You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott on lighthouses

Reading Diversely 2015 Summary

My last few posts before my inadvertent blog hiatus were about K.T. Bradford’s article on xojane I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year. My version was to be more aware of what I was reading and to consciously chose to read more writers of color.

I did … not do great in 2015. It would be really easy to kind of slink my way out of saying so and just drop the topic (as with so many intentions when it comes to blogging that kind of disappear). But, I think it’s important to not do that. I consider myself one of those thoughtful, anti-racist white people, and I’m still not doing so great. It takes effort for me to not read just white women with a smattering of white men. I’m not saying it’s hard. This is not rocket science. But it does take change. It does take listening to voices I didn’t realize I wasn’t listening to, just to find the kinds of books that I want to read written by people of color. And sometimes it means reading books that I’m not sure I want to read but trying anyway.

And while I didn’t do great numbers-wise, I noticed that by the end of the year my tastes had changed (not all because of this challenge, but it was one strand in it.) A lot of books felt too much the same to others or too flat. And too improbably white. I also read a lot of fantastic books, the most I’ve ever posted on my my About me page, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many were authors of color.

To the numbers:

According to Goodreads, I read 117 books in 2015.

73 were by white women, and an additional 3 DNF

9 were by white men

25 were by women of color, and an additional 1 DNF

5 were by men of color, and an additional 1 DNF

That’s 85 books by white people or 73%

And 32 books by people of color or 27%

 

Flailing at a blank page

There is something fundamentally wrong with the book writing process. You go from finishing a book, which is at it’s most book-like stage, where you are worrying about commas and word choice, to starting a book, and you’re still thinking of commas and word choice, but you have this big blank page to flail around with and you need to be thinking in a completely different manner than you have been for the last 6 months.

I need a reset button.

Every Heart A Doorway

Given my abiding love for portal fantasy (the first thing I can remember writing is a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe knock-off, at about the age of 7), I had to read Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

I love the concept: a school for children (mostly girls) who have been somewhere else and come back, usually not because they wanted to; a school that helps them cope with having found the place they belong and having had it taken away; a school that gives them someplace to escape the families that want to help them.

I love the inversion of the trope of the portal fantasy. Here is this school full of people who have ALL been somewhere else and come back. It’s not a secret, it’s not a mystery (except in the sense that they don’t know why people travel and how it works). The beginning part was fun-bittersweet for me, a kind of guided tour of what that would look like, of the flip side that CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll never thought of and the sadness and dislocation the Pevensies and Alice must have felt. (I think L. Frank Baum might have done better with Dorothy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read an Oz book and not just seen a movie.)

But (you knew there was a but coming, right?) this book was so close to being for me and then it wasn’t for me. I could still appreciate it, but I didn’t love it.

It’s too creepy.

A kind of creeping creepiness like spiders crawling on my skin.

I had my doubts about Nancy (the protagonist’s) world, the way you might side-eye the boyfriend of a good friend. “No, he’s great,” she insists but he seems kind of cruel to her and he doesn’t like any of her friends and you wonder if everything is ok behind closed doors. That’s how I felt about Nancy’s world. Maybe it’s ok for her and she really does like that stuff but I don’t and I’m not sure I can trust her judgement.

Jack and Jill and their world are even creepier… and you begin to see my problem.

Kade was a delight though and (minor spoiler) I was happy to see McGuire’s matter of fact portrayal of a boy born in a girl’s body (I don’t think he labels himself specifically in the book).

So this book is perfect for someone else, but not for me.

2016: The Year of Portal Fantasy

Early in 2016 I jokingly said that it was going to be the year portal fantasy makes a comeback because I saw the announcements for Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway and Foz Meadows’ An Accident of Stars in quick succession.

Of course, portal fantasy has always been around, but when Lightspeed Magazine published “Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert in February, I thought maybe I wasn’t so far off. Maybe it’s the time for new and exciting takes on portal fantasy.

Tolbert’s story is just that, one of those stories that you read and exclaim “Of course it could happen like that! That makes so much sense!” It’s fantastic because it turns portal fantasy on its head.

Hello!

It’s been a while! Life happened, I got sick, my job got hard, we moved from New York to Bangkok (I know! we moved to Bangkok. I still can’t believe it), I got sick again, and all the while I’ve been writing, writing, writing fiction.

So I’ve been gone, but now I hope to be back.

Reading Diversely–Update

I thought I was doing well. It’s shocking how not well I’m doing at being thoughtful in my reading choices. It’s been a month and a half, more or less, since my last post. Here are my numbers:

48 books read (I’m on drugs after minor surgery. I’m aware my numbers don’t add up, but I can’t make them and I give up)

32 by white authors

14 by authors of color (that’s less than half! better than 20% in Februrary, but I still have a lot of catching up to do)

42 by women

5 by men

If you count the books I have started but not finished but mean to go back to, it’s even worse: 10 books (really?? Who is the midst of 10 books? 3 are poetry collections, if that helps)

All of them are by women.

One will probably be DNF.

4 are by women of color.

6 are by white women.

This is me trying and still reading mostly white women. This is my library not having any poetry collections (on the shelves in front of me the day I went) by any of the black women I looked for (Gwendolyn Brooks, Marilyn Nelson or Maya Angelou). This is all of our book club books this year have been by white people. This is also me deciding to try to read all of Margo Lanagan’s books.

Amazing books by authors of color I’ve read so: Under the Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brisset, Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon, and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (which is going on my best reads of 2015 list)