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Australian bookstores and publishers are facing huge demand for books on racism and First Nations history

IMAGE VIA THE MOAD STORE
WORDS BY KATE STREADER

Publishers have ordered urgent reprints on some titles as bookstores across the country sell out.

The current momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the importance of practising anti-racism as opposed to simply not being racist. The difference being that anti-racism is an active process which works to identify and eliminate racism while the latter is passive and does nothing to elicit real change.

The push for anti-racism amidst the current political climate has already seen tangible results. SBS reported an unprecedented level of support for Indigenous charities, campaigns and not-for-profit organisations in the last few weeks after thousands of Australians donated millions of dollars to such causes.

Not only have people been reaching into their wallets, but the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted many non-Indigenous Australians to identify gaps in their knowledge regarding First Nations history and issues relating to race, resulting in a massive boom for book sales.

Bestseller lists are bursting with titles exploring race and racism while bookstores and publishers across the country have been struggling to keep up with the newfound demand for books on these topics.

Independent Northcote-based bookstore Neighbourhood Books can attest to the high demand for these titles and has been doing its best to keep them in stock.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in demand for work by Black and Indigenous writers writing specifically to race theory and white complicity,” says Neighbourhood Books’ Lead Bookseller, Leni James.

“Everyone is on the waiting list for Me and White Supremacy; there isn’t a copy of that left in the country. The publishers are doing an urgent reprint,” she adds.

While Bruce Pascoe’s critically-acclaimed Dark Emu, which debunks the ‘hunter-gatherer’ tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians by examining ancient agricultural and engineering practices, has been a bestseller for years, numerous titles exploring race and racism are now seeing the same level of success.

 

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Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, White Tears, Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge are amongst the most highly-sought-after titles right now, according to James.

Neighbourhood Books has also curated an expansive Anti-Racism section within its online catalogue to help virtual shoppers find informative books covering such topics, while James personally suggests The White Possessive, also by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, which “looks at race, power and sovereignty by examining the concept of property. It breaks down the ‘possessive logic’ of white colonial structures.

“Also a fantastic anthology called After Australia [edited by Michael Mohammad Ahmad] that just came out in late May. It’s tremendous. It’s already undergoing a reprint, which is incredible.”

With several titles flying off shelves faster than they can be restocked, the team at Neighbourhood Books has been recommending contemporary fiction by Black and Indigenous writers to customers in lieu of out-of-stock titles to encourage readers to explore the works of culturally-diverse authors outside the realms of non-fiction.

“Engaging with the art of Black and Indigenous writers, seeking out those stories and meeting them on their terms is a great way to begin broadening the horizons of your reading practice,” says James.

“I think reading, in general, has increased during the lockdown,” she adds, explaining that the overall demand for books increased while people have been stuck indoors. “Reading de-escalates stress and it’s a great way to get out of your head without getting out of your house.”

That said, James is “cautiously optimistic” that the current level of interest surrounding books by BIPOC writers signals a cognitive shift that will see readers continue to seek diverse voices and perspectives in literature.

“I don’t think it’s a flash in the pan,” she says. “I hope it won’t be.”

Find Neighbourhood Books at 55 High Street, Northcote or order online via its website.

This article originally appeared on Beat.

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