Why aren’t we reading more adult fiction by writers of color or about the non-white experiences?
As much as the news outlets like to tout it, reading isn’t dead. At least once a week, a Facebook friend will ask for book recommendations. Social media has made reading more social. We share status updates about our current reads, rave about books we love, and even track our reading progress all through social media.
I love to see my friends crowdsourcing for new books to read. Obviously I love to read and I love to talk and write about books. I chime in when I can, and I like seeing what others have recommended. Everyone who reads and comments on the status update discovers new to them books.
One thing really bothers me, and I’m not calling out a particular person. Over and over again, an overwhelming majority of the books are all about the straight WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) experience. The stories are about white upper middle class experience. Why aren’t we reading more adult fiction by writers of color or about the non-white experiences? Because all the major outlets only push those books because they (falsely) believe nobody wants to buy them unless Oprah recommends it.
I admit that if I’m not paying attention and just read the books that are pitched and/or sent to me for review, I do it too. Last week I realized that of the last 5 books I’d read, only 1 book did not fit into the “upper middle class white” category (plus one sci fiction, but almost all the characters in it were white). None of us consciously choose to only read books that aren’t diverse. We have to consciously choose to read books written by and about people of color.
Each year when I attend Book Expo America, I do my best to learn more about writers of colors and their stories so I can not only read their books but to tell others about it. But I have to work to find them because publishers have pigeonholed writers of color into sharing only their immigrant, first generation, East vs. West stories. We need to show them that YES, we want books about real experiences. Not just what is romanticized by Western culture. While I”m at it, please don’t whitewash our book covers.
I'm glad to see that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is so successful. As the mother of 2 biracial children, I know firsthand how important it is to give them diverse books so they see their story being told.
Let’s not forget about adult readers either! #AdultsNeedDiverseBooksToo. We do. I primarily read adult fiction. Since my high school days, I’ve deliberately searched for books that resonate with me but wasn’t about the immigrant experience (I was born in the U.S.) or the Vietnam War. My small town library had no such books. With the magic that is the Internet and online bookstores, it’s easier to find diverse books.
I’m empowering everyone to purchase and read books by writers of color. Use your voice to tell your friends (white, black, brown, purple, straight, gay) about them. We have the power to change this. Everyone needs diverse books, not just people of color. We need to read about different lives and perspectives so that we can truly become the melting pot America claims to be.
Now that I’ve said my bit, please share your book recommendations for diverse books. I’m going to do my part and share recommendations on this site. I can’t read as fast as I’d like, plus your recommendations will help me discover new books and new authors. Let’s show everyone that adults need diverse books too!
Or you can tweet your recommendations to me @fromleft2write and/or use the hashtag #AdultsNeedDiverseBooksToo
This post was originally posted at From Left to Write.
Thien-Kim is the editor and head book nerd at From Left to Write, a virtual book club for bloggers. (Join us!) She also blogs about the fusion of Asian, black,and southern cultures in parenting and food at I'm Not the Nanny.
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