Over on XOJane K. Tempest Bradford issued a challenge to readers, particularly genre readers, to excise straight, white, male authors from their reading lists for a year. Needless to say this has caused something of a minor internet hoo-ha (a shit-squall perhaps?) as some people got all upset and start stating with considerable vigour that “You’ll take my straight, white, male authors out of my cold dead hands!” at the oppressive black woman who had the temerity to publish an article on the internet. Some people seemed to get upset about the photograph used to illustrate the article too.
I mean, seriously, how can you not tell that the picture is tongue in cheek?? Bradford looks like she’s about to crack up laughing for Christ’s sake!
Aaaaanyway, I, being of the left, obviously have some quibbles with the article -there’s a rule that once you’ve read the Communist Manifesto a couple of times you’re required to have at least two arguments before breakfast, but they’re not really here nor there right now. I may write something about liberal privilege politics at some point and the way they have skewed the modern anti-racist/discrimination discourse at some point but that shit’s bad for my blood pressure. I shall, therefore, stick to the challenge itself.
The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take. You could, like Lilit Marcus, read only books by women or, like Sunili Govinnage, read only books by people of color. Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities.
After a year of that, the next challenge would be to seek out books about or with characters that represent a marginalized identity or experience by any author. In addition to the identities listed above, I suggest: non-Christian religions or faiths, working class or poor, and asexual (as a start).
Whichever focus you choose, it will change the way you read and the way you go about picking things to read. When I settle in to read a magazine now, I read in order of stories I think I’ll like best. And if I do decide to read one by a new-to-me author who appears to be a straight, white, cis male, it’s usually because I trust the editor and the magazine. My reading sessions are filled with much less stress these days.
Aside from the inclusion of working class on that list of marginalised identities and experiences (seriously, I’ve developed a rage-tic from seeing middle class liberals do that) I do wonder how certain of these categories can be identified by those wishing to take part in the challenge. For starters how to tell someone’s sexuality or the gender they were assigned at birth if they’re not out about being gay/bi or trans? Even using the might of Google will not reveal these things. Then we have other factors like publishers still being wary of publishing women in certain genres (SF I’m squinting at you here) and so hide their gender by initialising their names. These however are problems with society and the publishing industry rather than the challenge itself and are, I suppose, some of the things that will make it a challenge for those engaging in it.
I say “for those engaging in it” as I don’t intend on doing so myself for a few reasons. First, and foremost, I have a fucking huge ‘To Read’ pile that built up whilst I was at university and which I’m not in any danger of working my way through any time soon -unless that is someone wants to fund me taking a few years off work in order to read, in which case the Pay Pal button’s to the left 😉 Secondly; I think that my reading list is already pretty diverse as it is and, finally, I absolutely suck at these sorts of challenges. 😀
However, as I said, my bookshelves aren’t the sea of WASPyness that one would expect of a genre fiction fan so I’m going to pick a handful of titles from my shelves in order to offer some suggestions for those picking up Ms. Bradford’s gauntlet.
- Women Writing the Weird edited by Deb Hoag
- Women Destroy Horror edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton
- Women Destroy Science Fiction edited by Christie Yant, Rachel Swirsky, Wendy N. Wagner, Robyn Lupo, and Gabrielle de Cuir
- Women Destroy Fantasy edited by Cat Rambo
- Engines of Desire by Livia Llewellyn
- Bull Running for Girls by Allyson Bird
- Finnish Weird edited by Toni Jerrman
- Children of No One by Nicole Cushing
- I am the New God by Nicole Cushing
- The Year’s Best Weird Fiction edited by Laird Barron (features a number of non WASPy people)
- Octavia’s Brood edited by Walida Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown
- Cassilda’s Song edited by Joe Pulver (Forthcoming 2015)
- Dreams from the Witch House edited by Lynne Jamneck (Forthcoming 2015)
- She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles (Forthcoming 2015)
- Kindred by Octavia Butler
- Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
- Vellum by Hal Duncan
- Ink by Hal Duncan
- The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan
- The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlin Kiernan
- The Cipher by Kathe Koja
- The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
- Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
- The Woman at the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson