Reading Diversely?

The subject of reading diversely seems to be on the lips of many book bloggers but mostly, Booktubers on You Tube.  Diverse reading struck the Booktube community as if it was the first time anyone had ever heard of it.  For those who don’t know the meaning of the word diverse, it is best defined as “showing a great deal of variety; very different”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary Online.  The two words that jump out at me in the definition are variety and different.

Before all of this hoopla started, Booktubers wanted to read people of color and that was stated openly, but not by many.  Now everybody says they want to read diversely and that means authors of color and anybody else that isn’t white.  After a recent discussion on Twitter with Estella’s Revenge and some other bloggers, it was brought to my attention that white, male, straight authors were being used as some sort of benchmark to decide what is considered diverse reading.  People on Twitter admitted to Googling authors, as crazy as that sounds, to try to figure out if they were white or not, and to determine if they could be considered as part of their diverse list.  Some were even surprised that authors didn’t mention their race in their bios and seemed to be surprised that some authors were not easily identifiable from their pictures.

Well no, authors don’t have to mention their race in their bios, and for your information, you can be very fair-skinned and still be black. Surprise!  But let’s not get off track.  I think many writers dislike the thought of being pigeonholed.  It’s like being reduced to your race, your nationality, your sexual preference, or even to a handicap.  I have always read diversely my entire life so this has never been some issue that I felt I needed to regulate somehow or something I felt I needed to announce to everybody.  I say, if you want to read a variety of literature then stop talking about it and do it.  In the end, when you do it no one is going to give you a prize because you do.  Lumping authors all together because they aren’t white, straight, males doesn’t valorize at all the differences in authors.

Another thing that seems blatantly obvious to me is that, what is diverse to one person is not to another.  So if you’re a white, straight, male reading diversely might be reading women, black, LGBTQ writers, where if you are American, reading diversely might be reading more translated work, and so on.  Reading diversely for me means reading what is different from me.  As readers we should all be happy to discover what is different from us.  It is one way to learn more about the world.  Discovering those differences is enriching and should not be reduced to a psychological guilt trip backed up with percentages and spreadsheets.  In the end, it feels like #LetMeGetInMyRacialQuota.(a friend of mine’s clever hashtag)  Some will not be ready for this discovery through reading and that’s fine too.  That meaningful reading journey will come in time.   As for Black authors, they exist and are out there.  It’s up to the readers to want to find them, but most of all to read them.  The Black community have been and are supporting Black authors.

I wish everybody lots of pleasurable reading in 2015 and discovery of new places, people, and cultures.  Hope this doesn’t come off as to harsh, but this topic has haunted the internet for a while now and I felt the need to give my opinion.  So, what do you think about diverse reading?