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A Year of #OwnVoices

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Annika Barranti Klein

Staff Writer

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

It’s been nearly four years since I stopped reading books by men. I’ve made exceptions, mainly for men that I know personally, but have mostly stuck to reading women. Despite publishing biases toward men, there are a lot of books by women. I’ve got a vibrant reading life, and I’ve inspired some other reading experiments, which is pretty cool.

It’s been great, but I started to notice a problem: most of the women whose books I’m reading are white. And look, some of my best friends are white. (That’s a joke. Get it? But it’s also not a joke, because I do have an awful lot of white friends.) I’m white. So…that actually makes this problem even bigger, because I am isolating myself and my experiences by only reading books by people who look like me.

I started thinking this fall that I might try reading only authors of color next year. And then the election happened, and 53% of white women voted for Trump. In the aftermath, as news of a sharp increase in hate crimes spread, it became an absolute imperative: I must read books by marginalized people, most crucially POC but also LGBTQ people and disabled people and my god, I’ve been missing out on so many books by accidentally limiting myself to white women. As the country celebrates white supremacy, I will not allow myself to be tricked by the books I consume. I will celebrate all of the people our new leaders believe to be Other.

This decision coincided with a LOT of book sales (hello, Black Friday) and with my PayPal balance being somewhat cushier than usual. My Kindle now runneth over. I thought I’d share a few of the books I’ve got on my immediate queue, as well as a few I’ve already dug into. This is far from a complete list, and I look very forward to all the books I haven’t discovered yet.

if-i-was-your-girl-coverIf I Was Your Girl

Meredith Russo is a white woman, so what am I doing? Well, she’s also a trans woman and this is a story about a trans teen and also happens to be amazing. I just finished reading it and there are cartoon hearts coming out of my eyes.

Lover’s Choice

Becky Birtha is a black lesbian and this is a collection of stories, all of which are to one degree or another about being black, a lesbian, and/or both. I’m reading it right now and it’s wonderful. Sadly, this book is out of print, but I found a used copy at Amazon for cheap.

Shadowshaper, Salsa Nocturna, and Ghost Girl In The Corner



We Should All Be Feminists and Purple Hibiscus

I fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when I saw a video clip of her taking to task a white man who seemed to think he was qualified to decide that something is not racist just because he doesn’t feel like describing it that way, so I immediately bought her nonfiction book and one of her novels.

Throne of the Crescent Moon and Engraved on the Eye

I bought Saladin Ahmed’s books for my husband during my ladies only reading period and I was really jealous and wanted to read them…and now I can!

my-heart-and-other-black-holes-coverMy Heart and Other Black Holes

I clicked on an image link to Jasmine Warga’s novel because I liked the cover. Then I saw that it’s blurbed by my friend Nova Ren Suma, so of course I bought it.

Everything, Everything

I have to read this book so I can read The Sun Is Also A Star. (Yes, I know I don’t have to read in publishing order, but this one was on sale so I bought it first.)

destinys-embrace-coverDestiny’s Embrace

Jessica recommended Beverly Jenkins when I was looking for new romance novels, and then she recommended this one specifically for my 100 Must-Read Westerns. So I bought it! And I am finally going to read it!

Silent City

I included this book on my 100 Must-Read Noir, one of several books that were recommended to me. Alex Segura and I follow each other on Twitter now, so I figured I’d better read his book!

This is the tip of the iceberg. (It isn’t an iceberg.) It is just a few of the books on my Kindle right now. But I think it’s a pretty good start. I’d love reading recommendations, too, so hit the comments if you have some.

This is an experiment; my ultimate goal is a well-rounded reading life. I will probably still make exceptions. I am good friends with a number of writers, many of them white, and I may read their books. I may read new books in series I am already reading. I may choose to read books about subjects that are not covered by own voices authors (but I will keep looking for those authors). I may very well read books by marginalized white authors. But I also may pause when I come to these exceptions and decide they can wait for 2018.