Sep 18, 2021 24 min read

We Need Diverse Books - with Alaina Lavoie

Image of guest Alaina Lavoie holding flower & wearing flower ring on her head + quote from transcript

Episode 18, 39 min listen

In this episode we interview Alaina Lavoie, Program Manager for the nonprofit, We Need Diverse Books. Why do we need more diverse books? What is happening in the publishing industry that is helping to drive inclusion and what are some of the barriers that marginalized groups still face.  Alaina gives us peak behind the curtains of the publishing industry and the efforts to build a more inclusive world, one book at a time.


Listen on Apple Podcasts   or    Listen on Spotify


Alaina is a well-respected author in her own right.  She publishes journalism under the byline Alaina Leary.

Link to learn more about the nonprofit, We Need Diverse Books.

Want to learn more about Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop and her thoughts about how books can be Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors?  Find a text to her article here and a link to a related video.

Curious about the platform Wattpad?  Check it out at this link.

An article to read more about #publishingpaidme

Alaina suggested a few books for us.  You can find them in my site at the following links:

How we Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee


Alaina Lavoie is the program manager of We Need Diverse Books, where she was formerly the communications manager and spent three years as a volunteer. She also teaches in the MFA program at Emerson College and is a book reviewer for Booklist, the review magazine published by the American Library Association. She was awarded a 2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her work advocating for marginalized voices in the publishing industry. Her work has been published under the byline Alaina Leary in the New York Times, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Boston Globe Magazine, The Oprah Magazine, Refinery29, Good Housekeeping, Bitch, Glamour, Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and more. She lives with her wife, three literary cats, and a rainbow bookshelf.



Ame Sanders  00:11

This is the State of Inclusion podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I’m Ame Sanders. Welcome.

Ame Sanders  00:35

In our last episode, we talked with two librarians about the work that they do to give the public in their communities access to more inclusive and diverse books. But clearly, we can’t have more diverse books if the publishing industry doesn’t publish them. So today, we’re going to dig a little bit deeper in this notion of diverse books and we’re going to talk to someone about the publishing industry. Today, we are happy to welcome Alaina Lavoie. She’s the program manager for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. Welcome, Alaina. Thanks for joining us.

Alaina Lavoie  01:15

Thank you so much for having me.

Ame Sanders  01:17

It is wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with you about your own work and about the work We Need Diverse Books has been doing. So, from my own work, I’m a big believer in stories. You are an award-winning author, a journalist, an editor, a book reviewer, and a publishing activist. So, I know you must be a big believer in stories too. How do you think stories and books can change our world?

-How Stories and Books Can Change Our World

Alaina Lavoie  01:41

That is honestly such a good question, because I think that they have an incredibly deep impact in a variety of ways. But I really, really believe in one of the key components of We Need Diverse Books’ founding, which is founded on this idea from Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop that stories can be both a window and a mirror for readers. So, they can be a mirror for readers to see themselves. A reader can pick up a book and read a story and see themselves reflected in that story, and they can also be a window into the lives of people who might be different from you, have had different experiences and different lives. That allows you to empathize. I’ve always really believed that that’s one of the strongest powers of stories–that you’re able to empathize with others while also feeling heard and seen as a person for any of your experiences and what you’ve gone through. I believe that stories have the power to teach us a lot of empathy and a lot about the world.

I also think that they make learning fun in a lot of ways. I know that may sound a little cheesy. When you think “stories make learning fun” it sounds like I’m talking about PBS specials and things like that, but what I mean is just that, if there’s something that you want to know about, and you want to learn more about and you want to find more about it’s hearing stories, reading stories, however you prefer to engage with them. If you’re a visual person or somebody who likes to read silently or likes audio books, there’s always going to be a story that can help you learn more about that topic and get more engaged with perhaps the people, places, or time periods that the story is focused on. I find that so exciting because I think it really brings to life everything behind the facts and statistics that people are looking for. A story brings that out and makes it more human and makes it more individual. It makes us care about something.

-About We Need Diverse Books

Ame Sanders  03:53

Your organization We Need Diverse Books has a goal that says you want to create a world in which every child can see themselves in the pages of a book. So, let’s talk about that goal for a minute. You’ve shared a little bit in the discussion we just had about what that might mean, but why did We Need Diverse Books choose that as a goal? What is it that is your focus?

Alaina Lavoie  04:19

That’s such a good question, too. Really the reason that WNDB chose that as our goal is because We Need Diverse Books wasn’t started as a nonprofit. It was actually started as a hashtag campaign in 2014. Ellen Oh, who is our CEO and one of our founders and author Melinda Lowe, were talking online about their frustration with the lack of diversity in children’s literature. This was especially in response to a panel that happened at that year’s book con reader events. Ellen and Melinda and other authors began tweeting about taking action and using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks and people were so responsive to that. They were so excited to join in. They were like, “What can I do? How can I help?” So, the team decided to create a nonprofit around this idea. It was almost like the need for the work was there and it just needed to be formalized in an organization because there were so many authors and publishing professionals and folks in the industry like librarians and reviewers who were doing this work and believed in this work before We Need Diverse Books became a nonprofit.

There have been folks who have been doing this for decades. I think that We Need Diverse Books just took that energy and created a nonprofit around it, which gives people somewhere to put their action toward. It’s a mission. It’s something formal and organized. All of the programming that WNDB has created since becoming a nonprofit has all been around that goal. Our programming celebrates authors and illustrators who are already publishing with the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding children’s literature. We help unpublished writers, with our Walter Dean Myers grants, we help folks who are trying to get into working in the publishing industry through our internship grants, which have now expanded into adult literature as well but were originally for children’s literature. Our WNDB in the Classroom program helps get diverse books into schools so students can read them. So, every program has really been conceived and designed around this idea of trying to make sure that every child can see themselves in the pages of a book and that there are more diverse books out there, more diverse folks working in the industry, that the diverse people and books that are coming out are being supported. So, we’re sort of expanding now into the direction of making sure we’re supporting mid-career authors as well as debut authors. It really was something that a lot of folks were already working toward, and WNDB just took that energy and created a nonprofit around it.

Ame Sanders  07:23

So, it sounds like you started out focused on children’s literature, but that has gone beyond children’s literature now to adult literature as well helping to support authors and serving them in being able to reach their audience. Is that true? How has your mission evolved over time?

Alaina Lavoie  07:45

I would definitely say it’s evolved in the sense that more of our programming has started to include adult literature. We’ve always been primarily focused on children’s literature and the internship grants actually expanded due to a donation from the author Celeste Ng who wrote Little Fires Everywhere as well as other noteworthy books. Celeste really wanted to donate to that program and wanted to be involved in that program and wanted to reach folks who were thinking of interning in the adult sphere as well. One of the conversations that’s really come up in the last few years since WNDB has started is that now we have this organization and this movement for diversity in children’s literature which goes all the way up to young adult and sometimes new adults. So, college age students are included in that, but what about adult fiction? What about books for adults? I think a lot of people who are in the adult literature space, who are authors in the adult literature space or working in publishing in that space, have recognized that it hasn’t really changed as much for adult fiction as it has for children’s books, because we have this strong movement in children’s literature that diversity is so important, and that celebrating marginalized authors’ work is so important. It hasn’t reached the same status with adult fiction, and that has made it hard for a lot of people to see themselves in adult books and feel like, “Okay, well, after the high school and college years of reading, now there’s nothing for me. There’s not much for me.” Most books are still not inclusive and not diverse at the adult level and that the work isn’t being done there. That’s one way that our mission has expanded.

I know that you also asked about supporting authors, but I actually think that us as an organization, supporting authors is very much a part of our original mission. I think that WNDB was conceived to increase diversity in children’s literature and I think that the founders and early volunteers behind the organization knew that we could not increase diversity without supporting the creators who are already out there or who are trying to get out there, because it’s so incredibly difficult. There are many barriers for marginalized authors and illustrators. It’s not easy to get published. It’s not easy to keep being published or to keep increasing your career and growing and getting paid fairly and getting speaking gigs. You’re always going to be compared to your peers who are straight, white, cisgender, non-disabled. I think that that’s always been a central part of our mission, because we can’t really celebrate diverse children’s books without celebrating the people who are creating them.

-About Publishing Today

Ame Sanders  10:58

So, this brings me to another question. You’ve been involved in all kinds of aspects of publishing. You’re an author, you’ve been an editor you’re working with, We Need Diverse Books, you’ve been a journalist. You’ve done a lot of different things in publishing. You even called yourself the Swiss Army Knife of publishing. So, you have a very unique vantage point from which to talk about this next question that I have. So, tell us a little bit about what you see happening in the arena of publishing today? Where have we made progress and where do we still need to make progress?

Alaina Lavoie  11:42

I definitely think that we have made progress as an industry in the sense that the stats show that more diverse authors, more marginalized authors are being published, and more books about diverse and marginalized characters are being published. So, the stats backup that people are getting published. That people of color are being published, LGBTQIA folks are being published, religious minorities are being published, more disabled folks are being published than they ever were before. I think that largely the publishing industry has recognized, especially in children’s publishing, that diversity is a selling point. At the end of the day, most publishers are for-profit, and all publishers, whether they’re nonprofit, or for-profit, exist in capitalism, so they are somewhat motivated by what readers are buying, by what readers are excited about, what kind of authors readers are dying to speak to, or have do an event, or sign their books, or whose books they’re going to purchase for a friend or recommend to a friend or relative. So really, that buying power is always going to be a motivating factor. That’s one thing that really has changed–that publishers used to see books by marginalized authors and about marginalized characters as something that wouldn’t sell. You would hear, “Well, we’ve already had a gay book this season, so we really can’t sell another one. A book by a Black author is not going to sell as well as a book by a white author.” And I think that has proven not true and that really helps the publishing industry to realize that it’s worth investing in books by marginalized authors.

Where I think that the work still needs to be done really is that publishers do still see a lot of these things from a marketing perspective. They see it from a business perspective. So, a lot of the times, folks are getting shoehorned into writing about certain topics or they’re getting shoehorned by their identities in some ways. They’re not really able to freely express themselves as much as other authors would be able to because they’re being boxed in by how the world sees them and how society sees them. I think that the publishing industry is just as affected as every other part of society by racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism. It’s just as affected by these different forms of oppression as everywhere else. So, it’s a microcosm of everything that’s going on in the world, but at the publishing level. It’s always going to be a problem and something that the industry needs to address. I do think that one thing the industry is trying to do is to hire more marginalized folks on staff and to pay more marginalized authors and illustrators to create their work. One of the areas that we’re really seeing struggle is mid-career authors and also the mid-career publishing professionals. You see a lot more diversity at these lower levels like debut authors getting really good book deals or being given a chance. Lots of diverse folks being hired as interns and then hired into these assistant level roles, but folks get burnt out because at the end of the day, they’re still working within this system that is racist, sexist, classist, all of the things that I just said. So, you don’t see as many marginalized folks at the top. You don’t see as many marginalized folks who are your name brand authors like your Stephen Kings, and you don’t see them at executive level positions at publishing houses. I think that that’s where a lot of the work needs to be done right now. I’m not alone in saying this. I’ve heard this from quite a few people who work in various parts of the industry and have spoken up about this. I think that it’s very easy to get burnt out working in this industry and especially if you’re a marginalized professional or a marginalized author, because you’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle to some degree.

-Is Self Publishing More Inclusive?

Ame Sanders 16:25

It would seem like some of the changes that have taken place with self-publishing and other publishing options creates greater opportunity and reduces this sort of gatekeeping process that goes on, is that really being born out? Or is that also a challenge?

Alaina Lavoie 16:41

I think both. I think that both can be true. I believe that self-publishing has definitely helped considerably. I think that a lot of marginalized authors who self-publish their work do so because they’re having such a hard time finding a publisher that will take a chance on them. Especially when it comes to folks who are really underrepresented or are writing something that just hasn’t been written before (perhaps this specific intersection of identities and also the genre they’re writing in or the topic they’re writing about). If it’s something that hasn’t sold before, publishers are a little bit more fearful and wary of it. They can’t really look to a track record to say that something like this will succeed, because it’s the first of its kind. I think a lot of marginalized authors really turned to self-publishing for that reason, but I will say that there are barriers with self-publishing as well because it still is not seen from the same perspective as traditional publishing. It’s harder to get your book into physical bookstores. It’s harder to get your book into events and a lot of awards don’t consider self-published books. So, it can be hard to have your book seen in the same light and in the same category and in the same caliber as a traditionally published book, because there are so many spaces where self-published authors will find that they’re not as welcome or that they have to fight harder to be considered for inclusion. Like maybe there’s a panel, but it’s a panel for all traditionally published authors or you have to be traditionally published to be a part of this industry event or to be a part of this committee or to be considered for this award. So, I do think that there are still a lot of barriers, but I also think that it has really opened up a world of opportunity. In a lot of ways, with self-publishing, and also with the internet in general, marginalized authors have seen less of that gatekeeping or have been able to find ways to break into the industry in spite of gatekeeping because they have avenues like self-publishing or they have avenues like Wattpad, and building a following somewhere else building a following on another website or another platform for their readers to turn to. That is able to signal to publishers that people want to read this. There are definitely traditional publishers that actually follow that kind of Wattpad success where readers actually vote on which manuscripts they would like to see published. That is one way that you’re removing gatekeepers, because you’re giving readers direct access to the stories and allowing them to say, “We want to see more of this. You should publish this.” That is one way that it makes it easier for marginalized authors to directly reach the people who are excited about their stories rather than having to get through these gatekeepers who might not have any idea where this readership is.

-Compensation and Asymmetry of Information

Ame Sanders  20:05

You mentioned awards and recognition. I would say along with that, to some extent, is this idea of compensation. So how do you feel the industry is doing in terms of both recognizing and awarding our marginalized authors and/or books that are more diverse and inclusive? How do you feel like they are handling the compensation? Do you think it’s fair? Do you think there’s still a lot of work to be done there?

Alaina Lavoie 20:32

I think there’s a lot of work to be done in both aspects. I know that there are more awards out there today that celebrate specifically books by marginalized folks. I think that that has helped to a degree. But at the end of the day, that still means that a lot of authors’ books are being celebrated only in categories that are specific to their marginalized identity. That’s not to say that those awards are not just as noteworthy and are not wonderful, the Walter awards at We Need Diverse Books only celebrate diverse creators and creators who write diverse books. So, we have an award that fits that category and I think it’s wonderful. I think it helps to celebrate so many wonderful marginalized authors and their beautiful works. But I think that every marginalized creator has had the experience of wondering, “Am I just being celebrated because I’m X, Y, and Z identity?” If you’re winning an award that’s for everybody and doesn’t focus on your diverse identity then you know that it was likely because of the caliber of your work and because the judging committee loved your book.

At the end of the day, cis, straight, white, non-disabled authors don’t have to question this. They don’t have to wonder if their work is being celebrated because of their identity or not. They don’t have to wonder if that was a factor at all. I would hope that through a lot of work and time and change all authors can feel that way and know that they’re being celebrated because of their work, not because somebody wants to check off a box and say that they gave an award to an author from X, Y, and Z community. I also think that the compensation question is a little bit different, because awards are so public, where compensation is not very public most of the time. A lot of how people are paid in publishing, especially how authors and illustrators are paid, is very much unknown to the general public. They’re not sure how it is, how it works, how much money these people are getting. I think that the “Publishing Paid Me” conversation that took place primarily around authors of color, especially Black authors was really, really necessary. It really helped to unveil just how inequitable compensation can be for authors who are considered to be the same success level, the same status in their career, the same number of readers. Authors of color were being paid less than white authors; queer and trans authors were being paid less than cis straight authors. It’s a conversation that needs to continue. It should even continue to folks who are working in the industry. Are there folks who are working in the industry who are being paid less as editors, book reviewers, marketers, because they’re marginalized. I think we would probably find that that’s true because that’s what we find in general in terms of work. There’s inequity with how people are paid. It really does make such a difference, because at the end of the day if writing or illustrating is your job or you’re trying to be an author or illustrator and make the majority or all of your money that way, not being paid as much as somebody else is going to have an effect on your livelihood. So, it’s very, very important that we compensate authors fairly and equitably. From my personal perspective, one thing that really helps is just being transparent and forthright about that. It’s something I always try to talk to my friends about, so that we all know it’s okay to talk about these things. And it’s important to talk about these things. You’re never going to know if everyone is being paid fairly unless we talk about what it is that we are being paid.

Ame Sanders  24:41

So, making it more transparent and visible and being unafraid to talk about it with one another and share the information that we do have to kind of reduce that asymmetry of information that exists out there.

Alaina Lavoie  24:55

Exactly. That’s not to say that I think the burden should be on authors or employees of publishing houses or anywhere. I don’t think the burden should be on us. I actually really believe that publishers and any workplace should be more forthright about what their salary ranges are before folks apply. It’s so helpful for somebody to know going into applying for a position how much the salary range is going to be. Is this something that’s going to be compensating me fairly? Is it worth my time Is it more or less money than I’m making now? And I think whenever possible, it really helps for publishers and any workplace to be transparent. If you’re offering a fee for a school speaker, what is that fee going to be? If you’re hiring a freelancer to do a freelance edit, what is your budget for that freelancer? More often than not, companies are not transparent about that. They’re vague about that. They want the person to come to them with their rates. That leaves authors, freelancers, and employees in this confused state of, “Well, how much do I ask for?”

I am someone who has freelanced since 2015 or so and so I’m always talking to other people who may be freelancing on the side or are trying to freelance full time about rates. When you’re starting out, you just have absolutely no idea what is normal. And I think that that is so true for authors, for illustrators, for editors, for book reviewers, for journalists, for anybody. There’s not any transparency and so people end up accidentally underselling themselves, especially marginalized people. The burden shouldn’t be on us to have to be transparent, but right now in the culture that we have where companies are not always transparent, it certainly helps because you’re giving that access and that information to somebody else. I absolutely love to share rates with other freelancers and say I think you should pitch this magazine because they pay this amount of money and it’s very fair. I think that that’s incredibly helpful for folks who are working in the same industry as you to know going into something what that budget might look like.

-What's Coming Down the Pipeline?

Ame Sanders  27:22

So, I want to switch gears a little bit on you. We’ve been talking about the industry as it is. I want you, because of your unique vantage point, to help us look forward a little bit. What do you see in the pipeline of books or changes in publishing? What do you see coming down the pipeline that the rest of us may not know yet and that we could either be concerned about or celebrate?

-Potential of Collectives

Alaina Lavoie  27:52

I think that there are more people who are actively making changes in the way that the industry is set up in the hopes of radically changing the way that books are published and the way that books are sold. So, you know, an example of that would be staff-owned, collective-owned bookstores. We’re seeing more bookstores where the store is partially owned by all of the staff who work there and they all are a part of those business decisions and a part of those profits. Why does this change things? Well, because most of the time, when you are working in a bookstore retail space, a lot of those stores, a lot of retail spaces in general, tend to under pay their staff. It’s a very difficult job. It’s very physical. You’re on your feet most of the day and working very hard and doing physical labor and a lot of the times it’s something that pays minimum wage or a little more than minimum wage. Having staff partially own a bookstore, for example, and having everybody be involved with those decisions and with those profits is a way more equitable way for that business to operate. It really provides opportunities for booksellers and other bookstore staff.

-Less Geographic Concentration

I think we see a little bit of that with publishing houses as well. They’re trying to find ways to create collectives and create situations where some of their staff are partial owners and are part of the business decisions and part of the profit sharing. I believe that those are aspects of the industry that seem to be changing and hopefully will change even more. One of the things that I was really hoping to see as a result of the pandemic was publishing houses realizing just how much was not working about having these concentrated publishing houses in New York City primarily and sometimes in Boston or LA and making people come into the office five days a week from eight to five Monday through Friday. They have to live in New York. New York is incredibly expensive. Entry level employees are often paid a starting salary of like $40,000 and they’re supposed to live in New York on $40,000 which is very difficult to do even with roommates and impossible to do without roommates unless you have a independently wealthy background. So one thing that I was really hoping to see more of after the pandemic originally forced everybody to work from home was companies and publishers intentionally making decisions around allowing more staff to work remotely and having remote-only staff and intentionally hiring for that. I do believe that that’s one way that we can really make it a lot more equitable to work in publishing and I just haven’t seen that change as much as I had hoped to see it change. Maybe it’s because the industry is slow and it just hasn’t happened yet, but a lot of the times I still see the same old line: “This is remote until the Covid-19 pandemic is over and then it’s located in our New York City office and you will have to commute in.” I would love to see more publishing companies, profit sharing with their staff and having their staff partially own and having their staff be able to speak up about these things and make these decisions together, because a lot of publishing staff would want the option to work remotely and to work from anywhere, and they would have a lot to say about being paid more fairly and compensated more fairly for their work. If they had the opportunity to be a part of those conversations and those decisions, we would see a lot of change.

Ame Sanders  31:53

I love your idea about the collective ownership of both bookstores and publishing. I love the idea that people could be more distributed.

Alaina Lavoie  32:03

It’s not all about physically being in the same overcrowded city at the same time. That’s not the only way to have a relationship with someone. There’s a value in living in New York. Many people absolutely adore it and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also a value in living in Seattle, because that’s where you’re more comfortable and where your family is, or living in Atlanta and connecting with your community online, on social media, through email, through Zoom. I think that there are so many possibilities there that haven’t been explored as much yet and are starting to be explored. I’m really excited about that, because I do think that one of those values is you can actually find so many more people who share your experience and who have something in common with you and who are excited about the same things as you if you widen that net because you’re looking beyond just your local community. You might actually find a real kinship in a professional community online that actually is really niche and shares your goals and shares your dreams.

Ame Sanders  33:19

That is certainly true for the work that I do, because the people that I speak with, yourself included, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do that if I had to travel to see each one of them or physically be in the same city with them. I talk with people all across the country, as I know you do as well. So, you’re right. The breadth of relationships that you can form and the opportunities to meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet is really an important part. So, I’m with you and hoping that the industry opens up a bit in that regard and finds a way to reach beyond its traditional sort of bastions and physical constraints into more of an open and inclusive digital world that allows them to bring more people in to the decision-making, to the process and also as creators.

Alaina Lavoie 34:11

I couldn’t agree more. I think podcasting is one of those examples of a way that we’ve been able to really continue conversations in ways that wouldn’t have been possible and virtual panels as well. I’ve listened to a lot of great author panels over the last year and a half. Had these panels taken place anywhere other than Boston, I wouldn’t have been able to be there in person and it’s possible that all of these authors wouldn’t have been able to be in conversation in person. They’ve been really engaging, really nuanced, awesome conversations that I have absolutely bookmarked.

-Books That Make A Difference

Ame Sanders 34:48

So, this is maybe a little bit of a crazy question for someone in your line of work, because I know you know so many books. I’m always looking for good books, and I’m sure our listeners are and we’re all looking for different things in books. I understand that. But are there any books that you would like to have me include in our show notes or mention to our listeners that are really books that you think make a difference in creating a more inclusive world and have had an impact on either you personally or you think is a really great book that you or your kids should read?

Alaina Lavoie 35:22

Honestly, there are so many, so I will just try to name a few that I can think of and I’m going to try to stick with books I’ve read recently. Everybody’s heard of The Hate U Give, I don’t need to mention it again, so I’ll try to think of books that perhaps haven’t had as much critical acclaim or commercial success. And I really enjoyed Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas, which recently came out and that’s about a trans teenager who has to essentially debate his own right to use the bathroom in order to win the national debate championships. He really wants to win the championships to increase his chances of going to a good college and getting a scholarship that he needs to attend. Very, very good book. Absolutely heartbreaking, but emotional and joyful and hopeful. I think that it really deals with a lot of the barriers that as a teenager, if you don’t have a lot of money and you’re not sure how your family is going to pay for college. Then to add on top of that any kind of other marginalized identity that adds barriers. I thought it was a very, very nuanced portrayal of that. I would have loved to read this book when I was in high school. I also really enjoyed How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao and A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee, which are both young adult, dark academia books that came out in August. Both of those books deal with especially the ways that specific marginalized groups fall into the pressure to achieve academic perfection and how that pressure has a distinct impact and how we fall apart as Asian Americans. That high pressure that is put on Asian Americans due to the model minority myth and also commonly having immigrant parents who have high expectations and the society’s expectations for you. As an Asian American teenager, in A Lesson in Vengeance, it’s queer women and nonbinary people. The pressures that are put on queer women and nonbinary people to achieve perfection and to achieve these high levels of success because society doesn’t value us as much as it values cis straight white men. It doesn’t value our ideas and this pressure that is put on women, especially on queer women, that if you’re passionate or anything other than this very narrow idea that you are deemed as having a mental illness or even potentially being a witch. I really loved both of those books and their exploration of achievement and high success. Honestly, there are so many good books.


Ame Sanders 38:21

Thank you for suggesting those three books for us. I really appreciate that. I just want to thank you for your time this afternoon and for taking time to talk with me and for sharing your insights about the publishing industry, which as you said, often has lacked transparency. It’s difficult for those of us who are outside the industry to understand what is taking place in the industry, how it might be changing and where there are still opportunities that we can advocate or influence in any way that we can to make the publishing industry and the books that we read and that we all have access to more inclusive and equitable. So, thank you for your time today.

Alaina Lavoie 39:05

Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Ame Sanders 39:14

This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. Join us again next time. If you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others. Leave us a review. We’d love your comments. Thanks so much for listening


Guest: Alaina Lavoie

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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