But like why BIPOC books?

by Mar 17, 2021

I will never forget the first time I read a story that that feature a brown girl just like me. I was listening to A Dream Called Home when all of the sudden I had to pause. Did the author read my journal and tell my story? It felt like she had. I thought humans only craved to be seen by other humans but apparently we like to be seen by the stories we read too. I was ecstatic. And I wanted more. 

“I grew up thinking I didn’t matter…The world didn’t see me, a daughter of working class Mexican immigrants.I rarely found portrayals of me anyone like me — bookish and poor and surely and Brown. Texts like the poetry of Sandra Cisneros were a lifeline. Our stories matter, despite what the rest of society would like us to believe.”   

Crying in the bathroom by Erica L. Sanchez 

“Immigrants are artists because they create a life, a future, from nothing but a dream.”   

A Dream Called Home by Reyna Grande 

I started searching for more brown authors and their stories. There were a few prominent ones, and there were a lot I’d never heard of before. Prior to this, I generally selected what to read next based on my mood & the NY Times best sellers list. Most of the time I read white stories, often by white men, and somewhere in there, parts of their stories would resonate and many parts felt very foreign, utterly from another world.

I recall reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things when I started my first business, thinking I could be that gritty founder, a tech bro. Except, I kept failing to practice and internalize the talking points. I could not imagine pitching to investors, I could not imagine them selling them on a dream that I could barely fathom for myself. 

When the majority of stories, books, and generally storytelling in all its forms is centered on the white experience as though it is the norm, the rest of us — OTHERS have to find a way to imagine ourselves into those stories. We’ve been doing it for centuries. 

What would the world gain if storytelling from brown folks was also part of the world of publishing?

There’s a slow wave beginning to highlight these stories, after ongoing controverties such as the related to American Dirt (why American Dirt is problematic) forced publishers to save face. White readers are sure to see a part of their experience reflected in BIPOC works too. After all: love, heartbreak, pain, etc are  themes present in most works are universal. There’s so much to be gained from all perspectives. 

The cycle in publishing:

  • Wow this Mexican immigrant story is beautiful, but will it sell? Will it resonate with our white readers? 
  • Maybe we should take a chance and see? Sometimes they do. 
  • Except they don’t put the marketing dollars in these books because they’re already assuming low purchase numbers. Oh see? The book didn’t sell.
  • The cycle repeats. That is why there are so few BIPOC authors found in major publications. 

This is why BIPOC stories matter 

I still read plenty of narratives centered on the white experience (hello Glennon Doyle’s Untamed) but I also make an effort to spend time finding stories from writers of color, BIPOC authors. I will be writing about those authors in future essays. That is why BIPOC books.

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