50 Books Challenge

I saw this post on Bitch! Media about reading 50 books by authors of color. I read a lot so usually when I see challenges like this, I ignore them because I’ve already (intentionally or not) completed them: Read x amount of books by women writers, or read x amount of literary fiction, or complete so many history books.

And initially I started to blast past this, too — after all, over the holiday break, I read the Otherland series, by Tad Williams — it features several protagonists of color, as did Liar, by Justine Larbalestier.

Except, I realized with a pause, those are white authors writing protagonists of color. No matter how well such protagonists are written, reading books featuring protagonists of color is not the same thing as reading books by authors of color.

Now, this isn’t to say I don’t read any books by authors of color. A quick review of my goodreads account shows that I read lots of history, social theory, and biographical texts by authors of color — but I don’t read nearly enough fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.

And to be honest, my favorite genres have seemed a little … dull to me lately. Almost … predictable? Not completely, there are some shining stars who invert tropes and upend stereotypes, like Sarah Rees Brennan or Brandon Sanderson.

Unfortunately, such writing seem to be getting rarer, and the flush of e-publishing without guiding editorial hands (thanks Amazon, you suck) means that it’s difficult to find the gems amongst all the drivel. I want to find new perspectives and storylines in my entertainment, and I want to support the authors who inject imagination back into my relaxation. This seems like an excellent way to expand my horizons and support authors of color at the same time.

So I am going to make a list of 50 books by authors of color, which I plan on reading by the end of the year (so plenty of time). I don’t have a full list yet, because I’ve got to look for YA Fantasy/ Sci-fi writers — I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction, and while I do enjoy the occasional text on feminist or social theory, I really like to read to relax.

Beyond that, fairly or unfairly, I’m used to reading and seeing authors of color in non-fiction and literary fiction, which is part of the reason why I don’t have a ton books by authors of color in my library. Proportionally speaking, my library is about 25% non-fiction and philosophy, and about 75% Romance novels, YA Fantasy, or YA Sci-fi, and I’m just not really aware of the authors of color in those genres.

So finding authors of color in my favorite genres is really my goal here. I’m hoping to shake up my reading habits. I need to google around for ideas, so these are just the first 5 of my list of (what will be) 50 Books by Authors of Color.

  1. Captured, by Beverly Jenkins
  2. The Will to Change, by bell hooks
  3. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
  4. Huntress, by Malinda Lo
  5. Kindred, by Octavia Butler

The first 5 books on this list are a little bit cheating, maybe, because I own three of them. The first one I bought today because of another post on Bitch! Media. The second and third, I bought because they were mentioned in textbook readings last quarter and I wanted to read them, so I purchased them … but I haven’t yet had the time. So I’m making that a priority. The fourth is by Malindo Lo, who I know about because I read and loved Ashand the last one is because the post that inspired this effort was raving about Octavia Butler and because Goodreads has been recommending her based on my preferences for a little while. So what the hell, why not? I look at her work and chose Kindred because I adore historical fiction and time travel, and this looks like it fits.

As a side note, I am loving Beverly Jenkins’ Captured. I normally hate hate hate reading pirate-themed romances because there’s inevitably strong overtones of rape/ assault/ lack of consent. I chose this one because a) the reviews were rave and b) it was the least expensive of her historical romances currently available on Nook. I probably shouldn’t be surprised at how heavy a focus Jenkins puts on consent, given the background of the protagonists, but it’s a very nice shift in focus as far as my experience with romance novels goes.

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work for a living

some of us have to work

for a living

shouts, voice cracking with anger, trembling

at the injustice of it all

the words slap with accusatory force

stinging tears up from the depths

the shameful message clear

jobless, work less, worth less

how do you know the worth of someone

who has not been assigned a value?

off to bed with you.

there is no work to do.

tears sting, and I

grind the coffee beans,

some of us

make tomorrows lunch

run the dishwasher

feed the animals

start the robot vacuums

have to work

put out the dog

nighttime routine (not work to do)

just things I do.

for a living

In the morning I will clean

pick up tidy dust and sweep

unload dishes, reload more

start the bread and do some chores

some of us

I will dust and wipe down counters

empty trash and refill litter

wipe the hair out of the sinks

fix the breakfast, pack the lunch

have to work

appointments, paperwork, bills to pay

ordinary day-to-day (not work I do)

just things I do.

for a living

left without a partnership

the half that isn’t whole

the message clear, I dropped the ball

didn’t do my part, show my worth

without a paycheck, value is negotiable

the shameful message clear

we shout, voices cracking with anger, trembling

at the injustice of it all

 some of us have to work

for a living