Librarians, let’s talk. Or rather, let’s revisit the conversation which sparked a lot of outrage and anger here a couple of years ago: your need to nominate more diverse books for LibraryReads. Perhaps it’s a challenge to read all of the books you’re dying to read before the deadline to nominate rolls around. Or, perhaps, your own reading life is really white. But at this point, there’s literally no excuse for not reading, sharing, or finding diverse books.
If your job is to serve your community—and frankly, the excuse that your community is “all white” is a lie you keep telling yourself, perhaps in part because you’re simply welcoming one demographic over every other one—then you need to be reading diversely. One extremely simple way to do this is to read diverse books with an eye toward elevating them to a LibraryReads nomination. The LibraryReads lists, as you should be aware, are then distributed to librarians throughout the USA, helping them to better select and highlight great books for their patrons.
But if the lists continue to be all or primarily white—and even more frustrating, highlight the books that any good librarian is going to buy anyway since they’re by heavy-hitting authors—then the list serves no purpose for you as a reader, for you as a reader’s advisor, or for anyone else who picks it up. It’s merely a popularity contest.
“I don’t have time to read diverse books” is a statement borne of privilege and laziness, plain and simple. You do. Perhaps it means you prioritize reading one title by an author of color per month over something else you can pick up down the road. Perhaps it means you challenge yourself to do something more radical, like read a book by an author of color every three books you read. These are extremely simple changes that will pull you from your comfort zone, make you a better reader, and make you better aware of the reality of the community your serving and in turn, better serve that community.
The excuse of “this is how we’ve always done it” is so worn out it’s a meme at this point. Perhaps it IS new to you to have to read more widely. Perhaps it IS new to you that you have to seek out these books because they’re not going to jump on your desk to announce themselves. But, being smart, intelligent, savvy, and literate, you’re absolutely capable of doing the work.
Here’s how to find diverse books before they’re published so you can read and nominate them with plenty of time for them to show up on the monthly LibraryReads list. When you can find these books and read them, you can become a better advocate for these titles and ultimately, a better advocate for the whole of the readers in the communities you serve.
It really is that simple.
Non-librarians, you’re welcome to check out these resources for yourself, too. The databases linked to below, as well as the other tools available for finding diverse reads, can only help serve you in your own reading life. If you have access to galleys, you’ll find a host of gems below; if you don’t, you’ll find yourself building an epic TBR list in the months prior to release dates—you can brag to your friends how you read it first.
How To Find Diverse Books Before They’re Published
You can begin with the easiest tool out there: the handy guide created with this very mission in mind. Updated periodically, I’ve developed a database of diverse fiction titles available to request on Edelweiss. “Diverse” in this sense is fairly limited, but it’s limited in a way that’s most easily quantifiable: race and ethnicity.
All of the books included in this database are by authors of color, as determined by biographical information or self-disclosure. Additional books included in this database are books in translation—in other words, books which are, by default, inclusive because they were not originally written in English.
Book descriptions are not included in this database. Rather, I’ve linked to each of the galleys for your own perusal.
The database covers galleys available through the next few months, and it’s updated as appropriate. This means that more titles may appear for August or September publications as those months draw nearer—there is no universal standard for when galleys appear.
The database is also limited to Edelweiss. For readers who prefer NetGalley, it’s easy enough to look at the titles in the database, then perform a title search over there. It’s likely they’ll be available in both spots.
It is possible that this database will miss appropriate titles. This is, in part, because the construction depends upon easily searchable demographic information; some authors choose not to share this or it’s not easy to find.
Constructing the database took a little time and effort, but the tools used to do it are worth sharing. When you hop onto Edelweiss, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of galleys available, refine your search with the site’s tools. To find diverse adult fiction publishing in July, for example, narrow down available galleys to those publishing under the category of fiction and then in July. It will winnow down results to a much more manageable number and page count.
The work is in, of course, looking up each of the authors to determine whether or not they’re from a marginalized background. But it’s worthwhile work to practice, whether or not you utilize the database above.
Further Resources For Finding Diverse Books
Although these resources may be less helpful in helping you find and read titles far enough in advance of publication to nominate for LibraryReads, knowing, reading, and talking about diverse books is part of your job working with readers. Having an understanding of strong backlist titles, picking up those backlist titles, and having access to finding information about these titles can only work to help you develop your skills and knowledge.
There are many excellent websites out there highlighting books from various backgrounds and experiences. Few of them are focused squarely on adult fiction, but readers seeking out diverse YA fiction will do well perusing them.
- Queer Reads for Teens
- Casey the Canadian Lesbriarian (Adult queer reads, Canadian)
- Disability in Kid Lit
- American Indians in Children’s Literature
- Sense and Disability (Disability in Romance)
- Girl Have You Read (Black centered romance)
- Women of Color in Romance
- We Need Diverse Books’s Database of Resources
Preeti Chhibber, YA expert and cohost of the Desi Geek Girls podcast, keeps a database worth saving. Chhibber opens her database to the publishing industry experts, who submit titles from their catalogs that are diverse. It highlights what marginalizations are explored in the books, what age range the book is marketed toward, and other information for readers and book industry experts.
Chhibber also keeps a list for distributing the databases in future iterations, which you can sign up for right here.
So now what?
Get reading. Seriously. That’s it. Read these books. Talk about them. Share them with other readers.
And, as always, nominate them for LibraryReads. That kind of exposure helps the books, of course, but more than that, it helps other librarians get those books into the hands of readers who are desperate for them.
Consider it part of your best professional development. It’s more work to complain about having to read diverse books than it is to plan out a couple of hours a month to do it, especially when there is a world of resources at your finger tips doing everything but putting the book in your eyeballs.