International Publishing Association president Bodour al Qasimi has faced prejudice in her life and believes that diversity and inclusivity in the book industry should be celebrated.
She made the remarks in a personal speech at a dinner for publishers during the Sharjah International Book Fair Publishers Conference. They were prompted by a question from a delegate who wanted to know whether her privileged background – her father is the Ruler of Sharjah and her husband is his deputy – helped or hindered her in her work in the industry.
“I have never been asked that question before, and it’s a very personal question,” she said. “My answer to him was that being from my background is a double-edged sword in some respects, especially for someone like me who has a genuine passion and purpose to try and add value to this world through books, publishing, reading and literacy.”
She continued: “I have been fortunate enough to have opportunities in my life where I could make a difference. But there have been occasions where I have been the subject of prejudice and it has not been easy. At such times I try and remind myself as a publisher and a human being that no one should judge a book by its cover.
“Sometimes we can be prisoners of our own preconceptions which hinder us from seeing other people for who they really are. It can prevent us from seeing what they’re going through, their struggles, their ups and downs, the unexpected twists and turns of their lives, and their hard earned achievements.
“During the work I do I try to demystify any notions about people from my background and most importantly focus on doing the best work I can possibly do with a strong work ethic. My hope is to be able to open doors for other people and inspire the younger generation to embrace their futures and to make a mark, big or small, in this world.”
She observed that “being different or unique should be celebrated in our industry” which was greeted by much applause. She continued: “Our role here as publishers is to give a voice to everyone, so it’s natural for us to focus on bringing more diversity and inclusivity so that we can mirror the society we want to help create through the work that we publish. I really enjoyed my discussions today and the different points of view and I’m sure that conferences and meetings like this are always helpful in uniting publishers’ voices and unifying our reach.”
She concluded: “I know that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but when I see you all at every event with your energy and determination, I know we’ll overcome them.”