I know, things have been quiet around here lately. Don’t worry, I have a backlog of reviews I’ll be posting next week.
But first, I wanted to invite you to join me in a challenge I set for myself.
I want to do a readalong for white people.
Before you start screaming “racist!”, hear me out:
I am white. I am aware that I have a certain amount of privilege. I am also aware that I am not doing enough to broaden my horizons and learn about the experiences of others. Until I moved to Seattle, I didn’t live in a diverse area. Diversity was a theoretical thing I saw on the internet.
So I want to invite other white people to join me in educating myself about Black and POC experiences, rather than putting the onus on individuals to educate us.
This challenge is meant to introduce baby steps to make me (us) more aware of what and how I (we) read, and to introduce a broader range of voices.
If you would like to join (be you white or otherwise, all are welcome), then here is how:
- Start a reading journal. I say journal, because you’re going to need some space for this. It could be digital or on paper. If you already have a reading journal, great! Skip to step 3.
- In that journal, write down every book you read or listen to. All book formats count.
- Create a color coding system, or other signifiers to show the kinds of diverse books you read. There should at least be notations for #Ownvoices Black and #Ownvoices POC books, but other flavors of diversity you might like to track: positive or #Ownvoices mental health rep, first generation [insert your country of origin here], Native voices (American, 1st Nations, Aboriginal, Ainu, or other), positive or #Ownvoices disability rep, and LGBT+ rep.
- Highlight books according to these labels, using up to two colors for each one. A book only counts if the label applies to the author, main character, or the main supporting character (love interest, best friend, sibling, etc).
- Create a reading list for yourself through the end of the year. You can read other books, but the challenge here is to try to finish this list or as much of it as possible by the end of the year. It should be challenging, but doable. Don’t make a list so long it’s going to overwhelm you. I recommend between 25-50 books.
- At least half this list should be #Ownvoices Black experience. The other half can be any POC representation, but must be #Ownvoices. Try to find as many intersectional represenations as possible (i.e. a disabled Hispanic main character, a trans Asian main character, etc.) *
- Include at least three books that are not recent releases, like books from the Harlem Renaissance, older biographies, etc. Adding nonfiction is a definite bonus.**
6. Post pictures of the three lists on social media to help keep yourself accountable (Mine are up on Instagram–@Knotmagick–and I’ll be showing them here in my next post.
I don’t have a catchy hashtag or title for this reading challenge, but feel free to tag me in your posts (same username on Twitter, too).
If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below and I will answer. My next few posts (after my lists) will be catching up on my backlog of reviews, but I am taking more detailed notes on the books I’ve earmarked for this challenge, and I’ve already started one of them.
I know this is a small effort, and that is intentional. I want us to be more aware of ourselves and the people around us, and that is not something that happens at the drop of a hat. It means re-training your brain and your senses. Just this morning I saw a Twitter thread (by a black woman) about preventing burnout, as most white people are not trained to think about race every second of every day the way people of color are. This of this as a Couch to 5K for increasing your racial awareness. I’m also sure there are or will be similar reading challenges in the near future. If this one doesn’t appeal to you, maybe take part in one of those?
I hope you’ll join me in making small steps for change.
*I have this split into two lists for a few reasons, but I thought I would mention the most practical one up front: a lot of books by Black authors are hard to get a hold of at the moment if you are a person who relies on libraries like me. So feel free to start with other marginalizations and circle back to the Black authors as they become available. I think I went through 15 books on my list before I found one my library had available, and the King County Library System is not small. Readers in more rural areas may have more difficulty and I want this to be as accessible and as educational as possible.
**Try to make these books that you actually want to read, not just stuff you’re forcing yourself to read for the sake of education. I relate most to YA, so I’ve put a lot of that on my list. Don’t know where to start? Here are some lists I pulled from to help me find my titles:
Goodreads: Books by Black Authors
Goodreads: Multicultural Children’s Lit
Goodreads: Black Speculative Fiction
Goodreads: Masterlist of Black YA Writers
Oprah: 43 Books by Black Authors to Read in Your Lifetime
Penguin Random House: 25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors