Who do you read?

Let’s look at books. Yours. Mine. Your kids’, if you have kids.

How many of those books have people of color in them? How many have Muslim characters? LGBTQ? Characters with disabilities? Does that include the main characters? And if you’re male, how many books do you have that have female main characters or authors?

I’d say that a tiny minority of what I’ve read has had characters who fall into any of the above categories. Most of what I’ve read consists of books by white men and women written about white men and women. I’m guessing that the same applies for you, and I think that’s a big problem.

Diverse Books Lead to Greater Empathy

It turns out that reading fiction makes you more empathetic, and reading diverse fiction makes you more empathetic towards people who are different.

It seems that literary fiction is better at this than genre fiction. But if you happen to read or write genre fiction, I still encourage you to seek out diversity. As a reader, I almost never see people of color in mysteries—especially the cozies—and I rarely see them as main characters in fantasy. But more people read genre fiction than literary fiction, and seeing different types of people in fiction helps reaffirm their humanity in the real world.

Give the Gift of Diversity, If Only to Yourself

So if you’re a writer who is a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, has disabilities, etc., keep writing! You don’t have to write literary fiction. Just write.*

If you’re a reader or a writer who doesn’t fall into one of the above categories, then actively look for books about people who are different from you—especially if they’re written by people who are different from you.

Perhaps most importantly, if you have kids (or even just know kids), look for diverse books that you can give them as gifts. There are some good kids’ gift ideas at the WeNeedDiverseBooks.org. It might just tip the balance in favor of a better, kinder future.

So what about your books? Your kids’ books? Let me know in the comments. I’m curious.

Footnotes:
*I should take my own advice.

Introducing Leo and Nira

I thought I’d take a break from political posts to introduce my new housemates: Leo and Nira. They’ve been living here for a little over 3 weeks now, and came to me through PAWS.

Leo

Leo is a mostly white cat with brown spots and a brown tail. He is sitting in my office chair.

Leo is about 16 months old. He’s a cuddlebug who is a little needy, but very sweet. He’s also extremely athletic and really good at getting to places he shouldn’t.

Nira

Nira is a brown tabby cat. Here she is sitting on my bedspread.

Nira is 14 months old. She’s a little shy, but very sweet. She’s been taking a while to adjust to me, but she and Leo have been getting along pretty well.

What Trump’s Election Means for My Family

In my previous post, I mentioned that a Trump election might not affect me that much personally, but I’m starting to rethink that. For starters, while the majority of my family is Hindu, I do have some Muslim family members.

But the first report I’ve heard of hostility towards someone in my family actually came from my mom, a Hindu. She mentioned that when she’s out, people look at her with anger. She realized it’s because they think she’s a Muslim, so she now often wears tikka when she goes out.

I hope, for her safety, that it works. It’s been my experience that most people don’t know the difference between a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Sikh. They also don’t really care if you’re from India, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, or even Latin America. Very simply, for a certain portion of the United States, all brown people look alike.

Of course, my Muslim family members don’t have the option of trying to wear some sort of protective marker.

The Muslim Registry and Trump’s Racist Advisors

In case you weren’t aware, Trump wants to force Muslims in the United States to register in a database. Trump talked about a Muslim registry during his campaign a year ago. While he backpedaled on that issue during his campaign, there are troubling signs that he may move forward with it after all. For one thing, the United States previously had a Muslim registry called NSEER, during the 2nd Bush administration. Some supporters of registering Muslims have even used the internment of the Japanese during World War* II as justification.

Then there are Jeff Sessions and Stephen Bannon, Trumps selections for Attorney General and Chief Strategist, respectively. Sessions has expressed anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiments before. He was also denied a position as a judge for making racist comments.

Bannon is a Neo-Nazi who has said that Silicon Valley has too many Asian (including Indian) CEOs and is against letting foreign students who graduate from universities in the United States stay in the country.

If things look bleak, they are—and this is just the beginning.

*During World War II, the United States rounded up Japanese Americans (including the US-born children of immigrants) and relocated them to internment camps. Actor George Takei and Congressman Mike Honda have both talked about their experiences in these camps. I first learned about the Japanese internment camps in high school, after reading Farewell to Manzanar.

Bannon claimed that two-thirds (67%) to three-quarters (75%) of tech CEOs are Asian (including South Asian), while the actual figure is closer to about 14%.