Our Reading Lives

6 Paths to Diversity in 2018

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This is a guest post from Jordan Calhoun. Jordan is a writer and pop culture savant in New York City. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice, B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Japanese, and an M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. He might solve a mystery, or rewrite history. Find him on Twitter @JordanMCalhoun.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in my reading life. Not because of the holidays though, nor even the extra time I’m afforded loafing on the couch, using the thickest book in my pile to avoid family when the excitement of their company devolves into teenage angst. The most wonderful time of the year is the week around New Year’s – an introvert’s time of dedicated self-reflection and planning, done in earnest under the guise of complete normality. And as readers reflect on surpassing their reading goals or swapping a few novelas into their to-be-read list to fulfill their latest Goodreads Challenge, the new year also offers a fresh start to a whole new reading list in 2018. Have you noticed glaring gaps in your personal reading? Or found yourself starting the year strong, only to fizzle into an end-of-year reading rut? This year, dedicate your reading list to a specific diverse perspective you’d been missing. Here are a few thematic suggestions for setting your New Year reading resolutions and setting yourself up for a reading year that’s fun, enlightening, and pretty damn purposeful. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

Women of Color

We could all live better by listening to, and amplifying, the voices of women. Take it a step deeper though, and pay special attention to the more marginalized voices of women of color whose talent, perspectives, and contributions to the arts cannot be overstated despite continual underrepresentation throughout history and culture. Do yourself the favor of choosing 12 women of color authors, known and lesser-known, from Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere to Mahogany Browne’s Black Girl Magic.

Try starting here: Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches

Comics and Graphic Novels

There was a day when I counted the books I’d read, look at a graphic novel and ask myself, does this count? Those days are long gone. Comics and graphic novels have risen to their rightful place alongside traditional novels, giving sequential art and graphic storytelling the credibility the deserve; so much so that you can hardly call yourself well-read anymore without at least a functional understanding of comics or a favorite series, writer, or artist. Recently, I assigned a student to create a reading list meant for pleasure, a separate list from the one he’d been assigned in school. “Do these count?” he asked, holding up a graphic novel. You’re damn right, they do.

Try starting here: Motor Crush, by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Cameron Stewart

2018 Movies

You’re going to watch the movie, so why not read the book first? This is one that typically just takes planning; we all know the book is always better, but waiting till premiere weekend to place that library hold can derail our best intentions of knocking out the novel before the big screen. So take a look ahead – there’s a lot on the horizon in the book-to-film category, including diverse casting, and you’ll be ready with expectations and opinions. Read (or re-read) what’s coming soon to a theater near you, everything from Ready Player One to The Bell Jar.

Try starting here: Madeleine L’engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, or (two for one!) Hope Larson’s graphic novel adaptation

Differing Abilities

El DeafoIf your perspectives ignore differing abilities, widen your perspectives. Some of our favorite stories include people or authors with varying physical and cognitive abilities, so try making a concerted effort to seek them out. It’s one of the most amazing ways to see the world through another point of view, and you’re always bound to learn about the amazingly adaptable ways other people think, do, and thrive.

Try starting here: El Deafo, by Cece Bell, or Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig

Non-Traditional Families

Adoption, re-marriage, polyamory, and beyond – blended families have never been more prominent in media than they are now, and non-traditional families have made their way towards being less stigmatized, more accepted, and better represented in a variety of ways. From gay and lesbian relationships to inter-cultural, inter-racial, inter-religious and more, there’s almost no limit to the mix-and-matching of family bonds. Learn from those perspectives, and explore the experiences of characters and authors who defy the notions of what many of us were taught to mean “family.” And then keep reading them until you can’t even tell what’s considered “traditional” anymore.

Try starting here: Loving Vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell

Indigenous History

Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey RatnerHow much do you know about the history of the indigenous people, in your own country or abroad? If you’re anything like me, you could definitely learn more. Go beyond what you learned in history class to discover stories within the under-taught histories of indigenous people pre-colonialism or in the wake of its disasters. Brace yourself for its horrors, but don’t shy away from them; there is beauty to be found too, and lessons that are our responsibility to learn.

Try starting here: Vaddey Rattner’s Music of the Ghosts