In December of 2016, I made a New Year’s Resolution about my reading habits. I decided to spend a year reading the genres I loved–science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics–but avoid reading those genres as written by people with the majority worldview.
Instead of reading mostly white authors, I would spend twelve months deliberately seeking out authors who were People of Colour. Instead of reading solely able-bodied authors, I would try to spend twelve months reading books and stories by people with disabilities. Instead of reading mostly straight authors, I would try to spend time reading books by queer authors.
This is not to say that I never read and enjoyed any fiction before by a writer who was not Privileged in Every Way! I had read and supported a few POC authors, one or two queer authors, perhaps a disabled creator here or there. The difference in 2017 was my commitment to focus for a full year on ONLY those voices. To let them dominate my book shelves and reading list for twelve full months.
Now it is 2018, and time to sit back and reflect on what I’ve learned.
Short answer? Spending a year reading #ownvoices fiction has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. It is the best gift I’ve given myself in many years.
In 2017, I read many great authors for the first time.
Nnedi Okoroafor, the author of the Binti series, Who Fears Death? and The Book of Phoenix, Akata Witch and Akata Warrior.
N.K. Jemisin, the author of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy and the Broken Earth trilogy.
Octavia Butler, one of the mothers of modern science fiction.
Kai Ashante Wilson, the author of two brilliant novellas set in a world that inevitably reminds one of Gene Wolfe and Samuel R. Delaney.
Junji Ito, one of the greatest masters of horror in the world.
And a great many others, honestly–more than I can list in one post.
My first impulse when I started the Mensch As Fuck Book Club was to publish reviews of these books as I was reading them, to share my journey and the unfolding of consciousness as I learned and grew. But my first few queries were ignored or fell flat, and I decided that I didn’t really need to share this work publicly. It was something I was doing for myself, after all, and well worth doing regardless of whether anyone else noticed, cared, or subsidized me.
2017 is over, of course, and now I have a choice.
Was a single year enough?
Have I accomplished everything I set out to do?
No. Honestly, I don’t think I have. In most cases, I haven’t even read all the works of a single author! It’s harder than it used to be to read the complete works of an author.
At any rate–I think I’m going to stay on this path.
In 2018, I may pick up a few more books by straight white authors, if I’m genuinely excited about their work. But for the most part I think I am going to continue to focus on voices that the world has tried to muzzle, muffle or deny.
I might share more thoughts about books I’ve read, or the books I’m currently reading for research. But in general, I am still doing this for the love of reading and for the healing impacts of excellent fiction from an original and unexpected point of view.
Reading these books is changing me in ways that I like. I feel more optimistic and hopeful than I have in a long time, and more inspired to write about people who share my own identity, problems and passions.
If you’d like to join me in reading great fiction by marginalized voices in 2018, the Facebook Group still exists and is going strong. Anyone who’s a Mensch is most welcome.