Saturday, 19 February 2005

The Truth

Denise Roberts from The Voice explains... If you want to leave a comment visit

UK publishers are missing out on many aspects of Britishness and ordinary British life – by not taking enough notice of ethnic minority writers. Speaking last week in London at the launch of a network to promote diversity in publishing, the award-winning author Diran Adebayo told his multi-ethnic audience that there were nuances and expressions of life in the UK that could only be expressed through black British eyes.

“White people are very fascinated with topics such as racism or Empire because that is something they can get involved with at the same time,” he said. “But there are generations of black British people who aren’t interested in the Empire. That may be something that happened to our parents but it doesn’t interest us in the same way. We want to read about everyday life.”

He gave the example of Terry McMillan Waiting to Exhale, about a single black women awaiting a worthy male partner: “I tried to sell the concept to a couple of national newspapers but they weren’t interested. If it had been about racism then it would have been different. Then years down the line along comes Bridget Jones’s Diary, about being a single white female, and everyone gets excited.”

He said the industry needed to wake up if it was to appeal to a new generation of readers.

It is this culture that the network hopes to change, inside out. It aims to promote the status and participation of people from diverse ethnic groups in all areas of publishing – from editorial to sales to issues affecting authors and end users. It also seeks to stage regular debates, to support those working in the industry and those seeking to enter.

The launch was embraced by some of the UK’s leading publishing houses – the very people to which it makes its appeal. It follows last year’s Decibel/Bookseller survey ‘In Full Colour’, which concluded that the publishing industry is predominantly a “white, male, middle-class” culture.

Margaret Busby, co-founder of publishers Allison & Busby Ltd and one of the first black women in UK publishing, was also a speaker at the event. “As Toni Morrison (pictured) said to me 15 years ago when we discussed our mutual experiences as black editors and the necessity for more black people to be integral to the whole process: ‘It’s not about patronage, we’re talking about the life of a country’s literature’,” she said.

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