Saturday, February 21, 2009

Diversity Rocks - Book Challenge

I just stumbled across this challenge here, thanks to Justina Chen Headley. I find myself in a quandary. I am an African American female who hasn't read many books by African American writers. I've avoided them so as not to get singled out by my peers. I didn't want to be accused of having a bias. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true. I didn't realize it until today. I was reading this blog, about the diversity of your book shelves. I read widely. YA, MG, Adult, sports fiction, romance, suspense, etc. I've read Mitali Perkins, Justina Chen Headley, Sherman Alexie, Lisa Yee, Paula Yoo, etc. I've read 3 of Sharon Draper's books plus The Skin I'm In, some Bluford High books and Tyrell sometime since I became a middle school librarian. But of the 100 books I read last year? Sunrise over Fallujah and The Autobiography of Malcolm X - that's all I can recall.

I'm appalled at myself. So I've decided I need to read at least ONE book by an African American author each month for the rest of the year. I don't know what I'll be reading, but I know it will be enriching. How diverse is YOUR bookshelf?

Update: I scoured my bookshelf and found the following books:

  1. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
  2. Day of Tears by Julius Lester
  3. The Bishop's Daughter by Tiffany Warren
  4. New Boy by Julian Houston
  5. After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
  6. Kendra by Coe Booth
  7. Indigo Summer by Monica McKayhan

So I have a good start. Not a great one, but a good one.


  1. KB,
    I am an African American female. I am unabashedly biased. I read mostly women, mostly women of color. I'm a hardcore multicultural and diversity proponent.I read quality literature. Period.

    I don't mind being singled out. I read mainstream literature. I read across genres. I also have a real interest in sharing with my readers the diversity of literature out there. I think any reader whose habits aren't diverse is missing out on so much quality literature.

    And if I'm not promoting writers of color, who do I expect to do it? I am aware of the challenge at Diversity Rocks and I was thrilled. I also laughed to myself because what they're challenging readers to do,I already do. It reflects my personal interest. I'm glad others are committing to injecting some color into their reading habits.

    I don't just promote diversity, my life reflects it. My shelf reflects it.

    I recently began exploring teen book blog sites and other book review sites, I was disappointed by how few bloggers review books by people of color (and too predictably when I do see one it's historical fiction because that's all black writers write. The exception is TheHappyNappy blog). There is an assumption that most readers will like and read mainstream literature, and there is an unspoken assumption that multicultural literature appeals primarily to people of color. There is an assumption that most multicultural literature is limited in themes and characters. Untrue, but you'd have to actually read the literature to know how unfounded this assumption is.

    I read the rainbow and proud of it. In fact, I built a library collection that mirrors a mini UN. Our collection represents a two-fold mission: To promote works that reflectour girls lives, their aspirations and voices and to introduce them to a world of experiences they can not only tap into but can relate to as well.

    Kudos to you to making a commitment to reading more African American authors. Let's talk books.

  2. Thanks for the link. Great post. Of course, I had a mouthful to share. lol

  3. May I also suggest Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin. It was a National Book Award finalist two years ago, and an Edgar Award nominee. (The opening line is beyond good)
    I kind of understand where you're coming from. A few weeks ago I had a lot of post by Black authors and I almost waited on doing another one. I didn't want people to think I had suddenly decided to only review Black authors. I know its silly but I was worried about it. I didn't want to be placed in a reading corner.
    And I'll leave you with a tip on the Kimiani Tru books they're like a Faye Kellerman mystery, they're hit or miss but I really enjoy the ones by Monica Mckayhan

  4. KB,
    I hope I didn't come off harsh. I can understand not wanting to be pigeon-holed. I can afford to be less concerned and to be honest, it bothers me that I don't think non-black reviewers worry about being called out for the kinds of books they review.

    We can change perception by what we actually do.

    At Color Online, we are focusing solely on black writers during February. I did worry a little that folks would think we only read African American writers. Then I thought more about it and decided, let visitors check us out for more than a nanosecond, let them review our bookshelf and links and they'll know that Color Online means quite a few folks.

  5. I grew up reading British Victorian literature, and though I often wish I had had more options, I don't at all regret the reader I've become today--and that's a direct result of all the Dickens, and Bronte, and Austen novels I read (and still read--don't miss PBS/Masterpiece Theatre's Austen & Dickens marathon!) Members of minority groups have to make a number of adjustments to get by in a world where we have less power than others--so don't be too hard on yourself, and know that everything you've read so far has laid a foundation for you to just keep on reading--and now you can read books in context, you can see how/if they're in dialogue with one another across culture/race. Knowing you have a bias is the first step to overcoming it...


Thanks for chatting! I love comments and look forward to reading yours! I may not reply right away, but I am listening! Keep reading and don't forget to be awesome!


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