Reading Diversity Meme

April 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 1 Comment

I encountered this meme on A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, and found it arresting.  As I read through the questions, I realized I didn’t even know if I had read books under these categories this year! 

In going through my list, it turned out I had, and I still think there might be some that I read without realizing.  After all, even if there is an author photo, how would one know for sure?  I can’t claim to be so good at linguistics that I would automatically be able to identify an ethnicity through a name.  Due to various factors, the name isn’t that helpful anyway.  I’m really talking about race, because as far as I’m concerned there is no way to identify sexual orientation unless the author discusses it in the book or is very “out.”

The other question is, do we deliberately set out to read books by marginalized writers?  Or do we just read what we read and discover that some writers have the same background we do, and some do not?  Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I found myself more or less oblivious in these matters?

Name the last book by a female author that you’ve read.

Sing Them Home, by Stephanie Kallos.  Out of curiosity, I checked, and it turns out 34% of the books I’ve read this year were by women authors.  One was co-written with a man.  I have no idea what this means, though I suspect that my figures are thrown off by the amount of non-fiction I read, which seems to be more likely to have male authors.  Does this make me pre- or post-feminist?

Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you’ve read.

Incognegro, by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece.  It’s about a journalist who can “pass” for white and investigates lynchings during the 1930s. 

Name one from a Latino/a author.

2666, by Roberto Bolano.  Due to the page count, I hope this one counts!

How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?

Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel.  I also read books by Nami Mun, Aravind Adiga, and the Dalai Lama.  Next in my stack is The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li.

What about a GLBT writer?

Don Quixote, Which Was a Dream, by Kathy Acker.  I also read Hack, by Melissa Plaut, and Body of Work, by Christine Montross.  I would be tremendously surprised if none of the other authors I read this year were gay, but again, how would I know?  Is it my business anyway?

Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you’re feeling lucky?

Persepolis I & II, by Marjane Satrapi.

Any other “marginalized” authors you’ve read lately?

I don’t really know how to answer this one.  I read Hands of My Father, about a man raised by deaf parents, but I don’t know if that counts.  Who is marginalized besides women, people of non-white ethnicity, or GLBT writers?  This is the question that is making me think the most.  I’d have to say prisoners and the economically disadvantaged, off the top of my head.  Are writers truly “marginalized” if they are able to get published?  I’m thinking the truly marginalized are most likely not even literate, so how can we read their words?

Do you read nonfiction regularly?  Do you read it in a different way or place than you read fiction?

I do.  I read 48% non-fiction this year, slightly more if you count memoir.  I tend to “brace myself” when I read fiction.  I find non-fiction more approachable and almost always a faster read.

So there we have it.  In examining our reading pile, do all our writers resemble one another?  Could they all live comfortably in the same neighborhood?  Does it mean anything when I read 10 books by male authors in a row?

“Little Bee”

April 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment

Little Bee is a book of a higher order.  It’s not just a fascinating read; it has more than charismatic characters; it goes beyond being simply unforgettable.  Chris Cleave has written a book that has more to offer than entertainment, and asks more of the reader than simply to see the world in a different way.

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The story starts with a mystery, something that has enough dramatic weight in itself to carry the story.  When this mystery is resolved about a third of the way through the book, we are surprised to find that our involvement in the story only intensifies.  This is part of why any review you will find of this book won’t tell you much of anything about the plot.  (I never do that anyway, because I hate knowing the central plot point before I even crack the cover).

Little Bee is a serious book, yes, but it’s light-hearted in its own way.  I found it uplifting, and I hope you do too.

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