I like challenging myself in my reading. And, every year, I seem to come up with a new way to do it. About four years ago, I decided I wanted to read one nonfiction book a month, which has completely changed my reading habits (I read over 25% nonfiction last year). Then I decided to read all of Shakespeare before I turned 30 (which I did!). Last year, I completed four different reading challenges. And, since last year was kind of insane, I thought I was going to take it easy this year and just focus on reading the things I want to read.
But then I saw something on Instagram that made me think. It was a challenge to read one book by an author of color for every book you read by a white author. Which is kind of brilliant. Because I have been working on trying to read more diverse books, and it’s kind of made me realize just how many white authors I pick up. My entire 2020 Reading List? All white (ok, maybe Homer counts as a person of color). And I didn’t even realize it. They’re just books I want to read this year.
And, while I still do want to read the books on my reading list, I realized that I need to do better. So, this year, I am challenging myself to read the same number of books by authors of color as those by white authors. I want to strive toward having that group as diverse as possible, too. I have already read books by two African-American authors and a Chinese-Indonesian author. Next to the FIVE books I’ve read by white authors.
Which is when I realized just how difficult this challenge was actually going to be. Authors of color are hugely underrepresented in the publishing world. And I think one of my goals in this challenge was to draw more awareness to that fact, both to myself and to all of you. I have nothing against white authors, but I also acknowledge the fact that they often have an easier time getting published than authors of color or get more publicity for their books. And that’s not okay.
I do read a lot of books by authors of color, so it’s not like that’s something I don’t naturally gravitate towards. But it was kind of disheartening to feel like I’d read a lot last year and put my reading stats together to realize how small that percentage of my overall reading really was.
So, I need to make some changes. Obviously, I need to be more deliberate in choosing books by authors of color (I just read Kindred by Octavia Butler for this exact reason, and I have no idea why I’d never read any of her books before now because it was so good!). I went through my TBR and made a list of the books by authors of color that I can choose from. So when I don’t know what to read next, I can reference that list, and hopefully that’ll be a good start.
I will also be requesting fewer ARCs this year. I already have a few left for 2020, but, looking at them, I realized every single one of them is by a white author. Don’t get me wrong, I still really want to read them, but I also want to give more attention to authors of color. So, as of now, I will only be requesting ARCs by authors of color (unless it’s a book I’m highly anticipating already, then I’m giving myself a pass). Since I cut down my book reviews to once a week this year, having ARCs only by white authors means I’m probably not reviewing any books by authors of color, and I want to do better than that.
And, because I am a huge nerd, I even made a spreadsheet. Two columns, one for books by white authors, the other for books by people of color. My goal is to have both of those columns be (at least) equal by the end of the year. I feel like it’s a good way to visualize how well I’m doing (which isn’t great so far, but I’m working on it).
While I think this is definitely going to be a challenge, I also think it’ll be worth it. I’m excited to explore some new books and new authors this year. And I think a side effect of this challenge will be that I read a lot more diverse books this year overall. Because I’m not counting characters in this challenge – authors only – and the vast majority of LGBT+ books or authors I read every year won’t count, either. But that’s a good thing because I feel like it’ll make my reading more diverse than ever AND the point of this is to give authors of color the love they deserve.
I’d love for you to join me in this challenge for 2020! Let me know if you’re going to participate or reexamine your reading goals for the year – it doesn’t have to be a 50/50 ratio, choose whatever fits your reading habits and gets you reading more authors of color than you did last year – and if you’re interested in seeing relevant blog posts (recommendations, reading lists, etc.).
I think it’s going to be a great reading year, and I think this challenge is definitely going to help!
What’s your favorite book written by an author of color?