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Decluttering Global Book Industry: Asian Representations and the Art of Translation

Surfing Asian literature in the bookstore shows how the diversity of the Asian diaspora is contradicted by their lack of availability and inclusivity in the global book industry. There is an imbalance of representation that still exists in the worldwide book industry. From a sample of 7000 books published by Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Doubleday, HarperCollins and Macmillan during 1960 to 2018, only 11% were written by authors of colour.

The problem is quite complex and different to each individual. Authors of colour tend to have difficulty in publishing their work due to the lack of representation in the big book industry. Furthermore, many readers complain since they expect a perfect representation of each culture which often does not happen. And even when it does, some said being an author of colour is hard because when a story does not centre on the negative experience of people of colour, it is not seen as valuable enough to share.

The underrepresentation of not only Asian authors but also people who belong to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, is unfortunate as there is so much potential in their literature. Each representation offers a lot of rich cultural hints and nuances that we can only find by reading books written by people who belong to that community. For instance, an audiobook voice actress, Greta Jung, attuning to small details, said that there are so many cultural nuances she experienced voicing audiobooks that she could only offer by having the experience of growing up in an environment of a particular culture. In short, exploring books written by authors of colour will always give us a new adventure and offer us a unique perspective of a specific culture. Asian culture provides subtle hints at Asian spirituality and moralism we can notice when reading them. The writing style often reflects common traditions, philosophical ideas about life, and many more aspects that Asian communities share.