When I started the “Reading Diversely” book project in 2017, I was frustrated and I was aware that the “mainstream” books that received marketing money and were likely to be recommended and receive awards most often were dominated by white men. I wasn’t angry. Yet.
Over the course of that year, I fell back in love with reading, but I also became increasingly aware that the problem was so much broader and so much more pervasive than I had realized. I was shocked by the number of people who I knew KNOW better than to say “I don’t see color” but still felt comfortable saying things like “I just read books I like” or “I would read more authors of color/female authors if they wrote books I was interested in”.
This casually dismisses the structural racism (and sexism to some extent) inherent in an industry that has far fewer people of color employed as editors, book buyers, book influencers and book reviewers. Even white women, who are well represented in some sections of the book industry, struggle to break through to the circles of “elite literature” like the Pulitzer Prize, and are more likely to have their books relegated to “women’s fiction”.
So in the end, I became angry. Even though I can look back on my experience and see the ways my first blog made mistakes (I had way too many white women in the list of books I read, and I don’t think I branched out to people of color in genre writing as much as I should have), I can still say that that experience changed how I think about books and reading in a way that still impacts me today.
I now believe more strongly than ever that the normalization of whiteness and white maleness specifically means we have to WORK to decentralize white perspectives from our reading lives (Toni Morrison says it best, so just go watch this). However, I also believe you can do this without changing your reading life as much as you think – small shifts are OK too.
The biggest thing you can do is pay attention to who spent the time writing what you read and where you are purchasing these books. Of course authors matter. They spend YEARS writing the book in your hands, and their perspective and beliefs are inherent to the text. But most importantly, think about the industry and think about where your dollars are going.
- If money is an issue, look at Better World Books instead of Amazon
- Be conscious about where your book dollars go in general – if money is limited, opt for books by authors of color, debut authors and books from independent publishers.
- Use your library to get books by white authors, especially ones published by the Big 5 publishing companies.
- Buy books by people of color (and people you know) from independent and BIPOC-owned booksellers (many of these stores can ship books, so living in a rural area is no excuse), where the authors get a larger cut of the money
- If you must buy books by problematic authors (like Sherman Alexie or J.K. Rowling), buy them used so the money goes to the bookstore and not to the author
I am now blogging over at Fact and Fable (if you enjoyed my blog a few years ago, please consider subscribing to the new blog!), and I encourage you all to take a look at my bookshelf here on this page as a jumping off point for expanding your own reading. However, please also take a look at some of the resources below because there is so much you can do, even if you don’t pick up all these books!
Classics, General Lists and Non-Fiction about Race
- An Anti-Racist Reading List: 20 Highly Rated Nonfiction Books by Black Authors
- 100 Best Books by Black Female Authors 1850-Present
- The QBR 100 Essential Black Books
- 100 Must Read Classics by People of Color
- 23 books by authors of colour you have to read
- 50 Must-Read Contemporary Memoirs by Writers of Color
- Poetry by Women of Color
- 10 Must Read Modern Poets of Color
- 5 Female Poets of Color Who Will Change Your Life
- 20 Black Poets You Should Know (and Love)
- Coretta Scott King Award Winning Children’s Books
- Books and Resources to Help You Raise Anti-Racist Children
- 16 anti-racist books to read to young kids
- 18 YA Books By POC Writers That You Need To Read
- 13 Extraordinary YA Novels by Women of Color
- 9 YA Books With POC Characters
- 20 Must-Read Young Adult Novels By Women of Color
Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Afro-futurism: A Brief History and 5 Books to Get You Started
- 13 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books By POC That Could Be The Next ‘Game Of Thrones’
- 11 Amazing Science Fiction Books by Black Authors
- 20 Must-Read African Fantasy Novels
- 6 Debut Fantasy Novels Starring Black Women
- Five Indigenous Speculative Fiction Authors You Should Be Reading
- Diverse Mysteries List: Because People of Color Solve Mysteries Too
- Suspense, Mystery and Thriller Must-Read Books by Women Writers of Color to Read in 2020
- The Black Mystery Authors Directory
- Read Harder 2018 Suggestion List: A Mystery by a Person of Color or LGBTQ+ Author
- 30 Romance Authors of Color You Should Be Reading
- Interracial Romance with Non-White Love Interest
- #ReadPOC: List of Historical Fiction by Authors of Color
- 30 Realistic & Historical Fiction Books with Black Main Characters
- Recommended historical fiction, memoirs, and mysteries by people of color
BIPOC Book Influencers to Follow:
For blogs, you can start here: 20 Book Bloggers of Color to Follow in 2020
For Instagram, you can start here: 15 Black Bookstagrammers You Should Follow On Instagram
I also love following Books and Beans, by the Palestinian American author of A Woman is No Man, Etaf Rum
This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to decentralize the white experience from your reading life, but I hope it helps! Feel free to recommend lists and resources that I missed in the comments, and I hope this helps you find a good read.