MILWAUKEE, Wis. — It’s no secret that diversity within the publishing industry deficient. Around 75% of authors are white. But one major publisher has turned to a voracious reader to spotlight the work of Black authors. She’s now helping to curate and champion writers through social media.
Every Thursday morning Cree Myles takes to Instagram live to talk to writers about books.
“I've always been a reader and not like the whole like kitschy, like, I'm the quiet alt girl who reads. I've always liked to read. I've always had a book. So, it's just always been like that, and I get excited and want to talk about it,” said Myles.
For the last year, Myles has been channeling her enthusiasm for reading into creating a dedicated space to celebrate Black writers and the readers who love them.
“I read like four hours a day and I talk an author about once a week,” she said.
Myles had already worked with publisher Penguin Random House on a read-a-thon, celebrating Toni Morrison. And through that, she became the inaugural editor and curator of their All Ways Black initiative.
“They came back, and it was like, ‘Hey, we have this idea we would love if you could spearhead it.' And I was like ‘So, I'd be professionally reading? Yes. Absolutely.’ So that's how I got started,” said Myles.
The initiative came after Penguin Random House completed its own in-house audit and found that 76% of the books it released between 2019 and 2021 were written by white authors.
As a book influencer, Myles is trying to help change that from the inside.
“If you want to have introspection in any space, you have to, of course, add more seats to the table and then listen once people are sitting down and telling you what needs to happen,” she said. “I spend time setting up reels and shooting pictures and taking pictures of books and there's this hashtag ‘influencers out in the wild’ so, like sometimes I just will be outside, holding a book over my head, take a picture, and people are like, ‘What is she doing?”
They recently launched a line of All Ways Black merchandise.
The proceeds of this first run will go to support Black Girls Who Write, a nonprofit celebrating authors within the Black independent book community.
Like so many young readers, Myles says she was influenced by Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton.
“I think about him all the time. We threw in 'Always Black Awards,' and we gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award,” she said. “I just feel like what's happening on social media is just the baton picked up of what he was doing.”
Today, Myles is hoping to the pass on the baton to inspire readers of all backgrounds.
“My whole dream is if you're scrolling and you just keep seeing us like ‘pick up this book, pick up this book. Pick. Up. This. Book.’ This will eventually be like, OK, you can pick it up."