File Under: “Could Do Better” aka: the Big Blue Pacman

Actually, file under: “Could do A LOT better”

It all started a few weeks ago when someone in one of my LibraryThing social groups suggested a diversity challenge, specifically challenging us to read science fiction and fantasy works by minority authors.

At the time, I chimed in, saying it was a great idea, and that I am for diversity, and that I probably read too many books by white guys anyway.

Little did I know what an understatement that was. You see, in 2008 I joined GoodReads (feel free to friend me there!) and became something of a fastidious librarian of my own reading habits, so it was remarkably easy for me to pull up my reading stats and discover my abysmal record, which is that the vast majority of the 101 books that have read since joining GoodReads were written by white authors, and most of those by white men.

Revealing/ damning pie chart below:

A pie chart of authors by book indicating race/gender/ethncity

my abysmal record aka: The Big Blue Pacman

A few clarifications, as follows.

1. The chart above is by book, not by author. So some authors are represented multiple times. For example the chart includes 13 incidents of the (white, male) author Jim Butcher, because I read 13 books in his Dresden File series.

2. The chart is somewhat skewed as well, in particular when it comes to female authors. Of the 21 female authored books noted, I personally know the author in several cases.  As I am more likely to read a book by an author whom I know, the sad truth is that I probably would be reading even less by female authors if I didn’t know any writers at all, although this is somewhat balanced out by the male authors whom I know and whose works I have read. Although (says my hypothetical alter-ego), I actually know more female writers than male- so touche!

3. I struggled for a while about whether or not to include a Jewish designation on this chart. But I feel that, in those cases, the authors themselves identified as Jewish, and it was worth noting that in a diversity table.

4. And yes, finally, the worst statistic of all which is that tiny tiny little orange(ish) wedge at 12 o’clock acknowledging the two nonwhite authors that I have read in the last four years. If I want to practice what I believe in, I really have to do better.

FWIW: My wife is a ready told me that I should be embarrassed. So I have some new marching orders; not as a writer, but as a reader to discover more female and minority writers. Any reading suggestions (particularly in fantasy) would be happily accepted in the comments box.

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About Armand Inezian

Armand Inezian is an English instructor by day, and a grant administrator by later-in-the-day, and a writer by night! VampCon- a dark, fantasy thriller- is his first novel. He resides in Boston with his wife, two children, three cats, and one house that needs a lot of work.
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4 Responses to File Under: “Could Do Better” aka: the Big Blue Pacman

  1. abrach1 says:

    Interesting post, Armand. The ethnic background of a writer isn’t something I personally pay much attention to. I’m more concerned with the quality and subject matter of the book. However, on reflection, I can’t remember the last time time I read a book written by a writer from a minority background. That certainly wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Hhmmm. This really is food for thought….

    • Thanks for your note, Bob. I do agree that, obviously, the quality of a book should dictate whether or not we read it, but/and (with my limited research) this seems to be a chicken-and-egg thing: if more people seek out quality speculative fiction by minority writers, then publishers will be more likely to publish minority works…making them easier to find. Most striking to me was the fact (noted on the diversity challenge) that there are currently more fantasy novels featuring minority characters by white writers than there are fantasy novels written by minority authors. To illustrate: It’s easier to find a fantasy novel written by a white writer but featuring an Asian protagonist than it is to find a fantasy novel written by an Asian writer. Anyway, we both know an African-American writer whose horror novel is coming out next month. Don Franklin at Greyhart! http://donfranklin.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/release-date/

  2. abrach1 says:

    It’s good to see one of our own breaking the mould. But I do take your point. One that, as always, is very thought-provoking.

  3. Pingback: Meanwhile | words away

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