Author Natalia Sylvester‘s recent post about the lack of diversity in end-of-year book lists has inspired me. She asks readers to think about the books they’ve read in 2014 and challenges them to fill the diversity gaps they see with books they plan to read in 2015. That sent me running to Goodreads to check out the diversity of my recent reads. Before I get to my findings, though, let me just say a few (dozen) words about my take on diversity.
What I Mean by “Diversity”
It’s a loaded word, one that gets thrown around a lot and sometimes means different things to different people. When I think of diversity in the simplest terms, I think about lives and experiences that are unlike my own and also about variety.
When it comes to books, that’s a bit too simplistic, because it’s arguable that most books present lives that are in some way unlike my own. I could say crime novels are “diverse” books, even when the main characters are of the mainstream/dominant culture, because, well I don’t investigate crime. Or that any book by a male author — even if the author is white, middle class, belongs to the mainstream culture, and has no physical or mental disabilities — I read constitutes diversity, because I’m a woman.
But, those are cop outs.
So, let’s try this again: When I say “diversity”, I’m talking about lives and experiences that I could never have and that do not get well-represented in the mainstream or majority. I’m talking about experiences of the minority and/or the marginalized (whether due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or mental/physical disabilities). And different voices.
Diversity in my 2014 Reads:
- 4 books by persons of color (POC) living in the US
- 2 books of poetry by African American women
- 1 book of poetry by a Latino (male) poet
- 1 book of essays detailing incidents of racial profiling experienced by African American men
- 1 book about autism from the perspective of a 13 year-old Japanese boy who has the disorder (though, there are some skeptics who believe the book, in its English-language form might have been more than just “translated” by David Mitchell).
- 1 book by an LGBT author, which featured a biracial character and a character with a prosthetic leg (all experiences different from my own, in the minority, though none of them were really explored as it was a plot-driven crime novel).
That brings me to 6 “diverse”books in 2014. More or less. Give or take.
Why I Need to Read More Diverse Books
As a writer, I think it’s important to know about and have some understanding of experiences beyond my own. I also think it’s an important thing to do as a human being attempting to better connect with the world and be a better member of the human race. Especially given how ethnic/cultural differences are sometimes used divisively, as justifications to harm and subjugate groups of people. Also, I like being exposed to diverse perspectives; they enrich life.
- Read more from American minority/POC voices (especially more Latino, Native American and Asian voices)
- Read more from LGBTQ voices
- Read more about the experiences of living with mental and/or physical disorders and illnesses.
- Read more from voices outside the US