- Too often, Chen says, publishing companies say they would publish more diverse books, but the market just isn’t there for them. Chen doesn’t buy that.
“Your ability to imagine that there is a market has to do with your ability to imagine that those people exist,” he says. “And if [you] can’t imagine that people of color actually exist and can buy books, then you can’t imagine selling books to them. That’s not just about a company corporate diversity policy, it’s about actually knowing what’s going on in communities of color.”
Bushra Rehman’s debut novel, Corona, is rooted in the neighborhoods of Queens, where South Asian immigrants live and shop. Rehman’s novel about a rebellious Pakistani Muslim girl from Queens took her five years to finish and another five to get published. The big publishing companies turned her down, saying the book wouldn’t sell.
“That was the one comment that I remember, that there is not an audience for this work,” she says. “That always stayed with me, but then that always pushed me to say, ‘Well, no, there is — so I’m going to keep on pursuing this.’ “