SAVE ME FROM THE WHITE DUDES (A reflection on my 2013 reading habits)

dont look at meee

 

I don’t normally keep stats on a lot of my reading habits. On my yearly Excel spreadsheet, I keep track of the number of books and pages, genres, and the titles – all organized by month. I never bother with keeping track of the author’s gender or race because… ? I don’t know. I’m a big fan of reading whatever the hell I feel like, and that’s what I do.

BUT my most recent Top Ten Tuesday, in which I had to struggle to even list two favorite new-to-me female authors, made me kind of curious. So I went through my Excel file, and added a column for gender, and… the results are not good.

sandra bullock talking about private parts

Even though this is true.

Now, it’s not technically the end of December, so let’s take a look at my numbers from January to November:

38 of the books I read were by female authors

77 of the books I read were by male authors

3 books were by both male and female co-authors

Now this doesn’t seem SO bad… until you take into account the fact that 8 of those books by female authors were Harry Potter re-reads, so technically just 1 female author for those 8 books. And there were a couple other books that were also by female authors I was already familiar with. So basically – no wonder by TTT list was full of dudes. I am not trying out enough female authors. I mean, I don’t necessarily want to read more female authors than male authors on average, but I’d be more comfortable if it was closer to 50/50 I guess.

The most recent BookRiot podcast made me start to wonder what my stats are for racial diversity. Oy.

Out of 118 books between January and November…

99 were by white people

4 were by Asian people

6 were by black or bi-racial people

4 were by Middle Eastern people

5 were by multiple authors, or by authors whose race wasn’t easily decided by a Google or Wikipedia search (I was doing this at like 11 last night, so I was a bit lazy there)

of youre serious

This upsets me WAY more than the gender thing… maybe because in some sort of weird way, racism bothers me more than sexism? I don’t know, but this is SHAMEFUL. I don’t intentionally seek out books by white dudes… but I’ve been seriously oblivious to the lack of diversity in my reading. And obviously that’s my own fault. I don’t know when that started happening – I feel like several years ago, my reading habits were a much better mixture of people of all colors. And I know for sure that I definitely read more lady authors a few years ago.

What makes even less sense in my head, is that I read such a CRAZY wide selection of genres. Fiction, humor, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, classics, non-fiction, YA – I’ll read practically anything. So it’s a little shocking that my list was so full of white dudes. UGH.

HELP ME, PEEPS.

I want to read more ladies, and more non-white people, in 2014. In general, I tend to gravitate towards sci-fi, fantasy, and humor – or really, my favorite is a mix of all three. And non-fiction has been my jam lately (actually, several of my Asian/Middle Eastern/Black author books were non-fiction, so yay there).

I could use your book recs, for real. ESPECIALLY in the non-white folks department. Pretty please?

~Sarah

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32 comments

  1. I never have any problem reading enough lady authors — in fact I think my reading probably skews heavily female — but yeah, my diversity stats have not been good this year.

    Have you read Thomas King? He’s a First Nations Canadian writer, and his books are really funny and angry and great. There’s a nonfiction book of his that a couple of my favorite bloggers have reviewed recently, called The Truth about Stories, or also, The Inconvenient Indian is very good. Or if you feel like fiction, he has this book Green Grass Running Water.

    ALSO: My imaginary best friend Helen Oyeyemi writes super weird, creepy fantasy(ish) books, the best of which is White Is for Witching. She’s Nigerian-British.

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  2. Out of curiousity I checked my male-female stats:

    63 books read so far, 32 by females, 31 by males.

    Jeez I had no idea it’s gonna be so… perfectly in balance? 😀

    As for the other stats, yeah… too embarrassingly white is all there. I feel like I also need to make more educated choices, it’s sad that most of the stuff shoven in our faces mainly comes from the world of white males I guess.

    She’s white female, but I recommend Robin Hobb! (That was really unexpected wasn’t it.)

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    1. GO YOU on being so balanced! Wow.

      I feel like maybe my bias towards white dudes in my reading comes from my love of sci-fi/fantasy stuff? That’s a genre that’s stereotypically full of white dudes. I’ve read Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin (both fantasy ladies of color), but I can’t really think of many others.

      Robin Hobb is totally on my list for next year 🙂 I have the Assassin’s Apprentice waiting for me on my shelf.

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      1. I actually agree on white dudes ruling sci-fi/fantasy, I think it’s a lot easier to get varied reading out of some other genres. I have only heard of Octavia Butler and I want to read something from her as well.

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  3. Sometimes I think we just get into cycles where a particular type of author dominates our reading. This isn’t to say that the amount of middle-class white male authors who seem to dominate all our reading lists isn’t problematic, but sometimes a good book just spawns a different good book. But trying to add diversity into our reading is never a bad thing, so onto recs!

    Ben Law is a Chinese-Australian who was a journalist and is now writing non-fiction books. His first was about his family and his latest, Gaysia, is about homosexuality in Asia. I think it tends to favour person experience/anecdotes (he travelled through asia for the book) over straight science/sociological fact but he’s a great writer.

    Also by an Australian, The Happiest Refuge by Ahn Do is about his family coming to Australia by boat from Vietnam Do is a comedian so the quality of the writing isnt amazing but he’s a really genuine guy which comes through.

    Anita Heiss (aboriginal and a woman – two wins in one!) Often writes “smart chick lit” (I think – I haven’t read too much by her) but Am I Black Enough For You is her memoir, which also looks at life as an Aboriginal woman/writer/academic/Australian. You might also find some recs within this book.

    I seem to be gravitating to Australian authors and I’m not sure how readily available they are in the states. I’m sure Amazon would have them, but if you’re after library books these probably won’t help you at all. Whoops!

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    1. I do definitely go through reading phases, but I guess I’m just disappointed that my reading has been so white-centric, even while reading across a broad variety of genres.

      All those authors added to my list!

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  4. This is the first year I’ve ever tracked my reading in any structured way, mainly BECAUSE I was trying to read more by ladies and thought it would shame me into doing that (it’s worked!) BUT it’s also made me see how racist my reading is, so that’s not cool.

    Basically, I’m looking forward to seeing some non-white recommendations here. Mine is, as always, murakami, and I don’t know, all the wimmins. They’re all good.

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    1. Tracking your reading does make you kind of aware of stuff. (Especially at how little I’m reading right now. Le sigh.) And it’s fun! Because I like data about my reading.

      Eeeeee… do I wanna try another Murakami? Because reading Norwegian Wood all together was fun, but because it was hilariously bad in some respects (I know, I know, you love it!). MAYBE I’ll give him another try, in the name of diversity and upping my stats. So for science!

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      1. I’m a huge fan of Murakami as well, but Norwegian Wood is definitely not my favourite book from him. I probably would recommend Kafka on the Shore, or even The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to those people that do not fear bigger kinda books.

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  5. Ahahaha that title. I love it.

    When I started tracking my book stats (and author stats) I didn’t expect it to be SO WHITE, and SO MALE but holy shit, look at that. Most of the time even now I don’t consciously try to read more non-white ladies but I’ve found just being away of what my stats are seem to be subconsciously driving me towards more diversity. Which is pretty awesome.

    As for recommendations OCTAVIA BUTLER! Sci-fi! Lady! Black! Look how many stats she checks off. Fledgling or Kindred(!!) or Lilith’s Brood trilogy.

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    1. I do just want to be kind of generally aware of it, and I’m aiming to get more color and chicks into my reading… but I don’t want to like sign-up for an official challenge, because I feel like that would be too stressful. Apparently I’m still a bit of a child and don’t like doing things I’m forced to, even if I’m forcing myself.

      YES. I am totally reading more Octavia Butler next year. I haven’t read any by her since Kindred years and years ago.

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      1. I am 200% with you on not signing up for challenges cos like you I WILL NOT DO IT IF FORCED. Even if I’m the one doing the forcing.

        We should do a readalong for some non-white and/or non-male author. That seems to be the only sort of bookish peer pressure I can get behind.

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  6. I haven’t checked my stats yet but I have a feeling they will probably be pretty similar to yours. I’ll be bookmarking this post so I can peruse the comments and get some good recommendations too. Here’s to a more diverse 2014 in reading! 🙂

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  7. We are SO IN THE SAME BOAT! For whatever reason my books by ladies skyrocketed this year, but I did feel the disparity between white folks and other ethnicities. That’s why I’ve decided that 2014 is the year of diverse reading. I will be saved from the white people.

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    1. Yay! We can both be saved. I don’t know if you checked out that BookRiot link in the post, but in the podcast they talked about how terribly, basically racist the NYT bestsellers lists usually are and it got me thinking about stuff. Obviously, lol. But I want to be supporting the non-white authors!

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  8. I was thinking about this after listening to the BookRiot episode, too. My majority is white males, too, but I had a decent number of women and non-white authors this year. Still, it’s something I’m going to keep a better eye out for next year. I don’t have too many sci-fi/fantasy or humor recommendations for you, but I read a great YA book called Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Mega Medina and a fantastic memoir called Buck by MK Asante.

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  9. My reading skews heavily female and always has, I’m likely giving male authors short shrift. I hadn’t even thought about my diversity ratio, which is probably pathetic. I did just finish Kindred by Octavia Butler and really enjoyed it, which I see several other commenters have already recommended to you.

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    1. I think I used to read more female authors… I think it’s my shift towards sci-fi fantasy that’s gotten me away from them, a little bit. Mira Grant might be the best I’ve seen in the genre so far.

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  10. I was also inspired by the last BookRiot podcast and will be doing my own stats corner, similar to your’s. There has been a lot out there about men dominating publishing, and like you that is something i want to change. I want to read more diversely. I will let you know once i’ve analyzed everything.

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  11. Hey Sarah I just ran across your blog for the first time and I love this post because most book bloggers don’t factor race and don’t try to diversify there reading. *shameless plug time* I am hosting a reading challenge for 2014 to help with this (issue?) It’s called Diversity on the Shelf 2014. You should join us. It’ll be fun and I will give participates help along the way. PROMISE!! 🙂 http://littlepocketbooks.blogspot.com

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