Storytelling is a powerful tool that can help stretch the meaning to the world we live in. Consuming diverse stories gives us the privilege to understand and humanize perspectives. It’s a reminder that no two people are the same. In order to succeed, we need to listen and understand this life together.
Setting the intention to read stories written by authors with different backgrounds, writing styles, genres, and time periods can greater our understanding of the world and stretch our empathy. The act of diversifying our media and reading material requires the act of stepping out of our comfort zones.
Our modern experience with the world has been mostly curated for us by algorithms by giant corporations and the influence of social media. Stepping away from the echo chamber has been carefully built for us can help us form different viewpoints and continue questioning lesser-known perspectives around us.
Understanding the voices that have been shut out by society is one of the first steps to understanding the importance of diversifying reading and media consumption. Marginalized voices have been silenced and oppressed over time due to socioeconomic and political influences. Marginalized voices have been at a disadvantage from the beginning of time. Women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and those with disabilities have been shunned out of mainstream media. Reading books and consuming media produced by marginalized writers has never been more important, and allows us to continue to lift underrepresented voices in society.
The publishing industry is behind on giving marginalized voices publishing deals. In 2015, Lee & Low Books, an independent, minority-owned children’s book publisher in the United States, surveyed more than 13,000 employees at 35 publishing companies and eight review journals as part of its first Diversity Baseline Survey. The survey, which looked at race, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability, found that the publishing industry was overwhelmingly white, straight, and non-disabled. In the most recent Diversity Baseline Study conducted in 2019, 78 percent of respondents as white, 78 percent as women, 88 percent as straight, and 92 percent as non-disabled. True changes also happen within the industry as well and diversity gaps need to be filled in positions of power, within the industry, and onward.
History is larger than any one of us. Taking the time to diversify our bookshelves is a small choice we can incorporate into our lives. The next time you’re browsing for a book research POC authors and writers with storylines that you are interested in. Reflect and notice the things you’re already consuming in your day to day and look at how you can incorporate different perspectives in your reading consumption. In addition, extend it to the media you are consuming as well, whether it be podcasts, lifestyle blogs, social media following, and news outlets. Understanding the importance of this can help us understand the communities we live in, both on a local, national, and global scale. More importantly, it helps us understand that the nature of the world is mosaic and we are all living through different experiences.