Last week I was looking at my friend Jenny’s 2014 Reading Wrap-up and not only was I impressed with her graphs, I realized a terrible fact: I think most of the books I read last year were by white people. Like definitely most of them. Probably about half of them were ladies (I did count this up but it’s on my work computer) but what were most of those ladies? White. Oh blerg. I shouldn’t have been so surprised but I kind of was. I thought, “No! I read books by all sorts of people and featuring all sorts: different races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, etc!” Or at least I try to. I don’t think that I really did a great job of it, so this year I’m going to do better.
This is sort of a hard challenge for me to issue to myself, not because it’s hard to find books by diverse authors about diverse lives. (Though, it is true that publishing is dominated by white dudes…) The challenge for me is not to be all Monica Geller about it.* I don’t want this to be a competition of who can read the most diverse books. It’s not about checking off boxes, it’s about my emotional education about the wider world around me. I need to remember that.
To be honest, it’s also hard for me to remember this even when I’m doing the “Goodreads Challenge.” It’s hard for me not to set insane reading goals in January so in December I can be all, “I read 8,329 books this year. What did you do, LOSER?!”
At Book Riot – one of my favorite book-ish sites along with it’s sister comics site, Panels – Jessica Pryde wrote about how the Goodreads challenge made her into a crazy obsessive reader. She says, “I was reading every chance I got. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to catch up.” It’s easy to get that way and I don’t really need to. I already read a lot and people know that I read a lot. I’m a librarian and I read a lot of YA books for my job and because I like them. I don’t need to impress anyone; I should focus more on reading what I want to read.
So I didn’t read that many books by diverse authors last year and I’m a bit embarrassed. This year I’m going to be better. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to read the last Raven Boys book and probably re-read the whole series because I will. I love me some Raven Boys.
But I am going to try to branch out more and fill in some gaps in my reading life. For example, I’ve never read any Toni Morrison. She has a new book coming out and I’ve never read anything by her! It reminds me that I need to take the title of this blog post by Flavia Dzodan – My Feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit! – and use it for my personal motto. Being a feminist means that there are a lot of things I think I should care about: the “regular” women’s issues of equality, representation, sexual violence, objectification, and many other things. But it also means that I care about racism, the voices of minorities, exploited workers, and LGBTQ issues and people. This is what it means to be a feminist and to be intersectional, which to me and to Flavia, is the only way to be.
Admittedly, this is a lot to care about and I can’t address it fully all of the time. I will make mistakes and overlook books and voices that are important. But I promise to listen, acknowledge my shortcomings, and try again the next day.
So. What about you all? Do you have any reading goals for this year? If not, I challenge you to read widely and learn about people different from yourself!
*Apologies, the entire series of Friends is on Netflix now and I forgot that I’m an annoying boring person who really like Friends.
2 thoughts on “Reading more widely in 2015”
Gosh, Anna, I loved this post! I hear ya on the Goodreads challenge. This is the first year I decided to do it, only because I seem to have no goals in my life at all and that just seemed sad. Being on the Maine Readers’ Choice Award committee, I have to read a lot, too, and it has certainly made me read a widely diverse range of fiction and authors. I’m currently reading An Untamed State about a Haitian woman who is kidnapped and her father refuses to pay the ransom. Reading about other cultures in today’s world, even fictionalized, has opened my eyes…wide!
An Untamed State is on my to-read list, too! I really like Roxane Gay’s essays; she’s so funny and wise. I really want her to be my friend/life coach!