Yep, I'm going to attempt to read 52 books this year, doubling what I read last year. I thought it was pretty ambitious until I found this article about a librarian who read 164 books in 2015 and realized that 52 is nothing to some people. This librarian made a spreadsheet of all her reads and, you guessed it, so have I! The author used their spreadsheet as more of a way to track what she read while I am intentionally trying to diversify my reading. Here is a link to the google doc that holds my spreadsheet. There is a surprise at the bottom of the spreadsheet... pie charts! Maybe not as exciting as real pie but truly, the next best thing.
Part of that diversifying involved limiting my intake of white maleness. I told myself that only 10% of the books I read this year could be by white males, which boils down to 5 books out of the 52. So why white men? Well they are dominating the conversation out there, and by "out there" I mean the media, politics, publishing, education, and so on. When I say "dominating" I simply mean that if you are not a white man (i.e. women/person of color) and you have some position of power (i.e. senator, CEO) people are still thinking "Wow, how revolutionary!" Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can explain it for you here if you're still confused. I'm not trying to discredit white men, that is not what I'm getting at. I have Anthony Doerr's novel All the Light We Cannot See on my list because I've hear his writing is incredible. I have David Sedaris on my list because I know , without fail, that he will make me laugh. Not all white men are bigots, but bigotry tends to be found more often in the privileged. Also, if the word privilege is making you uncomfortable, watch this video about a snail and a caterpillar. White men have had the mic for quite some time now and I think it's time to change the conversation.
It wasn't difficult to narrow down the books by white men because I read books by women all the time. The hardest part was how many books by white women I had on my list, I had to make some tough decisions, like only letting myself read one of Mary Karr's memoirs as opposed to all three. I limited myself to one book by Barbara Kingsolver and one book by Annie Dillard, which was rough ( I know, I'm a total nerd). In other ways, it was easy. I've had books by Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on my list for a while now and I thoroughly enjoy reading books by women of color. In light of that, I also set the goal to have over 50% of the books I read be by people of color. I am doing this because I truly believe in the words of Kafka, that books can be “an ax to break the frozen sea inside us.” They make us more empathetic and compassionate human beings, they ignite our curiosity, and subdue our judgmental perceptions.
Returning to Kafka's "frozen sea inside us," we all have it and I believe it is vital that it's recognized, especially those of us who are privileged. Sometimes I want to yell out in defense, "I'm not a racist! I'm an open minded, progressive woman!" but as much as I respect other races/people groups, I must acknowledge my privilege and take steps to hear the stories of the marginalized. I truly believe that the defensive attitudes of white people when it comes to race is unproductive and insultingly forgetful of history. This isn't my place to get defensive. And defend what? The violent and hateful social systems set up by my ancestors?
I am white and therefore I have privilege that I could not control being born with; but what I can control is whether or not I acknowledge that privilege. I can decide to see the world from my whiteness or I can take steps to see the world from other realities. That's kind of what this project is all about; looking through other realities to create a more expansive reality. Diversity creates unity, and in the paradoxical words of Jonathan Sacks, "unity creates diversity."
My excel sheet is not set in stone, feel free to leave some non-white male book suggestions in the comments!
And one last note... Men, please start reading more books by women. Just do it, okay?