Last week, I suggested that readers challenge themselves to try picking their fiction by first considering the author. Every time I do this, I get a surprising amount of pushback, which astonishes me. “I just read what’s good!” “I don’t worry about the author!” “I won’t pick my entertainment based on the author’s background, I pick based on content!” Ideally, these statements should result in a nice variety of ideas and perspectives. Ideally, “what’s good,” should result in a NYT bestseller list that represents a wide range of diverse writer voices. End caps and staff recommendation tables in bookstores should be populated by male AND female writers, writers of color, diverse backgrounds and orientations. “Queer” fiction would not be a shelf in its own section in the back, and speculative fiction written by women would not end up shelved in the “Chick Lit” section because the author’s name is Helen.
About 5 years ago, I was reading something about women writers and I had a reading epiphany. I realized my own reading choices were skewed almost entirely to White Male (Straight or Cisgender-Heterosexual if we want to be specific) authors. My favorites lists were predominately the same (proof: there is a Facebook note from 2009 where I named 15 books that will always stick with me. I’m astonished that 3 of those authors were women, but I may have written it just shortly after becoming aware of the disparity.)
Over the last 5 years, I’ve had an ongoing goal of balancing my reading choices. Let me tell you people, it is HARD. Books by men get most of the publicity, most of the endcaps, they dominate the “if you liked…” lists, especially in genre, which is where I spend at least half of my reading time.