December, a time for community, celebration and coming together, has just become even more excellent and - importantly - more diverse. On Twitter the #DiverseDecember hashtag has been seen trending, and a @DiverseDecember account has been registered. So what's going on?
Coined by blogger 'Dan L', Diverse December is a self-declared "celebration of books by BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) writers". In short, the campaign is encouraging readers to actively select books by BAME authors to read throughout December - in order to raise awareness and breed greater diversity in books.
A "celebration" is exactly what Diverse December is, and yet it's also an especially potent one. In offering excellent book recommendations and engaging in discussion on Twitter , Diverse December is taking diversity by the scruff of the neck. And it seems to need it.
With the announcement of the books included in 2016's World Book Night give-away - a list containing no BAME authors' works - criticism was strong. The response prompted World Book Night's organiser, The Reading Agency, to announce it had no input into the books submitted by publishers. Dan L perfectly laid out his thoughts on that in a blog post you can read in full here.
This means that someone sits in a (likely) London office and chooses the books to put forward, as they do for any literary prize. It’s unclear as to why writers of colour have been shunned this year. Some suggest that it is a commercial decision, others of course fall on the fact that the literary industry isn’t a particularly diverse arena in the first place. Whatever the reason is, it contradicts what books and reading are all about and that is a voice and a story.
It's a great post, but Dan's not alone in his decision to take action in order to bring about change. His sentiments closely mirror those of Coconut Unlimited and Meatspace author Nikesh Shukla, himself recently resolving to take on the issue of diversity in publishing. Having asked "Where are all the brown people?" Shukla has had more than a few thoughts on the industry's innocent-faced navel-gazing. Speaking to The Guardian he said:
“When you criticise prizes and review coverage and lists for not being diverse enough, you’re told it’s because of what publishers are submitting, that it just reflects what publishers are putting out. So you say OK, publishers, and they say what they publish reflects what they’re sent by agents, so you say to agents, ‘where are the brown people?’ and they say they don’t discriminate, they just aren’t getting submissions through. So you say it’s the writers’ fault. So you speak to writers, and they say they look at the prizes, the lists, the reviews, the bookshops, and they don’t see themselves reflected".
Shukla's views are more than mere words. The author is an active proponent of diversity awareness in publishing, and is now editing an anthology of BAME essays in order to further discussion and awareness of diversity. And now, thankfully, Diverse December is driving the discussion too. Helping bring readers great books by great authors, and shaking the industry from an unattractive slumber.