Lots of people took my challenge, looked over their reading for the year, & are truly surprised at how WHITE their reading is accidentally.
— Amanda Nelson (@ImAmandaNelson) October 22, 2014
Curious, I watched Nelson’s video. Her point, in a nutshell: “If you’re not paying attention and doing it on purpose — reading diversely on purpose — what you’re going to do is read mostly white people.” Due to a LOT of different factors, the majority of books that people read are by white authors (and mostly white male authors, at that). It’s not really through any fault of their own, but unless people consciously pay attention to the diversity of their reading list, that’s just the way the chips are gonna fall.
To demonstrate this, Nelson shared the numbers from her own reading logs, both before and after she started paying attention to reading diversely.
- In 2012, Nelson read 92 books — 4 were by “people who were not white,” so 4.3%.
- In 2013, her percentage was 3.6%.
- So far in 2014 (after she started paying attention to reading diversely), 15 out of 91 books have been written by people of color, putting her percentage at 16.4%.
So I was curious. I took a look at my Goodreads account and studied the authors from the past couple years. (Note: I only started using Goodreads in 2013, and don’t have a log of my reading prior to that.)
- In 2013, I read 23 books. 7 were by women authors, putting that percentage at 30% (admittedly, 3 of the 7 were Margaret Atwood). 1 was written by a person of color (Haruki Murakami), so 4.3%.
- So far in 2014, I’ve read 21 books. 10 were by women (47.6%), and 1 has been by a person of color (Sherman Alexie — 4.7%).
Ouch. I assumed my percentages wouldn’t be great, but interesting to note — even though Nelson reads a LOT more books than me, our percentages are similar. Which goes to prove what she’s saying — if you’re not paying attention, you aren’t reading diversely. My percentage of women writers is pretty damn good. And you know why? A couple years ago, I made the conscious decision to start reading more books by women authors. If I made the same decision regarding ethnic diversity, how much better could I make those percentages?
(I know some readers at this point are asking, why does it matter? Why should I be concerned at all by the ethnicity of a writer? To which I would say — watch Nelson’s video. She more eloquently explains all of this than I ever could. Why do I personally care to make my reading more diverse? Because it’s a big, big world, with a lot of people, and a lot of different experiences. I feel more educated, more aware, if I get even a snippet of that diverse experience.)
I’ve had Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison on my reading list for a while — think I’ll boost them up. Any others you’d recommend? How do you ensure that you’re reading diversely — or do you decide to at all?