January 24, 2021

Booth & Equity in Publishing, Part II

It has been half a year since we published our statement on Equity in Publishing back in July. In that statement, we directly name our commitment to “championing work that is not only devoid of explicit racism but also actively anti-racist.” This extends to other forms of systemic discrimination and persecution, including but not limited to sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and xenophobia. The work that we publish, and therefore the work of Booth, must actively push against these institutional forces.

To this end, Booth is implementing a new type of rejection system for submissions our staff determines are harmful. This will apply to submissions that are implicitly or explicitly supportive of any of the oppressive institutional forces listed above.

This initiative was prompted by several discussions among staff about trends we were seeing in work being submitted to Booth. When we receive material that manifests harmful language, we reject it. But under our current submission guidelines, writers whose work is rejected for this reason are able to submit new material, which may or may not demonstrate the same harmful beliefs. What do we do with material that is not explicitly harmful but, if published, would give a platform to someone who has already demonstrated harmful beliefs to us?

Starting immediately, we will be sending a new rejection letter for work our staff has found to be harmful. This letter includes a request that the writer not submit to Booth again for a full calendar year. Any submissions we receive from that writer within that year will not be read. We will automatically decline them.

These conversations are never easy. As writers and readers ourselves, we feel the deep desire to tackle material that does not inherently live inside of us, that perhaps we’re only beginning to feel pulled to engage with. 2020 was an eye-opening year for so many of us. We respect the desire to explore and investigate personal and institutional biases, but we reserve the right to not publish harmful material.

Our genuine hope is that within this year, the writer will take the time to interrogate themselves and their work: to both recognize the potential for harm inherent within it and reflect on how they might combat their own prejudices. Each rejection letter will include a list of resources that the author can use to begin that journey of growth and introspection. This resource list will also be archived on our website.


Booth Resource List for Writers

Anti-Racism Resources

What White Writers Should Know about Telling Black Stories, Nancy Johnson

Book Authors Are Getting Real about How Much They Are Paid, Tomi Obaro and Arianna Rebolini

Economic Violence: The Most Socially Acceptable Form of Racism, Paul Rucker

Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story?, Lila Shapiro

Usage of #OwnVoices, Corinne Duyvis

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Boston University Center for Antiracist Research

How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

The White Mans Guilt, James Baldwin

Thread on “white folks who decide that they want to fight racism”, Ally Henny

To the Lady Who Mistook Me for the Help at the National Book Awards, Patrick Rosal

Feminist Resources

This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color, Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde

Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, bell hooks

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts

Economic Justice Resources

Covering Poverty: What to Avoid and How to Get It Right, Denise-Marie Orwday & Heather Bryant

How to Write about Poor People, Irin Carmon

How (& Why) to Write Inclusive Fiction, Kristen Kieffer

LGBTQIA+ Equity Resources

Franny Choi’s Periodic, Franny Choi

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano

100 Easy Ways to Make the World Better for Trans People, Kai Isaiah-Jamal

Anti-Ableism Resources

Disability Visibility Project

Ableist Words and Terms to Avoid, Lydia X. Z. Brown

I Am Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much, Stella Young