Book Publishing’s Sensitivity Police

Slate headline: “Is My Novel Offensive?”

Katy Waldman at Slate writes about a new, in-demand group — “sensitivity readers” — who check to make sure your book isn’t offensive to a particular minority. “These advising angels — part fact-checkers, part cultural ambassadors — are new additions to the book publishing ecosystem,” writes Waldman. “Either hired by individual authors or by publishing houses, sensitivity readers are members of a minority group tasked specifically with examining manuscripts for hurtful, inaccurate, or inappropriate depictions of that group.”

There’s even an online database of freelance sensitivity readers you can contact to make sure your novel doesn’t offend. One reader’s qualifications include “Paralegal, diagnosed with a terminal illness, gay, Jewish.” 

Another’s is rather lengthy: “Life experience: biracial, white-passing queer Latina (3rd-gen. Mexican American); bipolar/anxiety/depression diagnoses and related psychiatric hospitalization; PTSD related to religious trauma. Editorial/Writing experience: freelance editor of all genres of fiction; have interned or done contract work for a couple large publishing houses. English teacher (NYC public schools). Bachelor’s in English and piano performance; master’s in English education. Published in McSweeney’s and other humor outlets.”

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