Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A reading plan for 2014

I had a rather shocking revelation a little while ago. When I posted a list of 2013 over-looked books I heard about on the radio, Aarti left me a comment in which she said
I wonder how much diversity is represented in this list. As a rule of thumb, I usually think that POC authors are much more overlooked than their Caucasian counterparts, so I would hope that at least some of those above are minorities!
I wrote back
I took it upon myself to search the names in google images to see about the diversity because I know you are right about this! Okay, here you go: all Caucasian except for Hilton Als who is African-American. I just went through my list of books read this year, and every single author is white. Granted a fair many are olden days writers, but still, but still. Not very pleased with myself. This will be my own personal little challenge next year to read more POC authors.
These are the books that I own which were written by writers who are not Caucasian. I hope to read them all in 2014.


January 21 I began with The Cambridge Curry Club, but quit. I tend to not read books about a group of women, each of whom have some grief or embarrassment or trouble in their lives. This was that kind of book - set in a charity shop in Cambridge, England.

36 comments:

  1. That is an interesting question (and a good one!). I'm not sure how my reading would stack up... I'll have to consider and do some research.

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  2. That's thought-provoking, isn't it? I read around 100 books a year, and whilst I sometimes see a picture of the author, that is not always the case. Mostly if the storyline attracts, I go ahead. I had not thought about the nationality of the writer or the colour of their skin because a good read is a good read, isn't it? However, recent books that stick in my memory about POC are, I think, all written by Caucasians and they are The Help; The Supremes at Earl's All You Can Eat; and Henrietta Lacks. Methinks I may look at the author more this year.

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    1. That's me as well. I read for the story. Interesting that your books about African-Americans were all written by Caucasians.

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  3. I know I read two books 'by' African Americans - Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler - and several books 'about' African Americans, but you're right, Nan, it's not really good enough. I applaud what you're going to do this year, I really do, and will try to do a bit better myself.

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    1. I've never read either author. How can that be??

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  4. Hmmmm I rarely think about the ethnicity of an author. I choose books for the subject, sometimes for the name of the book. I often can't tell you the author's name. Hmmmm Something else to think about when choosing a book to read.

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    1. I was kinda stopped in my (reading) tracks, I'll tell ya!

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  5. Good for you Nan, I try to keep that in mind as well. It does make for more interesting reading as well. I enjoyed Frangipini from your last (actually read 2 books by that author). I just finished The Hen Who Wished She Could Fly, and I LOVED it. It made me a little sad at times but I am so happy I read it.

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    1. I am really looking forward to both those books. I love the Frangipani cover.

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  6. I know this past year my reading was more about comfort than anything else. I didn't pay attention to the ethnicity or race of the author. I do know how excited I was though to read a book featuring a lesbian protagonist in a mystery, however, as that is quite rare. I also know that most of my reading this past year was by female authors, which is a bit unusual for me. That had more to do with how much genre reading I did though than anything else. I know I'll be trying to make more of an effort this year to diversify, although I am not making any official goals.

    This is a good goal to aim for, I think, and I hope you are able to read all the books in your stack!

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    1. I think my reading is almost always 'comfort.' It is, to my mind, one of the few things in life that is pure pleasure. I do tend to shy away from troubling subject matter.

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  7. Well this certainly has me thinking. I am going to look over my own collection and see how diverse it is. I tend to gravitate towards particular story lines and authors without considering the experience or influence of various authors given their ethnicity.
    Hmmm... something to think about.

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    1. You expressed that beautifully - it is indeed 'something to think about.'

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  8. Interesting, Nan. I will be a bit more cognizant of who I am reading this year.
    Right now, however, I am deep in Bess Streeter Aldrich's "A Lantern in Her Hand", which is wonderful. I learned of Aldrich through a post of yours a few years ago.

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    1. I need to get back to her work! I'm so happy you like her.

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  9. I read the Charlie Chan non-fiction by Yunte Huang and can recommend it, Nan. Learned lots about the 'real' Charlie Chan inspiration. If truth be told, I don't worry too much about author diversity. There's just not enough time. If I tend to gravitate towards certain groups of writers, then so be it. Maybe if I were younger, I'd worry more about it.

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    1. I first read about it in the New Yorker, and I think the article may have been what started me on my Charlie Chan reading adventure!
      I'm not one of those people who really challenges myself to read something I'm not drawn to, but I do feel like I'd like to immerse myself in different cultures. I expect all these books will appeal to me.

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  10. Nan, your exchange was a thoughtful one, resonating with me (and obviously other commenters on your post) as I am a writer, author and a man of color. It raises an important question: Do African-American writers get read less by white people, even if they are not writing on race.

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    1. It is a question I sure can't answer. I would actually welcome titles by African-Americans that were not about race. I found a list here of authors in many genres: http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/booklists/?id=africanamericanwriters.

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  11. I have a similar goal for the upcoming year. More characters/authors of color. Also more non-American/English characters/authors.

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  12. Hmmm... I never really thought about that at al, but I can think of several authors I enjoy who are different ethnicities from my own. I will await your reviews! The bottom book on your stack "Please Look After Mom" was a good read.

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    1. I started it a while back, and then got caught in another book. As you know, my kids are Korean-American so I'm particularly interested in books set in South Korea.

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  13. I wasn't thinking about ethnicity, gender, country of origin, or any of these things until recently. It wasn't until I started reading other people's book blogs - like yours. Then I began to question myself and my bookshelf. I realized how narrow it had become (figuratively of course). I realized I mostly read what I now refer to as ABC authors: American, British, and Canadian. However, someone did recommend "Things Fall Apart"...which I read and enjoyed...so maybe I'm ready to broaden my reading horizons. I need to make a conscious effort to do so! P.S. I've been reading Charlie Chan quotes (not the books yet)...love the quotes....ahhh...I'll stop rambling now....Thanks Nan.

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    1. And mine have been mostly AB, which is why I've joined the Canadian Challenge. I can't believe, really I can't believe, how very little Canadian literature I've read or even heard about!
      I haven't read Things Fall Apart - will look into it.
      I love Charlie Chan. The books taught me a lot about Chinese people, culture, and their lives in America in those days. And I love 'rambling!!'

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  14. My cousin gave me Sea of Poppies for Christmas - it sounds really good! Good luck with your reading plan! It's true that reading more diversely requires deliberate planning - as Aarti said, POC authors tend to be more overlooked so it's less likely that they'll be getting the kind of buzz that keeps a book in mind when choosing the next title to read. I haven't been very deliberate about it in my own reading, so it's good to be reminded.

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    1. There is a sequel to Sea of Poppies too, called River of Smoke, with a third one coming. I like the word 'deliberate.'

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  15. Had to mull this one over a bit but thought I'd offering some debatable points. My opinion - I don't know that one should choose a book based particularly upon an author's ethnic/cultural/religious affiliations. Certainly if you 're on a learning curve and possibly pursuing it academically. But I've given up books that I was required tor read back in college. My decisions now are based on curiosity and referral. Am I supposed to now read within the constraint of POC (a multi-defined acronym by the way)? Do I pick up a book and immediately turn to the back for the author's photo before I begin to read? And if I don't enjoy the book? Can I put it down without the admonition that it's a book-I-must-read? And if we take this argument to it's most absurd conclusion, shouldn't I be looking for black handicapped gay Jewish authors who happen to be female with a weight problem? Certainly they would be an aggrieved population! There are times when I read books if only beause I want that particular author's point of view on a subject whether it's fiction, non-fiction, or memoir. But I don't necessarily feel the obligation to balance out my reading list due to ethnic imbalance. Reading for me is a highly pleasureable craft and one that is driven by spontaneity, need, and desire, Guilt I have enough of... Just my opinon of course...

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    1. I get it completely. I'm not feeling guilty, though. Mostly surprised. And realizing there's a whole world out there for me to explore. And I want to explore it. I'm not doing it because I 'should' but because I want to. I want to broaden my world view. And I won't feel the least guilt about quitting a book if I don't like it. There are topics I will never read because they upset me, and I don't need to be 'educated' about them, like slavery and the Holocaust. And there are genres I can't stand and won't read. So, no, this isn't a chore or something I feel I must do, but something I want to do.

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  16. Just had to let you know - I looked at that little stack of books and half on impulse, reserved "Please Look After Mom" by Kyung Sook Shin. I just finished it yesterday and it was one of the best books ever.
    I like to mix up my reading, but don't like to think it's something mandatory. Reading is such a personal thing, isn't it? I do read a lot of Asian lit - Kawabata, Mishima, and that wonderful book by Tanizaki - "The Makioka Sisters." A classic.
    Thanks for all your book suggestions - I have found so many that I love. Oh - have you read "The Gift of Rain" by Twan Tan Eng? Check it out! It is beautiful.
    Best,
    Mary

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    1. I'm so happy you told me! I do look forward especially to that book.
      I haven't heard of any of the authors or titles you mentioned. I have a lot of great reading ahead!

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    2. I reserved The Calligrapher's Daughter and it awaits my picking it up - maybe when this lovely snow stops!
      About Kawabata - his "Snow Country" won the 1968 Nobel Prize. It is - to my mind - a long and lovely haiku. Very atmospheric. I have re-read it more times than I can recall. "The Makioka Sisters" by Junichiro Tanizaki is very subtle,very interesting look at the relationship between three, well four, mostly the three sisters. Another of my re-reads.
      Enough chattering, I'm sure, but it is so good to read another book lover's suggestions - just love your blog!
      Mary - again :-)

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    3. Thank you. I've jotted down the titles and that you recommended them in my little 'books to check out' book.

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  17. I've been aware for a little while that my reading is too based in US/UK, for lack of a better word. I am trying to expand it. I have discovered that I do better when I can read translated books, especially mysteries......I do like the pile of books you have, and your post has reminded me to start looking for other books from other cultures to read for this year. Good luck and I look forward to some interesting posts from you this year :-)

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    1. My fave translated mysteries are by Arnaldur Indridason. LOVE those books.
      I hope they will be 'interesting posts' - :<) Thanks for the encouragement.

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