In the past two years there has been a lot of discussion about diversity in publishing. There was the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, there were discussions of harassment at various sci-fi conferences, there was an analysis de-bunking the idea that women dominate the YA best seller list, and there were a multitude of attacks on adults reading “YA fiction” many of which read as attacks on “what girls like” and labeling the lot as not “serious” fiction (counter-point article here).
One conclusion I came to while following these various discussions and dramas play out online was that I’d like to make sure I’m “voting with my feet” or “putting my money where my mouth is,” as the saying goes. For me this means making sure that I’m stretching my comfort zone and reaching for authors that may be outside of the mainstream.
It’s easy to read on-trend, to read only best-selling books, to read books that everyone has heard about. It’s also easy to read primarily for entertainment. But one of the coolest things about books is that they can immerse you in worlds and/or the lives of characters that are unlike anything you would encounter on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons I like to read sci-fi and fantasy novels. Reading about something completely different than your every day experience can help you think differently about how you function in the world. It can make your world bigger.
So, this year, I want to consciously work on making my world bigger by reading outside my “comfort zone” and reading books by diverse authors. I plan to read at least one book by a diverse author (read: non-American and/or non-white) each month. I’ve started to make a list of possible contenders over on Goodreads.
I’m planning to start with the following two books: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (January) and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (February, with the bonus goal of learning how to spell / say her name…).
Parable of the Sower was originally published in 1993 and is the first book in a two-book series. I mentioned before that I first saw this book on a “best of” list by an author I like. It’s been on my “to-read” list ever since then.
Americanah was released in 2013 and received an overwhelming amount of praise and made just about everyone’s “best of” lists that year. I put off reading it because I feared the book wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I’m ready to dive into this one now.
I’m going to try to do a longer review (either video or blog post) for each book I read for my 2015 reading project. In addition to posting my thoughts about what I’m reading, I want to see if/how reading books by diverse authors changes my way of thinking about the world and influences my writing. My hypothesis is that it will, but I want to test that idea. And, if it does prove to be true, I’m interested in understanding how and why my world-view / writing changed.
If you have suggestions, please post them in the comments, or “recommend” a book to me on Goodreads (that’s a thing you can do, right?).