Heartbreak: My Accidental 2018 Reading Challenge

I did reading challenges in 2015 and 2016. I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing things in defense of the first challenge (one which I did get paid for, so hey!). Despite the doomsday cries of the peanut gallery, the market for white male authors did not collapse due to my — or anyone else’s — personal reading choices. Just check out the Bad sex award 2018 nominees!

I didn’t read much in 2017 for a lot of reasons, but did manage to get in proportionally more LGBTQ-centric works than I had in previous years.

2018 proved that my 2015 and 2016 challenges were effective. While I didn’t actively focus on any particular sort of author this year, I ended up reading a wider range of authors than I had in the past. I made my way through proportionally fewer books by and about exclusively cis, straight white men, as was the goal of my challenges.

2018 was an important year in one way: I learned what it is to miss my window for enjoying a book, and to mourn that fact. I accidentally challenged my unconscious idea that a good read will wait for me for as long as I need it to. Continue reading “Heartbreak: My Accidental 2018 Reading Challenge”

Heartbreak: My Accidental 2018 Reading Challenge

2016’s Non-White Authors Reading Challenge

2015 was my year of avoiding male authors. This year, I focused on non-white authors*. I’m not about to defend the experiment again, since I have done so already.

My top ten picks of what I read in 2016, in no particular order aside from #1 which is short and amazing and you must read or listen to it.

  1. The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family by Usman T. Malik (the short story is available for free at the link; there is also an incredible audio version)
  2. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  3. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  4. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  5. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  7. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  8. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  9. The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine
  10. White Nights, Black Paradise by Sikivu Hutchinson

After the jump: A full list of the books of 2016 by categories that I made up, along with my reflections on them. Continue reading “2016’s Non-White Authors Reading Challenge”

2016’s Non-White Authors Reading Challenge

Learning to Read Books Again: A How-To

I began to read at a very early age. Spurred on by spite (thanks, cousins who mocked me for being a baby who couldn’t read when I was a literal baby!), I became an incredibly strong reader by kindergarten, eagerly devouring the chapter books designated for the older kids. Beauty and the Beast was the first Disney movie I saw in a theater, and what a lovely coincidence it was that Belle and I shared the same primary hobby.

Part of why I was such a devout follower of Islam was that I fed my very literal young mind with extensive religious reading. After I’d exhausted the theological options available at my parents home (not to mention finishing the children’s dictionary a few times), the school library as well as the community one became my true home. After spending most of my childhood, adolescence, and college years reading extensively, that I was a bookworm was one of the few stable aspects of my identity. In a way, you could blame the books themselves for the majority of the tumult in terms of who I was (i.e. strong Muslim then progressive Muslim then secular deist then avowed atheist).

At some point in my early 20’s, I got caught up in the whirlwind that was social media and blogs and think-y journalistic outlets (Slate, Salon, and so on). I also began catching up the TV shows and movies that I’d missed as a super-bookish, overly-pious Muslim kid. I didn’t realize that I’d shifted so hard in the focus of my media consumption until it was too late. When I realized I hadn’t read a book in a while, I picked one up — an exciting and fun one, no less, one I’d been looking forward to reading for years — and tried to finish it. I found that I…. couldn’t?

It was as simple as that. I had lost the ability. And it was shocking. Continue reading “Learning to Read Books Again: A How-To”

Learning to Read Books Again: A How-To

Cookies As Rebellion: On the Value of Differing Perspectives

Recently, I completed my listen of the audiobook for Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Gawande’s work has been on my list for years. Thanks to my 2016 reading challenge of reading exclusively non-white* authors, I finally made my way to him.

The book is a moving and important read, making a compelling argument for bringing humanity back to the process of dying. As a former believer, grappling with my mortality is something I’ve done deliberately and conscientiously. As someone who would be paralyzed were it not for modern surgical techniques, I am eager to balance my enthusiasm for scientific advances with a reality check about the inherent ultimate frailty of the human body. As the current caretaker to a disabled spouse, the more dire side of the modern, medicalized system of illness and death is never far from my mind.

That Gawande is Indian shouldn’t matter in a book about the American medical system, right? Any good doctor with writing chops could have produced as excellent a work as Being Mortal, theoretically speaking. Yet it is not so. Continue reading “Cookies As Rebellion: On the Value of Differing Perspectives”

Cookies As Rebellion: On the Value of Differing Perspectives

If Not Excluding White Male Authors, Then What? + Response to Secular Round Table

If there is anything I’ve learned from the backlash against reading authors who aren’t white men, it is that people have a fairly simplistic view of what equality looks like. According to the commenters who think it’s horrible that I’m taking two years to correct a reading imbalance that has persisted for two decades, including one of the members of The Secular Round Table, I’d be better off and more egalitarian by continuing to read mostly or even only white male authors as long as I never consciously discriminated against or in favor of authors based on their race or gender.

Frankly speaking, I see that as ludicrous. It would be unfair of me, however, to not allow for anyone of that persuasion to proffer an alternative. So here’s your chance, if you think me reading selectively for two years is a bad thing: What ought I do instead?

Continue reading “If Not Excluding White Male Authors, Then What? + Response to Secular Round Table”

If Not Excluding White Male Authors, Then What? + Response to Secular Round Table