One of my goals for this year was to read 24 books, but more importantly, to read diversely.
*Note: When I mean diversely throughout this post, I mean diverse characters written by diverse authors (e.g. own voices).*
Good news! I am upping that goal to 40 books for the year based on my current rate of reads. But my most important endeavor is still to read diversely.
Brief anecdote about being thirty. I was a teenager in the 2000s. Young adult literature existed then (I’ve heard other writers my age try to say it didn’t), but it wasn’t like it is now. It was sparser, for one, and mostly contemporary. There wasn’t a lot of fantasy to be had. There was almost no fantasy with female main characters save Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey (one of these days I’m going to try one of those book spirals with all the Mercedes Lackey books I own, and you’ll see how desperate I was for this kind of writing), and those books are… well, they’re quite white. I didn’t have Twitter. Goodreads didn’t even come out until I was a freshman in college. Social Media wasn’t really a thing yet. I mean, Facebook wasn’t available to anyone except for college students and MySpace was more about glitter backgrounds and bands. I found books I might like the “good old fashioned way” — by asking a bookseller or librarian, or by sitting on the floor of Borders (we still had those) and reading a ton of blurbs. When I found something I liked, I stuck with that author (see: my someday Mercedes Lackey spiral).
Reading diversely wasn’t something anyone talked about like people do now. That doesn’t excuse me not doing it. It was possible. It wasn’t like authors of color didn’t exist. I could have found them, but I didn’t.
I’m trying to rectify that now. And it’s easier these days, thanks to social media in part, but mostly thanks to authors of color leading the push for their rightfully deserved and earned spots at the table. It’s thanks to initiatives like We Need Diverse Books. And it’s thanks to a new generation of readers who are hungry for newer and better stories than the ones that came before.
That doesn’t mean I can be lazy about reading diversely, though. Publishing is still light years behind when it comes to reflecting America (and note that I am specifically talking about traditional publishing in America here; self-publishing is a whole different ballpark, and I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about the publishing situation in other countries). This is why I’ve decided that every so often, here on the blog, I’m going to do a quick diversity check in with regard to my reading. I want to hold myself publicly accountable for being a better reader. Because being a better reader means being a better writer. And reading diversely means being a better a human, in all honesty.
So without further ado, here’s my very first diversity check-in.
Books Read in 2019: 8
Books by women authors: 6
Books by POC authors: 3 (Breakdown: 2 Black Authors and 1 Asian Author)
Books by LGBTQIA authors: 3 (Note: Not all of these numbers may be accurate as some of these authors may choose to keep their personal lives out of the public sphere which I am 100% okay with)
Books by authors with disabilities: 1
So not bad! But as soon as I wrote this the first thing I realized: I haven’t read a single book this year by an author who identifies as non-Christian. Granted, some of these were fantasies exploring religions that are not Christian or Christian coded so some of these authors may identify as non-Christian, I don’t know, but I definitely cannot put my finger on it for certain. As always, room to improve. Anyone have any recommendations for books by non-Christian authors? YA fantasy is always a plus! Or a great memoir?