Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Celebrating books by certain successful people

I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend. Hooray for books! I got to meet Lela Lee of Angry Little Girls fame, and I had her sign my copy of her new book. Hooray for me!

At the panels I went to, most of the audience was older and white. Unfortunately, most of the panelists were, too. Except for the Jada Pinkett Smith/Sistah Souljah stage, and the Writing between Races panel (which was the best! Click these words to learn about the five fabulous panelists), almost all of the people on the panels I attended were white. Most of them were male, more of them were affluent or comfortable, most of them were over 40. All of them were over 30. At least two of the panels had only white male speakers.

No, I did no select the panels I attended based on their abundance of old, rich white men. I chose topics that interested me, like authors who also write for TV, and novelists for young adults. Seeing the panelists magnified an pernicious problem of publishing: the vicious circle of who is allowed to speak in our society. To speak on a panel at the festival, you must have published a successful book. The people who have books published are usually white and mostly male, especially in nonfiction, even if the topics of their books are not other white people. Which leaves a bunch of people, like me, discouraged and dissatisfied, about the types of stories that being told, or more precisely, the types of stories that are not being told.

Outside of the panels, the crowd of thousands milling about the booths and stages was more diverse. Thought at the Patton Oswalt stage, the audience was more diverse in age and possibly in economic background than it was in color. Mostly different sizes and shades of white people. But I did stand next to one of the other two black ladies in the audience. Progress!


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