Demographic Challenge 2017: First Half

In the first half of 2017, I read 33 books, putting me on track to read 66 in total this year. Since I’ve challenged myself to read according to the demographics of my country, the United States, I’m checking in on how well I’m doing that. Read more about my challenge in the kick-off post.

Last quarter I told you that I didn’t expect to be meeting all my goals, but now, being halfway through the year, I’m taking a more serious look at what I need to do to succeed.


Photo by Slava Bowman, courtesy of Unsplash.

Note that asterisks (*) indicate books that count toward more than one goal.

Here’s the breakdown of categories where I’m accomplishing my goals:

These are the categories where I’m not meeting my goals:

  • Multiracial and Indigenous (3.1%): should have read 1, have read 0


I’m meeting – and even exceeding – some of my reading goals, but I’m not feeling too good about being four books behind on books in translation and three behind on Hispanic and Latinx authors. I’m in the middle of one book translated from French (Les Misérables) but I’ve still got 90% (AKA over 1000 pages) to go.

By reading some books written originally in Spanish by Central and South American authors (García Márquez, Borges, and more Allende are already on my list), I could double up on these two goals, but as a definite mood reader, that may be wishful thinking. In any case, I’ve got plenty of books on my TBR to choose from! (Too many? No such thing.)


Flight to Canada and a Father-Daughter Reading Challenge

One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in 2017 is Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada. It’s strange and difficult to describe – an unstuck in time postmodern parody of fugitive slave narratives, set partly in the 1860s and partly in the 1970s – and frankly, something I probably never would have picked up on my own.


Photo by Andrew Spencer, courtesy of Unsplash.

I read Flight to Slavery because of a reading challenge from my dad that’s been going on since I was in high school. (To put it in perspective, my ten-year reunion’s occurring later this year.) My dad has been recommending books that he thinks I should read – one author at a time, alphabetically by last name. The first was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; it was followed by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, et cetera, with the latest being Ishmael Reed.

Yes, it’s taken a long time and I’m not even that close to finishing yet. Years have gone by (especially in college) without crossing a book off the list. But every book I’ve read has been valuable. I’ve read some of my dad’s favorite books, words that have changed my worldview, and stories of America that resonate with my own family’s history.

Flight to Canada changed my worldview. One of the threads running through the story is how white authors and artists co-opt the stories of black people and other minorities for white audiences – a message relevant in the 19th century when the fugitive slave narrative took off, the 20th century when the book was written, and the 21st century when I read it.

People today are still told that they don’t possess the knowledge or perspective to truly understand their own experiences. So I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Flight to Canada: “She said that slavery was a state of mind, metaphysical. He told her to shut the fuck up.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Must-Read Themes

Top Ten Tuesday belongs to The Broke and the Bookish.


This week’s prompt asks us for anything that makes us likely to read a new-to-us book, whether that’s a recommendation from a trusted source, an overly-specific genre, or even certain key words. Here are mine!

  1. Mysteries set in interbellum England
  2. Ingenious women who carve out a unique place for themselves in an unfriendly world
  3. Fiction involving the Roman Catholic Church
  4. Histories of epidemics
  5. Survival stories, both fiction and nonfiction
  6. Historical fantasy and science fiction
  7. Gothic novels
  8. Dragons
  9. Adventure travel stories
  10. Reviews that call attention to a well-drawn setting or worldbuilding

So given those characteristics … any recs?

Demographic Challenge 2017: First Quarter

In the first quarter of 2017, I read 18 books, putting me on track to read 54 this year. Since I’ve challenged myself to read according to the demographics of my country, the United States, I’m checking in on how well I’m doing that. Read more about my challenge in the kick-off post.

I don’t expect that I’ll be meeting all my goals at this point – we’re only three months into 2017 after all – but this is a good time to see how things are going, what’s working, and what changes I need to make.


Photo by Slava Bowman, courtesy of Unsplash.

Note that asterisks (*) indicate books counting toward more than one goal.

Here’s the breakdown of categories where I’m succeeding in my goals:

These are the categories where I’m not meeting my goals:

  • Books in translation (20%): should have read 4, have read 1
  • Multiracial and Indigenous (3.1%): should have read 1, have read 0


First, I love how many good books are on this list. (Best book so far? Daughter of Fortune. The link goes to my review.) I hope this is a trend that continues!

I’m also excited to exceed my reading goals for black and African American authors and QUILTBAG authors. I’m not concerned about missing my goals (yet) for Hispanic and Latinx authors and multiracial and Indigenous authors, since I could catch up in two books and I’m ahead on other goals.

However, falling behind by 3 books in my translation goal? Color me concerned! I’ve got four books in translation checked out from the library now (and others hanging around my house), so the opportunity’s there … but as a quote from my current read says: “To plan is human, to implement, divine.”

Here goes nothing! (Drop any recommendations for books translated into English in the comments, please!)

Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune

My 2017 reading got off to a wonderful start in January, but my favorite book of the month was Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortuneallende(Although I’ve linked to it hear, avoid the synopsis on Goodreads – it gives the whole story away, which I would’ve rather discovered in the course of reading.)

To review Daughter of Fortune, I need to start by talking about The Awakening, by Kate Chopin.

Without revealing the entire plot of The Awakening, it focuses on a woman who is increasingly disillusioned and depressed by the limitations of being a proper lady at the turn of the century. It’s an important book and a good book, especially as an early feminist work.

I was lucky enough to read it under the guidance of a teacher who asked – why? Why doesn’t she escape? Run away? Go West? I don’t think that’s a common question asked about The Awakening.

But if you think it’s a good question, I think you’ll like Daughter of Fortune.

This is the story of Eliza, a young girl of mysterious origins growing up in Chile and discovering how to make her own way in the world. In addition to Chile, the story takes us to England, China, and the United States. While first love ignites the main action of the book, the importance of friends and family are really what make this book shine.

Nearly every character is fully realized. Though this seems to be a source of frustration for some readers (at least according to Goodreads reviews, where people, in so many words, asked “When are we getting back to the real story?”), delving into the backgrounds of the secondary characters was one of my favorite parts of the book. In that respect, it reminds me of my favorite book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Fans of well-realized historical fiction should not miss Daughter of Fortune.

Daughter of Fortune qualifies toward my reading in translation goal and reading Hispanic and Latinx authors goal within my 2017 reading challenge.


Photo by Eniko Polgar, courtesy of Unsplash.

February 2017 – Small Goals

Today I’m linking up with Nicole at writes like a girl to set five small goals for the month of February!

January went okay. Three out of five.

  1. Get rid of the white bookshelf in the study
  2. Clean out the study closet
    The study still needs some work, but there is less stuff in there overall, even if the bookshelf is still there.
  3. Read a book in translation
    Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune was the best book I read in January! I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction.
  4. Call my grandparents
  5. Start a new craft project
    I started crocheting a new cowl! I even took it to see Hidden Figures (also highly recommended) with my old friend from the physics department.



Photo by Mike Wilson, courtesy of Unsplash.


  1. Send Valentine’s Day cards to my old roommates
    This is a tradition of mine that I really love. Not just because I get to pull out my stationery and stamps, but because I also get to remind myself that love comes in many forms, not just romantic.
  2. Read two books by black or African American authors
    This contributes to my 2017 reading challenge. I’m currently reading Flight to Canada. I’m guessing the second book will be N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms, but I’ll see what I’m in the mood for.
  3. Call my grandparents
    As I said last month: “My closest set of grandparents lives 796 miles from me, so keeping up with long distance communication (in the form of calls and cards or letters) is vital.”
  4. Spend my $50 Kohl’s gift card
    Spending money! For the house or myself! Shouldn’t be that hard right? But this generous gift was a Christmas present to my husband and me, so I need to get both of us to get to a Kohl’s together.
  5. Hang up at least four things at home
    I have so many photos and pieces of art that need a place on the walls! There are at least four things that are already framed – I just need to play the “Just a little lower … Now a half inch to the right …” game and hammer or drill away.

2017 Demographics Challenge

In 2017, my reading challenge is to ensure that the authors of the books I read match the demographics of my country, the United States of America.

I started considering this challenge when I read only one book by a black author in 2016. I’m mortified to admit that, but it’s true. I only read one book by a Latino author, too. That’s also mortifying.

The election of our current president solidified my decision. The United States is a country of great diversity – people who speak different languages, have different abilities, and have different color skin. I want to appreciate that and advertise those books.

I think some people may write off my challenge as tokenism – I disagree. I’m shifting my focus, but I’m not reading anything I don’t want to read. I’ll read some books I own, discover some new authors, continue series I’ve started, and explore my library a lot. And I’m looking forward to it.

So, check out the preliminary list I made when I was drafting up my challenge: I’ve already departed from it just in January, but I never intended to stick to it exactly – I do NOT work well that way! It was a fun brainstorming exercise, though, and I’d like to share it.

The list below assumes that I’ll read 60 books this year – a little higher than in past years, but not significantly. I’ll be reading focusing on the following groups:

  • Authors from the QUILTBAG community
  • Authors of faiths other than Christianity
  • Authors with disabilities
  • Authors writing in languages other than English
  • Hispanic and Latinx authors
  • Black authors
  • Asian and Asian American authors
  • Indigenous and multiracial authors

Note that I’m not going to be including any focus on white authors – most of the authors I’ve read in my life have been white, so I don’t think I need to set any goals in that regard.

I’m not setting any gender-related goals either, but not for the same reason. I tend to read mostly women authors (48 of 59 books I read in 2015 and 40 out of 54 books I read in 2016 were written by women!), but since the world – in politics, in business, in my chosen field of work – remains male-dominated, I’m not too concerned about an excess of women in my reading life.

While meeting the demographic percentages would total 55 books (out of 60) if all taken separately, this list of possibilities has only 43 books. Why? Remember that intersectionality exists! Some authors belong to more than one of these groups: for example, Haruki Murakami is Japanese, so his works would be listed under the translated books heading and the Asian and Asian-American heading; Nicola Griffith is a lesbian with multiple sclerosis so Ammonite can be found in the QUILTBAG community category and the authors with a disability category. FYI, these authors’ books are shown in purple in the list.

Finally, remember that this was a brainstorming list, so I’d love to hear from you with any and all suggestions! Please share and comment. 🙂

QUILTBAG Community (approximately 10%? = 6)

  1. All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
  2. Ammonite, Nicola Griffith
  3. The City of Palaces, Michael Nava
  4. Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera
  5. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  6. The Professor’s House, Willa Cather


Religions other than Christianity (6% = 4)

  1. No god but God, Reza Aslan (Muslim)
  2. Moonglow, Michael Chabon (Jewish)
  3. Sit Like a Buddha, Lodro Rinzler (Buddhist)
  4. Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson (Muslim)


People with disabilities, such as sensory impairments, chronic illness, mobility impairments, mental impairments, and mental illnesses like anxiety or depression (19% = 11)

  1. Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges (blindness)
  2. Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (depression)
  3. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (post-polio)
  4. Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin (autism)
  5. Ammonite, Nicola Griffith (MS)
  6. The Outlaws of Sherwood, Robin McKinley (ME)
  7. The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O’Connor (lupus)
  8. Making Money, Terry Pratchett (Alzheimer’s)
  9. Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks (anxiety, face blindness, low vision)
  10. The Thirteen Clocks, James Thurber (low vision)
  11. The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, Julia Wertz (autoimmune disease)


Languages other than English (20% = 12)

  1. (Spanish) The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  2. (Spanish) The House of Mist, Maria Luisa Bombal
  3. (Spanish) Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges
  4. (Spanish) The General in His Labyrinth, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. (Dutch) In a Dark Wood Wandering, by Hella Haasse
  6. (French) Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  7. (Icelandic) Independent People, Haldor Laxness
  8. (Polish) Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
  9. (Chinese) The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu
  10. (Japanese) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami
  11. (Russian) Fairy Tales, Alexander Pushkin
  12. (Spanish) The Three Marias, Rachel de Queiroz


Hispanic and Latinx authors (16.3% = 10)

  1. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  2. The House of Mist, Maria Luisa Bombal
  3. Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges
  4. The Firefly Letters, by Margarita Engle
  5. The General in His Labyrinth, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  6. The City of Palaces, Michael Nava
  7. Midnight Taxi Tango, Daniel José Older
  8. The Three Marias, Rachel de Queiroz
  9. Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera
  10. The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea


Black authors (12.2% = 7)

  1. Wild Seed, Octavia Butler
  2. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  3. The Broken Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin
  4. Version Control, Dexter Palmer
  5. The Street, Ann Petry
  6. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  7. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead


Asian and Asian American authors (4.7% = 3)

  1. IQ, Joe Ide
  2. The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu
  3. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami 


Other authors – multiracial, Indigenous, and others (3.1% = 2)

  1. The Round House, Louise Erdrich
  2. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell