It’s been a few weeks since I sent off a query for the latest version of the restaurant book. 30K slimmer with a new antagonist and new ending, I am completely confident that this is it. I wrote a good book. Dare I say, a great book. It is ready. I am ready.
And yet, one nagging thought has been tormenting me, clawing its way out of the depths of my own psyche and whispering in my ear: Sorry, we already have one of those.
In other words…
We already have one Latinx author. We don’t need another one.
We already have a book featuring Latinx characters. We don’t need another one.
We already have a POC book about a restaurant. We don’t need another one.
I’ve gotten much better at recognizing my own irrational fears and using facts and other context to talk myself out of them. But this fear, no matter how irrelevant it is at certain agencies or publishers, is still not elusive enough to land it on my crazy list. Because the truth is, it does happen. The same way it happens in every other industry.
If you’re a POC and you’re the only one in your entire department or the only one in your entire company, you know what I mean. Tokenism is celebrated as “diversity” but only by the ignorant. Tokenism is still racism. Patting yourself on the back because you have one marginalized person on your team and therefore have met some socially imposed “quota” is not social justice. It’s lazy. It’s cruel.
So my fear this time of…lets’ face it, not mattering, is not entirely in my head. I feel like educationally and socially I have been conditioned to believe that there is only ever one spot for a POC. And worse, that the person who gets that spot is the one who can best adapt to whiteness.
This time, with this story and these characters, I am not watering things down or slipping on that mask I know so well. I am not apologizing for being another Latinx author who wants to break into publishing even though the gatekeepers just let one in last month and isn’t that enough diversity already?
But choosing to be defiant, to believe in myself despite the odds doesn’t get rid of the fear. It’s not something I can talk myself out of with facts and figures. It’s something that, if I want to keep going, to keep trying at this, I have to accept. I have to accept that I may experience rejection simply for being me. But in the midst of that fear I am also allowed to hope. That the industry is changing and that I myself can be a part of that positive change. I am allowed to celebrate the authors, agents, editors, and other industry professionals who are already doing that work.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am allowed to reach for it with everything I have. But that doesn’t change the long trek through the darkness that I have to make first. Luckily, I am not alone in this. The more of us there are moving through the darkness the more ground we cover, the stronger and braver we become, the more light we cast in the other direction. Light that might inspire someone else to reach for what they want most, to believe that they deserve to get it.