When you have very little money and your to-read wishlist runs a little too close to the thousand-book mark, you have to be pretty selective and put a lot more thought into what you’re buying. I’ve outlined a simple plan for my book purchasing, which goes like this:
- Continuing series– whether I have read the first book or it’s something on my TBR, I’m allowed to purchase any consecutive titles in that series.
- Favorite authors– or, more loosely, any authors I have read, enjoyed, or seen in-person are fair game, but not guaranteed purchases.
- Under 5 books per month. Ideally 2-3 since I plan on reading 4 books per month, so that still ensures my TBR will shrink and I won’t go broke.
- LGBT+ or Culturally diverse debuts only.
The last one strikes a chord– I get funny looks every time I bring it up, smiles caught between “oh, you’re joking” and “that’s nice, dear.” I didn’t quite know how to respond to it, until finally someone asked me: “But are you sacrificing writing quality to read more diversely?”
The short answer: No.
The person who asked me this was entirely well-meaning, there was no snark or air of pretentiousness. They were also concerned about the actual logistics of doing this– there are far fewer books who feature culturally diverse or LGBT characters than those featuring an all-white, cis, straight cast (and though I’ve put in effort, books dealing with chronic illness/disability are one in a kajillion so please send recommendations).
Unfortunately, the assumption behind this question can be boiled down to this: Books by or for non-white, straight, cis people are not as high quality. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
My opinion is this: It’s 2016. If a book features an entire world filled with only white, straight, cisgender people. that’s just lazy writing. If an entire scifi/fantasy planet is filled with ten continents based entirely on Western civilization, that’s lazy. And for me to settle for only these books because they are the most hyped and easiest to acquire, that’s just lazy.
I read too many stories that feature identical characters, traditional tropes, formulaic adventure, and for the most part I enjoy them. But they tend to bleed into each other. If anything, I’m worried I’m sacrificing writing quality by reading books with only the bare brush of “token diversity”, if at all. This usually occurs in the form of a one-dimensional, stereotypical side character who dies in act three or else whips out a sassy remark every few chapters so you know s/he’s still around.
Secondly, I’ve been listening to a lot of authors on Twitter, authors who write diverse books and/or support reading diversely, and they all give the same advice: vote with your money. Publishing is an industry, it’s going to follow where the money takes it. If I want fewer books with whitewashed casts and more stories about/for/by LGBT persons and people of color, my own purchasing should reflect that.
There are so many incredible-sounding books, spanning all genres and for/by/about LGBT persons, people of color, and other cultures outside of the United States and Western Europe. I’m so excited to take a year (and probably longer) to dive into them.
What are your book buying plans for this year? Are there any diverse reads that you want to recommend, or any that have yet to come out that you’d like to see a review of? Talk to me!