Recently I was having a conversation with friends regarding diverse reads. We all read diversely, but the conversation took a different turn when someone mentioned that as a book community, we need to stand up for our diverse friends and read authors of color. We need to support bookstagrammers and book clubs run by people of color. We need to step up and there’s more work to be done aside from reading a few diverse books.
I totally agree with these sentiments. Our world is really unique and diverse and not everyone reads the same book. So why not follow some people who choose differently? Ultimately, this begs the question: does reading diverse novels make you an ally?
I’ll admit that I’m a bit sheltered. I’m ignorant about different people and their lives. I live in a bubble and I try my best to shatter that bubble with the diverse books I read. I don’t like that I’m ignorant, but I don’t deny it either. I don’t pretend to be intellectual and I know the only way for me to learn is to discover it myself.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of my time and energy sharing some amazing reads written by authors of color. I love sharing these reads because every time I read them, I feel like I’m becoming less ignorant. I’m learning more about a culture and a people. I’m discovering new worlds and reading about old worlds. While it may be fiction, you have to admit there’s a small grain of truth.
And I wanted to bring my love for diverse reads to the world as well because the world should check them out. We all come from different places and different backgrounds and all ultimately share one huge common thread; we’re all humans and we all live on Earth.
Does that make me an ally? I think so. I think anyone that makes the conscious decision to read diversely is an ally. I think anyone that reads a book by a diverse author and finds it to be fascinating, fun, interesting, scary, lovely, or mind-blowing is an ally. However, if you want to be a better ally, I put together a few steps to help that process along.
The first step is the most obvious. Reading novels by people of color, by people who have different sexual identities, by marginalized voices will help expand your worldview. Making the conscious decision to read more diversely is already admitting to yourself that there’s more to learn out there and you’re willing to try it.
Think About What You Just Read
Reading diverse books is great, but the next step is actually thinking about what you just read. Perhaps you can understand a little bit better where your neighbor is from. Perhaps you get why something is considered cultural appropriation.
Sitting and thinking about what you just read is good, and it’s even better if there was something you didn’t understand. If there was something you couldn’t wrap your head around, do some searching online for answers. Perhaps find a friend who know first-hand about what you read. If they’re willing to help you understand what you read, that’s great! It’s all about learning more and expanding that worldview.
Remember the Takeaways
As readers, we have this way of taking away a lot from a book and adapting it somehow to the real world. Whether it’s a series of foodie stories that causes us to cook more or a love story that helps us love more, there’s always something to take away. What do you take away from reading a diverse novel? How can that impact the way you see things everyday? Does it change something? Does it make you understand better?
If you read a book and toss it away, did it really impact you? I don’t think I can walk away from a book without thinking about it, without examining what the author is trying to say if they’re trying to say anything. I don’t think I can put down a book and not remember something or expand upon something I already understood.
So perhaps reading diversely makes you an ally, but what also matters is that reading makes you think.