who are worth the money? #WeNeedToBuyDiverseBooksAsWellAsReadDiverseBooks

I’m not saying that everyone must go out and buy lots of books or that you can’t still support authors you love simply because they are white. And I didn’t even talk about other kinds of diversity. However, it is worth looking at your book purchases, if and when you make them, and seeing if you really are putting your money where your mouth is.