Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thursday Thoughts, May 12th - Diversity

Armchair BEA

First, I stole this topic from Armchair BEA. Although I am not a participant this year, I am following along. Yesterday ABEA asked people to introduce themselves, then talk about diversity.

Diversity is pretty important to me. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of my reading. In addition to title and author, I also track genre, format, source, year of publication, and the gender and nationality of author. I also have a somewhat fuzzy category that I call diversity. It is a simple 0/1 entry that I can then total at the end of the year/month/etc.

Initially it represented the author's race/ethnicity and sexual orientation, but I have started giving myself credit for other differences, like mental or physical disabilities. This is problematic. If the author doesn't have a disability, should it count? How do you know what connection the author has to a disability? I don't count books written by white people about African-Americans as diverse books, i.e., Sue Monk Kidd, Kathryn Stockett, or even Harper Lee. Why should I count a book written by a healthy person about a person with a disability?

Rarely is the answer easy. A good example of an easily categorized book is The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. The author is actually autistic. But what about Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes that looks at the history of autism? Steve Silberman is not autistic, but he's written a sensitive portrayal of autism. Should it count?

Even things that seem more straightforward can be confusing. Is an author Latina or racially mixed? Can you tell from an author photo? Do you read their bio? Is this a good use of my time? Sexual orientation can be even trickier. And transgender. The book Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt is in the same tricky category as Silberman's book. Or what about Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman which is a fictionalized account of his son's descent into schizophrenia and features artwork by his son? Shusterman is also Jewish. Does that count? Do they have to be practicing Jews or write about actively Jewish characters for it to count?

The diversity column is my least favorite column on my spreadsheet. I want to read diverse books, but how do I know which books are diverse?

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh - you just perfectly summed up all my issues! I track diversity (just gender and POC at this point) as best I can, but I don't share it with anyone b/c I have no idea if my info is correct! There are so many tricky areas, as you pointed out. Andi at Estella's Revenge also wrote a great post about this last year.