I was talking with a friend recently about how the numbers of women in STEM haven't significantly increased, but a lot of companies that used to run a ton of camps and other opportunities to encourage early access to the science and technology have stopped. NPR's story about the increasing maternal death rate in the US, included the supposition that in part, we assume we have conquered these old timey only happen in the third world these days problems and have let go of many of the safeguards we used to have. So, it is with that in mind that I took a look at the publishing reports for kidlit and romance that came out earlier this eyar.
We are not getting better. Not even when for the entire last year there has been one or more books by authors of color dominating the YA NYT list. Not even when plenty of romance books by women of color have done very well, like multiple printings well.
Now sure, publishing moves slow, 2020 slots are getting filled now by many publishers. But, we cannot keep hoping it will get fixed by next year. Absolutely nothing leads us to believe that will happen without work. Publishers need to continue to hire widely and diversely, work to acquire widely and diversely. Reviewers too. Because it's easy to do nothing and assume there are no structural inequities that need to be addressed. It's easy to do nothing and assume because Beverly Jenkins or Angie Thomas got through anyone who really wants to can too. I am also going to tell you that this year, in an article I am not going to point to, a person who considers themselves well-read interviewed a debut black author and they said publishing hasn't published a romance for twenty years. That there are no agents or editors of color. Now I know none of these things are true. I can name multiple traditionally published back authors and other authors of color. And more who are digitally first or self published. They are there. But right now it's easy for the dabblers to think it isn't. Much like someone once told me that 50 Shades of Grey contained the only strong heroine they'd ever read in romance. There are more casual readers than there are avid readers. And those who only read a few books a year are in some cases going to avoid genres that don't seem to view them as people. (And before you push back, think about why you might read more books with your preferred gender in the lead. There's a lot of stuff out there. No reason you shouldn't lean towards the stuff that makes self insertion easy.) If all you see in the grocery store is white characters on covers, well, then, it would be easy to assume that's all there is.
So, as folks pointed out on Twitter, this isn't just so we can feel better about ourselves. This is so the genre doesn't die out because too many people assume it can't imagine them finding love and community.