A 2020 Update: Black Lives Matter, and BIPOC book resources

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!

Book Lists:

Classics, General Lists and Non-Fiction about Race

Poetry

Children’s Books

Young Adult

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Mysteries/Thrillers

Romance

Historical Fiction

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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s