PC job board: ‘Sensitivity readers’ to assist book editors are becoming all the rage in demand

**Written by Doug Powers

Artists of many stripes along with publishers often express concern about the government becoming a threat to freedom of expression, but in reality it’s looking increasingly likely that the literary industry could soon be completely self-censoring:

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

These days, though, a book may get an additional check from an unusual source: a sensitivity reader, a person who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families” or “transgender issues.”

“The industry recognizes this is a real concern,” said Cheryl Klein, a children’s and young adult book editor and author of “The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults.” Klein, who works at the publisher Lee & Low, said that she has seen the casual use of specialized readers for many years but that the process has become more standardized and more of a priority, especially in books for young readers.

Sensitivity readers have emerged in a climate – fueled in part by social media – in which writers are under increased scrutiny for their portrayals of people from marginalized groups, especially when the author is not a part of that group.

Learn more about the impact “sensitivity readers” are having on literature in these re-released books:

  • To Marginalize a Mockingbird
  • Hello, Deity Which Might Only Exist In My Head, It’s Me, Margaret
  • If You Give a Pig a Pancake in NYC You’ll Get Arrested
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Hey Why Do You Hate Vegans So Much?
  • **Written by Doug Powers

    Twitter @ThePowersThatBe