It has taken an atrocity, followed by a paradigm shift, for it to happen. Still, a swathe of new readers, keen to learn and explore and enlighten themselves, are resolving to read more writers of colour.
This week in the UK, Bernardine Evaristo's Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other has topped the fiction bestseller charts, while Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race has had a massive surge in sales. It is an encouraging if long-overdue development, coming on the heels of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag. Using the hashtag on social media, writers are divulging how much they were paid as an advance, and the difference between white writers and black and ethnic minority writers is stark.
It's very likely that The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett's follow-up to her formidable debut, The Mothers, will be as widely read as it truly deserves to be. The Mothers heralded Bennett as a writer of impressive smoothness and maturity, and at 26, a writer with an acumen beyond her years.
The Vanishing Half explores race in America, albeit in a way many readers might not expect. 'Colorism' refers to the prejudices that people with darker skin will experience from others within their own race.
Desiree and her twin sister Stella are two beautiful, 'creamy-skinned' girls coming of age in 1950s Louisiana, in a town founded by their ancestor Alphonse. He was determined to create a town for freed men like him, "who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes".
In it, the residents are carrying on Alphonse's desire to create the 'perfect', light-skinned black person, as a way to distinguish themselves from the surrounding black community.
Mallard has its own hierarchy, where those with skin "barely the colour of wet sand" get ahead in life. The Vignes twins are cherished within the town for their beauty, yet they are not immune to racial violence. As youngsters, they witness the violent murder of their father by lynching.
Desiree is desperate to escape the town and the weight of history, and in 1954, the teenage twins do just that, making their way to New Orleans. By 1968, Desiree has returned to Mallard with her "black as tar" daughter Jude, which raises some uncomfortable questions among the town's populace. In time, Jude makes her way to UCLA and befriends Reese, a transgender man with whom she falls in love.
Stella, meanwhile, has had a very different experience of life since she abruptly split from her sister in New Orleans, while the two were in their 20s. Stella marries a white husband and lives, for all intents and purposes, as a white woman, with all the privilege (and casual racism) that it entails.
Her own daughter, Kennedy, is a blonde, fair-skinned beauty, and when Kennedy meets her cousin Jude at a party in LA, Stella's carefully calibrated existence threatens to collapse.
Leaping between decades and places, and told via a multitude of voices, Bennett's sophomore novel has no shortage of ambition. Rather delightfully for a reader, there is a lot going on in this particular soup, not just race, femininity and family.
Also in the mix of overlapping plots is dementia, transsexuality, intergenerational trauma and domestic violence. These are topics that would be meaty enough to form the backbone of a novel on their own, and in a lesser pair of hands, this could create a crowded jumble of too many big issues.
Under Bennett's masterful steering, however, the subjects feel organic and seamless. The story, and by extension the reader, is always grounded in context. There's never a feeling that the writer has bitten off more than she can chew. If anything, she handles these subjects with empathy and élan.
Bennett's sense of place is strong, and whether writing about Brentwood in Los Angeles or Mallard, Louisiana, atmosphere seeps from the page.
Amid luscious descriptions and giddy, muscular dialogue, there is somehow still plenty of room left for emotions; of loss, of searching for identity or the weight of secrets. Where Desiree is the resilient and conventionally 'likeable' character, Stella's extraordinary story will linger for a long time.
The Vanishing Half brings an extraordinary new facet in the conversation on race and prejudice that the world is having. There are difficult truisms and reflections within these pages, but they serve to create an even more engrossing read.
Bennett's second book was always going to be an essential read in 2020, but the current social climate has made it even more so. A powerful story, so very beautifully told.
'It's the book everybody wants to read but nobody has read, and this is a perfect way into it." Kevin Reynolds, series producer with RTÉ Radio's Drama on One, is speaking about the forthcoming 29 hour, 45 minute continuous broadcast of Ulysses on Bloomsday, June 16.