I’m not reading any white authors this month

Posted August 2, 2015 by Renae // 21 Comments

You may have heard me mention my Super Very Top Secret Reading Project (or some equally lengthy variation thereof) on Twitter a couple of times. I was going to keep it a secret all the way through August and then only reveal it after I was finished, but I don’t think this is the kind of reading endeavor that’s meant to be secret. So.

In August 2015, I’m going to exclusively read non-white authors.

Why? Well, for very personal reasons.

To my knowledge, I have only once read a book that I identified with in terms of race/ethnicity. (Granted I haven’t been as active in seeking out those books as I could have been.) I’m a white-passing Latina, which comes with a whole bunch of baggage (like how “but you look so white!” and “at least you’re not like those other Mexicans!” aren’t actually the compliments people think they are) that makes me not want to bring it up often, even though it’s part of myself I’m very proud of and think is significant to who I am—but that’s a whole ‘nother subject for a whole ‘nother time. Anyway. Back to my reading project.

Back when the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign got kicked off, one of the arguments being pushed out there was how if readers wanted to see more diversity (race, sexuality, gender, religion, disability, etc.) in fiction, we should read the diverse books that have already been published. At the time I thought “hmm! what an excellent point!” but then never did anything with that, until recently, when that concept really started to hit home for me.

How can I sit around bewailing the lack of Latinx (or non-white in general) representation in fiction when I’m not reading the books that have already been published by the very many excellent authors of color who’ve been working so hard to push diversity.

Hence, my reading project for this month. Now, I don’t want to fall into the trap of reading a book just because it’s diverse without making sure I’m actually, y’know, interested in that book. That helps nobody, especially not me. So I’ll be careful of that. And I also am not limiting myself to just Latinx authors, though I’m sure I’ll be reading at least a few!

(One question you might have is—some white authors write about POC characters, why aren’t you reading those books? I will! Totally; I love to support authors who take the time to research cultures/identities other than their own. Just not this month.)

Anyway. So that’s where I’m at. I really don’t see this project as “limiting” myself in any way. There isn’t one genre that non-white authors write, nor is their one universal narrative. I see this as myself just being more conscious in what I read and what stories I’m supporting with my time and review space, not narrowing my pool of reading choices altogether.

And that’s pretty much it. I just wanted to publicly come out and state my intentions and the reasoning behind it and just what’s going on in my head lately.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

Categories: Book Talks


21 responses to “I’m not reading any white authors this month

    • Renae

      Wooohoo! 😀

      Oh boy, my reading list is huuuuuuge. I put maybe 50 titles into my TBR jar, to be picked at random (or read according to whatever I’m in the mood for). Right now I have 5 books out from the library: Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole, Disgruntled by Asali Solomon, The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour, The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, and This Side of Home by Renée Collins. For a start.

      But I could totally email you my entire list, if you’re interested!

  1. This is a great idea Renae! I need to make the effort to read more POC authors. Are you going to read books (written by poc authors) about white characters as well?

    • Renae

      Um, I know for sure that there are a few books by Asian authors featuring white characters on my list, but for the most part, I’m mostly focusing on POC authors + POC characters. But I’m not trying to limit myself with a bunch of rules, so if something pops up and I want to read it right away, sure I’ll pick it up.

  2. *high five*

    I’ve been making plans to do something similar, probably next year, or later this year. I’m not focusing on the authors, although I did think about it, but got too scared. I’m just going to read only books with diverse characters (and/or minority authors) for…however long. I’m still working out the kinks. But I also had the same thought about WNDB saying to read the books that are already there, so I started making a list! It’s going to be fun!

    I’m also biracial, but not white-passing. In fact, people just look at me weird, can’t figure me out and then ask “What are you?” This makes me very uncomfortable. There’s been a few times when I’m with my (white) mom and people ask how I know her, or if I’m visiting, or if I’m adopted. It’s like people aren’t aware that mixed race is a thing! We exist! I’m not unusual!
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    • Renae

      Ugh, yes it’s such a good point! How can we complain about the lack of diversity in fiction if we don’t support the diverse fiction that’s already out there. Duh, Renae. Duh.

    • Renae

      Actualllly, all of the books I read are randomly selected! (Unless I’m making impulse grabs at the library, that is.) I got a TBR jar as a present this month, but before that I’d just use random.org to pull a number and then read whatever that number corresponded to on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. It’s kind of a weird method for book selection, but hey, it works for me.

  3. You make such a good point here, Renae, and I have to admit that I hadn’t really thought about it this way. I love to talk about reading more diverse books (I even made myself a new Goodreads shelf a couple of weeks ago when the Top Ten Tuesday topic was diversity so that I could be intentional about saving new books I found and sprinkling them into my reading), but I’ve never made a concerted effort to read books by diverse authors or even with main characters who are POC. I think this is a fabulous idea!
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    • Renae

      Thanks, Nicole! I think this project was months in coming—I’ve definitely been building up to a more concerted effort to read more stories from non-privileged voices, and I finally hit my “OMG, I need to start doing something active RIGHT NOW” point in July. So here we are. 😉

  4. What a super idea. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had to whittle down my list for the “10 books featuring diversity” post a few weeks back, even after deciding to just focus on ethnic diversity. So yes, there are certainly enough quality pieces of writing by non-white writers to keep you busy all month!
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    • Renae

      I think there’s definitely a lot of fiction out there featuring marginalized narratives, but the problem is finding it and giving it recognition when most of the hype and attention tends to go to the bigger authors/titles, which are overwhelmingly cishet and white. So that’s definitely part of what I’m attempting to do this month—pay attention to the stories not often paid attention to by wider society.

  5. This is such an awesome concept! I love that you have pointed out that one of the steps in #Weneeddiversebooks is, you know, READING those books! What is the loudest voice in publishing? Answer: $$$. This is just great!

    ““at least you’re not like those other Mexicans!””

    I literally made this face when I read this: D:
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    • Renae

      Ugh, yeah. The worst compliments of my life are “you’re smart…for a Mexican” or “you’re pretty…for a Mexican” like, WHAT? —A) I’m not Mexican, I’m American. B) WHAT DO YOU MEAN??? Blah. People these days.

      Haha, but ANYWAY…

  6. I can definitely see where you are coming from and why you would want to do this. For me, it’s not an issue, not just because I am white, but because I read whatever I want to read, regardless of the race or ethnicity of the author, which results in at least some of the authors being non-white. Most of the time I don’t even have that information when I pick up a book–I don’t usually look at the picture of the author until after I have read the book. Yes, I can sometimes guess that an author is of Hispanic/Latino descent by their name, but it doesn’t affect whether or not I am going to read the book. For example, I recently read a book by Ricardo Sanchez. His name sounds Hispanic, but it made no difference to me. And how would I actually know his ethnicity? It’s not like I’m going to ask him. So, in a way, I wonder if you will miss out on some authors who don’t publicize their ethnicity or books that don’t tell you the ethnicity of the POV character in the blurb, which I don’t think they usually do. I think it’s a great idea. I guess I’m just curious as to how you will know and how you will pick the books you will read.

    • Renae

      Hi Jen,

      Like I said in my post, I don’t see this as limiting myself or my reading choices. I’m not worried that I’m going to “miss out” on books. Rather, I think that I’m going to discover new stories by diverse new voices that wouldn’t have come to my attention in any other way. As to how I’m finding these authors: simple—RESEARCH. I’m researching authors of color because, by and large, these authors are NOT getting the publicity or marketing that White authors are getting.

      You’re White, as you said, so you probably don’t know what it’s like to search desperately for a book about someone like yourself, and not be able to find one anywhere. You don’t know what it’s like for characters who look like you to always be token “backup” characters—never protagonists of their own stories. You don’t know what it’s like for White authors to use your culture disrespectfully, as a gimmick or for comic relief. That hurts; it hurts a lot. So maybe as a White lady, you don’t feel those hurts and don’t feel the need to consciously or purposefully seek out diverse fiction, but I do.

      Sure, White authors are writing good books and I don’t want to dismiss that. But I think that for 31 days, I can allow marginalized voices the chance to be front and center. For one month, I can do my best to celebrate diversity and seek it out, not just enjoy it if/when it happens to come along.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      • Like I said, I was curious, mainly because I haven’t run across many authors who publicize their ethnicity. I did do some research to see if I could find any Latinx authors in the genres I read. I couldn’t find any. Most of the websites that listed Hispanic or Latinx authors just showed older books. The few new ones I saw were in genres I don’t read. It seems that this research will be challenging.
        I can certainly empathize and understand your position, even though I don’t experience it myself. As I said before, your efforts are a great idea. I was not questioning your intent or the need for everyone to experience diversity.
        I will continue my research to see if I can find a book to read by a Latinx author, as a way to show I support you.