The boom in representation in our publishing landscape.

I was thinking over the BLM movement, and casting an eye back to an article I had written in 2014 regarding Indigenous characters in popular Australian YA fiction (you can read it here) and how the landscape has evolved recently.

This is not going to be an article on politics, or black deaths in custody, but rather what I have witnessed in the publishing landscape and my own personal experience throughout my reading lifetime around discrimination that has held back diversity.

It’s great to see POC representation much more prominent in today’s new releases. Diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation… it only serves to enrich and educate the reader. Which, apart from escapism, are the main reasons I read in the first place.

I still want to see more Australian Indigenous characters represented in our literature, particularly YA where we are introducing younger readers into literature.

In Australia, as in the US, only certain stories are allowed to take centre stage in our literary culture and the universal subject is still presumed to be a white, middle-class, cis-gendered, heterosexual and fully-abled male. The more deviations from this (limited and highly problematic) notion of personhood you possess, the more estranged from the centre you become.

“Thanks to a recent report from Macquarie University we know that within the genre of fiction in Australia, 65.2% of literary fiction writers, 76.2 % of genre fiction writers and 86.9% of children’s book authors are women. This makes those graphs showing that men get far more reviews than women all the more infuriating. But, as yet, we don’t have the figures for racial or ethnic diversity.

How many Indigenous writers are published each year? How many non-white writers are published? And what kinds of books are being published?

Part of this lack, I think, comes from constraints placed on writers who are “othered” by the industry. For example, I think that it is probably easier for an indigenous author to be published if they write about epic struggles, rather than breezy romantic comedy. Likewise, I think that migrant writers will have an easier time getting into print if they follow the well-established trope of the happy, grateful migrant.” Natalie Kon-yu Lecturer in Creative and Professional Literature and Gender Studies, Victoria University.

For a moment I want to take a short side trip to discuss the culture of discrimination, assimilation, and the Christianising of the indigenous population that I personally witnessed as a child. It may shine a light on the culture Indigenous people face in the community at large, let alone in the publishing landscape.

Police would routinely round up local aboriginals about our outback town of Alice Springs, (where there is an intersection of close to 60 tribal lands) because business owners would report them as a nuisance, (note: not breaking the law, but just a hindrance to them conducting their business, or an eyesore) then the officers would throw them into the back of the paddy wagon and see if they would bounce. I had friends in school who were of the stolen generation. The church would remove young indigenous children from their families to be educated (*cough*civilized*cough*) in order to save their souls. Because native Australians apparently had no souls. But what did all this assimilation really mean? It meant the indigenous population could then be cooks, cleaners, governesses, manual labour. No right to vote, to own property, just some form of indoctrinated slavery… short of being owned and sold off for money. I’d even heard first hand of how aboriginal women (and girls) were frequently raped. People held their breath when walking past them in public because they smelled awful. I won’t mention the names and slang parents and friends had for our native Australians. They were a joke, less than, diminished. And this is what they would let a child see and know about. Role models like police, priests and nuns, nurses, doctors, parents, business owners, they all exhibited this behaviour for children to see, out in the open on a daily basis. Think about that… this was deemed appropriate for kids; imagine the things that were inappropriate. It make me shudder.

Once I hit my teens, the culture was changing. Maybe it had a bit to do with the capitalisation of the Aboriginal culture through tourism. Aussies were proud to tout Dreamtime, tour sacred sites, sell dot artwork and digeridoos, spears, and wangaras… but you didn’t actually see an indigenous Australian running the show, or reaping the profits of such endeavours. In school we learnt Arande (an aboriginal dialect) as a part of our language course, bush survival skills and bush tucker from local aboriginal elders. The government were starting to offer benefits and handouts to the local aboriginals, and we never saw any more families being torn apart ‘for their own good.’ There were purpose built Aboriginal communities on the government dime… so some progress, but still a way off from the respect native Australians deserved as people. If you stood up for the Aboriginal population and the discrimination they faced, you were laughed at, dismissed, labelled a hippie. It was such a mixed message. So growing up in Australia, in particular, close to Aboriginal tribal lands and settlements, our native Australians were treated abhorrently… and this is firsthand knowledge, behaviour that was out in the open for everyone to see. Gosh I hate to even imagine the type of abuse and discrimination that went on out of the public eye.

Map of Aboriginal language dialects by region.

My friends (and now family members) are Aboriginal and people of colour, and I was so confused growing up. Why did we treat people that way? Why did grown-ups think it was okay to hurt someone else? Coming of age in a small outback town was intense tutelage in race dynamics. We were isolated. I’d only ever met German or Swedish back packers, a number of Vietnamese of Chinese locals (and they experienced the same discrimination) apart from the Aboriginals: when I finally left home and moved to the city and discovered the wider world, Torres Strait Islanders, Maori’s, my brain just about exploded. Why did we dismiss or exclude our immediate neighbours?

I don’t need to mention that women in the workplace were mostly relegated to secretaries and department store sales if they dare step away from child-rearing. Being gay was seen a weak and an anomaly; publically shunned, ignored, or turned into a joke. There was no diversity of the LGBTQIA+ banner. It’s sad to say but all those terrible ‘80’s movie stereotypes weren’t too far removed from my reality. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever met anyone confined to a wheelchair, blind, chromosomally challenged – those individuals were removed from mainstream schooling to a place with specialised services, or home-schooled. Effectively erasing their existence from the youth’s consciousness.

I was scared to say anything about my experiences, because even though I was a child, a spectator, what does it say about me? I witnessed this discrimination and, frankly, criminal activity and did nothing.

As an adult and teacher I try my best to be inclusive in my ethos – elements of feminism and Aboriginal culture in all areas of the curriculum. Fair representation in literature, history, culture, politics, role models. Teaching awareness and critical thinking. I act with my vote, I act with my dollar. I’m not able to take to the streets and scream about the injustices, throw controversial topics of conversation in the faces of my peers and bosses. That would put an end to my career, label me as combative. Instead, it’s about a balanced conversation, opening people’s eyes rather than an in-your-face confrontation. Maybe it’s a part of my upbringing. Learning to manoeuvre in the background. Instigate change in increments. There is also an element of not throwing stones at glass houses – an all-out assault calls for retaliation. I see it in our politics, in cancel culture… slow and steady stand of principles wins the race. We’re seeing many of those role models of my childhood being replaced with a more educated and diverse culture (or they are simply dying out.)

It gives me hope. Hope that our society is becoming more one. Human beings. Slowly removing bullying, hate culture, discrimination, racism. I’m starting to see reflections of this in literature. Representation like I’ve never seen it before. Old points of view in history challenged. Culture being preserved. Identity cherished.

Movements like BLM aren’t necessarily about literature and representation, they are about civil rights, abuse, murder, discrimination… but the knock on effect is that we are starting to see the rest of society take a good hard look at themselves. Am I participating in a culture that allows discrimination to go unchecked? What can I do to help instigate change for the better?

That’s what I hope most of us are thinking. It’s the world I want to live in. Granted not everyone has these views, and this discussion is only from my life’s perspective as Caucasian. But I hope it challenges you to think about the underlying attitudes behind the lack of diversity in popular literature. About not forgetting the past. About having the courage to stare the ugly truth in its face and knowing things have to change… and how to go about implementing that change.

My family in itself is diverse. We have people of colour, over 7 nationalities, diverse genders and sexual orientations.

I am seeing change for the better. Seeing diversity represented in the industries I work in, in literature. But every now and then the old attitudes raise their head… like when we were shopping, my friend a POC, the shop assistant hovering over him in the store like he was about to steal something. It’s not okay. Not acceptable. But thankfully in my community I see much less of this behaviour than from my childhood. I check people in their jokes or slang. Because those attitudes harm my family.

I hope we are going to start to see statistics on writers from diverse backgrounds – not just male and female. Witnessing the diversity trend in publishing at the moment warms my heart. It makes all those feelings of injustice from my youth have meaning. That I was not alone.

What is the percentage of your diverse reads? Look at the books you’ve read: how many are female authors, authors of colour, ownvoices authors, how many have a diverse main character?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Over 500 Book Reviews!

I noticed last week that I have posted over 500 book reviews since starting this blog, so I thought I’d commemorate this milestone with a badge.

A little nod to myself for a great achievement.



Feel free to use this badge for your blog if you have reached this milestone too.

Happy book reviewing! 😀

Measuring Your Success as an Author

Measuring Your Success as an Author 01 by Casey Carlisle

You write, therefore you are.

Before we get into what can be a touchy subject for some, please note the title: I mention success, not commercial success. Which I feel is an important distinction. The latter seems to be the standard in order to gauge whether being a writer is, in fact, a worthwhile profession.

This topic came about from a discussion I was having with a few fellow authors when I had noticed an ex-business acquaintance posting about her award winning novel. How it was ranked #1 on Amazon. Now, from knowing her personally for over 10 years, I know she was never inclined with superb literacy. And upon hearing that I was writing books, and was going to be editing my mothers work (posthumously) to release under her name as a dying wish. It felt like she wanted to become an author to throw it in my face. Like anyone can do it. Like I wasn’t all that special.

Measuring Your Success as an Author 02 by Casey CarlisleTruth be told. Anyone can write a novel. But this woman was coming from a place of negativity. The past aside, I thought good for her. I’ve been toiling for years on content and yet to publish. She has achieved this in six short months. Though, when I investigated her claims, found out a little more about her book, nothing added up. No listing on Goodreads, no search results on Amazon, or Google for that matter. I couldn’t find it anywhere apart from a link on her website. It was a little overpriced. In the genre of self-help, and to be completely honest, nothing particularly unique or original. I could jump on Pinterest and scroll through the inspirational quotes and get the same sort of content.

Did that mean she wasn’t a success as an author?

So the discussion with my little gaggle of writers pondered the idea that you are a writer as long as you are writing, and an author as long as you have published something for public consumption.

The woman mentioned above may be an author, but she exposed herself as a bit of a liar by making sensational claims on stitched together content from very generic sources. My fellow writers wanted to discredit her because of how they put in so much time and effort to craft a novel, or memoir, and someone else produces something, in their opinion, substandard.

But that’s the thing about the access to self-publishing. We have started to see work that is solely produced as a revenue stream, a low-cost method to get your work out and support your claims that you are an established author.

I say good for them. Everyone has different tastes in literature, different ways they want to spend their own money. There is an audience for all types of writers.

Eluding further on the conversation, many of us were mixing up published online content with traditionally published and self-published material. It is such a diverse field. I had to bring up the fact that I do a lot of writing for web content, textbooks and manuals, technical writing, and ghost writing. Very little of which has my name attached to it. So it falls into the grey area of being labelled an author. I can’t point a something and claim I wrote it when I don’t have a by-line, or am not credited in the end pages. Today, we have infinitely more access and diverse modes of writing and publishing. I think the past ideas of a successful author aren’t holding true in today’s climate.

Not all authors are credited for their work. Not all writers earn money from their craft. Not all writers and authors are commercially successful.

Measuring Your Success as an Author 03 by Casey Carlisle

Talking to many writers, it seems the dream is to be getting that elusive best seller from being traditionally published. However there are alternatives to this ideal. Traditionally published authors reap the benefits of a system that has their work edited and published by a team, having their books positioned in book stores, department stores and online shops. It’s nothing a person with some basic know-how and a bit of savvy, and a lot of hard work cannot accomplish today. Online marketing has provided a great opportunity to anyone willing to have a go.

Blogs and podcasts have found success on their own. E-books have cornered a niche market. It is truly an amazing landscape in comparison to what existed 15-20 years ago.

Getting back to defining success as an author… is success earning a living from your publications? Recognition? Or merely the fact that you have been published? With the market being flooded with sub-par self-published material, general opinion on simply being published has become devalued. In a culture of influencers and social media, recognition seems to have taken a more dominant role. But that is tied into image, behaviour, content, and relevance. It’s a full time job managing an image just to market your publication. But individuals are doing it and winning. And as for earning a living from your published works… there aren’t a lot of writer friends in proportion to the number of writers I know of who are living above the poverty line solely on the profit and royalties they make from sales alone.

So, unfortunately, success as an author is a subjective term. It’s interpreted by the individual and their perspective. In my opinion as long as you are enriching the publishing landscape, touching readers, then you are a success. But don’t be like that woman lying about her book – she’s like a Karen. Don’t be Karen. Write with passion. Believe in your work. Support fellow authors and make the publishing experience a pleasant one, because heaven knows it’s hard enough for most of us to write a book in the first place.

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How would your measure success for an author or writer?

What is your opinion on a lot of these false claims made in marketing a book?

Do you thing self-publishing is sullying the reputations of published authors?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Maurene Goo

Chasing celebrities through the city…

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 328

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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

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This was a cute slow-burn romance. Loved the inclusion of K-Pop and aspects of the industry… and its introduction into America through the idol ‘Lucky.’

Told in alternating perspectives between K-pop singer Lucky and her love interest paparazzi photo-journalist Jack, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ was a pleasant mash up of culture and romance. This rang all the same notes of the only other title from Maurene Goo that I’ve read ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ It’s a light breeze romance much in the same vein as Kasie West. Don’t expect anything too complex or angsty, just a fluffy rom-com that’s easy to digest and escape for an afternoon.

This is a quick read and Goo managed to keep the pace going all the way through with comedy and hijinks.

Lucky is an authoritative protagonist, in control of who she is and where she wants to go (sort of.) It was refreshing to read a capable main character in this genre and not have her as some wilting flower. I want to say she was slightly immature, but given the circumstances in which she has grown up, being sheltered by her managerial staff in the Korean music industry, I feel her naivety is on par with her exposure to the outside world. Having said that, in other matters she is mature beyond her years with an assurance that was inspirational.

I read ‘Hello, I Love You’ by Katie M. Stout in 2016 which is tackles a similar storyline, but Maurene Goo has executed this story much better. And because of this ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ did not feel all that original.

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jack was an interesting character for and I loved him as a love interest. He’s a bad boy that’s not quite a bad boy. I also think that more research could have been done on the lifestyle of the paparazzi and photography equipment, because this aspect of the novel lost a lot of realism for me. I know a bit about this occupation and Jack did not seem to even tackle even the most basic aspects of this line of work. It was just a very loose, uneducated guess at what that career is actually like.

As with all contemporary romances, this was extremely predictable, but it did take me on a bit of a ride, and offered a slight twist which gave ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ a breath of fresh air.

I loved if for its sub-genre and cultural representation but was an average read. I’m kinda thinking it’s going to be easily forgettable because it’s such a light uncomplicated romance. I can see it being fun for its intended demographic. I read it in one sitting in one day and enjoyed my time with it, but I don’t know if this is for everyone.

I’d only recommend this if you like cute contemporaries.

Overall feeling: okie-dokie

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Somewhere Only We Know Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.