How to support diverse books as a blogger and reader
Guest post: Wendy Chen
One of my favourite aspects of the online book community has been, in the many people I’ve got to know, the shared passion for uplifting diverse stories – especially stories from marginalised voices. It’s not only writers and publishers who can have an impact on making our stories more inclusive – as bloggers and readers, we can also have a strong influence. Here are some ways you can integrate support for diversity into your own reading and blogging.
- Actively reviewing and recommending stories from marginalised voices
This is self-explanatory, but can have a huge impact if you really make stories by marginalised authors and #ownvoices books your priority. A key issue regarding the marginalisation of diverse stories is how they are sidelined in marketing and promotion when they’re not perceived as capable of having the wide appeal that more mainstream stories do. Bloggers and readers are the perfect people to change that, by reviewing and recommending more diverse books. Read Diverse 2017 – an initiative to encourage bloggers to keep track of and increase the diverse books they read and reviewed – began for this exact reason. Something I’ve personally done is put together a ‘Diversity’ page on my blog so that I have somewhere I can easily link to people when making recommendations.
- Sharing reviews by/ARCs with bloggers who share the identity represented
It’s intuitive that if you’re reading a book where the main character shares your identity, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the details of its representation, and be able to speak from your own knowledge and experiences when discussing it. So, it makes sense to uplift #ownvoices reviewers and share their authentic insights, such as by linking to their reviews in your own reviews and when recommending the books in question. Leading on from this, if you’re lucky enough to get an Advance Readers’ Copy of a book with diverse characters, consider passing it on after you’ve finished – to a reviewer sharing the identity represented.
- Collaborating with other bloggers to host initiatives together
In May this year, I was part of a group of bloggers co-hosting #AsianLitBingo, an initiative to support Asian books and authors throughout the month. There are limits to what you can do as just one person, but when you collaborate with others, the results are simply incredible – we hosted a reading challenge that encouraged many people to pick up books by Asian authors, spotlighted different authors through our blog and interview series, and hosted Twitter chats under #AsianLitChat. So many good things came out of this, in terms of the resources we compiled (like lists of Asian books under different categories) and the insightful discussions that were raised on diversity. Ramadan Readathon was also on in June, spotlighting books by Muslim authors. If you’d like to do a collaborative initiative to promote diversity, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Include and be guided by bloggers who share the identity in question, because of the authentic insights they can share (as above)
- Be conscious of inclusivity under identity labels. Examples: representing a range of Asian ethnicities for Asian identity, not just East Asian ones; including all identities under the LGBTQIAP+ umbrella
- Be aware and inclusive of intersectionality.
- Listening to different perspectives, and surpassing your comfort zone
The ultimate goal would be for diverse books and authors to be valued in the same way as mainstream books are now – so that we wouldn’t need to label these stories as ‘diverse’ at all. This kind of acceptance cannot be achieved merely with tokenistic support – it also requires all of us to increase our understanding of, and to build our empathy for, experiences outside our own. As a reader or blogger, you can do this by deliberately pushing yourself to read books about identities that differ from yours (especially if your position is a more privileged one), and by listening to others in the community with differing perspectives, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so.
What are some of your tips from supporting diverse books as a reader/blogger?