My research of author (AND musician, composer, director, teacher, mentor – among many other things), Daniel Jose Older, revealed an insightful, energetic, multi-talented, compassionate and passionate individual. When I stumbled upon him I was numbed into a trance-like state and couldn’t stop reading about him.
He has written a thought-provoking piece, culled from his memory and experiences during his journey with and through the publishing industry.
“A young writer that I mentor reached out to me last week. “None of these agents look like me,” she said, “and they don’t represent anyone that looks like me.” She’s wrapping up a final draft of her first novel and I’d told her to research literary agencies to get a feel for what’s out there. “What if they don’t get what I’m doing?”
I thought back over the many interactions I’d had with agents – all but two of them white – before I landed with mine. The ones that said they loved my writing but didn’t connect with the character, the ones that didn’t think my book would be marketable even though it was already accepted at a major publishing house. Thought about the ones that wanted me to delete moments when a character of color gets mean looks from white people because “that doesn’t happen anymore” and the white magazine editor who lectured me on how I’d gotten my own culture wrong. My friends all have the same stories of whitewashed covers and constant sparring with the many micro and mega-aggressions of the publishing industry.
“I don’t know,” I said. Useless words, but it was all I had in that moment. I don’t. There are so many paths to success, so many meanings of the concept, and race and power complicate the equation infinitely. It’s not enough for writers of color to learn craft, we need to navigate the impossible waters of an unwelcoming industry. I flailed for words that would prepare her for all that lay ahead; none came.”
— Daniel Jose Older
And you thought YOU had a hard time in the publishing clusterfuck🙂 Getting your writing published is hard enough with all the unnecessary, man-made, intrinsic roadblocks – they didn’t need to add one’s skin color to the already dastardly milieu.
— John R. Austin
Read this unique and heartfelt publishing experience by Daniel Jose Older, published in BuzzFeed: