If you’ve spent any time on the bookternet this year, you’ve probably heard about We Need Diverse Books, a campaign not just to get more diverse authors writing more diverse books but to get the big fancy publishers to put their diverse readers’ dollars behind publishing and advertising and making these books a success. This is an awesome campaign and a really really good idea because, let’s face it, I read a lot of books by white people.
That’s not because I don’t want to read diverse books. It’s because I’m lazy and reluctant to try new things. I look through catalogs of upcoming books and I pick out the books that already sound awesome to me. Maybe they have time travel or unreliable narrators or a split narrative where one part starts at the end and the other at the beginning. SOLD. And maybe they’re written by diverse authors? I don’t know, because I stopped at “post-apocalyptic super flu story with strong female lead and no damn romance subplot”.
Which would be fine, as it goes, because then I’m reading stories that I like and sometimes they’re written by Colson Whitehead or Liu Zhenyun or Roxane Gay and then I’m supporting diverse authors.
But I don’t do it on purpose, and sometimes I don’t do it on purpose, as when I thought Salvage the Bones sounded really interesting and then I found out it was destined for the “African American” section of the library, which is primarily where “urban” romances live, and I was like, well, maybe I won’t read that. Or like when I see posts on sites like Book Riot listing a million diverse books and I’m like, oh god there are too many books let me just read what’s already in my pile and maybe someday later one of them will magically show up?
Sometimes that works, like when my book clubs picked Salvage the Bones or And the Mountains Echoed or The Good Lord Bird, the latter two of which I would never have read without my book club’s prodding. But mostly that’s a losing proposition.
A few years back I did a couple rounds of the Orbis Terrarum challenge, which required me to read outside of my own country. It was surprisingly difficult in terms of my regular pile of books and ended up with a lot of Anglophone countries filling in the gaps. But I would have had to give up entirely without the help of you guys and your recommendations, so, hey, spirit of Christmas and all that, let’s do it again?
If you know of any great works by great authors who can fill in my completely metaphorical Diverse Authors bingo card and with luck lead to me reading even more diverse authors, leave them in the comments so that I can have a manageable list of good books to read that I have faith will be awesome, because you guys are awesome.
In return, I promise I will read at least one of these books every month during 2015 so that you, too, can get a little more diversity in your reading life. Let’s go!