Over spring break I read this article on TIME about expanding the diversity of your reading habits by only reading work for a certain demographic for a year. K.T. Bradford, the author of the article, took inspiration from Lilit Marcus, who only read books by women, and Sunili Govinnage, who only read non-white authors. Bradford resolved to not read books by straight, cis, white men.
So I decided to take on the challenge myself and cut any books by white men from my reading list for a year. I realized as soon as I made the decision that this wasn’t going to be possible, as we were studying Hamlet in English, and Will Shakespeare is the whitest of white men. Also, I’m going to be an English major next year, so I’ll have to read whatever they assign me. Still, I can do my best and, outside of assigned reading, I will only read material by women or people of color.
So, currently I’m reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. “Bad Feminist” is a collection of articles in which Gay explores what it means to be black, a woman, queer, overweight and a competitive Scrabble player in our modern society. The articles are honest, funny and emotional. They range in topic, from her childhood to the young people she works with as a professor to the title article – why she embraces the label “bad feminist.”
After that, I plan to read “Travelling to Infinity” by Jane Hawking, the book on which “The Theory of Everything” was based. Jane Hawking’s memoir talks about her life and her marriage to the famous physicist Stephen Hawking. I read the first 20 pages or so in the book shop and fell in love with the way she described being an English schoolgirl in the 1950’s.
Now I’m not saying there isn’t valuable literature by white men, of course I’m not. George Orwell, Douglas Adams and Shakespeare are among my favorite writers. But every high school syllabus, academic critique and New York Times Bestseller list is littered with these. This exercise in diversity is about opening yourself up to the voices that are diminished in our society, and expanding the way you think about the world by looking at it through their eyes.
So I challenge you all. Choose a demographic, whether it be women, people of colour, those with mental illness, LGBT+ individuals, immigrants or something else. Every silenced group has a story to tell; all they need is someone to listen.
In this podcast I offer some book recs if you want to try the challenge yourself. They’re all linked underneath.
Americanah – Chimamanda Adiche
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Refugee Boy – Benjamin Zephaniah