Sorry I haven’t been posting as often. Partly I’ve been knee-deep in a manuscript. But I’ve also been kind of distant because I feel like a lot of conversations are happening that I don’t need to be a part of. Sometimes it’s better to just listen. Such as the recent discussions about diversity and who has the right to tell other peoples’ stories. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to those conversations. Listening and digesting the information. And I’m not going to enter them now, but I saw a conversation happening about reading only books by women, and I became curious about my reading habits over the last year. I’ve said before that I am actively trying to read more books about diverse characters and written by diverse authors, and I thought maybe looking at a breakdown of the books I’ve been reading would be interesting to determine how well or poorly I’ve been doing with that.
So here goes…
To start, the number of books I’ve read so far in 2015: 50.
Number of books written by heterosexual white men: 21.
Sidenote – When it comes to some of these, I’ve made my best guesses if information wasn’t available.
Number of books written by women, POC, or LGBTQIA+ authors: 29.
So my breakdown is 58% of my books read were by non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual authors. 42% were by straight white men.
That’s…not as high a percentage as I was hoping for. But now let’s break that down further.
5 were written by non-white authors.
22 were written by women.
6 were written by authors who self-identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community
Looking at that breakdown is…disheartening. Only 10% of the books I read were written by non-white authors. 12% by LGBTQIA+ authors. And 44% by women. Despite my acknowledgement that I wanted and needed to read more books by non-white authors, I’ve done a pretty shitty job of following through. The lower numbers of LGBTQIA authors is also pretty bad, but since few authors speak up about their sexuality explicitly, the numbers might be off. I’m also surprised by the low number of female authors I’ve read this year.
But what about the books themselves?
Here’s a breakdown:
16 featured primary main characters who were straight white men
34 featured main characters who were women, POC, or queer
So despite only 58% of the books I read being written by diverse authors, 68% featured diverse main characters.
But let’s break that down even more:
27 featured female main characters.
8 featured non-white main characters.
12 featured LGBTQIA main characters.
What if find interesting about this is that fully 50% of the books featuring queer characters were written by straight authors. 37% of the books featuring POC were written by white authors. And 18% of the books featuring women were written by men.
Furthermore, only 2 books featured a main character with a disability. And 12 dealt with mental illness in some form.
So what does this tell me about books at large? Probably nothing. My reading habits may not reflect the habits of average readers. But it does tell me that it’s not enough to simply say I want to read more books featuring diverse characters and written by diverse authors. It needs to be something I actively work at doing, and something I’ve not done a great job of. Being committed to supporting diverse authors actually requires making an effort, and is worth making the effort to do.
So my goal for 2016 is to get read more books featuring diverse characters and written by diverse authors. Books by non-white authors is something I failed at horribly and intend to fix.