Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reading Diverse Authors - The One Month Challenge

Disclaimer: I am absolutely new at talking about race, so some of my language might not be the preferred terms. I absolutely welcome any corrections you have on how/what I say since I am clearly not an expert here!

I keep track of statistics about books I've read during the year (that aren't rereads or picture books, since the picture books I read are largely not ones I've chosen to begin with), and as I was updating my list, I noticed something.

(This is the largest I can get it in the post - if you click to open it in a new window you should be able to see it in a readable font)

 Take a look at the author's race (Column F). Are you seeing what I'm seeing?  Of the 30 different authors I've read in the year 2015, only two are definitively not white (race is complicated - I could be wrong about some of the authors who appear white.)  That's right - two.  6% of the authors I've read.

I was somehow surprised by this (you'd think I'd have learned by now that this is an entirely unsurprising fact), in part because I felt like I'd been reading books with more diverse characters. I then realized that my criteria for a book being diverse was simply to have at least ONE character who as not white, cis-, abled, or straight. And even then only half the books I've read include that, and I mean I'm talking even super background characters here. Of the books I've read that have diverse characters, only four series had a main character who fit that criteria (five if you count Magnus Bane as a main character, which I am inclined to do. Also I couldn't remember if Aria from Under the Never Sky was white or not). Surprisingly, all four (or five) of these authors are white (unless Aria is not white).  I'd like to give a big shout out to Michael Grant, because a huge portion of my diverse characters came from him.

Gone (Gone, #1)Hunger (Gone, #2)Lies (Gone, #3)
Plague (Gone, #4)Fear (Gone, #5)Light (Gone, #6)

Despite what these covers might imply, the main characters are a cast of all races, sexualities, and body shapes.  (There might not be a bi character so excluding that. And sadly no trans characters that I can remember, but it's still the most stunningly diverse cast of characters I've come across. And I read Tamora Pierce!).  And they are all ranges of good and evil and it's a TERRIFYING dystopia, and I basically just highly recommend you read this series.

As I was mulling all of this over, I stumbled across this article.  And it got me thinking...I already read primarily female authors (I think it's just part of the territory when it comes to YA books, which is AWESOME), but I've only made a priority of trying to find books with diverse characters. If I really want to help support these changes in the publishing industry, what I really need to do is seek out the authors of color.  I LOVE seeing any authors write diversity in books, but I think it's important to get more diverse voices in all genres of literature. (Although after going through my TBR pile for diverse authors, it looks like I may have been mistaken about them not existing in sci-fi/fantasy). So for the month of April, I'm challenging myself to read ONLY authors of color. Since I'm already not sticking to my no-buy no-library book ban, there isn't a good reason for me NOT to do this challenge. Here's some more thoughts behind this:

1. I'm choosing to focus solely on race this time around because
     A. I'd like to focus on only one thing because I'm going to get too distracted otherwise.
     B. Knowing an author's sexuality takes a bit more research in a lot of cases, and a good number of the               gay authors I know are white, cis, men, and that's where this all started.
     C. I don't actually know of any trans authors (at least ones who write fiction. I try my best when it comes           to nonfiction but....I know myself well enough to know that I'm more likely to just stop reading than to           read nonfiction. Sad, but true.)  But if you do definitely send them my way because regardless of this             challenge I WANT to read those authors!
2. I'm only doing this for a month instead of a year because I am TERRIBLE at challenges. I can't think of a single challenge I successfully did for more than a month.
3. As I was thinking upon this I realized it might be fun to open this up to do with other bloggers, but I of course have only had this revelation at the very, very end of the month so that doesn't leave much time.  But if anyone is interested, maybe we can do a twitter hashtag of sorts?  And there's a high chance that I'll do this again (or at least some form of diversity - maybe not only authors of color, it just depends).  It's also extremely likely another blogger is already doing this sort of challenge (if so let me know! I'd love to join in on something that requires 0 planning from me beyond what I've already planned!)
4. I could have waited until May to do above things, but...ok I'm only a little bit ashamed to say that Sarah J. Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses comes out in May, and well.  She's white. And I REALLY NEED THAT BOOK.
5. The only exceptions to this challenge will be the books I have left to review. So assuming my faith in my own ability to post said reviews is not misplaced I should have those up soon. Ish. At least two of them anyway...
6.  I'm hoping I will be posting lots of reviews this upcoming month. After all, what's the point in trying to support diverse authors if I don't use my blogging powers for good?  So here's hoping I'm going to feel review inspired since I rarely do that anymore.

I've already gone through my TBR-for-reals shelf on goodreads (aka the shelf that is more selective than my 850 book TBR shelf haha) and came up with a surprising number of authors who aren't white, so here are the books I'll be choosing from this month.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Good EnoughLegend (Legend, #1)Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)In the Shadow of the BanyanMargarettownThe Darkangel (Darkangel Trilogy, #1)Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie GarciaShatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)The Lost Girl
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)PointeLike Water for Chocolate
ThornReservation BluesGates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone #1)1Q84 (1Q84, #1-3)

Here's where you guys come in:  I would LOVE more recommendations.  Don't look at me like I'm crazy - I know I'm not going to get through 20 books in a month.  Or I'm probably not (but I'll definitely come close).  I'm not sure how many of these my library will have in AND I do better when I have a lot to choose from, because as I've said, if I'm feeling stuck with my book selections, I'm more likely to just not read than to power through. (Also the smaller likelihood I'll have to finish 1Q84 is greatly preferred).  So the more options I have, the better!  I prefer YA but I'm open to any audience recommendations.  I also prefer sci-fi fantasy, but I'm open to contemporary. Nonfiction is just likely not going to happen, but I may try some poetry while I'm at it!  I'm also specifically looking for more black and Native American authors since I think I have a grand total of 4 authors total between both of those races.  And you know what's even better about all these recommendations (I hope) I'll be getting?  Whatever I don't get to next month is just going to add from my percentage of diverse authors to choose from (because I only came up with 20 authors between two bookshelves with a grand total of over 200 books) when I go back to reading whatever I like!

So have at it! Let the recommendations flow!  (And I now only have a few days to finish Rae Carson's trilogy before it will be against the rules to do so. So excuse me while I go binge read that IMMEDIATELY.)


  1. Also, Louise Erditch is an American Indian author and probably totally in your wheelhouse. Tracks is probably her best known book.

    Are you considering non-American authors? Carlos Ruiz Zafon is pretty good (The Shadow of the Wind). Also Isabel Allende (Chilean I believe). And Michael Ondaatje (Sri-Lankan-Canadian):

    I'll let you know if I think of any more. :D

  2. I'm definitely down for non-American authors! I've got Colbert and Zafon on the list, but I'd forgotten about Isabel Allende! I haven't heard of the others though, I'm adding them to the list now. I'm heading to the library tomorrow to get as many of these titles as I can so I can be ready for reading options on Wednesday, so these recs are perfectly timed!

  3. Search for #diversiverse if you are on Twitter. There s a website too. It is a challenge in October for reading non-white sci fi authors. I have lots of suggestions but maybe start with The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It is sci fi set in future Brazil. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a YA verse novel. A Time To Dance (India) was good too. It is also in verse and is about an amputee. Sherman Alexie is Native American and writes YA.

  4. This sounds like an amazing idea. I'm inundated by review copies at the moment but I'll see if I can squeeze in a few more diverse books for April.

    *Looking at your 20 picks* I enjoyed Unwind, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Lost Girl. I want to read Akata Witch and Anna Dressed in Blood (I have a copy of the latter.) I'm pretty much a Haruki Murakami fan.

    I liked Legend by Marie Lu but I would have enjoyed it more if I was just a bit younger. However, I loved the first book in her YA SFF series - The Young Elites.

    I'd also recommend for YA SFF: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, What's Left of Me and The Ghost Bride.

    YA Historical: A Spy in the House (Agency 1).

    My favourite YA contemporary book so far: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

  5. That's awesome - I had no idea! Thank you for the resources :) I'm going to have so many books left over that I'm definitely going to (hopefully remember to) join in October! And doh! I totally forgot how badly I'd wanted to read The Summer Prince! I haven't had much luck with verse novels, but I don't think I've tried one since high school and I've heard really great things about Brown Girl Dreaming. Thanks for the recs!

  6. NOOOOO I accidentally hit something and deleted my comment *sobs* Ok let's see if I can recap...

    1. I could have SWORN I was following your blog on bloglovin, but it appears not. So I have remedied this!
    2. I was actually pretty surprised with the number of authors I came up with. I don't tend to think at all about who's writing things, so a lot of them I just didn't know weren't white, so it's a pleasant surprise in a lot of cases. I think it's going to be tricky for me though, because A LOT of them aren't YA authors.

    3. I have never heard of Cindy Pon, but these fantasy novels look like a lot of fun! Also I looooooove food in books! (Why couldn't this have translated to a love of cooking??)
    4. These lists are AWESOME. And super helpful! I'm going to have to browse them more in depth for my TBR list for sure. Thanks so much for the recommendations - these are going to be super helpful! (I've already gone to the library, but I'm definitely planning on making this a more regular thing I aim for)

  7. I've got a friend who's been begging me for a couple years to read Unwind haha! I'm actually kind of confused as to why I'd never heard of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms before trying to come up with books for this list! And...I GREATLY struggled with 1Q84. I don't usually come up with ranty posts, but it definitely inspired a fairly epic one. Involving boobs. I am DETERMINED to finish it though. I've heard his other works are more likely to be up my alley though (Kafka on the Shore is my brother's favourite novel hands down).

    I've heard that a lot about Marie Lu's Legend series actually. Luckily I've been reading a fair amount of MG books with the kids I nanny, so hopefully that will make the transition easier for me. I've heard REALLY great things about The Young Elites! I haven't heard of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf or What's Left of Me though! And whaaat a YA historical by a nonwhite author?? YESSSSSS!! I'm super excited about this one (especially after looking it up), and pleeeeaaase let the library have it! (They don't have The Ghost Bride :-/) I'm definitely going to be looking back at this list of books for next time haha.

  8. And hey, you have a whole section on diversity on your blog! I will totally be checking that out in days to come!

  9. I understand the struggle! I'm only 70 pages into 1Q84 - someday, I'll confront that monolith. Kafka on the Shore was my first Murakami book! I definitely enjoyed some of his shorter novels. The Agency is so much fun - still waiting for my library to pick up the sequels! I decided to make a page on the blog (which I'll organise at some point) to try to keep track of the diverse book recommendations.

  10. Glad I could help. I'm the same as you on your second point. Unless the name sounds really unusual, or it's one that I KNOW the ethnicity of, I usually just don't think about it much. I really ought to go through my to-read list and see what I come up with.

  11. I love that you've done that on your blog - I'll definitely be using it as a resource in the future!


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