Real Talk: Challenges in Reading Diversely Challenge

I’M BURNT OUT! Maybe? I think that is what I’ve been enduring anyway.

What follows is an outpouring of thoughts. (When is it not? haa)

In case you didn’t know (and, honestly, I don’t see how you could – I told no one), I was away for a week in Cardiff hanging out with my mum and brother, which was super great(!!) but also travel exhausts me. But even before I went down to Cardiff, I noticed a slowing down in my reading and in my desire to read anything (especially anything long!) Ugh.


Well, I think it’s partly because, although my challenge to read more diversely was going swimmingly at the start of the year, I feel like I’m having more difficulty at the moment balancing my reads. It would be easy to say “aw the hell with it!” but isn’t the POINT partly that if I want things to change and if I want a wider range of authors and stories, I do have to stay aware and keep my eye on what I’m reading and take up this challenge. I think so. I want to do this. I think it’s good and much-needed.

The ‘easy reads’ and audiobooks I wanted to turn to all happened to be by white dudes (or the occasional white woman which is fine because it’ll up my female authors count, but that’s not suffering nearly as much as my non-white authors count). And the challenging/longer reads I wanted to try this year are both by John Steinbeck soooo I felt like starting one of those now (though it’s a great time of the year to start) would just make me feel bad about adding yet another white dude to the Pale Male pile of books that is my Currently Reading list.

The issue isn’t simply about finding books though. I have a lot of interesting-sounding books listed that are from authors of diverse backgrounds. And there are resources out there—databases and lists—that identify these authors and their books… But they sometimes seem annoyingly difficult to actually get my hands on. The most common issues I’ve been running into lately is that the books I want are either out of print or only sold in the US so I have to get them ordered to my store or house… And don’t even get me started on the number of diverse authors and illustrators in comics! (The number is “very few” in case you were wondering.)

An aside: I actually am super into comics from an illustrator point of view and would really love to write and draw my own comic, but I don’t consider myself much of a writer so don’t hold your breath for anything too soon… But…eventually.

Another issue I’ve run into, I’ve really been craving some antiquity recently. I kind of want to read from some Greek philosophers and playwrights and poets…I blame Jean/BookishThoughts entirely. But I also don’t want to sacrifice the (relative) balance I have in my reading at the moment (or have to pull myself back to a more balanced place).

Let’s talk genre too. I want more non-fiction from non-white authors that isn’t about race. There’s only so much Michio Kaku and Reza Aslan can do. Also, ladies; where you at?! Basically, I’m looking forward to another Mindy Kaling, and Akilah Hughes‘ new book.

And I don’t want to be ridiculous. I know there are loads of books out there by a wide range of authors. I did actually just order 4 or 5 books by authors of colour from Waterstones (and the Waterstones Marketplace for books sourced from the US) and each one sounded really interesting (with about half by non-Westerners). It’s just annoying that they take a week or so to get here (longer for books coming across the Atlantic) and I can’t always just pick them up when I’m at my local Waterstones.

I feel like I might have done a call-out for books by authors of colour before and I know I added a few things to my TBR semi-recently, but I’m asking again.

Can you recommend some books by authors of colour?

(Bonus points for non-Westerners?) Genres I particularly like include:

  • literary fiction
  • comics
  • children’s books
  • middle-grade
  • memoir (I’m still feeling out how much I like this genre…I probably won’t like celebrity or politician memoirs…I like comedians though.)
    • comedy? maybe..?
  • politics
  • science (particularly pop-sci and pop-psych)

NB: It’d be great if the suggestions are readily available in the UK.

And maybe that’ll help me get my motivation back.

Alternatively, I’m going to take a week or two as a reading rest and fill that time sewing dresses for myself (I’m fixing my sewing machine’s broken foot pedal finally after months of leaving it in disrepair! YAY!). Then come back at it all with a fresh brain.

 Speaking about challenges, I am pretty much THROWING IN THE TOWEL on my classics challenge. It feels pointless, it feels at odds with my (more-important-to-me) diversity challenge and I am really not someone who needs to ‘challenge’ themselves to read classics. They’re almost my ‘go to’…Just not the ones I picked out for the Classics Challenge haaaah


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12 Responses to Real Talk: Challenges in Reading Diversely Challenge

  1. Pingback: Claire x Nikki Review May 2015 | Bitches With Books

  2. I am feeling the same way – BURNT OUT completely. I don’t even want to look at a book right now…except all the pretty books on my bookshelf. I haven’t touched my Kindle in weeks. I just need a change.

    • Nicole says:

      Hahaha YES! That’s how I feel: Just anything but books right now! But I find light things (often comedy or comics) tend to be good for when I’m in this mood.. Or even some non-fiction (nothing too heavy though!). I actually wanted to catch up on my sewing but I need a part to arrive to repair my sewing machine but it’s almost a week overdue now! So I’m just sat here twiddling my thumbs feeling bored and useless… (That’s not true. I’ve been eating myself out of house and home and watching movies and stuff in the meantime…haa).
      Hope you get your reading mojo back soon or at least find a filler activity to occupy your time until you feel back up to bookin’ it! 😉

  3. DoingDewey says:

    I’ve been having trouble reading diversely because I’ve been busy and haven’t taken the time to actively plan my reading. Instead, I’ve just been choosing some ARCs from publisher e-mails I get automatically. Hopefully now that I’m less busy, I’ll do better! Good luck finding some diverse reads that are easily available and that you’re excited about 🙂

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks; it can definitely start to be awkward, but that awkwardness just feels to me like there’s a big imbalance in the market which I hope (and think!?) is slowly changing.
      I’ve finally received a few gems in the post that I know are going to be good reads (and which are by authors of colour) so I feel less anxious about losing track for the moment(!). But it can be frustrating. I think it might be good for me to have a (readily accessible) pile of fiction, non-fiction, comics, etc from a variety of different authors in future. I actually also have a sub-goal in my diversity challenge to read more translated works and not having that was making me anxious too, but I’ve read a few more translated things now and it all does make me feel better.
      I wish you luck with your efforts too!!

  4. For the comics part, are you including graphic novels? If so, I recommend all of Gene Luen Yang’s novels (especially American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints), Persepolis (mentioned by a commenter above), Boondocks by Aaron McGruder, and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Takami. It looks like they are all available at on the UK Amazon site, but I can’t be entirely sure that I did that right!

    • Nicole says:

      I am including graphic novels and, although I’d like to believe I was harsher/more cynical than is appropriate, the more I think about it the more I feel it’s true 😦
      You make a good point here, though!: most of the diverse stuff in comics does seem to lie in graphic novels and/or alternative comics.
      I actually have Boxers and Saints on my TBR (but I have wondered if I might prefer to start his work with American Born Chinese…what would you suggest?) and I’m a big fan of the Tamaki duo (I loved Skim), and especially Jillian (I also loved Gilded Lilies (which Claire actually bought me for Christmas! ha)…and all her work in general *swoon*), so I will probably get around to This One Summer at some point. I liked the Boondocks show well enough, but not sure if I’ll check out the graphic novel too…..
      For me the annoying thing is that for every Jillian Tamaki, Tomer Hanuka and Marguerite Abouet it seems there are a hundred Luke Pearsons, Emily Carrolls, Brian Lee O’Malleys, Tom Gaulds, Brian K Vaughans, Roman Muradovs and Sam Bosmas….who are all brilliant(!), don’t get me wrong! But I want to see more perspectives available in the mainstream… And I do think it’s slowly getting better….but it is very slow :S

    • Nicole says:

      Oh, another of my perils: I don’t shop Amazon anymore so that’s partly why its harder for me to source things since Amazon’s network is so much more massive than most (all?) others… But Waterstones’ Marketplace isn’t bad. It’s just that it’s a bit annoying waiting for things to come from the US *pouts* >:m

  5. IndigoInsane says:

    It depends on your definition of person of color but the graphic novel Persepolis is amazing! It’s a memoir by Marjane Satrapi about life in Iran during the Islamic revolution. There’s two volumes and I think she also writes children’s books.

    • Nicole says:

      I do include Satrapi as a person of colour, but I’m unlikely to read Persepolis just because I saw the movie (which I loved!) and, although I’m sure the graphic novels probably include a little more than the film, I know I’d feel wasteful if I didn’t prioritise trying other things. HOWEVER, I did just read Satrapi’s graphic memoir-mini(?), Embroideries, last month which I loved so I’ll probably continue to seek out books by her. You have good taste 😉

  6. EllieTaylor says:

    It’s a really interesting endeavor to seek out books from a more diverse array of authors, and I applaud you for taking the initiative, but ultimately we read to learn and to experience and enjoy. Don’t let challenges kill your reading vibe. Or, if it doesn’t drive you nuts, read a bunch of things at once. I didn’t really set out with the intention of reading diversely this year, but when it started to happen accidentally and I took notice, now I’m kind of treating it like an unofficial challenge to continue. I have my stack of books that I pick out for the month, I always have one random from my tbr jar, and I add any books that suit my fancy in the 30 days or so. And beside that months tbr pile, I have the pile I’m actually in the middle of. Usually two-three fiction, Ya, contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, whatever. And then I’ll have a how to book, or self help, or something like that which caught my fancy (lately yoga, stress relief and or writing books). And then I have a memoir or a collection of writings from philosophers ( I recommend multicultural ethics by the Dalai Lama most highly btw). And I also add a few netgalley randoms keep it interesting too.

    If I get through the list by the end of the month that’s great, and I’d love to pick up more books from non pale males as you greatly put it. But ultimately I read for the experience, and the knowledge and I’d rather pick something up and finish it in one sitting because I was engrossed, rather than push myself through something because it sounded like a good idea someone else had. Side note I’m exactly where you’re at with the classics thing. Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it’s for me, but the classic I gravitate to naturally are always worth while.

    Sorry for the long winded comment but I just wanted to give you a nudge to take a step back, and get back to the most important thing. Enjoy reading a good book. If your interested in people or ideas from authors that aren’t just pale males, you’ll find them, and until they arrive one your doorstep, you have a slew of other books to experience. 🙂

    • Nicole says:

      I did a horrible job of explaining my frustrations :”)
      I actually AM really excited about all of the stories I’ve added to my TBR from non-white authors (I don’t add them if I’m not), but one of the biggest problems is actually finding them in store or even online where I don’t have to pay ten times as much as the cost of the book on shipping fees alone! And that cost along with the waiting makes it easier to just reach for something by a less diverse author….BUT reading one of those things makes me feel cruddy because the main reason I read, like you say, is absolutely to learn and experience and enjoy, but I don’t feel like I’m doing any of those with my current group of books. They feel like they’re all from the same perspective and it makes me feel like I’m just reading fluff so my “easy reads” become weights on my shelf…But I think if I were able to get more other perspectives in as well more easily, I might feel less like that.
      It’s not so much the challenge itself that’s bothering/exhausting me – the reading of the books is always quite fun – it’s accessibility issues that feel like baggage, but continuing with what I would otherwise read if not ‘paying attention’ feels kind of…I duno..pointless? claustrophobic? I don’t know… It’s making me anxious like I’m missing out on loads of cool stories and I’m trapped in a Western, anglophone bubble of dudes telling me about the world from their point of view like I’ve been reading all my life and I need progress!!??? But the progress takes so long to get shipped….Or something =_=;;; lol Does that make any sense at all?? I kind of just spilled all my jumbled thoughts in that post (and in this comment).

      That’s a brilliant idea to set aside a monthly grab bag of book options rather than a strict list of “will read this month”s (which I just can’t seem to do) or a willy nilly “anything my hands happen upon” (which I do all too easily but which depresses me with its sameyness)…
      And I probably will just buy and start one of the Steinbecks I’ve been eyeing up.

      Aaah no don’t apologise! I love long comments so much; it feels like *CONVERSATION* and it really helps to talk stuff out and really get someone’s opinion on stuff like this o_o hahah So thank you very very much!!

      I think I just need a nap and to make a good book options pile…! (And then remind myself to chill out because it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have a completely balanced view of the world by the end of the year…but I do want some progress on last year..haaa)

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