Friday, June 12, 2020

decentering and publishing in the era of #blacklivesmatter

Like many at this particular pivot point in history, I've been thinking about privilege and publishing and supporting Black writers, whether it's through the books one reads or buys or the books one publishes.  Where you center your canon,  whose work you support, where you put your money as an audience member.  I've been knee deep in working on some initiatives for the Library and A of R, on hilighting anti-racism resources and materials, developing programming and information on the subject of Black protest art through the ages, including BLM, and related subject matter, as well as promoting protest-related resources, particularly for our Columbia students, many of which have been involved in the efforts locally.  As I worked on these things, I've also been trying to find corollary ways to bring these efforts into dancing girl press and ways that might happen or take shape in the future, particularly as we enter our open reading period this summer and work to populate next year's publication schedule.

Years ago, I was talking to someone (white, male, older)  who had once edited a small print publication in the late 80's/ early 90's, and talking about diversity in publishing.  About the role and responsibility of editors to make sure that they are better representing voices across the spectrum, marginalized voices, etc.  His take was that he wanted to be more diverse in his efforts, that the journal would have benefited from it,  but the submissions just weren't there.  I asked him if he thought that was because a greater variety of submitters just didn't know about the journal, or was it that they didn't feel it was a place where they would be welcome.  I myself have looked a journal, and if it were overly male (in it's content, in it's editorial staff) I'd bypass it and send somewhere else. He disagreed when I said I felt that if the submissions weren't in the queue, you had to go elsewhere--that you kind of had a responsibility to pull that work in to reflect a greater span of voices.   To find those writers that might not be familiar with your publication or might not see themselves reflected in its pages and make it happen. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

I've been extraordinary fortunate with dgp in that, with such a large number of submissions, I have a healthy number of manuscripts coming across the desk--a variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, gender/sexual orientations, subject matter, experiences. Others come to me through recommendations of other writers or happenstance.   I can usually find a decent percentage of writers of color whose work I want to publish, but of course, there is always more work to be done if you truly want to reflect the breadth of work and decenter the glaring whiteness of the publishing world.   And these are what I've been thinking about in the past couple weeks as this is on everyone's mind and publisher's are examining how to do things better in the future--how to welcome more writers of color, particularly BIPOC into publications and presses.   How to find those authors, because they are out there,  and how to bring them to the forefront of publishing efforts as an industry (which includes the biggest of the large publishers down to the tiniest of the indies.)  And specifically, how I can make those things manifest through dgp, where while we do get to publish a somewhat diverse list, it seems like there is still more work to be done to have a chapbook series that truly reflects population percentages in general. I'd like to do a bit more soliciting and maybe pushing POC authors to the front of queue and making them a priority this summer.   In the meantime,  also championing and promoting the work of writers we have published is a useful thing as well.  More soon on this as I mull it around... 

No comments: