Sometimes a book is gifted to you and it turns out to be exactly what you needed. I ended up with a copy of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire after a Christmas party with friends. My old roommate, Ella, bought it for me after reading it in her YA for Adults book club. I had never heard of it before, but now I’m obsessed with the series. Continue reading
I thought it would be fun to wrap up the year by looking at and analyzing what I read on a scale larger than the singular book reviews I tend to do. All in all, I read 42 books. It wasn’t quite my book-a-week goal, but considering I wrote a seventy-page thesis, applied to graduate schools and assistantships, graduated, and have been job hunting, I’d say the number is pretty damn respectable.
I think it is critical to consume diverse media. As expected from the word itself, diversity can look like a lot of different things. In particular, I want to look at the types of books I’m reading and who’s writing them. So here we go:
Fiction: 27 books
Literary Fiction: 7
Short Story: 2
Hard to Categorize: 5
Essays/Essay Collections: 2
Multiple Authors/Mixed Gender: All books with multiple authors
ended up being by groups of men
Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming: none 😥
Authors of Color: 10*
Further Breakdown: African American (3); Native/Indigenous (2); Chinese-Canadian (1); Pakistani (1); Latinx (1); Palestinian (1); Lebanese (1)
White Authors/Generally American/European: 32
Now let’s reflect: Overall, I read mostly fiction, but my nonfiction consumption has been growing over the past few years. I never thought I would be into nonfiction, but lately I’ve been wanting to learn everything, and what better way than by reading? Plus, I’m really loving memoirs as of late. I think I’d like to get my fiction-to-nonfiction ration balanced out a bit more, but fiction is just as important and should not be skimped on either! I read a shockingly low amount of poetry this year, with only one collection completed. That must be rectified going forward. I doubt it will ever consume as much of my attention as fiction or nonfiction, but I do want to delve deeper into it. I also, surprisingly, did not read any plays/scripts this year. Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading some Shakespeare that isn’t a tragedy this year.
I overwhelmingly read female authors, and I’m totally okay with that. I read once that men fail to read female authors while women read male and female authors at about an even rate. I found this horrific because that means that female authors are getting the shaft while male authors are being read by everyone. Obviously that study was a long time ago and very cis-centric, but it’s still fascinating to me. I should look up some recent trends about that, because I’m a curious person.
That original article surmised that men find it difficult to relate to female protagonists while women are more adaptable. Is that really what’s going on? Who knows. Though, maybe if men read more female authors, we wouldn’t be having the painful sexual harassment discussions we’ve been having lately.
I didn’t read enough authors of color. Usually I take a class that really focuses on either transnational authors or American authors of color. I didn’t my last semester, so my numbers are a bit lower than I think they must have been the year prior, though I didn’t look into it so I can’t be sure. I want to make a more conscience effort to read books by people who don’t look like me. It’s important, especially in today’s political climate here in the states. I think fiction is one of the best ways to try and understand what its like to be someone who isn’t you. We’ve always needed that extra empathy, but I think the divisiveness that has always existed in this country is screaming at us even louder than it has in the recent past.
This list is also not wholly accurate. I know that several identities are often lumped in with “White Americans or Europeans” nowadays. For example, I know there are several Jewish authors that I’ve read this year that live in America or Europe. I did not include that in the breakdown because I did all of this analysis all at once and long after reading most of my books. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to go through and start looking up the identities of authors I read months ago. If I included and identity as a subsection, I didn’t want to count one author and miss another with that same identity that I had read.
In the future, I’m planning on making a spreadsheet that I can update as I read the books. Then I can also really easily have the statistics and charts to go along with it. It will be more manageable for me to go in-depth if I do it as I go rather than all at once at the end. I’m a nerd, so I like that sort of thing. I think it will be fascinating to track how my reading changes and evolves over the years.
Do you make any kind of conscious decisions about who you read? Or do you just pick up what looks good, reading where your mood takes you? (Which is totally fine, btw) Have you ever tracked your reading like this? If so, tell me all about it!
*I tried my best to reasonably assume the gender identity of authors and hunt down the race and/or nationality of authors. I hope I did them justice, and any misunderstanding of their identity is an honest mistake for which I apologize. I also did not dig deeper and go into further less-visible identities, such as sexuality or a heritage that is less at the forefront of an author’s public persona/super-duper easy to find. I plan on doing better in the future so I can better represent who I read.
When it comes to Dragon Age, Bioware’s fantasy RPG franchise, I’m a bit, well…obsessed. I’m late to the fandom, having only started playing the games about 8 months ago, but I have immersed myself in the world Bioware has created. Thedas is full of political intrigue, religious conflict, thrilling battles, and steamy romance. I’ve gone on to spend hundreds (I’m not even exaggerating) of hours playing the three Dragon Age games available. Thankfully the canon consists of more than simply the video games. The creators have published novels, comic books, and even some movies.
Today I want to look at the novels. So far five have been published, three of which are written by David Gaider, one of the lead developers for the franchise. I’ve only finished the first two, The Stolen Throne and The Calling. These two books are the prequels to the first game, Dragon Age:Origins. I got a little rambley, so we will just start with The Stolen Throne for today. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I finished Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened, detailing her perspective on how and why we ended up with Trump as president. Clinton dives into a variety of factors that impacted the election; including gender, race, partisanship, her platform choices, and, yes, her emails and the still-being-investigated Russian interference. In this work, she both takes responsibility for her mistakes and speaks candidly about the external factors that, despite her best effort, negatively impacted her candidacy. Even though I followed this race closely and was active in registering voters in my area, there was still a fair amount of new information that I gleaned from the book. Continue reading
Youtube stars Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, known for their previous work with Buzzfeed and their channel Just Between Us, have taken their partnership into the world of YA lit. Their debut novel I Hate Everyone But You is a modern-day epistolary which was released September 5, 2017. In it, you read the texts and emails of two long-time best friends, Ava and Gen, who have gone to colleges on opposite sides of the country. They navigate the challenges of beginning their college careers alone, but still have a deal to email each other every day in order to stay fully caught up on the other’s news and maintain their relationship. Continue reading
I picked up my most recent read at a semi-local independent bookstore. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but the cover and title are what drew me in. Feeling a little unnecessary myself lately, I just had to know what this book was about. To put it much too simply, An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine is a meditation on the love of language and literature as well as what it is like to live your life by continually bucking social norms, not as a political statement, but as simply a way to live life true to yourself.
An important element to this book is its setting: Beirut, Lebanon. The protagonist, Aaliya, is above all resilient. She has to be due to the unrest she has lived through. A basic knowledge of the historical events of the area is helpful when reading through this story, but I wouldn’t say it’s critical.
Now while the world is changing around her, Aaliya lives a simple life. Alone in her apartment, she translates a book into Arabic every year. Her life is solitary and she surrounds herself with literature. Throughout her meditations on her present day life, you go through many flashbacks of how she got to be so “unnecessary” as a divorcee living apart from her family.
While this book is an enjoyable read, I couldn’t make myself care much about the characters or the plot, which I think is showing though in my brief synopsis of it. The prose, however, is beautiful. Alameddine is a master at crafting sentences, weaving together allusions to other works with his own observations, and writing deeply about loneliness, aging, politics, etc. That’s what made the book for me.
I was never completely absorbed or felt as though I couldn’t wait to get back to it after setting it down, but I by no means regret reading it. My copy will probably make it’s way to a used bookstore eventually in order to make room for something else, but I’m glad I picked it up.
Race is a complicated issue in the United States. While we may not be in the era of Jim Crow laws or legalized segregation anymore, racism is unfortunately alive and well. Just this week five high school students in a small town not too far from my own wore white hoods and burned a cross while waving around a confederate flag. It’s despicable, but racism includes so much more than these larger events that can easily be pointed out.
Our nation, particularly the white majority, needs to educate itself on race issues. Even the most well-intended social justice interested person has to constantly fight the internalized racism that is entrenched in this nation’s culture. While I am by no means an expert on race, I have learned a lot over the past few years and have had to challenge my own assumptions time and time again. Sometimes it’s by noticing the reactions of my friends when I unintentionally say something I didn’t understand the repercussions of, sometimes it’s by listening to the stories of others and learning what they have to deal with on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s through reading. I took a few classes that focused on literature that challenged the narrative we are often fed about race in the United States. Here are a few recommendations to get you started: Continue reading