Diversity and Snobbery

I recently listened to a podcast about diversity in reading that really got me thinking about some stuff.  In case you missed it, this summer there was a huge push to make people think more about diversity in books, this after Bookcon’s original author panels appeared to be about 95% white males.  The interweb exploded with people cheering on diverse books and pushing for more diversity in publishing.  It was one of those wonderful moments when book people came together to make a better world.

But…

I recently heard a gentleman talking about reading books that have been translated and he said that he enjoys reading books that are not necessarily translated for smooth reading.  He likes the original language to insert itself “because otherwise you are just reading a good book.”

What?  Wait a minute!

I am so for reading books by people other than white males but I also happen to love a number of white male authors.  I like to think that I read books because they sound like something I would enjoy.  I don’t pay attention to the author’s name, gender, race when I choose a book.  Isn’t reading supposed to be about enjoying the story?  In my most recent life, I want nothing more than to be carried away into someone else’s life and someone else’s problems.  I don’t choose my books to be diverse as much as I don’t chose them to not be diverse.  Does that make sense?

On the other hand, I had to ask myself if there was ever a time when I let race be the reason I didn’t read a book.  I have a confession:  I have totally done that.  In all fairness, it had nothing to do with race itself.  It had more to do with the market being flooded with books about, say, China.  After a while I felt like, “Well, just another book about China.”  It’s really the same as, “Just another dystopian YA.”  In recent months I have found China coming up on my list of books to read again but for a while I was just a little sick of the subject.

Does this make me guilty of prejudice?  I don’t think any more than any other reader.

Another thing, I don’t think that I know anyone who actually holds their monocle up and says through their twisted little mustaches, “I only read books by Caucasian males.  Har har.  Hand me the brandy, chap!”  I don’t like to hear the word “shame” associated with reading.  NO.  STOP.  Shaming people for reading what they like is what we’re supposed to be fighting against!  If you are honestly reading what grabs your attention and enjoying it and don’t want to change, don’t.

It’s a tangled wed, you know.  I want to see the world through so many different eyes and so I try to keep my reading varied.  I read widely.  Could I read wider?  Of course!  We all could!  But, as the family doctor once told me, we could all stand to lose 5 pounds, too.  Your reading life needs to be right for you.  If you want to read nothing but bodice rippers, you go on ahead, honey.  Float that boat!

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