Tag Archives: read harder

Read Harder is Harder Than I Expected

8 Sep

Earlier this year I posted about the Read Harder challenge. The goal of the challenge is to make you read more diversely and boy did I feel like I was doing a great job.  I read books in translation, books by authors from different countries, graphic novels, nonfiction, and still managed to keep up with books that I just wanted to read anyway.  I figured that putting any focus on reading diversely would expand my reading life. Proud of my accomplishments, I decided to take a quick inventory of the demographics of the authors I read.  I was expecting a pretty even distribution.  I didn’t get that.

While the ratio of men to women authors was split pretty evenly, of the 34 books I read so far this year, only six could be considered to be by authors of color.  And four of the authors of color were men.  That’s pretty shabby for someone actively trying to introduce diversity into her reading.  Sure, I’ve succeeded in pulling myself out of my literary comfort zone and I feel like that’s an accomplishment in itself, but I’m going to try harder the rest of the year.  That means that I’m putting aside the rest of the explicit Read Harder challenge (no worrying about reading a book written before 1850 or by an author under 25), but I’m going to take the spirit of the challenge to heart.  I want the majority of my reading the rest of the year to be by authors of color.

And I think it’s going to be harder than I anticipated.  I don’t think I’m going to get close to a 50/50 distribution, but if I can get a third of my year’s reading to be diverse that would be great.  I know it would be easier if I completely banished Anglo writers from the back half of 2015, but that’s not my goal.  I want to read a Stephen King book in October and after finishing We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, I want to start The Haunting of Hill House, too.  There are far too many awesome Anglo authors that have something unpredictable to add to my life to remove them.  I just want to make room for other voices as well.

So here’s to the next stage of my 2015 reading journey.  I’m currently reading Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, a middle grade novel that takes place in Vietnam.  It’s taking me awhile because I keep stopping to figure out how to pronounce Vietnamese words.  That’s what reading diversely does.  Makes you look like a fool trying to pronounce things to yourself in public places.  I think I’ll keep it going.

~ April

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From Reading Green to Reading Harder

15 May

This year I decided to tackle Book Riot’s Read Harder 2015 challenge.  I’ve recently become somewhat of a devotee of Book Riot.  I love that they hold both fine literature and guilty pleasures in passably equal regard because they have such a passion for reading.  I’ve recently gotten back into that sort of reading since I began working at a public library again and their guidance has been invigorating.

Of their many favorite topics, the writers consistently return to that of diversity in literature.  Like many of them, I never paid close attention to the diversity of my reading list.  I read what I liked and that was that.  Their attention to reading diverse authors has made me interested in what my literary life was missing.  That’s part of the reason I started the Read Harder Challenge.  There are several categories that will push me to read outside of my traditional repertoire of urban fantasy, psychological horror, and whatever has the longest hold list that isn’t written by James Patterson.

One of the first books on my list was Toni Morrison’s newest, God Help The Child.  I haven’t read any Toni Morrison (a.k.a. The National Treasure) books since Beloved scarred my adolescent mind in high school.  I detested the book and decided that since 15-year-old me didn’t like Morrison, all of my future incarnations would also spurn her books.  The Book Riot team could double as a Toni Morrison cheer squad, so encouraged by their de facto praise for her, I gave her another shot.

I’m so glad I did.  This is the type of book that the Read Harder challenge was created for.  It’s the sort of book I would never pick up on my own.  Character studies are not generally my thing, but the manageable length and my spirit of adventure spurred me onward.

This is the story of Bride, a twenty-something independent career woman whose success hides the pain of her childhood.  Her mother, who could pass for white, was devastated that her daughter’s skin was dark as night.  She distanced herself from the girl, causing a chain of hurt that spreads far beyond Bride herself.  Bride, and her companion Booker, must confront the pain of their past if they want to create a future.  What’s more, they come to understand that no life is perfect, no choice is without risks, and we all live with the failures of ourselves and those that care for us.  I’m amazed that Morrison, who is in her 80s now, has such a firm grasp on the concerns of this generation.

Perhaps it is the passage of a decade and a half, or maybe it’s just the more modern storytelling in this book, but I’m willing to admit I might have been wrong about swearing off Morrison.  Thanks to the Read Harder challenge, I hope to introduce myself to other previously off-limits areas of literature.

~April