Do Minority Authors Get a Fair “Reading”?

All Things Considered had a 2-part series on minority writers who experience discrimination in MFA programs and getting read by editors at the large publishing houses.  Lan Chang was told by her MFA advisor: “If you don’t want to be typecast, don’t keep writing stories about Chinese-American characters.” Chang didn’t resent the advice, but she couldn’t follow it. Most writers are told to write what you know. How can you not do that if you are a minority author?

The series made me think about our library and community. While North Attleboro is predominantly white, according to the 2010 census, there are almost 5% of minority populations. In terms of our book collection, our authors are probably in about the same proportion. While we choose books based on whether they get good reviews in the library journals, we discard books based on use.

However, are we doing a disservice to ourselves by not reading outside of our own ethnic/racial group? Here are some authors I have read:

  • Jhumba Lahiri (an American of Indian ancestry) is very popular with book discussion groups and readers of literary fiction.
  • Amy Tan has written about her experiences as a Chinese American for many years and has been read by most people.
  • Julia Otsuka (whose book When the Emperor was Divine is the Attleboro Big Read for this fall) is Japanese-American.
  • Sherman Alexi writes from a Native American point of view.
  • Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou are just some of the African American writers we own. Others less well-known include Mary Monroe and Sheila Williams.
  • There has been a growing number of well-written Afghan and Middle East books, such as The Kite Runner.

Are there any other minority authors you have read and feel we should collect? Would you like to hear about more minority writers?