Diversity and how zines do it wrong.

I am doing a lot of market research right now.  Getting ready to do some hardcore submitting in Dec.

I rely heavily on Duotrope and I’ve found that sometimes the editor interviews can totally ruin a zine I may have liked.

Mainly my problem is when I see the idea of diversity in tastes in a zine and every one of their favorite listed writers are either Dead White Guys, Living White Guys with maybe some Bronte sisters thrown in, I just shake my head a little bit.

Honestly dear literary magazines.

If your favorites list reads like an omnibus for a class in “classic” literature, you are not doing diversity right.

If your favorites list reads like the current who’s who of White Man problems lit, you are not doing it right.

This is one of those days where as I’m doing my diligent research, I feel like okay. OKAY so if all your favorite voices are White men, telling mens stories, and you love a diversity of voices, why is it when I go to read through your archives I find a lot of white dudes.

If the stories that move you are the stories of men pretty much just like you or the vision of your best self, or worst self; where do other people fit in?

Of course I’m not saying everyone has their taste. I personally don’t care for a specific type of lady writing that involves a lot of self loathing. That’s not my jam. However, if I was running a magazine and talked a good game about how wonderfully diverse the voices in my zine were and really mostly only published that one narrative, that one type of voice, I’d be a lying ass liar.

Or if I want to not be such a pessimist about it, I’d say I would be sorely and terribly mistaken.

I would be super excited if more editors would excise the word diversity from their vocabulary until they understand that it’s not simply a word that it is also an action. That this action is also a representation of what they say they are into.

This is a conversation I’ve had before. Once upon a time I (very timidly, I was a baby) brought it up in a yahoo writing group I was in. As these things go, there were some irate White editors who gave many reasons why I was wrong.

Here’s the thing White folks.

This takes some self reflection. It takes some hubris.

If the scope of your literary tastes go no farther than the easily findable market saturated White authors that’s fine. What’s not fine is not acknowledging that or at least not talking about your diverse tastes because they just aren’t.

Don’t shit in my purse and tell me it’s your organic way of showing love.

This is also a point in the conversation where I’ve had people tell me it’s just SO HARD TO FIND AUTHORS OF COLOR TO SUBMIT.

Actually it’s not.

It takes not bullshitting us about what you publish. It takes, taking a hard objective look at what you publish and maybe saying to yourself, “wow this is a real White magazine, I should fix that.”

Maybe you need to solicit work. Maybe you need to ask someone if they read your zine, if they would be comfortable submitting.

It takes widening what you read and perhaps redefining what’s “good”. Good doesn’t necessarily have to mean that it resonates with you personally. I am a Black person who has been an avid reader for 30 years, how many books do you think I’ve read that I will never ever identify with?

Until you have actual diversity in more than subject matter, don’t talk about it.

Just skip that and people like me will probably not be salty about it.

Today I’m a little frustrated.

I’ll sit in it for a minute and get back to work.

In the meantime, in case you’ve forgotten just how easy it can be to find all of us people of color who write, I give you again this amazing post put together by Roxane over at The Rumpus.

As the title says, We Are Many. We Are Everywhere.

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie. View all posts by Shannon Barber

2 responses to “Diversity and how zines do it wrong.

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