As I mentioned, I've been reading a lot about race, racism, and anti-racism, and one of the communities I came across was 50books_poc
. Reading some books by people of color seems like a good idea, but 50 in a year seems like setting myself up to fail. To get a good sense of what would be a reasonable challenge, I decided to look at both the books I own and the books I've read so far this year to see how many of them are written by PoC or feature PoC protagonists. Since I always say I don't really read books by or about men, I also thought it would be interesting to look at female authors and protagonists. A note about counting: books with multiple authors/protagonists got counted if one of the authors/protagonists was PoC/female. Anthologies did not get counted in the protagonist category and only got counted in the author category if it was an anthology of stories by one author. (I thought about trying to fraction it out, but that would be too much work for what is meant to be a general overview and doesn't quite need that level of precision.)Books I Own
I own 29 books of fiction
. This includes picture books, excludes ebooks (because my standards for keeping them are pretty low since they don't take up shelf space), includes collections of Grimm and Andersen fairy tales and Connie Willis' Impossible Dreams
but excludes multiple-author anthologies (because thinking about how to count them made my head hurt), and counts all volumes of From Eroica With Love
as one book (because to do otherwise seems like cheating in my favor). If you're interested in what those books are, you can check out my LibraryThing
. I've excluded nonfiction because the nonfiction I own is more in the reference category (a cookbook, three prayer books) than the sort of thing you would sit down and read.
Of the 29 books I own, 2 books are by PoC authors
. (Note: I think. I had it in my head that Vera B. Williams is Hispanic, and my mother thinks so too, but a quick google didn't give me anything. If she is, it's 3, not 2.) Interestingly, both of them are graphic novels by Japanese authors (one in translation, one originally in English) featuring white characters: Yasuko Aoike's From Eroica With Love
(I have volumes 1-13 in official translations and a bunch of fan translations, which is why it would feel like cheating to include each volume separately) and Kazu Kibuishi's Daisy Kutter: The Last Train
Of the 26 books for which I counted protagonists, 3 books have PoC protagonists
. Interestingly, two of the three are picture books (Vera B. Williams' A Chair for My Mother
and Robert D. San Souci's The Enchanted Tapestry
) and two of them have Chinese protagonists (Robert D. San Souci's The Enchanted Tapestry
and Maureen F. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang
Of those 29 books I own, 25 books are by female authors
. Of the four that are by men, one's a picture book, one's a graphic novel, and the other two are the Grimm and Andersen fairy tale collections.
Of the 26 books for which I counted protagonists, 18 books have female protagonists
, which is much lower than I would have guessed before I counted. Of the books with male protagonists, only one is by a male author.Books I've Read This Year (So Far)I've read 23 books
so far this year. This includes fiction, nonfiction, ebooks, and anthologies.
I was able to identify if the author was a PoC or not for 16 of those books. (Note: the single anthology was left out of this count.) Of those 16, only 1 book was written by a PoC author
(Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi). Trying to figure out if the author was a PoC or not was an interesting exercise. There was one particular author who I expected from her writing to be the whitest white girl who ever lived. I found pictures of her, and, well, I've seen white women who look like that and I've seen PoC women who look like that, and she does not self-identify a race on her MySpace page. It was one of those things that make you think about how odd it is to try to determine these kinds of things from the outside.
Of the 18 books for which I counted protagonists, only 1 book featured a PoC protagonist
by Patricia Briggs).
Of those 23 books, excluding the one anthology, 17 books were written by female authors
. This was another one of those that was lower than I would have expected before counting. Of the six books written by men, three of them were children's/YA, one was nonfiction (one of the books counted as written by female authors was also co-authored by a man), and one was m/m erotica (and if I'd known that Sean Michael was actually a man and not some female slasher's male pseudonym, I never would have bought Bent
; it does go a long way to explaining at least two of the three major problems I had with the book). This division isn't quite as surprising to me: when I say I don't read books by men, I usually say that the exceptions are nonfiction and the occasional YA novel.
Of the 18 books for which I counted protagonists, 12 books featured a female protagonist
. Of the books featuring a male protagonist, two were YA, three were m/m erotica, and one was a fantasy novel with gay protagonists by a female author, which, again, fits pretty well with how I would classify books I do read with male protagonists.What Seems Reasonable to Me
I think I could actually do more, but I think I'll baby step my way into this and start with a commitment to reading one book by a PoC author per month. So this is where I'm asking for recs.
Keep in mind that I basically read YA; fluffy sci fi/fantasy (by which I mean no hard sci fi, nothing with too intensely belabored a message, nothing with eighty bajillion pages of boring description), preferably with a romance as part of the plot; nonfiction in limited quantities; and m/m erotica.