The National Book Critics Circle has asked members to sign a Criticism Equity Pledge, which asks editors and reviewers to dedicate 30% of assignments to coverage of books by BIPOC authors.
The pledge reads as follows:
Book Review Editors:
Join us in signing a pledge to work toward the following three goals: Assign at least 30% of the books covered annually to be by writers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC); assign at least 30% of the critics reviewing books annually to be by BIPOC; and avoid matching these critics only with books by other BIPOC.
In addition, the NBCC is asking freelance critics to pitch for work covering BIPOC books and authors at least 30% of the time.
"The letter went to the mailing list of 2,400 people, so far 59 people have signed it," said David Varno, president of the NBCC board and a PW reviews editor.
Earlier this year, the NBCC underwent a contentious debate over its drafting of an Anti-Racism Pledge in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, that ultimately led to the resignation of the board and its subsequent reconstruction. Later, 30 NBCC members published an open letter asking the organization to change and improve its policies on diversity and inclusion.
The Criticism Equity Pledge was drafted to be part of the original Anti-Racism Pledge released on June 11, but, Varno said, "it wasn't the right time to ask our community to do something. Now we feel we have come back together as an organization with a functioning board, and it is the right time. This post got a lot of support from our diversity and inclusion committee, which is led by Gregg Barrios."
Varno said in the next phase of the project, the NBCC will create a logo to share and then plan to release a spreadsheet of publishers and writers who have signed the pledge. "As for now, we are encouraging people to share this letter outside the NBCC community. The response has been largely positive."