I challenged myself to read at least 50% non-white authors this month. I'm enough of a mood reader that I didn't think I'd enjoy forcing a 100% non-white authors month, any more than I'd want a 100% white author's month. (I do hit about 80% white authors most months, which is why I decided to be more deliberate in my reading choices.)
I'm only a week in, having read five books that qualify. I've read two books by Asian men (both graphic novels), two books by African American women, and one by Adi Alsaid. His name sounds Middle Eastern to me, and he was born and now lives in Mexico City. I dunno what his story is, but I'm counting him anyway.
The first thing that stands out to me is that while I'm reading diverse authors, I'm not reading diverse characters. The illustrations in both graphic novels seem to be of white characters. Charm and Strange is set in an exclusive Vermont boarding school, and while it never specifically states the race of the characters, I find it hard to avoid defaulting to white without being given any hints otherwise. One of Alsaid's characters is Jewish (which is still white, I realize) and one is Latina, but protagonist and her love interest both appear to be white. Nobody seems to be gay, poor, physically disabled, or anything other than blandly middle class. (Well, okay, some of Koehn's and Alsaid's characters have mental health crap going on, but in every case there's a strong implication that it's caused by external events, not internal brain issues.)
Brown Girl Dreaming is the obvious exception to this, being a memoir of growing up black in the south, midwest, and NYC.
What do you think this means? Is it a coincidence? Is my white privilege leading me to assume characters are white even though the author wrote them to not be white? (I am not one of the assholes who was upset that Rue is black in the Hunger Games movie, but I am one of the idiots that didn't fully understand that she was black in the book when I first read it, so I know that's possible.) Am I drawn to these authors because they are acculturated? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?
How can a black author write a book set in a New England boarding school and NOT mention race? I went to a private college in Vermont. It was weird enough being a second generation college student, west coast, public school kid there. I can only imagine how hostile it felt to non-white students. But I LOVED Charm and Strange. Why should I expect the author to write about race if she wanted to write about mental illness, supernatural events, and family disfunction?
I'm excited to see what else comes up as I keep my reading focused on non-white authors. This week I'm hoping to read a bunch of Latino authors. My classes are at least 75% Latino, and I've been blown away at how engaged kids got this year in reading Francisco Jimenez's multi-volume memoir. I want to see if I can find some other books that will have a similar effect. Plus I've got that gigantic author-crush on Matt de la Peña, so I'll finally have a chance to read the last two books of his I haven't gotten to yet.