BBL Recap: VIDA and Diverse Voices

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On Monday, March 27, YPG members convened at Penguin Random House for an intimate Brown Bag Lunch conversation around the ever-important issue of inclusivity in publishing. Sharon Watson, copyright assistant at Penguin Young Readers Group, moderated a discussion with Lynn Melnick and Camille Rankine, who are VIDA executive board members and published authors.

VIDA is a non-profit feminist organization committed to creating transparency around the lack of parity in the literary landscape. They aim to provide a platform for the voices of marginalized communities within the literary community—and beyond. VIDA achieves this through three pillars: VIDA events, held at festivals and conferences nationwide; VIDA Review, their online publication; and the highly regarded VIDA count. “The Count” is their biggest project, which gathers and analyzes hard data that shows representation issues in the industry. By providing hard data, VIDA establishes ‘what’ is happening so the community can start the conversation of ‘why.’

This important, and often difficult, conversation was the crux of the afternoon’s discussion. Rankine and Melnick reviewed the many levels at which the imbalances in publishing are established and perpetuated, from school syllabi to genre categorization, to literary magazine publication and book review, to marketing. They explained how in each of these instances, publishers, authors, and readers are conditioned to what voices are most important and relevant.

Both speakers maintained that awareness of the issue is the crucial first step. Rankine explained one of the most important tasks in making a difference is “learning your biases and blind spots and being aware of them.” Melnick added it would help to explain them to others. They were hopeful that the publishing community would find the courage to break out of this cycle of disparity in terms of who we publish, what we review, and who we hire.

Did you miss the discussion? YPG hopes to do more in the future with VIDA, but in the meantime, you can learn how to support the organization’s volunteer-based mission at

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