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
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