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?



This December I’m reading…

I actually just finished this last night, but wanted to include it anyway.  River Horse by William Least-Heat Moon is a rich river travelog.  Moon travels from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the waterways of the United Space, and chronicles the many strangers, bars, and historical landmarks he and his crew encounter along the way.  I’ve been into travel writing for quite some time now, and this particular piece was a delight for sure.

For the first time in quite a while, I’ve had to monumentally SLOW DOWN while reading.  The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff by Jeanne de Salzmann is a mouthful, a headful, and a soulful piece of spiritual philosophy.  I’m only 40 pages or so into it, but I have to read nearly every paragraph at least twice to feel as though I have actually digested its wisdom.  Kind of Zen Buddhism, with twinges of Christian something or other, and a symbol that looks strangely like the Enneagram on the cover, The Reality of Being will likely continue to provide many spiritual musings in the weeks to come.

I attempted The Shipping News by Annie Proulx once before, and at the time it must have been too slow for my taste because I only got a quarter of the way into it before putting it aside for so long that I forgot the thread of the story.  But I’m giving it another go, as the Aussies say.  A story set in Newfoundland can’t help but make winter in Minnesota seem a bit less frigid, right?

In the vein of books and reading, I have discovered that I actually PREFER to have books I search for in the library database not be immediately available for reserving and checkout.  The anticipation of the queue line, inching closer and closer with every day or week to the top of the list, is delicious.  And it’s always a delightful surprise when something I put on my list months ago finally, finally, FINALLY is waiting for me at my local library.  In fact, this whole process is so wonderful and, dare I say, addictive, that I’ve found myself purchasing far fewer books (even used) so that I can feed my library queue addiction.

Be well, friends!