Ethnic Minority Writers, Underdog Writers?

26 07 2014


Ethnic Minority and Underdog Writers Must Not Give Up

Twenty seven publishers in the U.S. and U.K. turned down my novel. The vast majority of rejections my literary agent received were surprisingly positive, but were knock-backs all the same. Most liked — even loved — my novel. As one publisher said: “We’ve thought about The Life of a Banana for ages, but just can’t quite summon the courage to commit to it.”

Was it really a lack of courage?

You see, my book did not fit neatly into the “genre” of many Asian books on the market. There were no other mainstream British-born Chinese novelists to benchmark against. Taking on my book would mean stepping into the unknown.

Authors with unconventional voices and ethnic minority authors are clustered together in unofficial genres of “Too Different,” “Too Risky,” “Black” “Asian” or “Hispanic” literature. In articles and reviews, many ethnic minority authors are often compared to authors of the same race. They are likened to Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan and Toni Morrison but hardly mentioned in the same breath as Hilary Mantel, John Green or Jim Crace.

An editor who read my novel said it was a “shame” they could not take on my novel. They had another Asian author on their books and feared there would be an “overlap.” My novel was very different in style and content from the other author, but I was not in a position to argue.

I’ve heard similar, sad stories from Afro-Caribbean and Indian authors who are turned away because there is not enough “room” for more than one Afro-Caribbean/ Chinese/Indian author. It would unthinkable for an editor to say: “I’m sorry Stephen King, we can’t take on your novel because we already have J K Rowling. I know that she writes about wizards and you write about scary things. But her novels have scary parts too, so there may be some overlap (i.e. she is Caucasian too).” Yet, it happens for ethnic minority writers all the time.

Read further @ Huffington Post