In the midst of political and social upheaval, where do you turn to gain understanding and to foster empathy? For many Americans, the answers are found in books; reading is a gateway to move beyond misinformation, habits and prejudices.
In 2020, sustained protests have emerged across the United States following a series of deaths of Black Americans while in police custody. With “Black Lives Matter” as a rallying cry, this 21st century civil rights movement has attacked systemic racism in American society and called for reform of the police and other public institutions as well as change to businesses and cultural organizations.
Anti-Racism in Publishing
With this anti-racism as a focus of our national conversation, Americans have gone to libraries and bookstores and made bestsellers out of Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist.
Beyond those hits, however, dozens of other authors and titles remain to be discovered.
Creating a Signal Boost for Anti-Racist Literature
In June, the Washington Post and the Panorama Project reviewed the lending history of public library systems across the country and developed nine regional reading lists related to civil rights, and race and ethnic relations—reflecting the diverse interests and perspectives of readers in each region.
“Ultimately we came to develop this project, which was a customized version of Panorama Picks by looking at books that kept appearing on recommended reading llsts and books that had resurfaced on the bestseller lists,” says Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, project lead, Panorama Project.
The data search required a creative approach that harvested titles across a range of subject areas.
“Anti-racism is ultimately a marketing term that’s been created to reflect a certain area of interest. It’s not one that publishers recognize as a selling category,” Gonzalez tells me in a recent CCC podcast interview.
Additional Anti-Racist Literature
Among titles with notable unmet demand at public libraries within a single American Booksellers Association (ABA) region were Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop (New England), Chris Myers Asch’s Chocolate City (Mid Atlantic), Shelby Steele’s Shame (Southeast), Tim Madigan’s The Burning (Mountains & Plains), Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body (Pacific Northwest), Walter Thompson-Hernandez’s The Compton Cowboys (California), and Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin (Hawaii).
About the Panorama Project
The Panorama Project is a research initiative guided by representatives from the American Library Association, the Audio Publishers Association, the Cuyahoga County Public Library, Ingram Content Group, The National Information Standards Organization (NISO), Open Road Media, Penguin Random House, Rakuten OverDrive, and Sourcebooks.