These two essays perfectly frame the emotional and social debacle of publishing and diversity today. They begin with this stat: “Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people,” according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. The wide world of literature in general, and by no coincidence, the publishing industry itself, suffer from similarly disastrous numbers.
When Christopher Myers asked his uncomfortable questions about the apartheid in children’s lit, the industry hid behind The Market. The publishing industry, people often say as if it’s a gigantic revelation, needs to make money and as such, it responds to The Market, and people don’t buy books about characters of color. This is updated marketing code for “you people don’t read,” and it’s used to justify any number of inexcusable problems in literature. “The Market is so comfortably intangible,” Myers writes, “that no one is worried I will go knocking down any doors. The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book… because white kids won’t buy a book with a black kid on the cover—or so The Market says, despite millions of music albums that are sold in just that way.”