This post is part of the Reading Writers of Color 2021 challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s staff writer and editor, Dan Michael Fielding.
As I write this I have 578 books on my to-be-read list on The StoryGraph. Every time someone recommends me a book to read or I trawl through online book lists I find myself adding a few dozen books to this ever-growing list. There’s never really been a time when the list got shorter.
I remember when I first broke 200 books on my to-be-read list. I did the math on how long it would take to read them all and experienced a quick crisis.
My best year of reading ever was in 2018 when I managed to read 52 books. But, this was also in graduate school and most of those books were required reading. They were books I read quickly, with an eye for saying something reasonably intelligent in seminar the next day. Today, if I somehow managed to read 50 books in a year every year it would take me 11.56 years to read just the books already on my list! Given that the list is constantly growing as new books are published or I hear about old books that interest me, this is an uphill battle.
Hence June’s challenge. Pick a book by a writer of color that’s on your to-be-read list and actually sit down and read it!
For an added challenge: Pick the earliest book by a writer of color. What’s the first book by a writer of color that you ever added to your to-be-read list?
Even if you started out the year with only tepid to-be-read lists, hopefully by this point you’ve started to build up your list. A major part of the challenge is to practice your anti-racist reading skills. This mid-year check in is a good time to review your to-be-read list. Are you putting more writers of color on your list? How are you finding these authors?
It’s also a good time to renew your commitment to reading writers of color by reading one of the books languishing on your list or on your shelf. (Did I mention my StoryGraph list doesn’t even include all the books currently sitting unread on my real-life bookshelf? Yeah…)
I reviewed my list and decided to pull a few titles to share with you. Obviously, I can’t read them all this month, but keeping them in my mind will help me remember them when the time comes to choose what to read next.
How long is your to-be-read list? As you go back and look, is there anything that surprises you about it? Any phases you went through? Any books that still jump out at you today?
My Earliest Book:
ain’t i a woman: black women and feminism by bell hooks
This is the earliest book on my to-be-read list, added way back in 2016. While I’ve read some of hooks’ other work, including All About Love: New Visions and several of her essays, this one still eludes me. Widely considered a groundbreaking, classic, and foundational text for feminsm, ain’t i a woman: black women and feminism takes its name from a speech delivered by Sojourner Truth in 1851. The speech itself has two versions, the famous one and the one that is likely more accurate to how Truth actually spoke. The book is at once intersectional and critical in its treatment of history.
My Oldest Book:
Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Ueda Akinari
I sorted my to-be-read list by date of publication and Tales of Moonlight and Rain is the oldest book on my list. First published in 1776, this collection of nine gothic tales of ghosts, revenants, and spirits was translated into English by Anthony H. Chambers. I had completely forgotten about adding this book to my list, and seeing it again made me realize two things. First, I need to read more ghost stories! I love stories like these and reading a few classics is the perfect way to get in the spooky mood. Second, I realized that the early publications in my to-be-read list are heavily weighted in the “old dead white guy” direction. Wells, Shakespeare, and Wilde cluttered up these earlier years and I had to scroll for quite a ways to find a non-white author. I will be more intentional about finding classic works by writers of color going forward.
My Newest Book:
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
The most recent release on my to-be-read list, Meet Cute Diary literally came out this month! It was first recommended to me in a comment from willaful on the guide to finding books by queer and trans authors of color. I’m in love with the concept: a young Noah Ramirez runs a blog on transgender happily-ever-afters, only to have his blog exposed as fake. Of course the only answer is to begin fake dating Drew. The fake dating trope is so fantastic, and a light-hearted romcom honestly sounds perfect for where I’m at mentally.
My Shortest Book:
From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom and illustrated by Wai-Yant Li and Kai Yun Ching
To be honest, I’m not sure when I added this book. From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea uses 40-pages to tell the story of a gender-variant child’s experiences with transformation and magic. As part of the recent burgeoning market for queer and LGBT stories for children this book could make a great addition to any child’s shelf.
My Longest Book:
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
It’s no secret that I love Delany’s work. I even named my dog after him! It’s also no secret that when it comes to reading I tend to go for short and medium length works. At 1011 pages, Dhalgren is an intimidating length and has sat unread on my shelf for many years as a result. It doesn’t help that the review of the book on StoryGraph also says, “Dhalgren is many things, but instantly accessible isn’t one of them.” Great! That said, I will make time for Dhalgren one of these days. It’s considered a classic of science fiction. The story follows a man, The Kid, who has lost his name. The Kid explores the city of Dhalgren that has been cut off from the rest of the world after an unknown disaster. A perfect hook for city SF fans!
These are some of the books on my to-be-read list. For the challenge I may pick one of these, or one of the many others on my list. Oh, did I mention? While going through it I wound up adding two more books to my list. So now I have 580 books to read. Fun!
What’s on your list? Is your list growing or shrinking? Which book are you most excited to read for this month’s challenge? Let us know in the comments!
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