Beginning with the May 2014 issue, The Critical Flame will dedicate one year of its review coverage wholly to women writers and writers of color.
CF will continue to publish well-written, insightful, long-form critical essays and reviews, all of which will cover women writers and writers of color, just as we did (without any advance planning) in the current issue.
I see no conflict between duty and conscience. CF is small, independent, and all-volunteer: our livelihoods do not depend on its financial success, so we are freer than some others (capitalism, literature, and marginalization—consider that a call for papers, ye writers). Also the often-cited dichotomy between quality and equality is, to my mind, bullshit. There are more good books than could ever be covered by any single publication; every issue’s selection of titles is just as much a result of luck, networking, and taste as it is of quality. This project presents a great opportunity to publish in-depth essays about undervalued writers, books, and traditions—what could be more exciting for a literary editor?
I don't think The Stranger could (or should) make this pledge, because we're a newspaper that's devoted to covering cultural events that happen in Seattle; I'd fail at my duty as books editor if I made this pledge. But it is my responsibility to make sure that I'm covering the entire city, and not just one demographic. I think every editor of every review section (and site) needs to be conscious of the decisions they make, every time they publish a review. I don't think anyone says "I'm going to focus on a vast majority of white dudes this year." It's a decision they make, one review at a time. Outlets like The Critical Flame are an example for all of us that we all need to step up our game and be conscious of what we publish.