Literary Elitism

literary elitism

The following is an account on today’s events.

I am Literary Studies major, therefore I still enjoy frequenting bookstores having them be a chain or independently owned. I put long hours into what I felt was my passion: reading and writing. I am the first one to tell you that I have a bookshelf full of books but have only read a third since I am one of the slowest readers you will ever meet. I like to recommend books to friends and most if not all have to do with love and the search of it.

Today, Fernando and I decided to go to a bookstore we frequent for an event on poetry. I was really excited because I love poetry, as a matter of fact poetry is the reason I was drawn to literature in the first place. We went in there, ran into a friend, made small talk and eventually went into the store to wait for the reading to start. We got there a little early so they were still setting-up, but Fernando and I wanted to get a good place (partly because I have trouble hearing) so we sat down. We sat down and the lady that was setting up the chairs and host stand glanced at us and gave us a look as if we were not allowed to sit there. I immediately thought, “Was I suppose to RSVP?” “Are we sitting in the right place?” Fernando felt that I felt uncomfortable and he and I looked at each other without thinking but feeling that awkward sense of ‘we should move’. I told him “hey babe, why don’t we sit back there”, pointing at some chairs all the way in the back closer to the bar. We saw the lady engaging with everyone there, talking about the publication the reading was on and so on. Fernando saw there was a sign up of sorts going on so he went up to the stand and asked “excuse me, is this for the emails?” to which she replied “yes” in a curt manner. She did not engage with him or make small talk like she had with the previous guest or the one that followed Fernando. Truthfully, I then wondered, “Are we wearing the incorrect clothes?” “Did I pencil in my eyebrows too much?” “What makes them think we are not here for the poetry reading?” It was my day off and I was wearing black jeans, flats and a tank top. And then it hit me; I guess we were the only Hispanic people in a very White event. It was sad that in the entire room we were the ones left out when we genuinely were there to support the event and the arts. How is it that such an insignificant moment makes you doubt your worth as a writer and literary junkie? I wanted to go up to her and say, “I studied Literary Studies at UTD, I know about poetry and I have a blog!” Even if I did not have a major in literature or had never written a line in my life, I should not be discouraged from attending events that support literature, books and the arts as a whole.

Fernando went up to the lady later and expressed to her in a very respectful way that the glance she gave us and the lack of engagement defeats the purpose of what they are promoting which is a comfortable and open environment to discuss literature and poetry which goes against what the social hype is all about today. He asked her to turn around and look at me to see that we were the only people there that were a minority and how it made us feel. The lady was very apologetic to Fernando and thanked him for his feedback. Fernando came back to sit with me and moments later the owner of the publication came to us to introduce himself and thank us for coming out to the event. It should not take for my boyfriend to go up to her for her to realize that she was off-putting and that it is completely discouraging for people outside of the literary circle to support any upcoming events for them. It is the lack of diversity in that field that triggers events such as the one described above. It should not matter what people’s perception it is of what I do or my profession is for them to allow me to participate on such events or engage with me. I have every right to attend a literary event and give them two cents of what I think about the readings or recommend a poet. We stayed until the end of the reading because that is what we were there to do. So I hope literary elitism ends now, I guess next time I won’t wear a tank top or look as Hispanic as I did today.


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