Considering Diversity

In 2015, I set several reading goals, including my Diverse Speculative Fiction Challenge:

Read at least 6 books by diverse authors or with diverse protagonists. The majority of the books must be by diverse authors. The gender split of the authors should be within 1 of being even (i.e. out of 6 books, no more than 4 may be written by authors of the same gender). At least three kinds of diversity (for example: works in translation, characters or authors of a different race or ethnicity, characters or authors with a disability, characters or authors that are part of the QUILTBAG communities) should be represented.

Since starting the challenge, I’ve read articles, blogs, and comments discussing diverse books and monitoring the diversity of our reading. Most readers and reviewers favor publishing and reading authors and characters of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, races, ethnicities, heritages, and nationalities. I support it too.

Everyone who has a story needs to be able to tell it. And beyond that fundamental human right, I want storytellers, no matter their background, to be able to publish and sell their stories. I want them to be able to make a living – and beyond that, I’m selfish.

I’m a traveler at heart who can’t always be on the road, so I want books that represent and reflect our world and change the way I think about it. The stories of authors with backgrounds different from mine (the middle-class suburban upbringing of a straight cisgender white woman) are a great way to do that.

Unfortunately, I don’t live up to that ideal. In 2014, I read one book by a black woman and one book in translation; the other 52 were by white English-speaking authors.

So here’s where the debate truly starts – I set my Diverse Speculative Fiction Challenge.

Besides being a traveler at heart, I’m a scientist at heart, and I think monitoring existing habits is a good way to start changing them. And Kindred and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms had been on my “to read” list for a while anyway.

But after starting my challenge, lumping all those authors and characters with backgrounds different from my own into one category seems simplistic at best and offensive at worst. Yet the same can be said for my earlier failures to read these authors and characters at all.

I’m continuing my challenge this year. It’s how I found the best book of the year so far and Kindred and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are still on my “to read” list.

But I’ll be thinking about how to proceed in the future. If anyone has a suggestion, be sure to hit me up.

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