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.

Putting Out Feelers: A Shut Up and Write Group

You are not a writer unless you write. It always helps to have some extra motivation to do that, though. When I lived in the burbs, I belonged to a group called “Shut Up and Write.” Basically, the group would meet once a week at the local Barnes and Noble. We would sit around a table and from about 7:30 to 8 or 8:15, we would just scribble or type away. You didn’t have to share your work, or even talk about it if you didn’t want to. It was a nice, low-pressure way to meet other writers, get support, and most importantly, get some writing done.

Of course, I no longer live in the burbs, and the organizer of that group moved to the shore, so that group doesn’t even exist any more. I don’t think it was unique, but it seems like groups like that are rare.

I’m considering starting a Shut Up and Write group here, since as far as I know one doesn’t exist in Philly. My idea is to do it on Wednesday nights, probably starting at 6 or 6:30, at the PCI branch of the Free Library. Of course, I’d have to talk to them about it first, but I thought I’d post this here to see if there’s any interest or if people had any suggestions.

(Cross-posted)

Goals for 2012

Well, I rung in the new year in a manner that… was less than satisfying. Still, that leaves room for improvement for the rest of the year. So what would I like to have improve?

  • Complete drafts of three projects (including the next draft of Wolf Season).
  • Be less afraid of making writing mistakes—or making mistakes in anything else, for that matter.
  • Improve my German. I’d like to be able to have a conversation without too much trouble.
  • Continue to read a lot, and perhaps increase the variety of books I read.
  • Blog more regularly.
  • Enjoy myself more than I did the previous year.
  • Do a better job of keeping in touch with friends who I don’t see very often.

As for 2011, I did accomplish a few things, although I felt like I did more in 2010. Still, here are some of the highlights from 2011:

  • Read 38 books (2 less than 2010, but it’s 1000 more pages)
  • Finished writing and doing a revision of Wolf Season
  • Blogged fairly regularly for a good stretch of time
  • Watching the new Doctor Who and Sherlock (and introducing some other people to them)

What about you? What are your goals for 2012?