An Actual Resolution: No More White Men

New Year’s Resolutions always seem a bit hokey to me. If you want to do something, just do it, right? No need to wait until January for it. And definitely no need to commit to an entire year of something- knowing full well that you’ll last about a fortnight- when you haven’t even tried it yet.

Combine that with the fact that December/January tend to come with a hefty dose of jerkbrain for me (who loves SAD? Not fuckin’ me, that’s who. Anyone got a place they’re looking to sublet somewhere way, way further south for next winter?) and we’re not generally experiencing massive amounts of enthusiasm around these parts. Maybe if New Year happened a month or two from now, things would be different.

However! This year I actually have a thing. A real resolution. One which doesn’t involve going anywhere near a gym or missing a single delicious, refreshing, icy beer. Which, btw, is good because I might actually keep to this one.

And that is this: no white men.

It’s not what you think. Some Of My Best Friends are, in fact, white menz and I am very fond of them and shall continue to invite them around for tea and beers and netflixes. I’m not about to go live on a No White Menz Allowed island somewhere. For one thing, I live in Ireland and all my stuff is here and this place is full of ALL KINDS of white people and men and it would be majorly inconvenient to relocate just for the sake of a New Year’s resolution. (Might be fun, though..)

Nah, this resolution is specifically about fiction. Books, to be precise. Cause there’s a hell of a lot of amazing books being written, right? Far, far more than anyone could ever hope to read. This year I want to make a deliberate effort to read things that aren’t all written from the perspectives that dominate our culture. Hence: no white men.

With one exception. Paul Anthony Shortt writes damn good books that are super feminist that I want to read, damnit. Also being an RL friend of mine who let me use his washing machine just last month when mine was broken and I was almost out of socks doesn’t hurt.

So the edited version: No white men who didn’t let me wash my socks in their house. And my definition of “not white men” is one which is terribly generous and pretty much allows for the vast majority of arguments that let me get my greedy paws on good books.

I am very, very aware that the second I post this, all of my favourite white-men authors are going to announce something I really want to read. And I will. Just, next year.

So! To the actual purpose of this post: feed me recs, you lot! Who’re your favourite women/POC/non-western authors? What should I be putting on my 2015 No White Menz Allowed reading list? Let me know!

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An Actual Resolution: No More White Men

42 thoughts on “An Actual Resolution: No More White Men

  1. 2

    Octavia Butler! I love all of her works but particularly Lillith’s Brood/The Xenogenesis Trillogy. It’s creepy sci-fi with lots of deeper themes like slavery, gender, reproduction, free will, the nature of humanity, etc.

    1. 2.1

      I adore Octavia Butler! I haven’t read Xenogenesis in many years, though- must give it a reread. I rediscovered her earlier this year after devouring Xenogenesis at a friend’s house many years ago and promptly got every single thing I could find that she had ever written. She’s amazing. I love her prose and I love how there’s no such thing as a happy ending or an easy answer with her.

    1. 3.1

      I left the kind of literature I like out deliberately, because one of the big points of this is to encounter perspectives that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Hence not wanting to tie myself to any particular genre, you know?

  2. 4

    If you like fantasy, I recommend N.K. Jemisin’s series that starts with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Also, pretty much anything by Tamora Pierce (if you like fantasy specifically aimed at young adults – I find it enjoyable).

  3. 5

    Since Paul Anthony Shortt writes Speculative Fiction, I’ll mention some of my favourite authors from that genre.

    Lois McMaster Bujold.
    Wen Spencer
    Jo Walton
    Sarah A. Hoyt.
    Lee Miller
    Diane Duane
    R A McAvoy
    C J Cherryh
    Robin Hobb

    and, of course, even though not SF/Fantasy
    Jane Austen
    Agatha Christie
    Georgette Heyer

    Hmm…. I do notice a distinct absence of non-white authors in my lists.

    1. 5.1

      Well, I’ll probably update here with short reviews of stuff I’ve been reading. Especially since I’ve just gone and dragged the lot of you on board to my project, right? So watch this space for tons of awesome POC writers. And the other comments, which have oodles. That too 🙂

      And thanks for the recs! An excellent mix of people I know of and people I’ve never heard of.

  4. 6

    Naomi Novik – The Temeraire series is set in a Napoleonic AU where everyone has dragons. It mixes war, politics, and adventure, and one of the draconic characters will take any opportunity to advocate for dragon rights.
    Robin Hobb – The Realm of the Elderlings, a set of four-going-on-five trilogies about assassins, extinct dragon-elf-people, two different kinds of dragons, two different kinds of magic, living boats, social outcasts, and other things.
    Tamora Pierce – Song of the Lioness and others in the universe, detailing the struggles of female knights in a male-dominated medieval world. Also magic.

    I like fantasy, if you hadn’t noticed.

    Also: new yay! Well, I’ve been reading for a while but still.

    1. 6.1

      Temeraire: SO MUCH FUN. I read a bunch of them a few years ago and only heard from a friend of mine last week that she’s after writing more in the meantime. I’m currently, I believe, second in line for a lend of her copy of the next one and can’t wait.

  5. 7

    Absolutely anything by Nnedi Okorafor. She is amaxing and her worlduilding is incredible. Seconding the suggestion for NK Jemisin.

    Also, Glenda Larke creates rich fantasy worlds which are awesome and each one is unique and they somewhat resemble various real-world places but are all different and wonderful. She has a trans character, too, just one so far AFAIK.

    1. 7.1

      That’s the second time this week I’ve heard of Okorafor, so she’s defo on the list. As are the other two. I love me some rich fantasy worlds and also trans inclusion= awesome. Thank you!

  6. 8

    Anne McCaffrey? I was not all that enamored of the Dragonriders series, but the Brain ship series was pretty good, and I really liked the Crystal Singer series.
    Val McDairmid is a really good writer as well, I recommend “A Place of Execution”, although that may resonate more with me as I was a child in the English midlands during the time of the moors murderers. The series of “Wire in the Blood” books is good too, even if you have seen the television series.

    1. 8.1

      Ha, way back when I was a teenager I adored Anne McCaffrey. Nobody could do an Electra complex quite like her, though.. Haven’t read her stuff in years and years, though she’s defo good fun.

      And I’ve never heard of either of the others, thank you!

  7. 10

    Comics! Sometimes you have to be careful, like even if you’re sorta familiar with Japanese names, some man names sound like lady names and vice versa. And while Japanese men aren’t white men, they’re supremely privileged where they come from. So lady-created manga. But also comic books by non-white-men in the USA, UK, France. They exist, don’t know a ton off the top of my head.

    1. 10.1

      Well, it’s partly about privilege and partly about actively seeking different perspectives in fiction by cutting out the single group whose perspective is most likely to be shared. So, y’know, I can risk accidentally reading comics by ethnically-privileged nonwhite men as they’d still be hitting the second point.

      Luckily, though, I have some delightfully generous comic aficionados in my close circles so I’m sure I can do some digging for good stuff. And will be reporting back, of course.

  8. 11

    “brightness falls from the air” by ‘James’ Tiptree (actually a woman, writing under a nom de plume because… sexism in publishing)
    and I have to second whoever suggested Lois McMaster Bujold.

  9. 12

    Isobelle Carmody, specifically her Obernewtyn series, which centers around a group of outcasts-with-weird-powers banding together and finding their feet. I must re-read it someday.

  10. 14

    Aoife,

    I mostly read science fiction. For Octavia Butler, I recommend Parable of the Sower, and if you like it there is a sequel. I found her Dawn to be too depressing (probably because I am white), so I haven’t read the other Lilith’s Brood books. Another science fiction recommendation might be Walter Mosley’s “Futureland”. It’s a collection of short stories that interconnect, and (future) racial politics are central to the plot. Mosley is better known for his “Easy Rawlins” mysteries (which I have not read and thus cannot review).

    Next year will mark 200 years since Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein.

    Also, a few years ago, Jen McCreight wrote a post here at FTB in which she sought suggestions for feminist fantasy novels.

    What fantasy novels do you think have feminist ideals? Who are your favorite strong female characters?

    There were a ton of recommendations, and some branched over to science fiction. A few mentions were written by men, but the vast majority were written by women. You can find the conversation here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2011/12/feminist-fantasy/ (But be warned that it got more than 300 comments in the first three days, and not because of fighting but because readers had a lot to recommend.)

    I’ll be interested to see what people recommend in your thread here that is more in Literature or non-“genre” categories. Thank you for starting this discussion.

  11. 15

    Marcus Ranum @ # 11: … ‘James’ Tiptree (actually a woman, writing under a nom de plume because… sexism in publishing)

    As I understand it, Alice Sheldon wrote under (three) pen names, including James Tiptree, Jr., because she had long before signed a contract obliging her to do so as an employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency, even after resignation. (Which did not, of course, stop her from writing the best feminist sf ever.)

    For lighter gender-bending sf, try almost anything by Melissa Scott. Colin Greenland’s Plenty trilogy deserves consideration, but NOT when you need cheering up. And no feminist-fantasist should miss Peter S. Beagle’s The Innkeeper’s Song.

  12. 16

    Margaret Atwood. Toni Morrison. Angela Carter. And someone who should be better known than she is. at least here in her native country: Rachel Ingalls. She writes dark little novellas that sometimes incorporate magical realism and sometimes don’t, with scary-keen psychological insight and subtle class and gender awareness.

  13. 17

    Excellent resolution! Some really good recommendations here, including some I didn’t know, which is always exciting. I would add:

    – Sheri Tepper (all of her books. ALL of them. But especially Grass and The Gate to Women’s Country)
    – Kate Atkinson
    – Susannah Charleson (non-fiction, her books are about SAR and service dogs, but beautiful, lyrical writing)
    – Emma Donoghue (Room is haunting)
    – Suzette Haden Elgin (out of print, but if you can find them, a fascinating series focussed on language)
    – Abigail Thomas (fab and painful autobiography A Three Dog Life)
    – Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant – prolific writer, excellent stories
    – Barbara Kingsolver
    – Taylor Stevens (brilliant series about a damaged but extremely bad-ass woman)
    – Caroline Knapp (again, non-fiction and doggie, but beautiful writer)
    – Claire North
    – Laurie Notaro (for spit-your-coffee, laugh out loud memoires)
    – Mary Roach (non-fiction, hilarious and educational at the same time)

    I notice a general paleness in my list as well, so will have to branch out more.

  14. 19

    Elizabeth Bear–I especially loved her Eternal Sky trilogy: Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars, Steles of the Sky.
    Ann Leckie–Ancillary Justice (Hugo winner) and Ancillary Sword (and whatever the third in the series ends up being).

    Must keep this thread in mind when I’m stumped for summat to read on the bus!

  15. 21

    Okay here’s a quintet of recommendations that I think & hope you’ll like – mostly SF :

    1) Jan Mark’s ‘The Ennead’ female writer (I think – pretty sure!) starring one of the most unconventional and tough heroines in a short, powerful SF novel with superb characterisation and good world (Planetary system even) building. She’s also written some other good novels too.

    2) Pamela Sargent’s trilogy – ‘Venus of Dreams’, Venus of Shadows’, ‘Child of Venus’ – by a feminist author looking at the terraforming of our Cytherean nearest planetary neighbour, the morn and eve star, across several generations of powerful women. Her ‘Earthseed’ novel is also one I’d recommend & remember fondly too.

    3) Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s ‘Alien Influences’ good stellar science, strong characters and a good story telling with a strong conscience and sense of empathy.

    4) Arundati Roy, her ‘God of Small Things’ (Think that was it -one I borrowed and don’t have a copy of) novel set in India with the caste system and much more and she’s written some great non-fiction essays which have been collected into book form too.

    5) Somtow Sucharitkul’s ‘Dawning Shadow / Inquestor’ series starting with Light on the Sound’ with plenty of bisexual romances and a vast cosmos of powerful characters and worlds and awesomeness. (Not 100% sure of his background but don’t think he’s white and estimate probably not straight FWIW.)

    I think I’d also recommend ‘The Rug-maker of Mazar-e-Sharif’ by Najaf Mazari which is excellent and the autobiographical story of an Afghanistani refugee in Australia which I am currently reading and much enjoying but it is also co-written by Robert Hillman who is male and I gather probably (though not certainly) white if that’s a problem?

    Anyhow, enjoy, hope this helps.

    1. 21.1

      Just done a quick wiki-check :

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._P._Somtow

      Sucharitkul is a Thai-American and composer a plus a lot more and his historical fantasy ‘The Shattered Horse’ set in the ancient Greek Trojan war aftermath sounds like an interesting one to find too.

      Oh & Jan Marks was definitely female – a British teacher and writer of mostly children’s (young adult?) books who is popular in Belgium where “Flemish friends devoted a website to her and to her work. ” (Wikipedia again.)

  16. 22

    Followed a link to your Charlie Hebdo post, stayed for the books… 🙂

    You might be interested to know about the Australian Women Writers reading challenge, now in its fourth year:
    http://australianwomenwriters.com/

    It’s a good source of books by Australian women, which will lead you to other green and luscious fields of books by not-white-men as well.

    (As someone up-thread remarked, the non-white part can be especially difficult – you will see that a number of people involved in the challenge go in search of a more general diversity as well.)

    Oh, and for Black Australian authors, Anita Heiss’ Black Book Challenge is an excellent starting point:
    http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/anitas-bbc-black-book-choice-reading.html

  17. 23

    Not sure I’ve commented here before, so hi!

    I’m sure I picked up this recommendation from someone in the comments somewhere on FTB (it seems I need a book post to bring me out of lurkdom on each blog individually!) but Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series is great. Female main characters, who don’t exist just to motivate the main hero, and who solve the issues facing them by asking questions in order to learn more information. It was so refreshing to find something where brainpower plays a greater role than brawn. Plus the world building is fantastic. Book 1 feels like fantasy, but overall it’s more towards the sci-fi side, but I find a lot of sci-fi gets hung up on the scenario and forgets the character development. Here, the characters are really well drawn. And really unusually, the societies and non-human races have been drawn up by a writer who actually seems to have an understanding of biology (particularly evolution), anthropology and linguistics. The writer has a blog where she periodically suggests other authors with a feminist slant to their fiction. One recent post that made me happy, and might give you an idea of her writing style, was her celebration of the new year – http://www.rosemarykirstein.com/2015/01/the-people-who-joined-us/ – although you can also find the first chapter of each book to read on the website.

    I also recently discovered Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, and absolutely love it – I’ve read 4 so far, and each book turns me antisocial and unable to do anything other than read until I finish it (luckily they’re fast reads!). One I really liked last year was The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker – despite the supernatural characters, it’s a well researched and deep exploration of the experiences of new migrants from Syria and Eastern Europe living in C19th New York. If you like fairy-tale retellings, I would also recommend Kate Foresyth’s Bitter Greens, which sets Rapunzel into Renaissance France and Italy.

    For something totally different, Persephone Books have republished The World That Was Ours, by Hilda Bernstein. Her husband was one of the white men on trial with Nelson Mandela, when the white South Africans were acquitted, and the black South Africans all sentenced to life imprisonment. This is her autobiographical account of the fight against apartheid.

  18. 24

    Plus, one that will have to wait a year, given the white maleness of the author but Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series has great, original world building, and so far I’m not finding the treatment of the female characters to be problematic. Having finished book 2 yesterday, which mostly takes place on a pirate ship, I was struck by how equitable it was.

  19. 25

    I’d also suggest A Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. It deals with race, gender, sex, equality, technology, environmentalism, mental illness – all wrapped up in a very good plot.

  20. 26

    I’m late to the party, so I’ll probably go totally overboard…

    First: thank you for inspiring this thread and thanks to all who have commented! In retrospect I realize that I have been reading a lot of women authors lately – but almost all of them white and Western. It looks like the comments here can help me diversify further.

    Regarding fiction:

    Because my studies require so much concentrating on and contemplating what I read, my reading for fun is usually Young Adult fantasy, or SciFi.

    I strongly second the recommendations for Ursula K. Le Guin and Tamora Pierce – even though both Le Guin’s Earthsea series and Pierce’s Protector of the Small series should IMO come with content notes. Both authors are very good at realistically describing intense bigotry and bullying, and sadistic perpetrators of violence and mental/emotional torment, also targeting children. Those scenes do not dominate any of their books that I have read, but they are important parts of both series’ story arcs.

    Have you read any Scandinavian literature? Even though both Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren too often get pushed solely into the “children’s author” category, their books have depth that speaks to anyone who has not forgotten what it was like to be a child.

    Jansson’s Moomin books are fairly unlike the Japanese animated series – and IMO they need to be read in publishing order. Moominvalley grows a lot murkier and less lighthearted than one would expect based on the first books… If you want to try out just one of her books, try to get hold of the short story collection “Tales from Moominvalley” (Originally: Det osynliga barnet) – it has some of the carefree and idiosyncratic humor of the first books, but also shades of deep blues and angsty greys.

    Of Astrid Lindgren’s books, my unsurprising favorite is the fantasy/fable “Ronia the Robber’s Daughter” (the film is quite good, too). I also warmly recommend “Mio My Son” (also known as “Mio, My Mio”) and “The Brothers Lionheart” (the film is otherwise good, but it has some special effects toward the end that have not aged well). And of course I have to rave about Pippi Longstocking. Pippi was my introduction to a female lead who was unapologetically herself – the first character that gave me thoughts in feminist directions, even though I did not know of the concept when I was nine.

    If your SAD is anything like mine, for next winter’s darkness (or the end of this winter’s, if needed) you may find a loooong, not too demanding YA series a useful distraction. I re-read Harry Potter books and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books (there are 31 to date) when it’s very dark, usually during alternate winters. If you are not sure about embarking on a 2400 years long story arc, I recommend trying out Lackey’s “Oathblood” (with a quite interesting pair of female leads) or “Take a Thief” (with unusual emotional depth in descriptions of men as protectors and mentors of boys) – or if you are not afraid of some spoilers about some of the other books in the series, “By the Sword,” which is my personal favorite because the female protagonist is awesome (Kerowyn has a lot in common with Tamora Pierce’s Kelandry).

    Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine have originally come into my life through audiobooks. They are somewhat expensive (as in: I have not been able to find any used, ever, and seldom have any been on sale, either), but wonderful when I want to immerse myself in a story and get the dishes washed, too.

    I may stop by later for some non-fiction recommendations, too. Thank you all for this thread!

  21. 27

    I’m a little late to the party, but…

    No one’s mentioned Tanya Huff yet that I’ve seen, you might like her. I third (or fourth, or whatever) Bujold, she’s awesome.

    If you like military sci fi and fantasy, Elizabeth Moon’s good (she also has at least one novel with an interesting take on how we view *age* and gender, though I can’t recall the name of it at the moment)

    Barbara Hambly has some excellent historical mysteries (well researched, she has a Master’s or something in history–pre-Civil-War New Orleans was fracking *weird*), as well as fantasy set in… worlds that feel historically plausible.

    Esther Friesner has some pretty funny stuff (if you don’t mind encountering the odd white male in the course of an anthology, the Chicks in Chainmail series does a lot of rather silly playing around with our tropes about women in sword-and-sorcery type stories)

    Carrie Vaughn has a lovely series about a werewolf named Kitty

    Mercedes Lackey’s stuff is… not exactly deep and profound writing, but she does great character, and occasionally touches on some Important Subjects (like child abuse).

    Sarah A Hoyt has a nice little series about shapeshifters (with the book titles mostly or entirely taken from diner slang, it makes sense in context)

    Patricia Briggs has a series I’m fond of about a coyote shifter named Mercy Thompson, though I’m less fond of the other series I’ve read by her set in the same world, and haven’t read any of her high fantasy stuff.

    Craving, by Kristina Meister, has… Buddhist vampires. It makes sense in context.

    I haven’t read any of his other stuff (that I’m aware of), but Babel 17, by Samuel R Delany, was… interesting. Had some intriguing views on relationships, and the main viewpoint character was an Asian woman.

    That should be enough to round out your year, if you didn’t have enough recommendations already.

  22. 28

    I was checking to see if any of my list (besides Delany) were, well, not white, and ran across the name of that book by Moon I was referring to. Remnant Population.

    But, looks like my list is pretty pasty. I think there may be something of a self-selection element there, though I’m not sure the exact directionality of it, because I also mostly see white people at science fiction conventions. I don’t know if (most) non-whiteish people just aren’t into sci fi and/or fantasy, so they don’t write it, or if no one “like” them is writing much, so they don’t like it. Or, of course, they both like it and are writing it, but it doesn’t go “mainstream” for whatever reason.

    Oh, good author I missed on my initial list (also pasty-white, but localish to me): Emma Bull.

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