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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why Author Identity Matters

There is an ongoing conversation in various venues about the identity of writers - specifically, marginalised writers and whether or not it truly matters whether a writer is a POC, GBLT, disabled or holds another marginalisation. We know a whole lot of people are quick to ask who cares whether an author is POC, GBLT et al? Why is this relevant?

Well, we do, and it is relevant. It’s usually one of the first things we try to find out when coming across a new author.

We’ve spoken before about the gatekeepers that marginalised authors face. We’ve seen the drama in YA trying to exclude gay characters, we’ve seen the white washing that covers face if they presume to show a POC. This is one of the reasons we’re supportive of webisodes and self-publishing, because there are a lot of gatekeepers out there that make it hard for maginalised people to be traditionally published. With these gatekeepers, it is reasonable for marginalised people and their allies to try and turn the tide by deliberately going out of their way to support marginalised authors.

Even when marginalised authors do write about their own marginalisation and are published, it greatly increases the chance the book will be shelved as niche and considered undesirable for mainstream consumption. It becomes all the more important to buy the book, support the author and to say this book belongs on the shelves.

There’s also a matter of authenticity. And this doesn’t mean that privileged people can’t write marginalised characters. In fact, we don’t even think it’s hard for privileged people to write marginalised characters - but it’s a very common excuse not to do so. Which is a reason why we seek marginalised authors because so many privileged authors keep writing trope laden stereotypes that it has frequently reached a point where we wish these authors would erase us; erasure would be preferably to the offensive portrayals they create.


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