On February 2, Publishers Weekly released its latest Soapbox piece, an article stressing the importance of books in teaching compassion, humanity, and understanding, especially in circumstances recently – and powerfully – recognized by the #MeToo movement. The call to action, written by our very own Jane Kinney-Denning, implored publishers to bring books to life in “fair, equitable, and safe workplaces that set an example” for the rest of the world. “I believe that members of the publishing community have a responsibility to continue to push the industry to better reflect who they are and the values that they hold,” said Professor Denning. “I am only one person, and I don’t have all of the answers, but I do believe that we have strength in numbers and that being organized allows us to push doors open even farther. Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are a collective problem, and we need the strength of all of us to fight against it.”
Spotlighting organizations like We Need Diverse Books, People of Color in Publishing, and Vida, Denning encouraged PW’s readers to participate, speak up, speak out, support, volunteer, and combat the instinct to withdraw, because only then can equality – as well as humanity – become the new normal. “I am not without hope,” said Denning. “While frustrating, it is a reminder that change does not come easily or swiftly, and that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
“I also thought that, finally, the gross inequities in pay that still exist for women, the imbalance in the share of management positions held by men, and the profound lack of diversity within publishing houses and in what is being published would be widely and publicly acknowledged as publishing’s culture problem.” – Jane Kinney-Denning
At the end of her article, Denning invokes these words from political activist and scholar Angela Davis: “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’”
Davis, known for her work promoting “gender equity, prison reform, and alliances across color lines,” has written more than 10 books like Women, Race & Class, a study of how the women’s liberation movement has “been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders,” and Freedom is a Constant Struggle, essays told through the lenses of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism that show “connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.”
“Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.” ― Angela Davis
Davis was born in 1944 on “Dynamite Hill” in Birmingham, Alabama, so named for the number of homes bombed there by members of the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights movement. In 1969, Davis made headlines nationwide for being removed from her teaching position at UCLA because of her affiliation with the Communist Party. In 1970, she was “placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges, and was the subject of an intense police search that drove her underground and culminated in one of the most famous trials in recent U.S. history.” She now works at the University of Santa Cruz in its History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments.
Professor Denning is the president of the Women’s National Book Association and the Executive Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for Pace’s publishing program. She is also the editor of this blog. You can contact her here.