Diversity in Our Book Reviews

Libraries are for everyone. Our journal was born (and is still run) from a public library in Ohio, and public libraries exist to provide books and services to every individual regardless of race, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, religion, economic background, or any other aspect of identity. In light of that, we want to make sure the books we review and authors we interview reflect that quest for equal representation and celebration of diversity.

A few months ago, we began tracking how well we’re doing with that goal. We were encouraged in some areas, and disappointed in others, but in both cases we were motivated to improve and make sure we were representing all of our readers, particularly those from traditionally marginalized groups, and bringing exposure to authors from those groups. In our ongoing goal to do so, we are going to begin transparently publishing our diversity stats quarterly.

The stats below are from Fourth & Sycamore’s genesis in October 2014 through the end of June 2016. When we publish these stats in the future, we will show the numbers from the current quarter and compare them to the ongoing historical numbers.

These numbers represent the identities of the authors of reviewed books and not necessarily the characters or topics of those books. The only exception is in YA fiction, in which we included books about LGBTQIA+ characters in the LGBTQIA+ category regardless of the identity of the author. This is partly because the author’s identity is not always disclosed (and is none of our business if it isn’t) and partly because some of these books are excellent books for young, queer readers looking for books that represent them, and we want to celebrate that.

Here are the stats, broken down by review category, with a few notes after each.

Adult Fiction Books
Male: 45%, Female: 55%, Gender Nonconforming: 0%
White: 84%, Persons of Color: 16%
Non-LGBTQIA+: 90%, LGBTQIA+: 10%

We have yet to review a single fiction title by an author outside the gender binary, which we’d like to address soon. We’d also like to see the percentage of fiction titles we review by authors of color and LGBTQIA+ authors come up, so we will be working to that end as well.

YA Fiction Books
Male: 28%, Female: 72%, Gender Nonconforming: 0%
White: 100%, Persons of Color: 0%
Non-LGBTQIA+: 89%, LGBTQIA+: 11%

Wow. We have seriously dropped the ball with representing authors of color in our YA reviews. We’re sorry for this, and there’s no good excuse. We’re working to fix this immediately, and we will begin publishing more reviews of YA books by authors of color in coming months. We would also like to see better representation for LGBTQIA+ authors and gender nonconforming authors in this category.

Nonfiction Books
Male: 45%, Female: 51%, Gender Nonconforming: 4%
White: 89%, Persons of Color: 11%
Non-LGBTQIA+: 81%, LGBTQIA+: 19%

We are going to work to increase the number of nonfiction books we review by authors of color. Otherwise, we are relatively pleased here.

Poetry Books
Male: 31%, Female: 69%, Gender Nonconforming: 0%
White: 72%, Persons of Color: 28%
Non-LGBTQIA+: 86%, LGBTQIA+: 14%

We’re relatively pleased here, though there is still room for improvement. We’d love to review some gender nonconforming poets, and will look into that soon.

All Books
Male: 40%, Female: 59%, Gender Nonconforming: 1%
White: 86%, Persons of Color: 14%
Non-LGBTQIA+:  86%, LGBTQIA+: 14%

This could be better, and it could be worse. We’re going to work on making sure it gets better.

We are committed to diversity in our book reviews and author interviews. If you have any comments or questions, let us know. If you have suggestions for authors you’d like to see reviewed in any of the above categories that need improvement, send them our way in the comments. We look forward to continuing to serve all of our readers.

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