Why a reading challenge?
I started making a reading list for the year, based on some of the many – many – books I currently own but have not read (it’s a sickness, guys, but a good one…?).
And after looking at it a number of times I recognized two seriously strong themes: feminism and travel; which I am certain will come as a shock to precisely…no one 😉
But there’s a lot I already know about each of those topics, and a lot I still need to learn/try to understand/focus on that weren’t in that list. So I went in search of a doable, not overwhelming, book challenge that would encourage me to read a little outside of my usual comfort zone or expressed interests.
And I found this perfect one from Book Riot (a new-to-me website that is mind blowing, bibliophiles – run to it!).
So here’s the challenge:
Make a list of ten identities (race, religion, sexuality, gender, nationality, etc.) that are not yours. Now read ten books, each written by an author who holds one of those identities.
The point, though I would hope it obvious, is not to create unnecessary labels or divisions; but rather to step into others’ shoes and view the world through other lenses. The point is to find empathy through a more rounded understanding of others’ perspectives and life experiences, to more fully comprehend the struggles, driving forces, passions, and fears of different people and to be a better ally in terms of overall human rights.
A quick brainstorm and I came up with these (which I share to encourage you, but yours will likely look different!): immigrant, refugee, child of war, European, African, Asian, Latin American, person of colour, First Nations, gender queer or transgender, homosexual, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, homeless, male, critically or permanently ill, slave (modern or historical), artist, scientist, addict, war hero/veteran, nobel peace prize winner (or frankly any other prize winner!), disabled, famous, the list goes on.
Sure, maybe I took a few liberties (at what point is mental illness the same as critically or permanently ill?). But basically anyone not white, female, North American, able-bodied, cis, straight, and of good overall health (except my depression, which I am fortunate has not affected my ability to live a good life in recent years) would fit the bill!
I wanted to stretch myself and so I took liberties and also immediately checked off a few that I preferred not to repeat because I have read quite a few books by authors from those identities in the past (white male, Muslim, Christian, Latin American) in the hopes of gaining new perspectives. And yes, I focused on my own interests too, and no, I don’t think that makes the point moot.
Leaning heavily on what I already have in my personal library, I chose the following identities and titles to explore. I had to buy 4 of them (marked with an asterisk) but they are voices I need to hear and I think it was well worth it.
- Refugee/Child of War
- The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic
- First Nations/Formerly Homeless/Former Addict/Residential School Survivor
- My Name is Shield Woman: A Hard Road to Healing, Vision, and Leadership by Ruth Scalp Lock
- Excluded (Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive) by Julia Serano*
- Artist (Actress)/Irish/Famous
- A Story Told Lately: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York by Angelica Huston
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson*
- African American/Male
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates*
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
- Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man by Thomas McBee*
- Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experience with Truth by Mohandas Gandhi
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bear in mind that the point is really to read authors that represent these identities – though the topics may also include that given identity and I think novels by authors of diverse voices definitely “count”. The point is that the literary world has long been owned and overwhelmed by males, and more recently white (and often upper class) females, and it’s a great idea to support other writers.
Really, take the challenge as an opportunity just to branch out from your comfort zone. There are no real rules and it’s all a good chance to break free from your usual!
Will you take the challenge with me? Even if you choose one or two, I’d love to know what you’ve opted for! Share in the comments or send me an email so we can compare notes.
Check out Andy Nichols Photography for beautiful portraiture and more. Because he’s the best photographer going and I’m not saying that (just) because I’m biased.