Inclusive Shelves Vs. Book Ghettos
Where can you find Red, White and Royal Blue in our store? In the Romance section.
How to be Antiracist? It’s in Social Sciences. When Women Were Dragons? Definitely Literature. A Queer History of the United States? US History, of course.
We are often asked why we don’t have an LGBTQ section, or Women’s Studies, or Black History sections at our shop.
Our answer is both simple and complex.
Our store wants to represent inclusion to the best of our ability, and for us that means that romance is shelved with romance, history with history, nature with nature. It also means that we are responsible for creating diversity and inclusion within these sections.
Diverse books deserve to be included with all the books.
We are always looking for ways to improve our book selections to hold diverse perspectives side by side. We love spotlighting diverse books with displays and recommending them to people that come in. But why shouldn't Red, White & Royal Blue reside next to The Bridgerton Series? Both have value in our society, and both stories can exist in the same space.
There's also an issue of how much representation does a book have to have in order to be defined as Diverse? Does it have to be represented in the main character? Does the story have to revolve around their diversity? Or would any story with even a small side character be set aside in that separate section? These are difficult questions to answer when we want to be fully inclusive, and it would be a constant struggle to make good choices for us and our customers.
We all want to read a good book.
Creating sections based on identity reduces the reader's opportunity to discover diverse books through serendipity.
It’s important to be able to discover books that you were not expecting to see on the shelf. When we have all the books together, what constitutes a good book now has a wider scope. The act of reading is an opportunity to grow empathy and widen your world view, and separating what we would define as 'diverse' could take away those moments of quiet discovery.
It’s also important to us that our booksellers are experts who can guide you to rich choices that match your interests and challenge you to rethink your assumptions.
As a staff of professional booksellers, if a customer comes to us with a specific request for a diverse book, it is our joy and responsibility to help them find not just one but multiple books that can connect with them. That is the bookseller's job, not the job of signs on top of bookcases.
Inclusive Books need to be included, not separated into their own ghettos.
Recently, Scholastic Book Fairs lost track of this ideal. They created an opt-in section of the book fair that would include diverse books segregated into a single case. Today, they announced that due to incredible outrage and feedback that they are discontinuing this program. This is a welcome example of the impact of readers on policies.
The voices that spoke up were heard and policy changed.
When we say all readers are welcome in our store, that also means we want you to feel welcome and included. You don't need to shop in a separate section to find yourself in a story. And people don't need to look in a different place to see worlds outside of their own.
Diversity is part of the human experience as a whole. When people browse, they don't need to choose between going to the 'Diverse' sections and the 'Regular' sections.
It's all there, existing together. It's who we are.