Grimm brothers

The rise of the ‘sensitivity reader’

You probably won’t have heard about sensitivity readers, but across the pond they are already an essential part of fiction. Sensitivity readers are freelance copy editors who publishers pay to cancel-proof their new books. They read books that feature identities or experiences that are outside of the lived experience of the author. They then critique the writing through the prism of what they claim to be their own authoritative life experience to guide the author toward more authentic representation. For example, the white author Jodi Picoult used a sensitivity reader for her novel about a black nurse who cares for the children of white supremacists. For critics, these individuals are