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9 Quotes on Diverse Books & Representation in Writing

Literary agent Ammi-Joan Paquette provides a collection of quotes on diverse books and representation from authors and industry pros, plus a list of additional web resources for those who want to learn more.
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Literary agent Ammi-Joan Paquette’s article in the March/April 2018 Writer’s Digest is a primer on the movement taking publishing by storm. Here she provides a collection of quotes on diverse books and representation from authors and industry pros, plus a list of additional web resources for those who want to learn more.

“What diversity advocates are working for is an industry that honestly, accurately and equitably represents the world we live in.”

—Mike Jung, author of Unidentified Suburban Object

“When kids grow up not seeing themselves in books they grow up feeling like they don't matter.”

—Eric Smith, author and associate literary agent at PS Literary

“As someone obsessed with and who writes small-town America, if you don't see diversity in your town, you're not looking hard enough.”

—Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin

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“We talk about representation every single day. When I started in publishing two decades ago at a different company, we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘gay’ in describing a character unless it was specifically tagged a ‘gay book’ and was geared toward that community only. Now it feels like there is a real push toward diversity, a focus on and celebration of that.”

—John Morgan, executive editor at Imprint, a part of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

“The book industry is focusing more on diverse voices and stories: a reflection of the real demographic of the United States, allowing all to find their stories reflected in books. Children's publishers across the industry have put an emphasis on finding diverse authors and stories, and I believe adult publishers are accelerating their efforts as well. All voices should be represented and reflected in books, and I have been fortunate to work for a publisher that values the importance of publishing underrepresented voices. My personal mission is to make sure that my list includes diverse voices, especially by Latinx authors.”

—Johanna Castillo, vice president and executive editor at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster

“‘Diversity’ should just be called ‘reality.’ Your books, your TV shows, your movies, your articles, your curricula, need to reflect reality.”

—Tananarive Due, author and American Book Award winner

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“I’m seeing a lot of writers saying it’s ‘damned if you do; damned if you don’t’ when it comes to writing diversely. It isn’t any different for writers of color. During an MFA workshop, a faculty member said my novel with a PoC MC didn’t address race. This was intentional on my part. I wanted the story to be about the character dealing with problems, not race as a problem. The critique: ‘Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to confront, and you should dig deeper.’ See? Damned if you don’t. When Jhumpa Lahiri’s second book The Namesake came out (post-Pulitzer) I attended a reading/Q&A. She said her toughest critics were usually Indians who said as a diaspora writer, she misrepresented India. Jhumpa Lahiri! Damned if you do. We all try to do the best we can. We will never please everyone. All we can do is try to write with empathy and honesty. And listen to the people around us, acknowledge mistakes we make, and keep trying to improve.”

—Anindita B. Sempere, author and academic

[Quotes on Writing: 19 Classic and Contemporary Lessons from Black American Writers]

“If we look at the bestseller lists, we see that diverse books are selling. I don’t think this is a ‘trend’—it is a reaction to the very real need to change the balance of what is published and to make sure that we are publishing books that reflect the experiences and lives of all. In Winter 2018, we are publishing a book I am very excited about, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. There has been a groundswell of support in-house at Harper for this immensely talented author and her novel in verse. We have a robust marketing and publicity plan, and tremendous support from booksellers has been pouring in. The publishing climate feels different to me these days—more open and better. This is what I have been waiting for my entire career.”

—Rosemary Brosnan, Editorial Director, Harper Collins

“I had these young women come up to me and bombard me with all these questions about what it meant to be an author. And I was looking at each one of them, and asked them where they were from. One was a Haitian-American, another an African-American, and then a Mexican-American. I had a book title to offer to each one of them. This is a magical time for young people to write their stories. The world is desperate for them.”

—Ibi Zoboi, author of the National Book Award finalist novel American Street, speaking at the Foundation for Letters 2017 gala

Essential Resources for Informed Writers

Continue the conversation on diverse books and respresentation with information from the following websites:

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