Right now, a lot of us are pledging to consciously build in more reads from black authors, as well as books covering all genders, races, religions, disabilities, etc. (which is great!). But, how do we keep up the momentum… forever? (because this is not a trend that comes and goes).
A common myth
Firstly, I wanted to mention something I’ve heard both on Bookstagram and in my personal life, a lot: ‘I just read what I enjoy, I don’t need to consciously look for certain books’.
There are a few reasons why this is wrong:
1.Books by black authors (for example) or authors from minority groups, are often not widely advertised; it isn’t hard to realise that publishing isn’t really built to support marginalized authors– think about the big names in nearly every genre- I know that for YA fiction, the large majority (basically all) are white.
2. Leading on from point 1, this means that you simply will not see them as much to be able to just pick them up. If we make a conscious effort to search them out (and talk about them/ review them), they will become more popular (and this creates a circle- except not a vicious one- a really beautiful one).
3. Reading diversely (especially reading #ownvoices books) means you can gain a deeper insight into issues you might not have considered (because you haven’t experienced them) and can also make your reading and understanding richer and deeper.
So, how can we diversify our reads??
Even after the protests die down, this problem never goes away, and this is a small thing we can do to contribute (please don’t just read books by black authors– also, sign petitions, protest, have difficult conversations, share information and amplify black voices).
Consciously diversify your tbr
For example, you could make it a rule that you include one #ownvoices book in your tbr each month (i.e. a book not just including diversity, but that is written by a marginalized author). And as a part of this… buy diverse books! This is a tangible way to support diverse authors
Review books by marginalized authors
There are a few points here. Firstly, if you receive a lot of ARCS, maybe make it a point that you review and advertise (e.g. on #bookstagram) all those written by diverse authors.
As well as this, be scrupulous with your reviewing. If you give a diverse/ #ownvoices book a low review, think about why (it’s easy to say ‘I just didn’t enjoy it’, but remember there is hidden prejudice everywhere). Did you find it ‘unrelatable’, ‘too cliché’? Watch closely how you rate books by diverse authors and why you rate them that way.
Join diverse readathons
This could be on #bookstagram, twitter or even just in book groups or with a group of friends. They are great ways to discover loads of new reads, as well as supporting marginalized authors (both by reading and posting about them).
And leading on from this…
Follow diverse authors
Find diverse accounts to follow on any of your social medias, but… they are not there to teach you! Marginalised authors are just trying to write and advertise their books like anyone; they are there for you to connect with and support, not just so you can say your Instagram is more diverse.
Read books that focus on joy too
Reading books on racism, for example, are extremely important, but also read books about love and joy and black people just living their lives. Read books about LGBTQ+ characters who struggle with identity, but also thrilling fantasy books with queer characters. Read #ownvoices books but also romances and YA fantasies by marginalized authors.
Support black-owned bookstores
There are so many Instagram posts and websites where you can find full lists of book stores owned by black people (and other minorities of course, I just focused on black-owned stores as an example).
Tangibly supporting people by buying their books and buying from their businesses (not just following them) is a big step in diversifying your own reading life.
Feature diverse books in bookstagram pics
This one is for all my #bookstagram friends: if you take shelfies, or bookstack pics, or layered flatlays, diversify them (and then make a point to also read those diverse books, not just photograph them). This is a great way to spread the word and love about some of your favourite books by marginalized authors, and to actively diversify your feed, as well as your reading.
This is an ongoing struggle and supporting diverse authors is one small way that we can help. Don’t just wait for popular books by marginalized authors to come along, search for them, insert them into your reading and feeds, talk about them and review them!
Are you going to try to diversify your reads? How diverse would you say your reading already is? I would love to know in the comments or you can connect with me directly on any of my social medias.