It’s Easy AF to Read More Books by People of Color

It’s Easy AF to Read More Books by People of Color

For the last few years, I’ve set myself a Goodreads challenge. I set the number of books higher each year, pushing myself to do more of my favorite thing—reading. Last year’s felt pretty easy, and at the end of the year, I sat down and did the math to see how many of the (34) books I’d read were by women (24), how many by men (9), and how many by people of color (4!!!). I was stunned by the numbers. I’ve always favored books by women, and I’m OK with that, but I’d never consciously chosen to read books mostly by white people, had I?

My 2018 book challenge was that half of the books I read would be by authors of color. It was hard at first. Because there aren’t a lot of great books in my favorite genres by POC? Nope. Because there are so many great books by white people? Not even.

First, I kept buying books on sale on Amazon. MOST BY WHITE PEOPLE. Second, I commute 12 hours per week, and I check out audiobooks from my library. MOST BY WHITE PEOPLE. Third, the book reviews I was asked or volunteered to do were all for books BY WHITE PEOPLE.

There was no dearth of books I wanted to read by POC; at any point during the year, I had a TBR list a mile long of books by POC writers. But I had been just sitting back and reading the books that crossed my path for free or for cheap. I was letting my reading choices be determined by the books Amazon chooses to promote, those the library chooses to stock on audiobook, and those the publications I review for want to promote.

It felt to me like I had been choosing my books, but I wasn’t. I had been sitting back and letting a racist world choose my reading list, and so my reading list was white.

You can’t expect that all the books you need and want to read will be promoted by corporate America or acknowledged by local libraries. You have to put a very small amount of effort into getting them into your hands (or your ears). Here are some ways I was able to do that this year:

  1. When I read lists like “Octavia’s Daughters: The Amazing Women of Black Sci-Fi,” I don’t just read it and hope I’ll remember the titles and authors later on. I look the books up on Amazon and put them in my cart, even if I can’t buy them right then.
  2. When I hear of a book by a POC I want to read, I follow the author on social media, put the book on my TBR list on Goodreads, and put it on hold at my library, if it’s available. If it’s not, I request it from the library. All these steps make it more likely these books will be promoted to a wider audience.
  3. Once I find a writer of color that I love, I seek out all their other books. E.g., everything by Octavia Butler is amazing.
  4. I use the Libby app through my local library. They have the books grouped into genres and they have groups like, “African-American Interest” and “Multicultural Reading.” I have feelings about the titles of those categories, but I go to them first now when I’m looking for a new book.
  5. When I have a few extra dollars to spend on a full-price e-book or used book or, on a very big payday, a full-price real book, I choose to give those dollars to a writer of color. This includes when I buy books as gifts. Spread the love!

So, that’s it. Easy AF.

The results of my year of trying to read books by POC? I read many books this year that I would not have chosen otherwise. THEY ROCKED MY WORLD. No joke. Here they are:

The Changeling, Victor LaValle. I stay away from horror or scary things in general, but this was recommended by a friend, was available on audiobook read by the author, and had folktale themes. It is terrifying, gruesome, and amazing. You will never see it coming.

Hunger, Roxane Gay. I don’t typically read anything but fiction. This book, this writer, has changed my life forever. Devastating, honest, gentle, heartbreaking, empowering. Goddess bless Dr. Gay.

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai. I have long admired Malala, but this is a kids’ audiobook, so it wasn’t on my radar. I am so glad I found it. I wept throughout. Her shocking story is captivating. Her ambition and perseverance in spite of terrible conditions…she is now my role model.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears, Meg Medina. Speaking of tears. This is such a sweet story of a beautiful family taking care of each other and sticking together through a difficult time. Highly recommended middle-grade novel.

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon. I’m not into Romance, or happy stories in general (SORRY). But this was adorable, and I really enjoyed reading about young badass tech women.

The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark. This book is totally weird. Alternate timeline New Orleans. Social justice warrior nuns. Goddesses incarnate. I dearly hope it turns into a series.

I also read The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, the Tensorate series by J.Y. Yang, Fledgling by Octavia Butler, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, among others. I loved them all A LOT. Check out my Goodreads reviews. These were not just good books, they were amazing books, and they made my 2018.

I hope your 2019 is full of excellent reading!