This year has been a difficult one for a lot of people. And the past few weeks have given me a lot to think about. I honestly don’t really think of myself as someone who has a platform from which to speak. But that is what this blog is. I have readers, which also means I have a way of making a difference. And I am definitely going to try.
Now, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I have always tried to promote diverse books. I have been reevaluating my blog and archiving older posts so I can have a bit of a fresh start. And some of my earliest posts were about the importance of diversity in books. As a white woman, I love using books to educate myself about other experiences. It has been life-changing in how open and empathetic that has made me. I think it’s something everyone should do. I feel like I’ve been pretty vocal about that here on this blog in the past. But I can do better, both as a blogger and as a reader.
This year, I decided to issue myself the challenge to read at least one book by an author of color for every book I read by a white author. (I did a whole post about it – which is now archived.) I track my reading with a spreadsheet (yes, I’m that much of a nerd) and literally added a page to track this. And it has not been going well. I’ve read half as many authors of color this year as white authors. Which sounds like a fail. Clearly, I need to do a lot better.
This project has highlighted for me just how underrepresented authors of color, especially black authors, are in publishing. And that is not okay. As readers, we can actually do something about this by reading and sharing and purchasing books by authors of color. This does not mean we shouldn’t support white authors. But it does mean we should understand that we have the power to create demand for more books by authors of color. If we start buying and reading more of them, maybe publishers will wake up and realize there is a market for those books. And, because they are already underrepresented, we have to consciously do so.
So, I will be continuing this project. And I hope that when 2020 is over, my list will be a lot more equal. But that means I have to be more aware of what books I’m reading. And what books I’m recommending to other people. As readers, we have power. I intend to be more aware of how I use that power.
Supporting Underrepresented Authors
Like I mentioned, readers have the power to create demand for more books by authors of color (especially black authors) simply by buying them. So I plan on being more conscious about which books I add to my library. Bookshelves full of books truly bring me joy. But lately, I’ve been looking at them and trying to find books by black authors. And there just aren’t really that many. That’s something I need to fix, and something I will be considering in my book shopping going forward.
We should also be more aware of who we are supporting when we buy books. So many times, I have inadvertently supported an author who I later found out has said harmful things. And that’s on me. Because while I wasn’t intentionally supporting their racism or homophobia or transphobia, I still kind of was. So the change I will be making is to be more aware of who exactly I’m supporting when I put my money into books.
Smarter Book Buying
That also goes for bookstores. I recently decided to no longer shop at Book Outlet, because I do not agree with comments they made in response to why they had only selected one black Vlogger Friend (in five years). I am also considering cancelling my Book of the Month subscription. They have come up with a plan to fix the fact that they mostly feature white authors. While it’s still not quite satisfying, I’m willing to give them a chance. However, if I feel like they are not actually making changes in the coming months, I will no longer be giving them my money.
I am also planning to support black-owned bookstores or indie bookstores when I do buy books. It might be more expensive than Amazon, but I know it will definitely make me feel better about myself and where my money is going. Click here for a list of black-owned bookstores you can shop from online. For me, this also goes for everything I purchase. I want to be more conscious of the kind of people and businesses I support when shopping for anything. I’m privileged enough to be able to afford a few more dollars for most things, and if it means supporting someone who needs or deserves it more than a big business, I can. That needs to be a choice I make more often.
Using This Blog to Better Celebrate Diversity
This blog still kind of feels like I’m writing to my friends, so I don’t often think about the fact that I have an online platform. But I do. And I need to use that more wisely. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I am a huge believer in reading diverse books. And, while I talk about it a lot, I need to be better about promoting those books. I have been actively trying this year, but I’m still not doing quite as well as I’d like to. It’s a work in progress, and I want to keep working.
Moving forward, I would really like to start featuring more authors of color and more diverse books, especially in promoting new releases. I’m excited about the fact that two of my three upcoming book reviews feature books by authors of color. The first is It is Wood, It is Stone, a debut novel by a Brazilian-American author, Gabriella Burnham. The other is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of one of my favorite books of last year, Gods of Jade and Shadow. I am very excited to read both and share them with you. But that also made me realize just how many of the book reviews I do are of books by white authors. So that’s definitely something I would like to work on going forward.
I really want this blog to be a place where all authors are celebrated equally. And underprivileged authors especially are given the spotlight on a regular basis. Am I going to stop talking about Neil Gaiman and V. E. Schwab? Probably never. But I should also be talking about Octavia Butler and Yaa Gyasi and Mohsin Hamid and Nnedi Okorafor and Roxane Gay and Liu Cixin. All authors that I’ve read and loved and need to talk about more.
Being a Better Human
I am still learning. I will always be learning. The least I can do is give my voice to those who deserve to be heard (probably more than I do). This isn’t a new problem. This is something I’ve been aware of for a while, and have been trying to work on for a while. The current protests were not a wake-up call for me. But they did force me to take a harder look at what I can be doing differently, what I can be doing better. This applies both to just being a person out in the world (or inside my house, behind a computer) and being a blogger.
Basically, I want to use my voice and my money for good. I want to continue to educate myself. And I want to use this platform to celebrate diverse authors and books more often. I’m currently reevaluating my planned upcoming posts and making sure they better suit these goals.
More to Read
In case you missed it, check out my post from last week about Why Being Anti-Racist is So Important (which includes a great reading list). You can also check out the post I put out earlier in the year about My Most Anticipated 2020 Releases by Black Authors – I am still excited to read all of these. I will be publishing a few reading lists of black authors in the next week or two – both my favorites and my own reading list.
Feel free to let me know what you want to see from me on this blog, especially in regards to diversity. You might know I’m working on a few “secret TBR” projects this year (like when I read retellings of my favorite Shakespeare plays), and would love to come up with ways to make those more inclusive. So if you have ideas, please let me know!
Thanks for reading! I hope this inspired you to maybe take a closer look at what you’re reading and who you’re supporting. I understand that universal change is needed, but let’s make sure the publishing industry gets the wake up call it so desperately needs.
Black voices and stories deserve to be heard.