#LetsDiscuss2020 – Am I a Politically Correct Reader? – #DiscussionSunday #10.

#LetsDiscuss2020

With the #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place across the globe, together with June being Gay Pride Month, I noticed that many bloggers have been putting up posts with their top ten books by authors of color, or their top ten LGBTQ+ books. Now, I don’t like to mix politics with books on my blog. Still… I generally care about equal rights for all, so… that made me wonder:

Am I Politically Incorrect in My Reading Habits?

Discussion Sunday #letsdiscuss2020

Disclaimer:

This is post is for discussion only. I am telling you about me, and asking about you. I ask because I am curious: am I more of an anomaly or am I more like other book bloggers and readers? One way or another, this is my investigation into myself, and I encourage your feedback.

As always, You Do You!

First, my Confession:

I read novels; mostly historical fiction novels. I particularly enjoy novels with a strong female protagonist. I can honestly say that if the main character of the book is someone who existed in real life, I’ll be more drawn to that book, especially if it’s a woman that I know little to nothing about. That’s what I look for in a novel; it really is that simple.

You should also know that I believe that Black Lives Matter is a very important movement. As a Jew, I believe I need to support it. Racism is wrong, in every way, shape, and form, and I oppose it at every turn.

That said, I do NOT understand how people can be racist. Don’t they get that it is just DNA and the luck of the draw? How can one person be inferior because of the higher melanin levels in their body, and another person superior because they have less melanin? Call me stupid, but it makes NO sense to me, at all, whatsoever. Should I be considered inferior because the family I was born into is Jewish? No, of course not! Should someone born into a poor family be deprived of opportunities because of their lack of wealth? Absolutely not! Is one gender to love better or worse than another? It certainly shouldn’t be – it isn’t like we have control over who we fall in love with or to whom we’re attracted! I truly believe that ALL people are essentially and fundamentally equal, and they must be treated that way. It burns my blood when I see one person looking down on someone else, or treating someone badly all because of something they have absolutely NO control over. I repeat: You can’t choose your DNA and you can’t choose the family you’re born into.

That said, and to be specific, maybe I should add that….

I have never gone out of my way to read a book by someone of color, just because of their race. Likewise, I have never gone out of my way to read a book by an LGBTQ+ author or one with LGBTQ+ characters, just because of their gender.

Do I care if the author is a person of color? Not at all. A good writer is a good writer; a good story teller is a good story teller. The level of melanin in their skin or their race is of absolutely no consequence when it comes to quality of writing.

Do I care if the author is LGBTQ+? Not at all. I repeat: a good writer is a good writer; a good story teller is a good story teller. The gender of the person writing the book is of absolutely no consequence when it comes to quality of writing.

Furthermore, I will neither go out of my way to read books by authors because of their race or their gender, nor will I ever avoid reading someone’s novel because of either or both these factors. If you write a book that sounds interesting to me, I might read it; if your subject matter doesn’t interest me, then I won’t read your book. It really is as simple as that.

Have I read books by authors of color? Certainly. Have I read books by LGBTQ+ authors? Absolutely. Do I have a list of them to give you? No, I’m sorry I don’t. But I do have a list of all the books I’ve reviewed right here. I’m afraid that’s all you’ll get from me – an alphabetical list of books.

On the other hand…

I freely admit that I am very wary of any author who isn’t Jewish writing about Jewish subjects and/or portraying Jewish characters. (My regular readers know that I’m Jewish, and I have been living in Israel for most of my life.) While I won’t avoid such books, non-Jewish authors should know that I am totally intolerant and absolutely unforgiving regarding any errors relating to anything Jewish; one too many mistakes and its straight into the DNF pile for you! This is because I’ve been burned too many times reading wildly inaccurate books, and when I’ve complained, I’ve mostly been blown off. They tell me that a Jewish friend or a rabbi looked over the book for mistakes. Well, I’m no rabbi (although my sister is one), but I do have quite a bit of knowledge. In addition, aside from my sister, I know lots and lots and lots of rabbis, and I can double check things with any of them. I also have Google, which apparently, not every rabbi who consults on a novel seems to have (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but for goodness sake, doing this type of minimal research isn’t rocket science).

Furthermore…

I should add that really have appreciated all of the bloggers who have put up these lists of favorite books by people of color or by LGBTQ+ writers, and the readathons that I’m seeing.  I also appreciated all those who put up links to where readers could support the causes that both these groups promote. Remember, I’m Jewish, so I know a little bit about racism, and more than enough about antisemitism.

However, this is not the time to conflagrate these issues. Let’s just say that throughout almost all of my professional career I have worked in the non-profit sector trying to promote equality and human and civil rights for all, and doing what I could to help the disadvantaged population groups in society. I’m not tooting my own horn here, these are facts; I only wish I could have done more. So, if I’m not putting up lists like other bloggers, or taking part in a readathon, it isn’t because I don’t care – I do, and I thank you all for these posts. I just don’t have any of my own.

I will, however, suggest that what we need to strive to become anti-racist, and one way to do that is through education. We need to learn how to be tolerant, how to overlook the physical attributes of others, and accept them as equals, no matter how different they seem. With that, I believe it is important to teach our children this, when they’re young. You see, there is no gene that makes you intolerant of others; prejudice and racism isn’t in your DNA; the only way you can become a racist is if you LEARN how to hate. Therefore, if we can teach our children to hold onto their innate ability to love and not be judgemental, the next generation will have a better chance to remove racism and prejudice from this world.

c4fd7-the_sneetches_and_other_storiesSo… If you have children or grandchildren and you want to teach them tolerance, may I suggest you buy and read them “The Sneeches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss. The blurb on Amazon says “The story of the Star-bellied Sneetches and their star-less friends is a perfect guide for kids growing up in today’s multicultural world. This classic is joined by equally entertaining tales: “The Zax,” a humorous take on the art of compromise; “Too Many Daves,” which shows kids that sometimes standing out is better than blending in; and “What Was I Scared Of?,” which demonstrates how empathy can transform a stranger into a friend.” I give it a full five out of five stars, and I assure you that my kids loved it when I read these stories to them. Their favorites were the title story and the last one “What was I Scared of?” By the way, today my three kids are all all grown up, and they’re all three very much anti-racists! (You can find this book new from The Book Depository or used from Better World Books. Disclaimer: These are all affiliate links.)

 

What about you?

And do you think I’m bookishly Politically Correct, or Politically Incorrect?

This post is my 8th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

2020-Discussion-Challenge

19 thoughts on “#LetsDiscuss2020 – Am I a Politically Correct Reader? – #DiscussionSunday #10.

  1. First off, I appreciate your attitude of You Do You—too many people think they have things all figured out and their ready to tell anyone with a different viewpoint that they’re wrong.

    As for me, I do intentionally diversify my reading some for a couple of different reasons. The first was already eloquently explained by Emer in a comment above, so I won’t go into detail except to say that I agree that consciously supporting books by diverse authors helps create a market for those types of books, which can have a positive impact on POC (and LGBTQ) communities.

    The second reason is that I find that reading outside my own culture and experiences has truly broadened my horizons and made me a more empathetic person. I can’t walk a mile in anyone’s shoes, but I can put myself into a POC character’s mind for the span of 400 pages or so and gain some insight into a worldview I might otherwise have misunderstood or overlooked. I’ve found that to be very rewarding and valuable to my personal growth, so it’s been well worth the minor effort I’ve put into seeking these types of books out.

    Now, having said that, I’ve been able to find many diverse books in genres I already enjoy, so it’s not like I’ve had to go completely out of my comfort zone to do this. (Though an occasional trip outside of my comfort zone has also sometimes served me well.) You might have to work a little more diligently to find POC books that you enjoy—but it just might be worth your effort to give it a try!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somehow, this got put into my spam box, but its okay now. I totally get the bit about consciously supporting books by diverse authors, and that’s probably the main reason why I know I should put more effort into reading more diversely. That said, I don’t think I’m all that willing to go out of my comfort zone for this, because… I’m old, and set in my ways – so THERE and harumph! No, but seriously, reading fantasy or YA books just turn me off. If that’s the only way to read diversely, I don’t think I’m doing these books any favors by reading and disliking them. See what I mean? Thankfully, several people have pointed out some literary fiction books by diverse authors, that I’ll be looking up. Mind you, I already read a good amount of LGBT books, so I’m probably looking more for POC authors and authors from other countries. I do want to find more translated fiction as well, which helps with the latter.

      Thanks for your feedback!

      Like

  2. Wonderful post! I don’t believe that you can be defined as politically correct or incorrect based on the above. It’s all a matter of preference. It’s fine if you aren’t interested in seeking these books out. After all, reading is not what makes change in the world. But for the same reason you read books with Jewish characters only by Jewish authors, I seek POC and LGBTQ+ authors.

    I’m also Jewish (<3), so when I read books by non-Jews who get important details wrong, I know what’s wrong. I can then call the book out for being problematic and highlight that in the community. But I don’t have that privilege when it comes to an LGBTQ+ or POC perspective. Sure, I can empathize. But I will not know if the text is wrong. I am relying on my POC and LGBTQ+ reader friends to help me find books that are NOT problematic.

    That said, I don’t assume things are problematic when I pick them up. I am expecting to hear a realistic story that will teach me things about the world. I put this trust into the author. By reading stories that are Own Voices, I ensure the narrative I hear and the lessons I learn promote things that are important those communities.

    As you said, you do you. There is no wrong way to read. But I’m glad I had the opportunity to share my perspective here. In fact– you’ve inspired me to write my own discussion post. If you don’t mind. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I don’t read only Jewish authors that include Jewish subjects, I just expect the non-Jewish ones to do their research properly (which doesn’t always happen, unfortunately). I get the “own voices” thing though – that makes sense. I do hope you do your own discussion post. I’d love to read it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read and listen to books in many genres. Honestly, I never researched authors or looked for character specific books. It has always been the synopsis/genre of the story that pulled me. My books have often had diversity in them. As my awareness of the obstacles faced in the publishing world has grown; I am trying to broaden my search of titles beyond the big five. I was also delighted to discover some of my favorite authors are members of the LGBT community and POC. Now since I am more aware if I were choosing between two books I was interested in, I would opt to support the one that needs the most uplifting. Does that make sense? I think we can look at ways to support the community and still read stories we love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Davida! I’m sorry but I don’t entirely agree with you here. And I’ll speak from my own experience here in Ireland to explain why.

    For the majority of my life I have always said I’ll read whatever it is that interests me and the author’s gender, sexuality, race etc has no influence on that because I fully and wholeheartedly believe in equality. Exactly as you do. But I think there’s a degree of privilege attached to thinking like that.
    Because if I look at myself I see a white, cis-het female. (Yes I’m chronically ill which is a minority aspect but for the sake of this discussion I’ll omit that)
    So I’m more than represented on bookshelves.
    Publishers are quite happy to publish and promote books by authors that look like me featuring characters that look like me. It’s definitely easier to get your book published and highly publicised if you are white, cis-het because all you have to do is walk into a bookstore and take a look at the author pictures inside the books and see the over representation of white authors.

    So here is where reader choice comes into it.

    If I as a reader make a conscious effort to read more diversely, to read more books by BIPOC authors, more LGBTQ+ authors etc then it creates more of a market for those books which publishers will have no choice but to fill.
    It leads to pressure on bookshops and libraries to stock more diverse books.
    It leads to more minority voices being given a platform and leads to a greater variety of stories being published and read, and leads to greater empathy from the reader for experiences different to their own lived experience. And hopefully leads to more understanding of difference and true equality.

    So yes, I technically still will only read books that interest me, but in making that extra effort to look at the catalogues of books from independent and smaller imprints that typically are the ones that publish BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ authors it has led to me discovering a wider variety of books from all sorts of representations and hopefully has helped to continue the writing careers of those marginalised authors from underrepresented backgrounds.

    That’s my two cents on the matter. It’s certainly an interesting talking point and it’s wonderful that we in the bookish community are being so vocal in demanding justice and the elimination of inequality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah… well… Thank you for this. I never thought of that aspect of this issue before. I do read a great deal of books from indie and small publishers. Maybe I could be more on the lookout for these… Again, I appreciate this feedback and your perspective, and I think I’ve learned something from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As you said…we must be true to ourselves. I believe in racial equality and freedom of expression. Whatever gender you prefer is up to you. Live and let live.
    However, when it comes to my reading material I choose books that appeal to me. I don’t take into account whether they have been written by a person of color and I don’t care what the author’s sexual preferences are.
    A good book is a good book. Period!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I understand people’s concerns that some communities are underrepresented in terms of both authors and fictional characters, but I just want to read a book because it interests me. It makes no difference to me whether the author is black or white, gay or straight, etc. The same with the annual row over the Oscars. I just want the person who has performed best in that category to win – their ethnicity, religion, sexuality etc shouldn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wanted to read some romances by black writers in April 2019 when I was doing my alphabetical thingie, but I couldn’t find freebies on KU. I read one several years ago and it wasn’t much different from a RN with white people. The setting was a contemporary business environment. Unfortunately, I forgot the name and author. One of my challenges this month is to read a LGBTQ love story and I just read one. I don’t know if the author is a lesbian, but the story was pretty vanilla, like any cliched romance between a man and a woman. I didn’t find it enlightening in any way.

    Funny you mention the authenticity issue. I had to quit watching Mrs Maisel because of it. Not only were the main character and her father not portrayed by Jewish actors, but the storylines made me cringe. Did they have to play into all the negative stereotypes? Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I’m feeling guilty because the only types of authors I’ve wanted to read more of are those from Australia and New Zealand. I don’t really care if they’re people of color or if they’re LGBTQ. But there is a book I read not long ago which includes a lesbian romance (but it isn’t a romantic novel, per se). It is called “Right After the Weather” and I liked it. I just checked and I now see that the author, Carol Anshaw is gay, and married to Jessie Ewing. Oh, if you want something really good – Patrick Gale is an amazing author. The last two of his novels – Take Nothing With You, and A Place Called Winter – do involve gay men falling in love. Both highly recommended!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll be boring and say I agree with you! I think we are most effective when we’re doing this work within our own sphere of influence (and most important, teaching our children!). For the past 2-3 years I’ve purposefully tried to read more diversely. I do keep track on a spreadsheet and I like to see a healthy percentage of diverse reads at year’s end. I will promote them if they are written well. I love reading diversely and building my knowledge, compassion, and understanding. I’ve been known to put together a few lists! 😂 But I do not like the peer pressure on Instagram to post a certain picture or sentiment. I’m tiring of the PC police and know-it-alls. Like you said, check my goodreads shelves to see if I’m doing the work! At times I fear saying the wrong thing or offending someone when I do offer a review of a diverse read. For instance, I’m getting up the nerve to publish my thoughts on The Vanishing Half! Great post Davida!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for your post. “a good writer is a good writer”, for me that’s what counts. His or her gender or color of skin has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. I will read the book if it’s very well written, that’s my only criterion for fiction. Other criteria do not make any sense for me.
    Reading nonfiction books about special topics, written by people involved and really informed can be a different story. Like, would I trust an author who’s been on a tourist trip to Paris to write an important book about French culture? I wouldn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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