Confessions of a Diversity Bean-Counter

After counting the unconscionable number of books I read last year that apparently had only white characters, I realized that I need to do a better job of planning my 2016 reading.

Are you surprised I counted? My question is, why aren’t we ALL counting?

I hate being a bean-counter. I want to read all the books that I’ve heard are great and enthuse about them on Twitter and drink endless cups of tea. And wait for Tinkerbell’s visit while living off my Powerball winnings.

I read in the world we live in. Thanks to Lee and Low and the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), we know exactly how not diverse the publishing world is.

According to the CCBC, in 2014, 3500 books were published for kids and teens. Of those:

69 of these were by Black authors and/or illustrators
15 of these were by American Indian authors and/or illustrators
48 of these were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage
36 of these were by Latino authors and/or illustrators

168 books. The number of books by Native and minority writers published in the mainstream is so small that I  could read them all  every year.

With just 14% or less of the books published representing a marginalized community, if I read the books that get the most press, the most hype, yes, I’ll read some very good books, but they will be chiefly by white, cis-gendered women and they will chiefly represent the white community.

So now I count. I count, where possible, whether the author is from a marginalized community (to which I add disabled and non-cis-gendered writers). I count representation, including sexual orientation and disability. Because it’s not enough to talk about diversity. With so few books by WOC and Native writers published each year, I need to make my purchases count.

So I came up with a reading list based on the following goals:

  • Read books by writers who are diverse accross all spectrum (including, but not limited to, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability). My belief is that #WeNeedDiverseAuthors at least as much as #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
  • Read wider representation of sexual/gender identities
  • Read this year’s releases by writers I love

I went through my Evernote TBR notes (I love you, Evernote!) and this is what I came up with, in no particular order. If I only have an author’s name listed, it’s because I haven’t made a decision on what I’m reading and would welcome a rec. Links are to the book page on the author’s website where there is one.

  1. Kekka Muldoon- How it Went Down
  2. Anna-Marie McLemore – The Weight of Feathers
  3. Hannah Moskowitz – Not Otherwise Specified
  4. Dahlia Adler – Under the Lights
  5. Justine Ireland
  6. Ni-Ni Simone – If I Was Your Girl
  7. Alex Gino – George
  8. Nicola Yoon – Everything, Everything
  9. Stacey Lee – Under a Painted Sky
  10. Nova Ren Suma – The Walls Around Us
  11. Robin Talley – What We Left Behind
  12. Varian Johnson
  13. Zetta Elliot
  14. Kwame Alexander – His new book
  15. Meg Medina – Burn Baby Burn
  16. Jeff Garvin – Symptoms of Being Human
  17. Tim Tingle – House of Purple Cedar
  18. If Adam Silvera has a book coming out, insert here.

Is this list perfect? No. There is only one Native American author, and I don’t think that it includes any disabled authors. But I’m aware, and that itself is a start.

Does this mean I’m not reading books by straight white men and women?  No, but it is very easy to read the default.  So for now, I’m a bean-counter.

As ever, suggestions are welcome.

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