Why I Plan to Do Diverse December Too

I’ve already committed to reducing the number of books on my Netgalley shelves in December. I’ve been monstrously greedy throughout the year and now need to be munching on my existing goodies.

However, Naomi Frisby makes a lot of sense when she talks about her reasons for the Diverse December initiative, as does Dan. So I will do my best to participate in this initiative as well, since unconscious bias is always with us, no matter how ‘liberal’ and ‘socially aware’ we like to think we are.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very international environment. Although the overseas English school I attended as a child included more than your fair share of children from privileged (moneyed, diplomatic, well-educated) backgrounds, at least it contained all colours and religions as well. So I’ve never been able to resort to glib generalisations about people based on their skin tone, nationality or ethnic group. And yet…

I too did the Harvard University’s Implicit Association test for skin colour and found that I had a slight preference for lighter skin tones. But I need look no further than among my group of friends to know that, although they are a cosmopolitan crowd, not that many of them are non-white.

Virtual bookshelves from trademarksandbrandsonline.com
Virtual bookshelves from trademarksandbrandsonline.com

So let me search among my Netgalley shelves and see what BAME writers I can find there. A bit shameful, really. Of the 45 books currently on my shelf, only 5 fit the criteria.

  1. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee – a Korean growing up in Hong Kong
  2. The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra – Algerian writer working largely in France
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – Japanese-Hawaiian in US
  4. The Killing Lessons by Saul Black – pseudonym of Glen Duncan, Anglo-Indian writer growing up in Bolton – the only non-white child at his school.
  5. The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura – OK, I’m clutching at straws here, as this is a Japanese author living and writing in Japan, so never part of an oppressed minority.

If I were to include ‘other white’ immigrants (a category in which I always have to put myself at the census), I could also read:

  1. Expulsion and Other Stories by Marina Sonkina – Russian living in Canada
  2. Forty One by Lesia Daria – of Ukrainian origin (? – not entirely sure)

Not a great proportion, but it’s a start for this month… And I may sneak in some other reads from beyond those virtual shelves!

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14 thoughts on “Why I Plan to Do Diverse December Too”

  1. Thanks, Marina, so pleased you’re supporting the initiative. I’d be really interested to hear what you think of The Expatriates. And I’ve just learnt something about one of my favourite writers – I had no idea Glen Duncan was Anglo-Indian nor that he has a pseudonym. It’s about time I read the last book in the Last Werewolf trilogy…!

  2. I’m reading the Khadra ( in Fr) atm ….I have read a lot of his books and would say this is one of his best …..horribly relevant at present as well . Look forward to hearing your thoughts .

  3. I like this challenge very much, Marina Sofia. I think it’s important to really try to see the world through other eyes; and reading books written by people from different backgrounds is one important way to do it. I’ll be very interested in what you write about the books you choose.

  4. Good luck, and this looks like a good line-up. I keep meaning to read Khadra but don’t know where to start. I don’t remember much about the Sonkina story collection I read a few years ago, but I think I liked it. Nakamura writes pretty spare stuff, in stark contrast to the very long and very emotionally-wrenching Yanagihara.

  5. An interesting list & I envy you for your reading choices ~ Right now all I am reading are technical insurance books and I can’t wait to complete my test and read other stuff ~ Thanks Marina for reminding me of great books and stories out there ~

  6. I’m taking part too and have just finished Half of a Yellow Sun. Even just planning what I might read made me realise how narrow my book reading habits are. I need to broaden my horizons in my choices.

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