Above: These homegrown publishers support diverse writers of all sorts.
There’s no better time for reading than when you’re curled up in your home. Books offer a retreat from the chaos of the world—something we could all use at the moment. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads and the economy feels its effects, small businesses, including small publishers, are struggling.
These 13 Texas-based independent presses and publishers have diligently offered diverse, boundary-pushing literature for years, even decades. Dedicated to supporting marginalized, underappreciated voices in publishing, they’ve sought to make American books better reflect American demographics. The U.S. publishing industry’s workforce is still 79 percent white, and in 2018, a greater number of children’s books featured an animal main character than featured a Black, Latinx, Native American, or Asian child—combined. And despite the fact that publishing is a female-driven field, with 78 percent of the workforce made up of women, and the fact that two-thirds of MFA earners are women, women writers are still less likely to have their books reviewed or translated. The same is true for writers of color and LGBTQ+ writers.
Order a book from one of these homegrown publishers who support diverse writers of all sorts, and move the industry forward from home.
1. Arte Público Press (Houston): This powerhouse independent publisher is the oldest and largest U.S. publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Their recovery program locates, preserves, and disseminates lost Latinx writings dating back from early colonial times until 1960—they have found more than 18,000 pamphlets and books.
2. Bloomsday Literary (Houston): This new press focused on genre-bending poetry and nonfiction features the voices of “innovative and undaunted” storytellers. Their biggest project is their podcast, “F***ing Shakespeare,” which features creatives you should know. Texas-based artists like Bryan Washington and Tillie Walden have been guests. Tune in to this “high-art low-brow” literary platform to hear interviews.
3. Weasel Press (Houston): A self-described “beat publisher,” Weasel Press publishes experimental modern beat literature, focusing on LGBTQ+ work and poetry and fiction chapbooks. They have an imprint for horror and sci-fi, Sinister Stoat Press, and one for erotica, Red Ferret Press.
4. Regal Crest Enterprises (Port Arthur): The third-largest small press publisher of lesbian literature in the world is located right here along the Texas Gulf Coast. Regal Crest Enterprises popped up in 1999, and has been publishing lesbian romance, sci-fi, mystery, and essays ever since, recently expanding to gay fiction.
5. Host Publications (Austin): This small press spent three decades bringing international literature from all over the world to Texas after its inception in 1987, but in 2018, they shifted to authors from the United States. Host Publications centers work by women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ writers. Also in 2018, Host published the acclaimed short story collection Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas by Fernando Flores, winner of the Writers’ League of Texas 2018 Discovery Prize in Fiction.
6. Plain View Press (Austin): Once affiliated with Slough Press, another publisher with Austin roots, Plain View Press has been out on its own for 40 years. Their issue-driven books are meant to be tools for social change and to “bring humanitarian enlightenment and hope to individuals and communities grappling with the major issues of our time — peace, justice, the environment, education and gender,” as outlined in their mission statement.
7. Awst Press (Austin): This publisher takes its name from the Welsh world for August—the month the press was founded in 2014. Dedicated to publishing diverse, inventive content, from the start the press made it a goal to support authors and poets of color, women, and nonbinary writers. Awst is also committed to supporting their authors beyond publication with avenues for funding and exposure.
8. Deep Vellum Publishing (Dallas): Proudly a nonprofit literary arts organization, Deep Vellum has a mission to “bring the world into conversation through literature” by publishing underrepresented, vital voices. Their Dallas bookstore has been known to, as they put it, “host art shows, cast spells, discuss civil rights over cereal and cartoons, and throw postcard-making parties to #resist.” Deep Vellum is one of the leading Texas small publishers focused on social justice and on making the industry more international and racially diverse. Their impressive series of books in translation includes more than 30 titles.
9. Anaphora Literary Press (Quanah): Started as an academic press, Anaphora publishes fiction, nonfiction, and two literary periodicals. In addition to academic research, the press also publishes essays and book reviews critical of the current state of literature. Their authors have received awards like the Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship and honorable mentions from Latino Literacy Now.
10. Cinco Puntos Press (El Paso): In 1999, this small press made national news after publishing the English translation of The Story of Colors / La historia de los colores, a children’s book about tolerance and respect for diversity. The book was written by Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico. Cinco Puntos lost a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts over the controversy, but according to poet Eileen Myles, it “gained them a cred that few publishers have.” Today, this family business continues to publish primarily fiction and nonfiction about the U.S.-Mexico border region, as well as bilingual children’s books with a political focus.
11. Veliz Books (El Paso): A well-respected publisher committed to transcending borders and barriers, Veliz Books supports authors writing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. In their own words: “We offer a vehicle where contemporary literature can travel.”
12. Slough Press (Alamo): Proudly Texas-based since 1973, this press has moved around the state—from Austin to El Paso to College Station to Dallas—and is now operating out of the Rio Grande Valley. Established with the tenets of the ’60s in mind, working to change social consciousness in the culture, Slough Press has since published writing on the fringes of mainstream publishing. They have a reputation for publishing work by Cajun and Chicano authors, in addition to writers of all backgrounds based in the South and Southwest.
13. Del Alma Publications (Zapata): This Latina-owned children’s book publisher encourages the bilingual, biliterate child. Proudly producing educational materials and children’s literature in English and Spanish with a regional, cultural focus, these books are great for keeping kids thinking and learning at home.