So I’m finally doing it. I’m going to try not to read any straight white guys this year. After finishing the last Game of Thrones book in the middle of January, having re-read the entire series in 2019 and not managed to finish by the new year, I’ve only read books by women, queer writers and writers of colour in 2020.
I’m looking out for books by disabled authors and sex worker authors too, especially speculative fiction - if you have any recommendations hmu!
This isn’t a “___ reading challenge”, and I’m not trying to punish myself by denying myself anything I particularly want to read, though I have made decisions to put a few things off until 2021. And there are exceptions: I’ve been assigned to review a novel this month that’s definitely by a white guy, who is prrrobably straight (edit: having got halfway through the book I’m now 99% certain the author is straight.) I’ve also been reading Watchmen in my off hours at work, probably the most “white-guy” book any of us can think of. But on the whole, I’ve been sticking to it; I’m still reviewing, but I’ve been lucky enough to get asked to mostly do books that adhere to the rule. Who knows if I’ll be able to keep dodging that bullet, though.
So why am I doing this? Partly, I’m doing this because there are just, so, many, fucking, books. I have so much on my shelf right now that I now need some kind of criteria to help me narrow things down. And it’s working! It’s been pretty easy so far to be presented with a choice between two books, and use the rule as a basis for my decision: if I read this book, will I be experiencing a perspective I’ve maybe not experienced before? If the answer is “no”, it’s been easy to just decide to put off reading that book in favour of something else. Maybe next year. Maybe never!
It’s ok if I never read Moby Dick! (I’m definitely gonna read Moby Dick at some point though) I’m not really trying to make a statement with this. Or maybe I am. Maybe it’s just that “not reading white dudes” shouldn’t have to be a conscious choice, but it is for a lot of us. I’m trying to take responsibility for what I read, instead of just going with the flow.
It’s easy to repeatedly accept the dominant narrative, because that’s what gets handed to us every single day. It’s so easy to read something that doesn’t make us challenge ourselves and the way we think, and the way our ideals and worldview are shaped by the patriarchy and its literary representatives - even if we don’t share any identity markers with those representatives. I’m not male or straight, and not particularly old or moneyed, but my worldview has been shaped by that perspective because so much of what I’ve read reflects those experiences.
So I have a duty to read something that will actually teach me something, change my mind, or help me grow as a person. I’ve been enforcing my rule pretty inconsistently, most of the reading choices I’ve made this year have fallen into my lap, but I’ve already read so many wonderful books that it seems ridiculous I haven’t done it sooner!
Here’s some of the great books I’ve read this year (including some that are coming soon):
The City We Became by NK Jemisin
**Gears for Queers **by Abi Melton and Lili Cooper
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson
…. And some of the ones next on my list:
**Docile **by KM Szpara
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
**Beloved **by Toni Morrison (reread!)
Mayhem and Death by Helen McClory
**The Bloody Chamber **by Angela Carter
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
… and more!
(all available from the bookshop, by the way!)