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?

The Best Books of 2013

Well now that we’ve started 2014 and I’ve had the time to really reflect on my reading experience of 2013, I feel that it was pretty darn mediocre.  I’d hoped to read more books that would wow me but that wasn’t the case.  It was if I chose my books because they just fell in my lap.  That’s not how I want to proceed with my book choices this year.  You’ve already seen a select few of the big books I plan on reading this year, but just know that there will be more engaging and thought-provoking titles added to that list.

My reading goals of 2013 comprised:

1. reading more works of people of color

2. reading more classics

3. reading graphic novels

4. reading out of my comfort zone

I guess two out of four ain’t bad.  I managed to do one and three, but only really read one book that was a little out of my comfort zone.  So I know now what I need to concentrate on this year.  I’d like to have a well-rounded reading year but most of all I want to read more books that really speak to me, move me.  2014 is the year of quality! I hope.

So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at my top ten best books of 2013:

Firstly we have the books by authors of colour or about people of color:

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Well as you can see that’s half of my favourites list.  All I can say is these five books really stuck with me and enlightened my reading experience as well as taught me some things.  I was taken aback by the passages in Black Like Me.  The descriptions written by John Howard Griffin, a white man who was just being a black man for a few months struck me to my core.                                   If Beale 

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Street Could Talk weighed on me heavily as well reading about the injustices of the seventies, while in the back of my mind knowing these situations are still happening today.  Cutting for Stone was that epic African novel that surprised me at every page.  I really couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next or where the author was leading me.  I felt like I’d traveled stretches of kilometres to Africa to  meet and follow Marion and Shiva from their beginnings to adulthood.  That was a rich and informative reading experience that taught me a lot about Ethiopia, a country that I almost visited over sixteen years ago.  Kindred took me back to the days of slavery, filling me with fear and disorienting me in a world where the codes didn’t correspond to me or Dana the main character.  Lastly, but not least The Cutting Season brought me back to my home state of Louisiana. The story brought out anticipation and fear of the unknown – who killed that young woman on the plantation grounds called Belle Vie?  I could feel the heat, the humidity, and smell the earth.  Darkness engulfed me and Caren the main character.  Running through it for fear of what she might find or worse what or who might be waiting for her.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the only classic I read last year.  That is if you don’t count Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ Stone and If Beale Street Could Talk.  Those two could technically be considered modern classics.  Ok enough of me trying to stretch my non-existent list of read classics.  In spite of it all,  I can thank my 56034book club for choosing this one.  For without them, I’m not really sure when I would have read it, in spite of it being on my physical and mental TBR for aeons.  I could also place this one under number four of my reading goals because it definitely got me out of my comfort zone.  In the beginning I didn’t think I’d make it through, but at the halfway mark something changed.  I became more invested in the story, not to mention that the writing style changed for the better.  I also started to get used to those omniscient footnotes that lead me through the story that was going on above like a dog on a leash.  Undeterred by it all I finished and loved it!  Now that doesn’t often happen to me.  I usually give up if I can’t get into a book by page 150.  It was a worthwhile reading experience and I persevered to the end!  So I definitely have to read more classics this year.

1261125351GiFItYmkLThe next two novels were my comic relief of the year.  I don’t often pick up comical books and that’s probably because it’s not a genre that I’m really familiar with.  I was compelled to pick up Where’d You Go Bernadette  since everybody was talking about it in the blogosphere and about its unorthodox style of being written in email and letter form.  I like epistolary so I thought why not.  It turned out to be a great choice.  I read it in one afternoon and laughed out loud a bit.  Oh Bernadette! She was a mess!  I liked her though.  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff Christ’s Childhood Pal was the same.  It took me longer to read but boy did I have some laughs.  The wittiness of that novel is just simply brilliant!  It’s a must read if you haven’t gotten to it yet.

Now you know I’m not that over the moon about Young Adult novels and any time I read one it’s so that I can41WvR8-CBUL suggest it to the students I tutor in English or to my daughters, and of course because I suspect it might be good.  I ran across Speak because I saw a couple of bloggers talking about it.  I read it in one sitting and fell in love with the way the story was told but most of all with Melinda’s voice.  Superb!  A reader couldn’t ask for a better narrator, especially a young adult reader.

12280827Last but not least, my absolute favourite and best read of 2013 was The Sense of an Ending.  What a fantastic way to talk about memory!  I got so much from this little tiny 150-page book.  Unbelievable! There are so many themes packed into this book.  I was asking myself what took me so long to pick up a novel by Julian Barnes.  Nevertheless, I finally did and it was also thanks to my book club.  Book clubs can bring out the best and sometimes the worst in one’s reading however in my experience it’s been great at 100%.  Check out this wonderfully woven story of middle-aged Tony after school, marriage, children, and divorce.  Memory can be deceiving after the fact and at times spot on…

Well that’s my wrap up of my top ten books of 2013.  I hope you enjoyed reviewing some of them with me.  Clicking the titles will take you to the reviews.  So how about you guys?  Was your reading year a 3.0-3.5 like mine or better?  Let me know below and don’t forget to include your favourite books of the year.  I love getting recommendations from you!  Happy reading y’all!

International Reads Book Club

The International Reads Book Club just had its first month in November 2013.  We read The Slynx by Tatyana 310722Tolstaya.  The Slynx could be described as a Russian satiric dystopian novel.  It will bring to mind while reading other great dystopian works like 1984Fahrenheit 451, and A Clockwork Orange.  This was not an easy read and I was well out of my comfort zone, but it was well worth the discovery.  It certainly wasn’t a waste of my time, even though there were a few things that went way over my head.  Readers need to have good knowledge of Russian history and literature to really fully understand The Slynx.  In spite of it all, I found the writing brilliant and the world building intriguing.  There was definitely lots of room for interpretation.  I think this book would make a great movie.  I could really imagine what all the people who survived the blast looked like.  Freaky!

This book club was started by Mercedes over at MercysBookishMusings on You Tube.  She decided that this book club on Goodreads would focus on reading translated works and works from people of colour.  So she united about twelve Booktubers and myself included to compose the core group of the book club.  Each month will be dedicated to a different country so that things don’t get too repetitive and the members will post video discussions/reviews and discuss directly on the International Reads page on the Goodreads site during the month on the chosen book.  At the end of each month, there will be a Google Hangout discussion with a few of the core members to work out the kinks and analyse.  Spoilers! Spoilers! So if you haven’t read the book and are planning to don’t watch the Google Hangout.

This month of December we’re taking a trip to Japan, reading Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata.  In fact, I 10571801haven’t read very much Japanese literature so I’m looking forward to enjoying the perfectionist beauty of Japanese writing that I hear so much about.  All I know is that there is a geisha, mountains, and a rich man involved.  Sounds intriguing right?  If you’re interested in joining, head over to Goodreads, sign up to be a member of International Reads and join in the discussion.  Below are links to Booktubers that are in the core group that you might want to check out.

Colleen – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXjTq…
Deni – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKiVq…
Brooke – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBuQj…
Andi – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnQzm…
Elli – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjlkQ…
Didi – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTq_S…
Rincey – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCovQF…
Kenya – http://www.youtube.com/user/BrownEyed…
Grace – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUZKK…
Chloe – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwSG0…
Danielle – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWSKR…
Christine – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_PXp…