Reviewing and Race in US Publications

You’ve seen the VIDA count, which tracks how many books, of those reviewed in mainstream publications, were by women. Recently, over at The Nation, Roxanne Gay gave a shot at tracking how many nonwhite writers’ books were reviewed (including translations):

surveyYou will probably not be shocked to note that the majority of reviews were of books by pale-skinned authors. The very broad grouping of “Asian/South Asian” (which includes the majority of the world’s population) comes in second with three of the four surveyed publications. Other categories were, broadly: Latino, African/African-American, Middle Eastern, and Native American. Each got a nominal number in comparison with the behemoth: Caucasian.

Gay confirmed, via Twitter, that the survey didn’t differentiate between translations and literature written in English.

There are, as Gay notes, precious few slots for book reviews or criticism in mainstream publications; few and growing fewer. But beyond that, there are even precious fewer slots for books not written by white authors.

The publications Gay looked at all came in with around 10% of reviewed books by non-white authors. “The Los Angeles Review of Books is most diverse, with 12.9 percent of their review coverage going to books written by writers of color. Bookforum brings in the rear at 8.7 percent and NPR and The New York Review of Books are tied, with 10.7 percent of their coverage going to books written by writers of color.”

Thursday, Gay wrote on Twitter:


Which she followed with:


Although, as freelancer Anna Clark noted, the issue doesn’t only lie with reviewers: “I consistently pitch reviews of books in translation, especially, and by women/non-white authors. Hits a wall.”

Gay added: “That too. I hope that if more reviewers make a stand, review editors will follow suit, or vice versa. Whatever works.”

Do you see this changing? How?