This post is part of the Reading Writers of Color challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s staff writer and editor, Dan Michael Fielding.
A major aspect of the reading writers of color challenge is about discovering new writers and new books. In our guide to reviewing books we talked about how 89% of published fiction books are written by white authors. With a publishing industry that is that biased it can be extremely difficult to discover nonwhite authors to read.
This month’s challenge is in the spirit of discovering new things. The challenge is to read a book in a genre you have never read before.
Genres bring together works of art that are similar in style, form, or substance. You may have heard the term “genre fiction” used to describe genres like science fiction, romance, and fantasy, but the term genre can also apply to literary and contemporary fiction. Genres can be big categories like “crime,” or describe subgenres like detective fiction, hardboiled, or courtroom drama.
Sometimes age is used to demarcate genre. Young adult, children’s, and adult are all considered overarching genres. If you normally read adult novels this challenge could be an opportunity to pick up a young adult or children’s novel and see what the differences are. Do the authors explore similar themes? Are the ideas more or less complex? What actually sets apart a genre like young adult from adult?
Genre in nonfiction is sometimes more difficult to pin down. Some people use genre to refer to the type of book–is it a memoir? a textbook? popular press nonfiction?–but others may use it to refer to the content–is it historical? scientific? philosophic? My thoughts are that you can use any of these ways of understanding nonfiction genres to help guide your book choice for this month.
The reason publishers use genres to categorize books is because it makes it easier to market them. Audiences are already familiar with some of the trappings of their preferred genre and the barrier to entry when choosing a new book is lowered.
But it’s easy to get stuck reading the same genres over and over because they feel safe for us. This is totally normal, and yet it can also mean we are missing out on new and interesting works.
Reading in a new subgenre can also help give you a picture of the structure of the genre as a whole. When I’m reading science fiction, for example, I usually prefer subgenres like utopia fiction, Afrofuturism, and queer sci fi. I’m less likely to read, for example, military science fiction. But military science fiction also influences larger trends in sci fi as other authors read and respond to it.
As you’re choosing a genre to read, don’t be afraid to go big and choose a genre that is totally new to you. But you can also choose a subgenre related to a genre you read often, just for a different angel on what you normally like to read.
As you’re choosing a new genre to read, consider asking yourself: What do I normally read? What draws me to reading those types of books? What do I normally avoid reading? Why do I avoid those types of books? Have I actually read those books, or do I assume things about them based on what others tell me about genres like that?
Because of the huge variety in different genres you all will normally read I don’t have a traditional guide with book recommendations for you. Instead, here are some past guides that may assist you:
- 10 Books by Women of Color
- 50 Books by Scientists (this list contains all kinds of genres and includes fiction and nonfiction offerings)
- Nine Works of Fiction
- Guide to Queer and Trans Authors
- Eight Queer and Trans Graphic Novels
- Ten Books on #StopAsianHate
- 13 Collections
- Seven Memoirs and Biographies
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