Aug 2, 2009

The Sunday Salon – On Reading and Diversity, Part II

The Sunday Salon.com

Hello Sunday Saloners. Let me start by warning you that this is going to be a rambly post – but before you run away screaming, it does have to do with books. There are a few things I’ve been thinking about this past week, which were brought on by the Liar cover controversy and particularly by Amy’s post on the subject and the discussion that followed in the comments. I thought it’d be a better idea to write a post than to hijack her comments, so here it goes:

Let me start by saying that even if I disagree with some of the points that were made, the people involved in the conversation are all awesome in my book and I respect their position. Also, not all of the points I’m going to discuss were necessarily made by anyone; they’re just things that crossed my mind as I read Amy's post and others this past week. I'm mostly writing this because I think these conversations are important to have. Well, that and the fact that writing and talking to you all often helps me think.

The first thing I want to address is the idea that going out of one’s way to read books by minority authors is as discriminatory as going out of one’s way to avoid them. I don’t agree it is, for a number of reasons. First of all, I do see people primarily as individual rather than as members of a group, be it defined by race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Generalizations about groups bother me, even if they’re as seemingly innocent as jokingly saying “supporters of football team x are all a bunch of ___”. And I do believe that however we’re grouped, we’re all more alike than different.

However, I also think that regardless of being artificial social constructions, group identities do influence our experiences, and they help define the way we see the world. I’m interested in trying to see the world from as many different perspectives as possible, and this is part of why I love to read—because books help me understand what it feels like to be another person. And yes, you could argue that all individuals have unique perspectives, regardless of being members of minority groups or not, and you’d be right. That's one of the reasons why I don't think I'll ever tire of reading; why I insatiably seek out story after story about being a person. But I want my reading to expose me to as many different perspectives as possible, and, like I said, social identities do influence our lives.

The second reason why I don't think deliberately seeking out books by minority authors is discriminatory is because I don't see neutral as being truly neutral. When I don’t pay attention to what I’m reading, straight white male authors inevitably turn out to be the majority. This happens because the way the world is structured favours them. Part of the reason why the difference is so huge when it comes to my own reading is because minorities are particularly underrepresented in some of the types of books I seek out, like fantasy and comics. And because I want to help counter this bias, I try to deliberately diversity my reading.

Another thing I want to say is that my decisions are my own, and they are made for very personal reasons. I don't want to be given a cookie or a golden start. I don’t talk about diversity because I want to be patted on the back, or to boast about being oh-so socially conscious. It’d be ridiculous if I did, particularly because I haven’t even been doing that great a job. And I most definitely don’t make reading decisions out of guilt, or with the intention of guilt-tripping others. In fact, because I often worry that I’ll sound like I’m doing any of the above, many of my reading goals/concerns/anguishes go unrecorded.

But you know, we should all trust one another enough to be able to have these conversations without those fears, without suspecting other people's motives. I don’t think my reading decisions make me better or worse than anyone else. I don’t judge other people for theirs, and I hate the thought of telling anyone what to read (or how to live their lives in general, for that matter). This post turned out to be even more muddled on the page than it was in my head, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I needed to get this off my chest, and plus I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

One last thing: last week I said I believed publishing should be socially responsibly, and I stand by that. But, since blogs are public spaces, there have also been conversations about bloggers having social responsibility themselves. The reason why I’m bringing this up is because I don’t quite know where I stand.

On the one hand, for those that are committed to social causes, blogging offers a great opportunity to try and make a difference. On the other hand, saying we all have that responsibility comes uncomfortably close to inducing guilt, to telling people what they ought to be doing. Also, how public is public? Do you become responsible if you have x amount of readers? If you’ve been around for x amount of time? I’m thinking out loud here; I really have no idea what the answers are. I guess that, above all, the important thing to remember is that if we want to do something, our blogs are a good place to start.

42 comments:

  1. Great post, with lots in here to think about. I think that we have to be tolerant of others' right to decide what they are comfortable with.

    Be outspoken about your personal causes if that's who you are -- even if you have only 2 readers and have been blogging for only 3 days. Keep your opinions to yourself if you are a more private person -- even if you have 1000 readers and have been blogging for 10 years.

    I don't like being forced into signing declarations, participating in "good causes," or joining events as a result of peer pressure or guilt. I join in when I want to and feel comfortable doing so. If I choose not to, the reasons should be own business and I shouldn't have to justify that decision. And I have to hope I don't lose friends and readers because of those choices.

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  2. "the idea that going out of one’s way to read books by minority authors is as discriminatory as going out of one’s way to avoid them."

    My take on this is that it is a very specific take on what is meant by"discrimination",and one that I dont share.
    Some people believe that simply distinguishing race (or age, or sex...) is discriminatory. They believe that we should be unaware of, or un-interested in race.
    In that case, deciding to read a book because of the authors race, would be, I suppose, racist.
    But when I say "racist" or "discriminatory", I dont mean it in this way. For me, for it to be "discrimination" there has to be an element of prejudice. Being more interested in the label than the person, and passing judgement on people via the label you bestow on them.
    It has to do with the context and the attitude involved. Going out of your way to learn more about some-one because they are gay, old, black, disabled, poor and so on, is for me the antithesis of discrimination because it is pushing back the borders of prejudice, making it possible for me to be less prejudiced.

    Although, of course, one could go about this learning in a highly offensive way, especially if the purpose is merely to re-affirm your pre-existing ideas rather than to truly learn. Or if one is only interested in the label, and not the person.

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  3. I guess it all depends on your definition of social responsibility. We don't have to preach a cause, but we should be careful not to offend or attack people.

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  4. Beth: You wouldn't lose me for sure! Personally I only feel comfortable with declarations/movements/etc when I don't feel that anyone who decides not to join/sign/commit for whatever reason will be judged.

    Masha: You make a great point - I really don't like the idea that awareness of race or discussions about race signal racism. And looking beyond the label to see the person definitely makes a difference.

    bermudaonion: True. I think we all have the responsibility, not just as bloggers but as people, not to disseminate hate speech, not to belittle conversations about things that matter to other people, and to basically treat one another with common decency (and I can't think of any blogger who doesn't). Beyond that, it gets tricky.

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  5. I've never paid much attention to diversity in my personal reading beyond sometimes I get the itch to read things from different countries (for the different culture and perspective). I don't pay any attention to the author's gender, race, sexuality, national origin, etc. It turns out when I don't, I end up with a lot more female authors than male, and most of my non-white authors are from the middle east. Having realized that, I'm trying to be a little more aware of diversity in my reading. I don't feel like that's "discriminatory" in some way - it's just reading a little differently. People approach reading differently all the time. Some people make a concerted effort to include translations, or to include nonfiction, or whatever is their particular interest into their reading list. I don't see why books from different cultures, races, sexualities, etc are any different.

    Okay, enough babbling from me. You've made some great points.

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  6. Ana,

    I hear you. We're on the same page. Glad we connected. I hear you and I don't hear you trying to guilt folks into being socially responsible; I don't here you demanding anyone change their reading habits.

    I have a girlfriend who reminds me to find allies and not to fret over those who are uninterested. I'm outspoken, passionate and I believe in causes. I believe we're here to contribute to the greater good and I'm doing what I can as best I can.

    I want to be heard, but I don't need or expect approval or acceptance. I know not to take the rejection personal.

    I don't lose friends over differences. I learn from them. I agree, we all have a responsibility to disseminate hate speech, not to belittle people and matters and to treat one another with common courtesy.

    Often we reveal more about ourselves that we realize. Life is short, Ana. Surround yourself with those who respect and love you.

    As long as those who reject me aren't purposely trying to harm me, I will engage when I can and walk away when I need to.

    Thank you for all a thoughtful and meaningful post. I wish I wrote as well.

    p.s. I read the conversation at Amy's. There were no surprises from where I sit and there's no surprise to me that you found yourself writing this post. Your rambling makes plenty sense.

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  7. Arggggggggggg, can a woman get an edit button? Clearly I meant 'not to disseminate'.

    I must do better rereading before hitting send. lol

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  8. I read your post and all of the comments here and thought, "People who just watch television never ask this question about what they watch."

    Have you ever heard anyone ever wonder if they are watching a diverse enough variety of television programs? With what's available on cable and the internet they certainly could.


    I think it speaks highly of you and everyone here that we are having this dicussion at all.

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  9. I agree with you totally that "neutral" is not really neutral. Great post!

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  10. You know, with the Sotomayor hearings, one thing that has really struck me is how people tend to think of white and male as the default thing to be. I want to read more minority-authored books because I sometimes feel like I get nothing but white dudes talking at me all the time - in books and films and comics and TV and the news and everything. Being white and male isn't "the norm", and the more we open ourselves up to hearing other voices, the more of the world we're letting ourselves see.

    If that makes sense.

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  11. First of all, I admire you so much! I wish I could be as diplomatic and well expressed as you!

    I like to think and hope that my blog could inspire people and sometimes it might come across as I'm guilting people...like the Blogging with Integrity thing. ;) But I do feel like I have some responsibility with my blog....just like I have responsibility with my dollars and my job and my time. I have been so inspired through the blogs of others and so much of my thinking has changed, that I guess I hope I could be that sort of positive mark in the blogoshere as well. Do I think everyone should have the same goal with their blog? No, not really. People blog for different reasons. I probably take myself too seriously. :)

    In regards to diversity on TV? The answer is actually yes. I do at least think about the make-up of the characters I see. But so many people work on a TV show, there are many you aren't seeing. But it is one of the reasons I love LOST...because the cast is so diverse. And if a certain race or ahem, gender gets treated one way for awhile...I will notice. (for example for awhile there were never any "good" black women on 24)
    Anyway, just thought I'd defend TV watchers...we aren't all mindless!

    By the way, everything you say about why you read...love it. :)

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  12. Race, Ethnicity, and Literature: In America, we are primarily focused on white, male, Western literature, and my students seem to be quite surprised when I tell them that there are just as many books written by non-white-male-Western men. And if I tell them that minorities are more than just African-Americans, they seem astounded. I think we have to actually seek out books by minorities, not because we shouldn't read books by white men, but because white men (and black men) are what's thrust in front of us.

    Social Responsibility - I refuse to take responsibility for the liberal education of others....er...I'm a college professor. :) While I don't think we should ever, ever, force our own beliefs and opinions on others, I do think it's a wonderful idea to get your ideas out there, just so others can know that different perspectives exist.

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  13. I like your rambly posts. :-) I love what you said about seeing the world from a variety of perspectives in your reading. While I do hope to gain some greater understanding of a culture or place or what have you through my reading, I am always conscious of the individuality of each story. And within each of those stories, no matter how foreign they may be, I am also looking for bits of myself.

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  14. Wow Ana! What a fantastic post :D I couldn't agree with you more about reading books by POC. Here's my thing, every book we read is one that we intentionally pick out for whatever reason that is. I don't find it "racist" at all for purposely reading a book by POC so that you can gain that insight into their world and support those that deserve equality but still don't get it despite how far we've come.

    I'm also with you on the social responsibility thing...there's a part of me that says, I have free speech, I can say what I want and I have a right to change my mind about things. But at the same time...er, you know what? I'm going to stick with my original point. I don't think there's anything wrong with people sharing their beliefs and opinions in whatever manner they want...ok.../rant

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  15. You are amazing. I feel like I've come to this post too late in the game to add anything new, and my own thoughts are pretty garbled. I definitely don't exclude books from my TBR because of the author's ethnic background, sexuality, or any other such concern. I can't imagine saying something like, "Oh, but I don't read African American fiction," or "Latin American lit isn't my thing." But at the same time I make little deliberate effort to seek out books by authors of any particular persuasion, either ethnic or cultural. I feel rather badly about how many of the authors I read are white Americans. (Most are white American women). Looking at my reading list for 2009, the majority of books that deal with people of colour were still written by white Americans. I was up to book 65 for the year before I could solidly identify the author as a person of colour. And I absolutely agree with you that going out of one's way to read diversely isn't discriminatory, but I still have some trouble actually committing to reading X number of books by authors who are not white and/or American. Which is a useless comment, I guess, because I have no answers or suggestions or anything of that sort. Just an observation about my own personal reading habits, which could change in a heartbeat. There have been times in the past where I've read all sorts of Latin American lit in a great big clump, or whole bunch of LGBT-themed novels in a row, or some other such pattern, but it's never planned. It just happens.

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  16. There are times when I wish I could be sitting across the table from you so that we could talk to each other in real time!! You've asked a lot of important questions that have left me with a lot to think about. I personally don't feel that I have to be socially responsible to anyone in regards to my reading blog. I love to read therefore I'm out there sharing my thoughts about books that I have read or want to read. It doesn't bother me if someone else didn't like that book or if they had a different opinion than mine. In fact, I like it when that happens..we're all different that is why there are soooo many books out there to choose from. I read stories that speak to me for whatever the reason may be. I never look at a book and say to myself, "Oh that was written by an African-American, Russian, Chinese etc. I read the back and if the story sounds compelling then I'm open to whatever is hidden in-between the covers. The only time that I feel that I have to be socially responsible is in my role as a middle school librarian. My views differ so much from the public's view. I want to put LBGT-issue books in my library...others are repulsed by that and don't want their children reading such stuff. I strive everyday to show differing perspectives to the children. In this way I feel that I'm helping these children to learn how to leave ignorance at the door, to open a book and explore life outside of their small home town area.

    In regards to the cover of Liar, I personally feel that the publishers felt that if they went with a cover that was true to the story then they would've lost $$$. Shame on them...I have had boys read Walter Dean Myers BECAUSE the cover interested them. They wanted to read about this young black boy and to see what his life was about. If the cover had been represented in a different fashion I'm not sure if they would have bothered with the book.

    Whew! I'm sorry...I rattled on there quite a bit didn't I?

    Great topic Nymeth!

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  17. Hmmm, I'm sitting here, and I know I want to respond to all this, but I'm not quite sure what I want to say. I, like you, value seeing different perspectives in what I read. I find that I'm generally attracted to books about different people and places. I like to step into the shoes of people that aren't having experiences just the same as I am all the time. I don't have to work to make myself be interested in reading books that are a more diverse.

    That said, I wouldn't say that I necessarily make a concentrated or scheduled effort to read books by people of color on a regular basis, nor do I think that I'm going to start. There's nothing that makes me want to read a book less than feeling like I have to read it for reasons other than just enjoying reading a book. I'll be happy to continue to read the books I'm interested in reading by people of all sorts and rave about them as warranted on my blog, but I have no intention of making doing so another responsibility that I need to be accountable for on my blog. The weight of responsibility hanging over something I do for fun makes it less and less appealing, so I think I'll be keeping on just the way I have been and try not to give myself too much stress over what I'm choosing to read. I have plenty to be stressed about already. ;-)

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  18. So much has already been said here that I don't think I can actually add to the discussion! I do, however, want to say that this is such a great post. I don't think it's discriminatory at all to seek out books by people of different races. You're right in that neutral isn't neutral; our world and our literature is mainly full of white guys. Seeking out something different from the norm is something that is often necessary because it isn't all presented to us as equal and the same.

    At this moment I haven't made a conscious effort to diversify my reading, but if I did, as you say, I wouldn't be doing it because I wanted praise for it. I'd do it because I genuinely wanted to experience more of my world and I find books one of the very best ways to do that. And I do want to experience that, so after all this, I am genuinely going to try, because I think I'm missing a lot.

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  19. Wow...yet another incredible thought-provoking post, Ana! I wish I had something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation, but I can't find anything to disagree with you about. ;)

    I guess I am curious by what's being meant by "social responsibility." I have to admit it...I just want to be selfish when it comes to my blog. It feels like the only place that I don't have responsibilities drowning me...it's my escape to just go have fun. I don't want it to feel like I have to be "making a difference" when I sit down to post. I'm not dishonest on my blog and I certainly hope I'm not offensive or hurtful to anyone on my blog, but beyond that I don't want to feel obligated to make it anything other than what it is. I do sometimes feel like the blogging world is sort of "growing up" and I'm not, if that makes sense. Like I said, it does make me feel selfish, but I want one little area of my life where I can be.

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  20. Another beautiful, rambling post. This whole ongoing discussion was possible because you and Susan and others raised these questions and were willing to have the conversation in the first place. Thank you.

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  21. Whew! You raised a lot of interesting issues here and got lots of feedback.

    I just try to read good books and let everything else fall where it will.

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  22. Thank you for this post, Ana. All that I want to say have been said by the peeps here. I read diversely and I am glad that books made me think. Blogs like yours take it one step further. We need more discussions like this one.

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  23. Excellent post and well said, Nymeth! I agree the things you said, and I couldn't agree more when you said "I also think that regardless of being artificial social constructions, group identities do influence our experiences, and they help define the way we see the world", how true it is! I love reading books that make me think, and I love learning about other history and culture.

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  24. Amanda: You know I love your "blabbing"! That's so interesting that you spontaneously read more books by women. For some reason that never happens to me. And I agree with you that it's just another way of following our reading interests.

    Susan: I really wish there was a way of editing comments! I notice embarrassing typos in mine after they've been published ALL the time :P But yes - I agree with everything you said. It's good to connect over these things, but if someone is not on the same page, that's fine too.

    CB James: It's been a long time since I read any blogs or forums devoted to movies and TV series, but I remember some interesting analysis of gender roles back in the day. I agree that these discussions are important, and I hope people are having them about other forms of storytelling.

    rhapsodyinbooks: Thanks! I'm glad I did make sense after all :P

    Jenny: Exactly! It makes perfect sense. I want other voices too.

    Amy: You know I admire you! And seriously, I've never seen you be anything but diplomatic! You never come across as trying to guilt-trip others to me, and I don't think there's such a thing as taking your blog too seriously. You have your own goals and you respect that other people have theirs, so it's all good :)

    Trisha: Yes, I agree. Trying to find something a little different from what we're normally exposed to often leads to some great finds.

    Wendy: Me too: I love how reading shows me that no matter how different their circumstances, people have a lot in common.

    Chris: lol :P I do like your original point, and you know you're free to "rant" anytime.

    Memory: Aw! I think it's perfectly okay not to commit to reading an x amount of books if that's not where your reading is taking you at that time. Reading speculative fiction can make it harder, can't it? There's still a long way to go when it comes to diversity.

    Staci: I wish we could have a nice long talk over coffee too! I love the work you do as a librarian, and no, I don't think you should feel pressured to do the same as a blogger. It took me a long time to sort through my thoughts and feelings about all of this, but I think what I'll take away from these recent discussions is that if we want to see a change, we can use our blogs to contribute in little ways - but no guilt, and no judgement whether we do or we don't.

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  25. Megan: I'm drawn to books about different cultures too, as well as about different historical periods. And yeah, it doesn't have to feel like work, or a chore. In fact, it shouldn't. My main concern when picking a book always is whether or not it appeals to me. I just try to include books that do appeal to me by authors of different backgrounds. The keyword here being "try" :P

    Meghan: Well, you did add to the discussion :) And exactly - it's not about praise or bragging rights. It's about wanting to expose yourself to different things.

    Debi: You know, I don't know for sure either. I wish I could link to the discussion where that was brought up, but I can't remember where I saw it! Nor if it was a post or a comment, actually. While I'm all for doing what we believe in, I do worry that the word "responsibility" excludes those who blog for more private reasons, like you and me. And you know, you often talk about things that matter in your blog, simply because you care about them. You are not a selfish person, so your blog would never make you one!

    Gavin, I'm glad to have helped a little bit.

    Debnance: Reading good books is definitely also my number one concern!

    Alice: I actually don't think I talk about these things very often, but like I was saying, I'm going to learn to have no fear, to no longer worry that my motivation will be questioned. We all deserve that much trust.

    Melody: It does matter, and not only in a negative way. I'm as guilty as anyone else of often highlighting the negative side of ethnic identity, but there are plenty of good things too. I love how books also expose us to those.

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  26. It seems to me that this discussion is circling around the difference between talking about books and teaching books. As everyone notes, selection itself can be a form of teaching, and few people like to feel that they "have" to read something. What you say about reading and empathy is the key to modeling good reading behavior. Figuratively seeing the world through another character's eyes broadens your horizons--and your readers', if you write a good review--more than preaching at them about what they should be reading.

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  27. Well, one can't help but not respond to this post :-)

    I am one who does not pay attention to race, sex, etc of the author I'm reading at all. I just read what I like. I just had a look at my books read this year and it looks like my authors would mostly be white females of unknown sexuality. Bios on back usually don't say whether they are straight or gay and I'm not in the least interested, though I do know 2 authors I read are gay.

    This whole diversity, racism thing is very difficult for me as I don't notice race. I have Asperger's Syndrome and one of the effects of this syndrome that some people experience and that I have is that a person's race is not noticable to me. It's hard to explain, I'm not blind I can tell if a person is black or asian, etc. but only notice if it's pointed out to me. Eg. I see 3 men standing together and want to point out a very tall man and I would say "Wow, look over there at how tall that guy is?" Friend says "Where?" Me: "Over there, the guy with the red baseball cap, the one in the middle?" Friend: "Oh! The black guy? Wow, he is tall!" Me" Yeah, that's him with the red baseball cap" and now I've just noticed that yes, he is a black man. But it would never dawn on me to describe him as "the black man" that is why whenever people start talking about going out of their way to recognize race it *feels* racist to me. People are people why bring race into it. I realize this is different for others, I just don't understand it.

    Now, on to the "social responsibility". I wouldn't want to read a blog that preached at me constantly about social issues unless that was the blog's purpose and I was reading for that purpose. Speaking one's mind about social issues in the matter of writing a post is one thing but I don't think book blogger's should get on soap boxes and preach their specific cause. I stopped reading a blog recently because of this. I did not agree with their cause and they were talking more about the cause than books and making books the subject of their cause.

    I usually keep my mouth shut about controversial subjects as my conservative, Catholic views are not going to be popular with the majority of book bloggers (who seem to mostly come from the opposite direction). I mean how many liberal book bloggers would continue to read me if I brought my real life "social responsibility" to save the life of unborn children to my blog, front and centre? Honestly, people only want others to be comitted to social causes if they agree with them. However, I ocassionally do post Off Topic postings with Fair Warning Notices not to read any further, usually around election time LOL.

    Well, that's my long ramble with a few different perspectives. :-)

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  28. I'm of the opinion that people should just read what they want without feeling pressured into reading certain types of books. Obviously you have to read certain books whilst studying, but for me reading is pleasure and should be enjoyed guilt free. I don't push myself to read particular books because they are by or about minority groups. I find that I naturally read a reasonably diverse group of authors. I did not like the idea or reasoning given behind the whole Liar thing. I like pretty covers and they do often help me choose one book over another. This case it did feel a little like "oh lets put a white girl on the cover as more people will like it" which I disagree with. Reading should be for fun, but don't lie about a book to help sell copies.

    Do I make sense? I went to a rock fetival yesterday and am suffering from nasty painful sunburn despite putting on cream twice and wearing a sun hat along with only getting about 5 hours sleep... Apologies!

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  29. Jeanne: Agreed. It shouldn't ever be about preaching. I was hoping that talking to everyone here would help me sort my thoughts, and it has :)

    Nicola: Let me start my saying that I completely respect your worldview as well as the fact that you don't perceive race. But, I really disagree that bringing race into a conversation is in itself racist, or that it means that one doesn't see people as people rather than as labels. The thing is, it's only us white folks who can afford to be colour blind. Race influences people's experienced whether we like it or not (and I'm sure none of us does like that it happens). Which is why it feels dangerous to me to try to silence discussions about race by not recognizing it. I've seen several people of colour say that if you're white, you don't see race, but if you're not, you're reminded of it every day of your life. This is why I think it still needs to be talked about.

    I agree that a blog that is devoted mainly to activism should be upfront about it, but I don't think taking about things that matter to us, controversial or not, necessarily has to be preachy. It's funny, I perceive the blogging community as having more of a conservative leaning, especially compared to all other online communities I've belonged to. Which just goes to show that ideas that are different from our own always stand out more. I wish I could remember where I saw the comments about social responsibility, as it'd make this discussion easier. But I didn't get the impression that what was being said with had a political bias. The tone was more along the lines of, if you want to see a change, you can start yourself. Which is that Amy said also.

    I'm a liberal atheist, but I count several Christian conservatives among my blogging friends. I think that as long as people remain respectful, which we all done been so far, we can all get along despite our differences. I find that even if you don't write explicitly about how you feel about abortion in your blog, for example, if it comes up in a book it will influence how you react to it. And by "you" I of course mean every one of us. I completely respect the fact that some people decide to keep their religion/political leanings private, but because these things are part of who we are, they will show as people get to know us.

    This is especially so when books are what's being discussed, as everything and anything eventually comes up in books. All this to say that while I respect everyone's privacy, I don't find it distasteful when people express their beliefs, even if they're not the same as my own. I hope my rant made sense :P

    Rhinoa: You do make perfect sense! That sunburn sounds bad :/ A rock festival, on the other hand, sounds good :P And yeah, it shouldn't be about pressure or guilt or shame. It's about doing what we want to do, whatever the reasons.

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  30. Ignore all the typos please, like "my" instead of "by" :P I ought to hire someone to proofread my comments for me, as it seems that I miss things EVERY time. Also, to check for missing word.

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  31. Great post, Nymeth! I think that when it comes to our blogs, it really is our own vehicle of expression, and we must each write what we are most comfortable writing. And I like your last line, that ultimately, if there is something that we want to see changed, our blogs are definitely the best places to make a start.

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  32. Nicola...I know what you mean about most bloggers being liberal which is so funny when Nymeth says that she feels the opposite. I think what's different does stand out. In actuality I don't feel like I fit in with the conservative crowd or the liberal crowd. To liberals I'm conservative and to conservatives I'm liberal...it can be so frustrating. :P

    In any case, I just wanted to comment on what you said Nymeth about how white people don't see race...I was greatly impacted with that a couple of years ago when I went to Las Vegas with my friend who happens to be of Chinese ethnicity and was visiting from Japan. She commented that she loved how diverse Vegas was and then told me some more stories I couldn't believe happened in this day and age. When I expressed my shock and assumption that we as a society were past all of that...she looked at me for a few minutes and then said, "That's because you're white." That really struck me right in the heart and I'll never forget it.

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  33. My husband is singing karaoke in my ear, so the best I can come up with is:

    Yeah. What Nymeth said.

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  34. That’s what I thought too when I saw some challenge for colored authors. I thought it's descriminating if you have to have a different challenge for them. I still somewhat stand by it. When we have an African challenge or a Canadian challenge, I think it's because we want to know more about a certain place or people. But when we say Coloured, it's like we are grouping people based on the fact that they are colored. I know it shouldn't bother me, but it does, a little. It's difficult to explain why.

    I know there are no wrong or descriminatory reasons for it and I should be happy that people want to know about someone who is different about them.

    My thoughts are also very muddled on this and I do agree with most of the things you have said.

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  35. I'm not sure my comment made any sense at all :)

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  36. Belle, thanks! And yeah, that's the main thing I took away from all these recent conversations :)

    Amy: I think it's only human to forget how real race really is when it's not a part of our everyday experiences...but we can make an effort to remember, and books and conversations like this help!

    Ali: lol! Karaoke in you ear, eh? :P

    Violet: You did make sense! And if I misunderstand you, it's my fault and not yours :P What I think you're saying is that the challenge bothered you because you perceived it as focusing on skin colour rather than cultural identity, right? You know, as a non-native English speaker, I was surprised the first time I came across the term "people of colour", because if I were to translate that to my language, it would be offensive. But with time I began to see it as an umbrella term for several different non-white ethnicities, as a term that is about more than colour in itself. Skin colour alone really doesn't tell us much. For example, I know that in the US I wouldn't be considered white, yet in my country we do see ourselves as white. I only realized this when I read a book in which a character born in the US with an American father and a Portuguese mother was identified and self-identified as non-white. I think cultural identity really is the main thing.

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  37. I don't have much to add, but great conversation.

    As for Liar, I think the whole controversy is actually helping to get the book into a lot more hands here on it's release. I don't know about later, but initially.

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  38. Lisa, did you hear that they changed the cover? It's too bad their justification was that people "didn't get it" rather than that they'd made a mistake, but still, it's very good news. I hope the book does well, because the author deserves it.

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  39. Interesting discussion. I'd heard of the controversy about the Liar cover but I haven't been keeping up very well so am still rather out of the loop on this discussion. You brought up some thought-provoking points though. I completely agree with you in that I don't think seeking out minority authors is discrimination and that "neutral" is actually rather skewed.

    I think that I tend to seek out cultural groups (ie. country) rather than specifically based on the colour of one's skin. As you know I want to read more Japanese literature, so in that sense I guess you could argue that I'm choosing based on race, but frankly that's just because Japan itself doesn't have much diversity. On the other hand I also like reading Canadian authors, but because of the makeup of Canada, this means the authors could be of Indian, Italian, British, Chinese... origin.

    To answer Amy's question I don't think I consciously avoid any particular race but it's true that my reading ends up focusing on the areas of the world I have the most interest in. And this may very well change over time. Is this a bad thing? I don't necessarily think so. Should we read more diversely so our blogs are more socially responsible? That depends on the blog I suppose but for me I just want to talk about what I read. I don't have an agenda. I'm not trying to tell people they have to read the books I do or that they are the only books that matter. They are simply the books I chose to read for whatever reason, and maybe someone else will be interested to know what I thought of them.

    Also, I don't like the implication sometimes that there is a "right" way to blog as I think our blogs are, and should be, as individual as we all are. But if someone wants to use their blog to bring awareness to a cause they feel strongly about, then that's their prerogative, and I respect that. Anyway, now I've gone ahead and rambled in your comments. Sorry!

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  40. Ignore this. I just forgot to click on subscribe to comments.

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  41. tanabata: *ignores* :P

    Nothing to apologize for! I know what you mean...I don't like the idea of there being a "right" or "best" way of blogging either. I think it's only natural to be more interested in some areas of the world and cultures than others, and for personal reading blogs to reflect that. Of course it's different for teachers/librarians/publications/etc. I suppose it comes down to what you said: the goals we set for ourselves.

    Good news on the Liar front: the cover was changed.

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  42. Aww Nymeth you wrote the post I just could not get to come right in my own words. Thanks so much for this :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.