For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a list of books to read – popular titles, well-loved classics, books written by my favourite authors, new releases in the genres I love. This list, which at times seems random and unending even to me, is a labour of love and I spend many hours painstakingly adding to it. Very often I don’t care or even notice if the author or the characters, in the books I intend reading, look or think like me.
And therein lies the problem! When we don't consciously think about what or who we are reading, we are missing out on the opportunities to: look at the world from a different perspective, become aware of our own privilege, challenge personal biases and prejudices, and understand the systemic oppression that many people and groups still face.
At the same time, by not picking diverse books we are empowering publishers who continue to give preference to some stories and authors over others. I know this may sound hard to believe but it is up to readers like you and me to get the publishing industry to change its mind and start letting marginalized people tell their stories.
Hence, this year I am doing my bit by consciously choosing books that have diverse characters and narratives and are written by underrepresented authors.
My reasons for seeking and supporting diversity in the books we should all be reading in 2020 are simple:
1. Stories that represent people of different age groups, abilities, backgrounds, cultures and sexual orientation help us understand those who are different than us. They open our eyes to unfamiliar experiences. If we only read about characters who look like us and have life experiences that reflect our own, we are more likely to assume that our own thoughts and feelings are more important or valid than those of others.
2. Also, if we don’t support diverse writers and books, publishers won’t publish them!
If more readers buy books written by marginalized authors, publishers will be compelled to recognize that a demand for these books exist. As a result, more diverse books will be published which will lead to a wider choice and diversity in the books that are available to all of us. As readers, we have an immense power and it is important that we use it to change the publishing landscape. Buying and reading diverse books not only enriches our own reading experience, but it also ensures that such books keep getting published.
So, what are YOUR reasons for reading more diversely this year?