The Bookshelf Challenge

Not being in politics and stuff, I tend to like a little accountability when I take a stand. Like last week, when I went on a somewhat snarky rant about the high levels of angsty white Brooklyn dudes in modern literature on this very blog. For those who didn’t see the post, it ended with a call for a greater diversity of voices in the book world. Actually, it ended with me telling everyone that if they aren’t fixing the problem, they’re part of it.

Last night, after a very successful trip to my local library’s book sale, I decided to check up on my own habits. If I’m going to go around shaking a finger at Feministing readers and publishing companies like Jan Brewer with Barack Obama, I may as well do a little walking to go with that talk. So I took about 15 minutes and counted my books. I looked for gender and racial balance as the most basic benchmarks I hoped I was meeting.

So here goes:

Female authors – 60 percent  Male authors – 40 percent

White authors – 85 percent    Authors of color – 15 percent

So yeah, big fat oops. I am missing a ton of voices in my personal marketplace of ideas, to say nothing of the ones that are harder to differentiate. I’m just not listening. The most common voice by quite a hefty margin is like me –  a white woman.

So there’s my shameful secret, Community Blog. Looks like I better fix it.

I had no idea my race numbers were so bad. I do have quite a few well-loved authors of color on my shelves. It made it seem in my mind like I was doing ok because I could point to a bunch of examples. But their overall percentage was a lot lower than I thought. Data – it works! Major companies take note.

So two questions, if my fellow readers will be so kind as to comment. What is your shelf like? And, are there any authors of color you love that I should try? Especially beyond the obvious ones? I mean, Alice Walker is great – and on my shelf already – but it’s hardly inclusion if I go for a few token authors. For my part, I’d recommend checking out Andrea Levy, who I just discovered, or Amulyah Malladi. If you go in for poetry, Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my faves.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    If you like poetry, have you tried June Jordan or Nikki Giovanni? A number of Jordan’s poems can be read at this site dedicated to her:

    http://www.junejordan.com/

    Also, I don’t know if she’d be an “obvious” one, having a movie done of one of her books, but Sapphire writes both prose and poetry.