A while back there was a meme on Facebook to list ten books that “stayed with you.” I didn’t do it — at least not seriously — because I’ve done so many things like that in the past, but it emerged that men were listing lists of books by men, where women tended to have more balanced lists. Even more, it emerged that white readers had lists of mostly white authors. My non-existent list would be at least half women (because I tend to list children’s books, and that field has always been well-represented by women, as is any endeavor that involves caring about kids), but it would be mostly or entirely white. And it’s not because I don’t care for books by people of color, it’s because I haven’t read enough of them to give me an ample supply to choose from. Song of Solomon is one of my favorite novels and might make the list, depending on where my head goes that day, but the number of other novels I’ve read by African American women is shamefully scant. I have so many books by white guys to choose from and deliberate over.
At the same time, my reading life has been somewhat uninspired. I can read David Mitchell or Donna Tartt and like what they’ve done and appreciate it in an academic way, but I have to admit those books don’t quite urge me on the way books used to. What would it be like to allow myself zero books by men, zero books by white people for a year, I wondered? Besides challenging my assumptions and de-skewing my perspectives, could it simply refresh my excitement for reading by introducing me to a lot of great books I didn’t know about, or didn’t give a chance, because I thought naively, “that’s not for me”?
So I crowd-sourced a reading list of (mostly) recent books (all) by women of color.
I thought at first this would be a year-long experiment. Now I realize a year isn’t enough to give these authors, but a year (or so) of the ban on white guys is necessary.
Here it is: My Reading List.