Updates on a year without SWM authors.

At nearly half way through my year of reading only non straight white male able-bodied authors (otherwise known as SWM), it is likely time for an update.  Check the link in the first line to get the background info on my personal challenge if needed, because these reflections will make more sense in context I think.

Personal insights:

  • Finding works by people of color is much more difficult than works by women.  Hence I have been reading quite a bit by straight white women, which doesn’t entirely get at  my original point for the challenge.
  • Comic books/graphic novels by non-SWM are almost impossible to find when just browsing at the library.  This is the main source of my ‘cheating’ this year (poetry being the other).  However, I have come across several great lists of female comic comic creators, including a twoparter at Jezebel.
  • It’s kind of nice to have a filter for my library browsing, because it’s easy for me to get overexcited/overwhelmed by the sheer amount of reading that is out there.
  • Works by women written from a male point of view are unsettling to me in a way that works by men written from a female point of view rarely are.  I’m still deconstructing this particular response.

Publishing industry/philosophical insights:

  • The publishing industry not only publishes an incredibly skewed percentage of works by SWM, it is staffed and supported by the same individuals (and some SWW as well).  However, a few amazing projects are working very intentionally to subvert this, namely the St. Paul Almanac, a collection of works that are written and edited by St. Paul’s diverse community.
  • As I said in my first reflection on this challenge, books reviewed in mainstream publications are primarily by SWM.  I have since noticed that most lists in general (ie People Who Did ____ This Year) have a disproportionate number of SWM.  Generally when a list has a reasonable number of non-SWM it is specifically mentioned as being inclusive/women specific/people of color specific.

So what am I reading right now, you might ask?  I’m a bit over halfway through Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, stuck in the middle of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and have The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang waiting in the wings.  As I said above I cheated a bit to check out a graphic novel called Fray by none other than Joss Whedon of Firefly fame because I couldn’t resist and still majorly bemoan the early ending of Firefly.

What are you reading?  How is it challenging (or not challenging) your worldview?



Perspective changing is possible

Upon reflection during the last few months I have realized that nearly all of my favorite authors are straight white men.  I cherish the time I’ve spent with Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Abbey, Phillip Pullman, Chuck Klosterman, and Wendell Berry, as well as many other wonderful writers.

But in the interest of continuing the ‘noticings’ and anti-racism work that has been so important in my Lutheran Volunteer Corps year, I want to challenge myself to go beyond my favorite straight white male authors.  Which is why I have decide that for one year I will read from the margins, or at least closer to it than the majority of prose these days.  I will read science fiction and fantasy by women, history by people of color, and novels by LGBT individuals in hopes of more intentionally viewing the world and the realm of possibility through a non-dominant lens.

This personal challenge has already proven difficult.  I went through my library requests queue to delete anything that was written by a straight white man, and lo and behold I was left with not a single book in my request list (though, for full disclosure, I have three books waiting for me on hold that are all by women).  Will I have to try harder to find interesting things to read for the year?  Certainly not.  There are multitudes of overflowing bookshelves filled with insightful and intriguing writing penned by individuals outside of the demographic in power.  But will I have to be more intentional and aware of my reading choices?  Certainly so.  But it will be a pleasant intentionality I think.

I hope to start this new year of reading with recommendations, especially for non-fiction.  A few have been shared by friends in the Twin Cities area, but I am always always always looking for more.  So- who are your favorite non straight white male writers?