One of my resolutions this year was to read more diversely — meaning to read more books by authors of color and/or also featuring characters of color as well as LGBT books. I’ve never been particularly conscious of what I am picking up — like I don’t pick or dismiss a book based on anything like that — but I want to be more conscious because unfortunately these books don’t always get as much attention as they deserve.
It’s hard, for me at least, to tell whether or not the publishers influence what is popular and the trends or if we, as readers, do. Either way, right now there is a lack of diversity and that needs to change. I was looking at my ARC shelf of what’s coming out this spring and summer and honestly? Not much diversity there. (I did just read & LOVE Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before). When I see what is really being pushed and promoted each season, there are only ever a few books by authors of color or featuring characters of color and maybe a handful more LGBT characters. I’ve never really consciously thought about it until recently. I’m 100% certain that the only people reading are not white people or straight people. I’m pretty sure it’s not that there isn’t anyone out there writing diverse characters. So why the lack of diversity? As a reader, I don’t want to JUST read about characters that are like me. I mean, yes, of course I DO want to see myself and relate but that is not the ONLY thing I want to read about. I love learning about lives I will never live, experiences I will never have, cultures I don’t know anything about.
As one of my favorite authors, Trish Doller, said last night on Twitter, “We need diverse books because everyone should see themselves reflected in the pages of books.” And that’s the thing…as a straight white female..I have tons of books to choose from where I will see myself reflected. Some people don’t have the luxury to easily find themselves the reflected in books when they go to the bookstore. I could play eeny meeny miney mo at the bookstore in the YA section and I’d have a good chance of landing upon someone that looks like me. It’s not that I think readers of every color can’t relate to a main character of a different race or orientation — quite the opposite — but I do feel as though every reader should feel they are being spoken for..and that they HAVE the option of a good selection of books where they are reflected.
Recently, an event (BookCon) that is concurrent to the Book Expo, that I’m going to (I talked about that here), has been called out for their lack of diversity on their panels. Read: all white males. I’m not going to elaborate on that too much but you can read more about it here. The book world has been talking quite a lot about it and rightly so — especially in light of the kind of avoidance Book Con has been doing regarding the subject. There’s been a great Twitter hashtag going on (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) that I highly recommend checking out. Lots of great thoughts!
And here’s the thing, I’m not saying STOP READING WHITE AUTHORS AND MALES and what not. No way! Dear God no! And I’m not saying, “Shame on you if you don’t read more diversely.” I know that I personally pick up books based on what they are about — not who they are written by or what kinds of characters they feature. I will read anything if I’m interested in it and my interests are VERY wide. But I’m at a place right now where I’m really thinking about whether we as readers choose what the publishers put out there/promote/make trends or if they are the ones telling us what to read. And to be honest? I don’t want to just be following what is being pushed at me especially if it’s not what readers want or if it caters to only certain people. So, as a reader, I want to be more conscious especially in light of something like the BookCon debacle, because it’s just a reflection of a greater problem, and this has made me only want to succeed in this resolution even more.
So, here’s where you come in! There’s been an abundance of lists that have cropped up for people looking for books with more diversity and YAY! But I love coming to you guys for recommendations because you know my tastes and I trust your recommendations so I can find something that is a good fit for me! So I would love if you could leave me recommendations for books featuring characters of color (I do read quite a few LGBT books and have many on my shelves so I don’t need quite so many recs) or by authors that are persons of color that you’ve really enjoyed/think i would like! I would also love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic!