these days, i'm finding myself increasingly frustrated with how white/eurocentric [mainstream] publishing skews. this week, the new yorker released its summer fiction issue and the paris review released its summer issue, and the table of contents of both publications had my head shaking and eyes rolling because, YEY, little tiny streak of color amidst the blinding white!
honestly speaking, this doesn't have much to do with me being asian-american as it does with me being a reader who's frankly bored to death with the same white/eurocentric narrative that so dominates publishing. i'm bored with the riffs on the same young-ish quirky-ish yuppy-ish brooklyn-ish white writer. i'm bored with white suburban america. i'm bored with opening these "top" american literary magazines and finding the same stories -- it's not the MFA vs. NYC quasi-debate people should be interested in; it's the white-MFA/NYC vs. everyone else divide.
i'm also bored with having to make a concerted effort to find writers of color, outside the handful of poster children authors who are bloody fantastic, yes, (and many of whom i absolutely love) but always seem to be the fallback authors publications can implicitly wave around and point to and say, look! our token author of color! look how good we are! pat us on the back!
because, look, i have nothing against white/eurocentric authors. one of my favorite living authors is white and male, and i religiously read everything he publishes as well as interviews he does. i think only margaret atwood can be as kickass and awesome as margaret atwood is. i can't fucking wait for nicole krauss' next book to be published, and i will continue to read ian mcewan's next books even if solar and sweet tooth and the children act were massive disappointments because, god, his prose is lovely.
but that's not enough. these authors are a varied bunch who tell different stories in different voices, but that's not diverse enough. books should take us to wildly different places, places we can't reach or access on our own. they should show us worlds we would never experience, countries we've never seen, cultures that aren't our own, and books should introduce us to people we've never met, people outside our circle of acquaintances and friends. books should make us think about issues and struggles we've never known, sometimes had the fortune and privilege never to know; they should challenge us, stretch our comfort zones, illuminate us in the context of a rich, diverse, varied world; but they can't do that when they're so limited and insular and self-contained.
because, look, we can do better -- we can all do better -- and i'm including myself in that we. earlier this week, i put out a request on instagram for recommendations on writers of color, and i intend to follow through, especially because people were awesome and left a bunch of comments. it doesn't mean that i'll only be reading from writers of colors, simply that i will be balancing out my reading more and reading deliberately, and, in connection to that effort, i will also be starting a weekly post here that talks specifically about writers of color. it will run on wednesdays and will start next week!
have a great weekend!