As Book Forum pointed out yesterday, Roxane Gay recently questioned the diversity of fiction these days, LaToya Jordan counted the books by black authors on her bookshelf and noticed the absence of other ethnicities, and then The Economist took its 2010 curtain call when naming seven books by male authors — each of which are this year’s blatant go-to titles — as the best books of the year. Fiddlesticks.
If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you go over to your bookshelf and see what kind of artillery you’re packing. Last winter, I did this very thing, and realized that my bookshelf was, like The Economist’s list, in dire need of a gender makeover. So I read Lorrie Moore and Jincy Willett and Miranda July and Lydia Peelle. I thought it was important to do so, and it was.
Jordan says in her response to Gay, “Maybe we all need to take a look at our bookshelves and agree that we’ll all add writers who are not like us, whether that be because of race, gender, or sexual orientation. I wish none of this stuff mattered, but maybe the more we talk about it, the less it will.” It’s a great point, and I’m really glad that, at this moment, it does matter, and we are talking about it. We should constantly be conscious of both what we’re reading and who we’re reading, lest we become closed-minded and uninformed readers.
Looking at my bookshelf today, great female writers have taken their places on my shelves, thanks to the last time I took inventory of my library. And though a multitude of ethnicities are represented too, they are underrepresented to say the least, which suggests to me that it’s time once again to reevaluate my reading patterns and to make an adjustment. All of which I’m only too eager to do.