It’s Getting Hot in Here: What’s all this talk about diversity?

reading diverselyRecently, Didi—over at Brown Girl Reading—posted about reading diversely on her great blog for book-lovers of all kinds. Her post has generated nearly 50 comments from all over the globe thus far. She reminded readers that diverse means “variety” and “different;” then took umbrage with BookTuber “hoopla” on YouTube and said “If you want to read a variety of literature then stop talking about it and do it.” Didi noted that many writers dislike being pigeon-holed because “It’s like being reduced to your race, your nationality, your sexual preference, or even to a handicap.” She went on to say that “what is diverse to one person is not diverse to another.” I loved her point that reading differently helps us learn more about the world.

It was one of those conversations I was just itching to pitch my two-cents-worth into, so I responded thus:

“Whew! Way to get people thinking, commenting, laughing….scowling! Thanks for a great post! I remember [back in the “olden” days-lol!] when I visited a library and choosing a book to read was like being on a treasure hunt where I was led by instinct and curiosity: sometimes book cover designs, titles, fonts, and brief dust-jacket descriptions inspired my choices. Book covers weren’t peppered with as many “blurbs” from well-known writers like they are now; and there didn’t seem to be as much hype leading the way. When urban public libraries started putting all of the “Afro-American”-authored literary works in one section, they were hoping to make it easy for patrons to find these works [because there were much fewer being published then than now]. Bookstores later followed suit. But then a strange thing happened: many black people came in and went straight for those shelves ONLY, while non-black people purposely avoided those shelves like the plague! It may be hard for some folks to believe, but all sorts of ethnic studies, women’s studies, LGBT studies, environmental studies, etc—basically DIVERSITY in [American] education is all less than 50 years old, so the process of reading diversely is still in its infancy, I think. Something tells me I’m going to be thinking about this for a while.”

Well, that was five days ago, people!—and here I am thinking about how the words “diversely” and “diversity” in recent decades have become code words to indicate anyone who is not a “contemporary-white-privileged-heterosexual-male.” They have become the politically-correct terms for corporations and non-profits and anyone else to use when they need to garner “street cred” for being inclusive [and win grant monies, too!]

At the risk of really getting Didi’s ire up by inviting you to jump on this bandwagon—what does reading diversely mean for you? Does it mean reading more text messages? More LGBT Science Fiction written in Italian?

I would be reading more diversely if I:

  • read more non-fiction
  • read more graphic novels
  • read more translations
  • read works written in languages other than english (Didi also reads en francais)
  • read more humor
  • read more works “in the Western canon”

Care to chime in?

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  1. Leslie. Good seeing you engaged, exploring, sharing, and in pursuit of your gifts! Reading (whatever one’s choice) is an opportunity to enhance and expand the personally defined essence of literacy! I am so Thankful for Cass Tech! We had the blueprint for success stamped on us from day one there and for those that stayed the course, the benefits have been very fruitful. Your folklore and literacy endeavor is such a refreshing and exemplary work by one that has always had an artistic style and uniquely portrayed personality. I am so proud of the Cass Tech friend who lived in Green Acres (Detroit)…. continue to shine and keep me posted. In this era of technology and applications of all sorts, the simple pleasures of book reading are welcomed sights for me….. add a little jazz to the mood and the pure enjoyment is exceptional. Thanks for sharing as Mrs. Mayfield prompted me to your blog. Continued success and happiness!!
    Shannon May

  2. oh, to read at all…. I must admit, I truly need to “up” my reading game. I hated to read as a high school student and below… well, come to think of it, I hated reading in college too. I had no confidence in my reading, I couldn’t seem to retain information, and the only thing I read were those things that were required. I always planned to read those required books in English class, but somehow I never finished in time. I think those characters were so un-diverse that all reading felt foreign and far away….not to mention, all that dewey decimal stuff that was so very daunting. The library was not a friendly place. It was the place I had to go because there was some project I had to do. fast-forward 30 (or so) years later. I was terrified yet intrigued at the thought of returning to school for my Master’s degree. I braced myself. I would have to read. and read a lot. and… now 1 year into my program, I have learned that I do like to read. I like to read the stuff I like to read. The required reading is interesting in an intellectually stimulating kind of way. Reading shifts one’s thinking and ungrooves the pathways of the mind that are so deeply etched. Reading and pondering are the best. Mulling over. Considering thoughts, ideas, and peoples one may not ever have considered. Considering that there is a different way to be, to do to believe, none of which requires moral or ethical judgement… just IS. For sure I should read more. I still love and embrace the Black History sections that may still exist. I miss the old ways on some level, but am excited for the new and Diverse. Maybe this doesn’t answer your question. but it was fun to write anyway……. Luv

    1. Hi Colette! Thank’s for stopping by to read my blog! Your comments remind me that sometimes it is the lack of diversity (especially in school reading materials (and I know what you’re talking about because we’re literally from the same school!) that has turned people off from reading. Ponder, and mulling over? Yes! Having my mental pathways refreshed? I hear you! (Let the church say amen!) And congratulations on returning to school to get your masters and discovering that you like to read. Luv ya.

  3. Hello, Leslie and friends! I’m a detective-story reader who loves biographies, a biography reader who has bookmarks blooming in art books, and a lectrice (reader in French) — where I can decide whether to read a French author’s work in French, in English, or both. Then, just to complete the circle of definitions, I also enjoy reading the work of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in French. In short, books are the one thing I enjoy browsing for and discovering. I love what you’re doing to introduce me to new books and authors.

    (If you’re looking for a detective story with a great twist ending, I’ll recommend “Moriarty” by Anthony Horowitz.)

  4. I’ve been on a reading treasure hunt for years and it got a whole lot easier since people starting blogging and sharing reviews. Libraries and bookshops have been my haunts for years and it always intrigued me when I visited another country how different the reading offerings were, how influenced we have been by other peoples choices and limitations.

    I’ve always naturally been interested in reading from another perspective, that which is not familiar, that which might make me question what I assume, that might show me my own limitations. Initially being limited to the English language, it meant I was looking for books by people who grew up elsewhere and wrote in English and then I started looking for translations.

    In Vietnam, I asked for books written by Vietnamese, I was sick of having Graham Greene recommended for Vietnam when there was Bao Ninh and Dương Thu Hương whose insights can not be compared to the outsider.

    It is a challenge to access literature that is not provided through the lens of what might appeal to the predominant culture, but through word of mouth and following the reading trail of like-minded others, we can certainly improve on our choices.

    1. Welcome, Claire –
      “….through word of mouth and following the reading trail of like-minded others, we can certainly improve on our choices.” Well said! ‘I second that emotion’, [as Smokey Robinson and The Miracles might say]. Have you written about the reading treasure hunt as it applies to traveling/living in different countries on your blog?

  5. Thanks for this reference. I just had to get a few things off my chest about reading diversely, concerning the Booktube community on You Tube. I just couldn’t hold it in much longer. If anything I hope it really advances the subject a bit, however I just prefer getting on with my reading. I have bigger fish to fry, my enormous TBR list! I’m pretty much a fan of everything except, sci-fi, romance, and most YA. 🙂

    1. I’m going to let you get back to your reading, Didi—but I had to share your blog [& post] with others in order to introduce my own chat!Respectfully yours!

  6. I have actually just starting reading a different variety of books. My all time fav is Sci-fi. But I’ve picked up a couple memoirs, a mystery novel, and a fiction novel. Now I don’t actually know when I’ll be getting to read these as I currently have 12 books on my night stand. But it’s fun not to read basically the same thing over.

    1. Rook — We’re in agreement that it’s fun to change things up from time to time! Congratulations on having 12 books on your night stand, waiting to be read-lol!”So many books, so little time”—I don’t know who said that, if anybody, but it sure is true!

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