How To Read More Diversely

/ posted in: Reading

This week has been #DiverseAThon on Twitter.  If you haven’t seen it, it is worth going back through some of the discussions.

One thing that keeps coming up is,

How Do I Find More Diverse Books To Read?

When you first notice that you are reading primarily (or only) white authors, you get confused.  These are the books that you want to read.  Why should you read anything else?  If other books were available and were any good, you’d know about them, right?

Let me tell you a story

I’m the poster child for whiteness.  I’m straight.  The only minority status I can claim at all is being female and we’re actually the majority.

A few years ago I took part in a challenge to read a book from each of the 50 states in the course of a year.  That was my first experience with reading with intention and picking books on criteria other than just, “That sounds good.”

I enjoyed the challenge so the next year I decided to join a group reading books from other countries.  I started to notice a difference in the tone and richness of books written by, say, an American or British author about Zimbabwe and a Zimbabwean author writing about her country.  (If you ever feel a need to read a book from a specific country, this is the best list on the internet. )

About this time I found #Diversiverse.  This was 2 week readathon every October devoted to authors from backgrounds other than my own.  This was the mantra:

“Reading diversely may require you to change your book finding habits.  It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.”  Aarti

Now, even with book recommendations by authors of color making up a lot of my TBR lists, I still end up reading majority white authors.  It is just the way the world is unfortunately.

I got nerdy last year and made charts for the books I read in 2015.

This is the racial make up of Earth.

meta-chart(2)

This is the racial make up of female authors I read.

meta-chart

And male authors

meta-chart(1)

That’s with actively seeking out POC authors.  If you aren’t intentionally seeking out non-white authors, you aren’t likely to stumble across many accidentally.


Steps To Take

Set a Goal and Be Accountable

If you are reading all white authors now, set a goal to read one POC author a month.  Report how you did in your monthly wrap up post.  Something magical will happen if you set this goalYou will notice more diverse books around you.  You know how if you get a certain type of car, suddenly it seems like there are so many more of them on the road?  Same thing.  If you are aware and looking for something, you will see it. You’ll be shocked that you were blind to it before.

Now when I see a book review when I’m scrolling through Twitter or see a book by a POC author on a shelf, my brain gives it a quick second look.  Sometimes that pause that comes from noticing what is around you leads you to take a look at a book that you might have blindly walked or scrolled past before.

Follow People Who Promote All Types of Books

  • Check out the #diversebookbloggers and #weneeddiversebooks tags on Twitter.  There are loads of books discussed here.  Looking for a book in a specific genre?  Ask a question and get loads of recommendations.
  • Book Riot does a good job of incorporating a wide variety of books in their lists

Follow POC authors you like and see who they are reading and recommending

Here’s a few to get you started.

  • Courtney Milan is a Regency romance writer (@courtneymilan)
  • Tananarive Due is a horror writer who also teaches.  DJ Older was one of her students. (@tananarivedue)
  • Margret Helgadottir is a Scandinavian writer who edits anthologies with lots of POC authors. (@mahelgad)
  • Mona Eltahawy writes about feminism in the Middle East (@monaeltahawy)

Don’t Give Up if You Don’t Like a Book

Don’t be like, “See, I knew these books were no good.”  I am the Queen of the DNF.  There are too many books in the world to read to be forcing yourself through one you don’t like.  But, do you like every YA book/mystery/romance you read?  Did you let one boring book turn you off a whole genre or did you try another book to see if you liked it better?  Same thing here.  Not every book is a fit for every reader but when you are trying something new, it is tempting to write it all off as a loss if the first one or two aren’t your favorites.

 

For people who tend to read books that are out of the mainstream, how did you get started?