I read a comment on Twitter yesterday that set my teeth on edge (Though honestly – it’s Twitter. That’s the norm.). Before I get more into the tweet itself, let me preface by saying – I am a bookseller. Yes, that’s what I do for work, but it’s also a piece of who I am. I have been recommending books to others since I was in high school – everyone knew I was The Reader in the room, and if they needed a title for a book report, I could give them options. Books are a part of me. I value them, and I view them as necessities. So much of who I am as a person today is because of books – the characters and flaws I was exposed to (and still am), the things that make me think and re-evaluate. So this tweet really hurt my heart.
Now, I can’t imagine what this is like for an actual POC, because…I’m not one. I don’t have that barrier. But as a bookseller, this is appalling. The reason I – and so many others – love books as we do is because books aren’t just about their settings, or the specific storyline, or that one character. Yes, those are important – but what makes books everlasting are the THEMES they address. It’s not just about “too dark”, “pregnant teenage girls”, or anything else. It’s about showing that kid, reading alone in their room, that they’re NOT alone. There is darkness everywhere – particularly in the world right now. Rape, child molestation and trafficking, sexism, racism, bigotry – it doesn’t just contain itself to a “regional” area. These are themes that play out in every town, in every country, in every single part of the world – and those that experience them need to know they’re not alone. Those that *partake* in them may learn, by reading a book recommended to them, to see from the angle of their victims. These things are universal, and we do a disservice to readers when we can’t see that.
Now, I don’t know how this gets changed. What I do know is, that as a bookseller, I’m lucky enough to have a voice – even if it’s a small one. And how I *use* that voice is of utmost importance. Recommending diverse titles, displays for people to want to look at (Planning one right now for the Rick Riordan Presents imprint – he’s a white dude, but every single book in that imprint is for marginalized voices), setting aside our own impulse to recommend primarily white authors…getting those voices out there is key. Because at a certain point, people in other countries pay attention to that as well.
As a blogger, who will be blogging about books, I *also* have a responsibility to make an effort to share books by marginalized voices. Does this mean I have to share a book even if I hated it? Absolutely not! But I can work on reading more works by marginalized voices, because the Law of Percentages (Does that exist? If not, I’m totally using it anyway.) states that: The More Exposure One Gets, The More Likely One Is To Find Something They Like. And when we find something we like? BLOG THE HELL OUT OF IT. Share it. Talk about it. Let people know that this is a book worth using their (potentially limited) time to read, and to spend their (again potentially limited) money on. Or worth waiting for from the library. Or listening to via audiobook. #Getthewordout.
I’m aware that, in the scheme of publishing and books, I have a very small voice. But when many Very Small Voices combine, then it becomes a Very BIG Voice, and then – people pay attention. It’s on all of us who love books, and truly value what they represent, to help make this happen. That old saying, “Sharing is caring” truly represents the best of books, and that’s where we *all* need to be.