My 2014 reading was overwhelmingly white. I have a plan to fix that this year. I’m combining it with my yearly challenge to read books set in as many countries as possible.
My Reading Around The World Goals:
- Read books that were originally written for audiences outside the United States. For example, find books about Brazil that were originally written in Portuguese and published in Brazil.
- Read books written by people who have lived in the places that they are writing about. These are usually either people who grew up in a country and then moved away as adults who write about their birthplaces or people who have moved to a country and now live there and write about it.
- Read books set in other countries.
- Focus on South America and Africa.
I listed these in descending order of importance to me.
It is said a lot that to find more diverse books to read you don’t have to change your reading preferences, you just have to change where you look for books. That’s true. When I first looked at lists of books in translation it was discouraging. All of them were deep, dark, depressing literary “masterpieces” that I didn’t care at all about. So I ignored them and looked harder.
Goodreads has been a great resource. I went to Explore >> Listopia and then searched by country name. I looked at lots of lists to see what books looked good and if I liked one I searched for books like that one. It took me about an hour to have a list of about 30 books as a starting point.
After two years living here and using my library’s website I also finally learned how to request an interlibrary loan. Now any of these books that my library doesn’t have (and they do have several), I can get.
So why do this? Making a point to pick books from around the world has opened my eyes to other places. There is a line at the beginning of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that got my attention the first time I read it.
“Most often the parcel was posted in Stockholm, but three times from London, twice from Paris, twice from Copenhagen, once from Madrid, once from Bonn, and once from Pensacola, Florida. The detective superintendent had had to look it up in an atlas.”
Who doesn’t know where Pensacola is? People not from the United States. They don’t know the same way I have to look up small cities in Sweden. That was the line that made me realize that I was reading an author with a whole different worldview (since I tend to end up in Pensacola on a fairly routine basis.)
Where Am I Starting?
The first book I am going to read this year is this one:
“Maryse Condé’s personal journey of discovery and revelation becomes ours as we learn of Victoire, her white-skinned mestiza grandmother who worked as a cook for the Walbergs, a family of white Creoles, in the French Antilles. “
It is translated from French and set in the Caribbean.
I also have these books from the library.
The Summer Prince
“The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”
“In The God Who Begat a Jackal, the 17th-century feudal system, vassal uprisings, religious mythology, and the Crusades are intertwined with the love between Aster, the daughter of a feudal lord, and Gudu, the court jester and family slave. Aster and Gudu’s relationship is the ultimate taboo, but supernatural elements presage a destiny more powerful than the rule of man. With Mezlekia’s enchanting storytelling and ironic humor, readers glimpse African deities that have long since weathered away and the social cleavages that have endured through time.“
This is a book by an Ethiopian writer set in Ethiopia.
I’m having a lot of fun finding new books that I would not have seen previously.