TSS: Some serious thoughts

It has been an interesting week, both in blogging land and in my personal life with the start of a new semester and it seems that I really have had a lot to think about.  I’ve been somewhat silent on many of the issues at hand, at least on my blog, I have been vocal in the comments, but it is important to me to publicly say what I think, because adding one more voice to the crowd is important.

There is first, of course, the question of whitewashing on book covers.  Magic Under Glass is a book I have not read, but it is clear that Bloomsbury made another big mistake.  I do not condone this and while I will not be boycotting the publisher (though I completely support those who are), I want to make it very clear that this is not okay.  It is completely unacceptable and I have a responsibility, as a reader, a reviewer, a purchaser of books, to make it clear to all publishers that yes, I (a white, middle class 20-something) will read and review and love books by POC.  This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad.  This is about reading about and becoming aware of  different cultures, and trying to understand.   With understanding, comes respect.  Thankfully, the blogging world is quick to respond to such things, and several new resources have arisen in the past week to help readers like me, who want to diversify their reading and make a point to put POC authors and books about POC characters in the spotlight.

Readers Against Whitewashing
Diversify Your Reading
POC Reading Challenge

Join one, join two, join three.  Or don’t join any, but do something if this is important to you.  Because no matter how small your voice is, and I know that in this big publishing world my voice is very small, you have the opportunity make someone listen.  So take advantage of that, use your blog for good.

But it is not all about POC.  It is about reading books that make a difference.  No, reading is not always about making a statement, but sometimes it is.  Why was I embarrassed when I was reading Twilight in public?  Why are some adults embarrassed to be reading a young adult book in public?  Because the book you choose to read says something about you, it informs the observer about you, whether you like it or not.  It just might get someone else reading the same kinds of books you are.   Not every single book I choose to read will make a difference, but I should make a point to tell you about the ones that will.  That is my philosophy and that is what I plan to keep doing this year.  One of my new years resolutions was to use the reading challenges I have joined (Women Unbound, GLBT Challenge, POC Reading Challenge) to make my reading more diverse and to raise awareness about people and cultures and issues that are different from my own.  Or even to explain, in the best way I know how, things that make my experience unique: by giving you a book to read.

Other thoughts on Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online, 1330v.

Thoughts on the publisher’s decision about Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online.

More thoughts on diverse reading: A Striped Armchair, Shelf Love.

_________________________________________________________________________

In other news, I have some giveaways to announce the winners of!  Chosen by random.org:

The winner of René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez is:

EMILY!

The winner of Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias is:

SOFT DRINK!

The winner of a button from The Strand New York is:

ASH!

Email me your addresses to regularrumination@gmail.com and they will be on their way!

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19 thoughts on “TSS: Some serious thoughts

  1. This is such an interesting post, Lu, echoing the idea of being a public reader that Liz brought up.

    I do think what we read says something about us…but it says something only in the perspective of the observer or the general consensus of the culture. One person might thing…oh, another girl living her fantasies through Twilight, while another might say …oh I bet we’d be friends.

    which always brings me back around to the question I struggle with constantly–who decides worth?

    But having said that, I think we do have a responsibility to read diversely and as humans to constantly push ourselves to recogonize, in the words of Ian McEwan, that other people are as real as we are.

    1. Amy: That’s the point I’m trying to make – it doesn’t really matter what the observer thinks, so much as you know that you are doing something that will produce a reaction by choosing to read a book publicly. Being aware of that will allow you to use your reading to bring attention to things that are important to you, whether it is diversity based on skin color, gender or other attributes that make us different. It’s not necessarily about what other people see as worth, so much as what you see as worth. It is the ability to use your reading to say something, no matter what it is you want to say. I was using that as an example that we encounter the fact that we read publicly every single day by choosing what we review on our blog – that can be a powerful tool. I just want to encourage others to use that as they see fit.

  2. This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad. This is about reading about and becoming aware of different cultures, and trying to understand.

    Exactly! It really confuses me when people say it’s condescending or even racist to deliberately seek out books by POC. We’re not going to pretend to like them all, or do anything other than apply the same standards we apply to white authors. We’re just trying to compensate for a social bias that makes these books less visible and less available.

    1. Ana: I was confused by those comments as well, so I thought it important to address it in my post. I don’t think every reader needs to do this, though it would be great if they did. I am in no way judging another person’s reading choices. I’m not going to your blog and counting how many books by a POC you read and how many you didn’t. Ultimately, what I hope I’m saying clearly is that by having a blog, the very nature of the beast is that you are giving publicity to books. We all have the opportunity to be a small voice for books that have something important to say, so I hope we are all empowered by that voice.

      1. I agree. And you definitely didn’t sound like you were judging anyone (I hope I didn’t either!). I respect everyone’s choices, but if we have a voice, it’s good to know we can use it. On the other hand, it really saddens me to see comments that imply or outright say that people who attempt to diversify their reading just want to feel good about themselves, and pretend in their heads they’re changing the world without actually doing much. I hope the respect will be mutual!

      2. Ana: No, no, you didn’t sound like you were judging either! That’s exactly what I meant – that respect gets lost somewhere when folks go on the defensive preemptively.

  3. That is something I hear from romance readers. They feel judged (and often are) by people when they read romance in public. I’m always taking peeks at what people are reading because it might be something I read or want to read.

  4. I don’t think it’s wrong or bad to go out seeking authors/characters that are POC. I do get uncomfortable when people say they won’t read a book unless it is by/about POC though. I don’t mind a blog that is specifically geared to get more attention to those books, but I really don’t like it when a person says they refuse to read books by/about white people. That seems racist to me, and divisive.

    Personally I am trying to increase the diversity in my reading. Last year I didn’t do bad, but I really didn’t pay much attention either. This year I’m looking more.

    1. Amanda: I agree completely – diversity is important all around. That’s what I was trying to get across at the end. It’s not just about reading books by POC, it’s about focusing on whatever diversity is important to you. It’s about using your blog as a voice to bring that attention about, but rejecting any one group specifically is not helping.

  5. I have to admit, I refused to read Twilight in public (I have a 30+ minute commute to and from work every day on the subway – lots of public reading time!) because I know *my* opinion about adult women reading those books. I’m sure some of them were reading the book for the same reason I was (being able to critique from a fully informed perspective). Not saying it’s right, but I have to admit those books elicit a strong opinion in me.

    Not every single book I choose to read will make a difference, but I should make a point to tell you about the ones that will.

    This is exactly why I openly review books from a feminist perspective. Not every title I read directly reflects on feminism, but it’s the easiest language for me to use to discuss books that will make a difference, and then pass them on.

  6. “Because the book you choose to read says something about you, it informs the observer about you, whether you like it or not.” This is the idea I have based my entire blog off of. I would love to say that I read whatever book I want wherever I want whenever I want, but the truth is that I don’t. I have been getting better though.

  7. What a lovely post, Lu! I agree with you and Liz that bloggers are public readers. What we read, whether we like it or not, reflect us as people. I joined a lot of reading challenges this year to get out of my comfort zone. I think by doing so, we become better people.

  8. Thank you for a wonderful post, Lu. It has been an interesting week, starting many great conversations about all sorts of issues. I think the idea of it “being condescending or even racist to deliberately seek out books by POC” is a form of backlash or, at least, a very defensive stance.

    And this is perfect: This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad.

  9. Yay for you, Lu! I am so impressed by the number of people who are actively changing their reading plans to include more diversity. I am not sure if I can accomplish this goal this year as I am trying REALLY hard to read from my shelves. But I should read more books from my shelves that are by people of color, if they’re there 🙂 I agree with all you said and with the comments above, too.

  10. Lu,

    Point on. Let it go on record, I, Susan, a black woman do not read books by black authors solely on race. I don’t read black urban lit, gansta fiction or black romance of black chick lit. Not my taste.

    I read POC who write about issues and lives I find interesting.

    Great post.

    Thank you,
    S

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