Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Need Diverse Books

While I'd like to think that I make an effort to read diverse authors, choosing diverse books for myself and my children - the truth is I often read books that are recommended to me; the ones that win awards or that everyone else seems to be reading.  And, often times, as a result of not being mindful about what I'm choosing, I am in fact choosing the more mainstream straight white male authors. This is not to say that many of these books aren't worth reading (like anything, some are good and some are not), but I think I could do more to promote women, people of color, and LGBTQ authors in publishing.  So, to that end, I have been reading more about the We Need Diverse Books movement.

Part of the Mission Statement of We Need Diverse Books reads:
  • We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

The movement focuses mostly on Children's Books - and doesn't only encourage the reading of diverse authors, but just books featuring diverse characters.  On the adult level, many people have proposed only reading diverse authors for an entire year.  One person's experience doing that was written about here, and another one here.  This proposal has created some controversy - of course, there are diverse authors out here who write terrible books, and there are white male authors out there who write about female characters or people of color - there are simply many who see the whole idea as a type of reverse-racism.  Some of the purpose in seeking out diverse authors (I think) is to also support their lack of inclusion in the general publishing world.  Some of those ideas (and more) are represented in the referenced article, with this:
  • The “We Need Diverse Books” campaign has kicked off 2015 asking followers to pledge to read books that highlight diversity in a myriad of aspects (so not just people of colour, but looking at various inclusivity issues such as disability and gender and sexuality) with the hashtag #WNDBResolution.
Since kicking around this idea in my head for the past couple weeks, I have made exceptions for "books by white authors already on my night stand" or "books by white authors that I've been in the queue for at the library."  But, maybe I need to stop doing that.  I'm also not sure where "gender diversity" falls in this endeavor.  I read a lot of women authors, but probably the majority are white (I don't know, I haven't been paying attention which is kind of the point).  All this to say that I'm thinking about this and reading a lot about it, and I'm ready to dive in - and at least start keeping track better of what I'm reading on this front instead of just reading whatever gets recommended or I see people reading on the bus.  Just looking at the We Need Diverse Books website and their list of resources for places to find diverse books is really inspiring - often when looking for books for my kids I just flip through the shelves at the library and see what catches my eye.  I can and will still do that, but this is a fantastic (in my mind) resource for just being more mindful about the breadth of what is out there.

I know that even raising this as a possible way to make reading choices will offend people - and I've noticed that every time I post something on the What the Wild Things Read Facebook page about emphasizing diversity in reading or my family's exploration of non-mainstream ideas or holidays, I tend to lose a "like" or two on my page.  Of course, that's fine.  The purpose of the blog is to share what my family is doing - for better or worse.  I don't seek to offend, and I welcome thoughts about all these issues (as long as the comments and discussions are respectful), but I doubt any of them will stop me from consistently trying to seek out more, new, and different books and authors with the goal of expanding my world view, as well as that of my children.

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