Monday, January 25, 2016

UPDATE: The Leaning Stack of Books Diversity Challenge Bingo

This Monday entry will be slightly different than my usual update. I really need to discuss my 2015 Diversity Challenge Bingo Game, because it’s already the end of January. How did that happen? Plus, my traditional update would let you know that I am in the middle of a string of novels about sad white people (My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout; Days of Awe by Lauren Fox (review forthcoming); and I just started Early Warning by Jane Smiley). That, in its own way, is the perfect segue into a recap of my attempt last year to diversify my reading.

If you remember, I was interested in expanding my reading repertoire to include a wider variety of authors and points of view. At the end of 2014, I tallied up the books I read over the course of the year and found that only 8% of those books were by authors of color, and 3% had a main character that was a person of color. My “natural” book selection pattern – which was to choose books by whim alone – led to a lot of reading by and about white people.

My goal was to more intentionally – but in a fun way – improve those numbers. I truly believe that I am a better person when I experience the lives of people unlike myself through books and reading. So I created a bingo card for myself:

And I made myself a drinking game! The rule was that every time I filled a row, I had to take a drink and holler, “Blogtastic!” I’m really cool, can’t you tell? There is truly nothing more brag-worthy than being a lady who plays bookish games by herself and shouts weird things while drinking alone.

But in all seriousness, I did learn a little bit about the limits of my own intentionality. Don’t get me wrong, my reading choices were more diverse in 2015. 19% of all the books I read had authors of color. Of the fiction I read, 20% had a main character of color. 43% of the nonfiction I tackled centered on race or the racial dimensions of a problem.

However, I honestly thought that I was going to fill my bingo card. And while I certainly created a robust scattershot card and was proud of that, I was only able to officially fill one row. That meant that I was a pretty sober blogger in 2015. My “intentionality” did not make me a bingo winner in any real sense of the word.

I learned that true intentionality around reading and diversity requires a bigger commitment on my part. I need to think more deliberately and choose more critically if I want to broaden my reading life in a big way. So this year, I plan to take on this bingo card again, just as it is, and I would love for you all to join me. Imagine us all raising our glasses and shrieking in unison!

My winning row is below:

And the books are (from left to right):

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow


Lisa said...

I love your drinking game :)

I do agree though that reading diversely does take commitment. Do you count books that you start but don't finish? I did last year, because I figured at least I was trying a new & more diverse author.

jennifer said...

As I say about most reading things, I think you can't count whatever you want to count! I'm not a big did-not-finish person, though -- I tend to persevere (and then complain later). ;)

Elizabeth said...

LOL on your blogtastic shout and drinking game.

ENJOY this week of reading.

Silver's Reviews
My It's Monday, What Are You Reading

Lark said...

What a fun way to do reading bingo! I love filling in book bingo cards.

jennifer said...

Thanks, Elizabeth and Lark!