2015 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

My blog has a new outfit, YAY (feedback is very welcome)! While I’m still cleaning up some of the new design to make it look just right, I prepared some reading stats to share with you guys.

In 2015, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked and during the second half of the year, I pretty much just grabbed whatever, without any of my reading goals in mind. Shame on me. Now let’s see how I did. I wanted 25% of all my books to be written by authors of color, I aimed for 10 LGBTQI protagonists, and reading about at least one disabled character would have been great. Author genders should be balanced, although I suspect I’m slanting heavily towards female writers because there was just so much awesome stuff by women this year. Here are the details of what I read.

Did I read as many books by women as by men?

As mentioned above, my gut feeling tells me that I read far more female than male authors this year. This is no surprise when you realise that my favorite author (Cat Valente) published three books this year and I discovered a new favorite author (Angela Slatter) whose backlist I’m slowly devouring.

20160102124546I read a total of 90 books last year. 55 of them were written by women, 35 by men. I am very happy with that ratio because I really, really didn’t care about author gender when I picked up a book. Of course, reading challenges like Women of Genre Fiction made me look out for new female writers that I haven’t tried before, but all things considered, I grabbed whatever tickled my fancy.

How did I spread out my reading over the year?

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make sense of myself when it comes to this specific piece of statistics. I actually read less when I’m on holiday and more during the shorter months when I work 40-50 hours each week. My only guess/explanation is that I read most of my comic books during these months. But you can see that my reading average has dropped significantly from a few years ago, when 10 books per month were normal.

20160102033546

And now for diversity…

As I did last year, I will be looking at the ratio of white authors to authors of color, as well as diversity in protagonists and characters featured in my books.

Authors of color

20160102033138I read 12 books by authors of color in 2015. That is abysmal and nowhere near the 25% I was aiming for. I discovered some wonderful new authors (Alaya Dawn Johnson, I need all your books!), as well as some old favorites (Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi) and some I wasn’t sure about (Zen Cho, whom I now love).

I think the problem last year wasn’t so much that I didn’t own any books by authors of color or even that I didn’t feel like reading them. There were just so many interesting books published last year that I had to make choices. And these choices, alas, apparently all went to books by white people. This was not a conscious thing, obviously, and my fingers are itching to get started on N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, two of the books highest up on my TBR pile. But seriously, let’s do better in 2016!

Characters of color

20160102124728On the plus side, 35 of my books featured one or more characters of color. I only counted protagonists or side characters that were vital to the plot.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown was not only delightful and fun to read, it also shows two protagonists of color struggling with society’s views of them. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti was an instant book crush, not only because it features a progatonist of color who faces all sorts of prejudice, but because her culture and habits make her stand out, yet she still holds to her traditions and beliefs. Also that hair! I love that hair! Another favorite was Theodora Goss’ collection In the Forest of Forgetting, chock full of diverse characters. My biggest crush was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features only characters of color, as far as I could tell.

LGBTQI characters

20160102033002Another happy surprise is the amount of LGBTQI characters I encountered in 2015. It is extremely difficult to find books with gay, lesbian, transgender,… characters when just reading book blurbs or synopses on the back of books. Publishers still seem very coy about the characters’ sexuality and gender identity, so if authors and bloggers don’t actively tell me that book X features a lesbian couple, often I wouldn’t even know. Even with the help of internet friends, I only managed to read 17 books with LGBTQI characters, but all of those characters are protagonists or super important for the story they were in.

My favorite examples were Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince which features a generally very diverse cast. In this future Brazil, sexuality is not an issue (they have enough other issues, though, trust me) and everybody sleeps with pretty much whomever they feel like, regardless of genders. Karin Lowachee’s Warchild was also stunning, albeit homosexuality is frowned upon or kept secret in this space opera world. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s comic series Rat Queens features a diverse crew of badass women, Nalo Hopkinson’s wonderful collection Falling in Love with Hominids is also crazy diverse, featuring gay couples, lesbian couples, and everything in between. Even Sarah Lotz’ The Three, a book where I didn’t expect to find a lot of diverse characters, features one gay and one lesbian protagonist. And Angela Slatter’s collection The Bitterwood Bible as well as her tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such also depict lesbian or bisexual women.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the books in this diversity recap ended up on my best of the year list.

Disability

20160102032835I read 21 books that featured characters with some kind of disability. To be fair, I counted even minor characters for these statistics, and I also sometimes counted magical disabilities that don’t exist in the real world but impacted the character’s life. Out of interest, I looked at only protagonists or vital characters with disabilities and that leaves me with 12 books which is amazing!

There were characters with physical disabilities like Glokta in Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged, and characters with mental disabilities such as Cady in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or the protagonist of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree. There were even characters suffering from a combination of the two, like Uncle Julian in Shirley Jackson’s amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

some more stats

  • I read 4 books in French (yay!), the rest was all in English
  • 27 books were published in 2015, 18  in 2014, and the rest sometime earlier
  • My most read genres are no surprise either:
    • 50 fantasy books
    • 22 comics/graphic novels
    • 13 science fiction books
    • 5 horror novels

Resolutions

READ MORE AUTHORS OF COLOR! I am really disappointed in myself and I will do my very best to catch up on all the missed new releases of 2015, starting with the authors of color. I also want to read many, many new books of 2016 for Hugo Awards nomination reasons.

Speaking of the Hugo Awards, I will be nominating and voting again this year (Uprooted and Radiance all the way!) and I fully intend to continue this tradition of participating in the fandom I love. Puppies aside, it feels really wonderful to be part of this community that has been nothing but welcoming to all voices from all over the world – you know, as long as you’re not a dick.

Other than that, I’m keeping 2016 pretty resolution-free. Read. Have fun.

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4 thoughts on “2015 in Review – Spotlight on Diverse Reads

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I think the blog look is super classy! And your resolutions appear to be both sensible and manageable, so well done on that. (I have made like twelve resolutions and I am resolved to accept the inevitable attrition they will face as the year wears on.)

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    • Dina says:

      Thank you so much. The blog feels very comfortable in its new clothes. 🙂

      As for resolutions, being a grown-up is hard. But failing at a bunch of great resolutions is still much better than not even trying to improve yourself. So let’s all fail together, gloriously and surrounded by a bunch of fantastic books.

      Like

  2. djmichaelangelo says:

    What a bizarre nit-picking of your reading. You take affirmative action and “special rights” to a whole new level of crazy. I thought Americans were bad when it comes to the hand-wringing PC “equality or die” force-fed nonsense. But this analysis is the nuttiest thing I’ve ever seen! Why can’t you judge a book by its merits instead of trying to force some kind of artificial equilibrium based on your own reverse-bias?

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    • Dina says:

      I haven’t judged a single book by anything other than its merits. I simply set myself goals every year to broaden my horizons.
      Some years I want to read more comic books, some years I want to read more science fiction, sometimes books set in places other than the USA, and yeah, most years I want to read more books by people of color because they don’t get as much promotion as the big names and I might miss a great novel if I read only what’s on the bestseller lists.
      This is about my person reading goals and because I personally am tired of reading about the same type of character, I am on the lookout for characters who are different from me. If these books turn out to be shit, I will gladly say so, but that doesn’t change my reading goals.

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