Reading

How To Read More Diversely

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?

6 Comments

  • vendija723

    This is such a helpful post–and so tactfully written.

    I struggle with long-term challenges, but I have found I can keep focused for shorter bursts of time. I’m thinking that for October’s 24 hour read-a-thon, I could choose at least 50% authors of color. I challenged myself to that ratio for the month of May, and it was both easy and enjoyable, but as soon as I stopped paying careful attention, the majority of my books were by white authors again.

    I read to get fully immersed in the world of the book–to have a complete mental and emotional connection to what is going on. My next priority when reading is to find books that will entice my students into the community of readers. Many times books that do the first job don’t do the second job, since my reading (and life) experience is very different from my students’. For example, I love fantasy and mystery, but my students tend to gravitate towards realistic fiction, because they don’t have the background schema or the patience to wait for world building in unfamiliar settings. Reading “around the world” would benefit me greatly, but perhaps be over my students’ head. The same is NOT true for reading non-white authors, so that’s definitely where I need to focus my intentional reading choices.

    Thanks for the reminders and suggestions!

  • pavedwithbooks

    I haven’t been really good at paying attention to the author when I pick books, but I think it’s time to make a point to read more diversely. I’ve always liked the books that you mention on your blog, and thank you for sharing these tips!

  • victoriansoul

    I always try to find interesting looking books- and to me, interesting looking means having a different perspective than mine or being set in a far different place than I live in. Despite having lived in the least diverse city in the U.S., I still managed to find a boatload of books by people from different places and diverse backgrounds in the thrift store. Where I live now doesn’t have that selection, but as long as you pay attention to consistent recommendations from a variety of bloggers, you should be able to find books in your genres, as you said.
    ~Litha Nelle

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