LatinaLista — A few years ago, the nation was “aghast” to learn how few books Latino, black, Asian and Native American children were exposed to who had characters that looked like them. The report made the children’s book publishing industry self-conscious and forced a promise that it would do better.
Statistics released in February of 2017 by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) found the industry is trying to keep its word. The report revealed that the stagnant trend of books authored by white authors or featuring white main characters was slowly improving. According to the CCBC, 2016 had the highest amount of children’s books either for or written by authors of color – 28 percent. It’s an improvement of 19 points since 2012.
But industry watchdogs caution to not high-five children’s book publishers yet. The CCBC also found that while books reflecting a wider diversity were being published, they were still being written by mainly white authors — only 6 percent of new children’s books published in 2016 were written by authors of color.
Now, the bed covers have been ripped from another sector of the book industry that is suffering from their own racial diversity dilemma — romance books!
In the first-ever survey of the romance book industry,The Ripped Bodice 2016 State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report reveals a familiar story.
Conducted by two sisters, Leah and Bea Koch, owners of the Ripped Bodice, the only romance specialty bookstore in the United States, the report was conceived because the sisters never had a good answer for their customers looking for romance books reflecting particular ethnic characters.
So, though they had a gut feeling the truth wasn’t going to be pretty, they fearlessly contacted 20 of the top well-known traditional romance publishers and collected the data. What they found left them breathless:
- For every 100 books published by leading romance publishers in 2016 only 7.8 were written by people of color.
- 50 percent of the publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of books authored by people of color.
- Out of 20 publishers surveyed, only three had at least 10 percent of their books written by people of color.
The Koch sisters plan to do an annual survey to track (hopefully) the progress in a genre that has been traditionally popular with girls and women of all races and ages.
Until the romance book industry seriously takes this void of representation, it’s a safe bet that many Latinx, Black, Native American and Asian girls and women’s loins will continue to ache for the change that not only should come, but needs to come.