In 2018, I set out with a goal of only reading women, with a specific focus on increasing the number of women of color (WoC) authored books I consumed. I was tired of the male perspective and the way women were portrayed in their books. (Note: I did read a small handful of male authors between 2018-2020, mainly for book club or buddy reads. In other words, it was not always my decision to select a male author to read.)
Leaving the male gaze behind was unsurprisingly easy. My reading stats from 2018 to 2020 reflect decent progress toward my goal. I am a fledgling stats nerd, but nonetheless, please indulge in the numbers with me real quick:
2018 stats: 30 books read, 10 WoC authors (33%), 27 Women authors
2019 stats: 51 books read, 22 WoC authors (43%), 40 Women authors
2020 stats: 55 books read, 33 WoC authors (60%), 39 women authors
It is incredibly satisfying to see that every year, my reading of WoC authors increased, as well as my reading in general (which I attribute to joining bookstagram in 2018). Overall, I stayed on track with my goal of reading mostly women, with a focus on WoC.
Why I Chose to Focus on Only Reading Women
The main point of all this was to support women and WoC authors by only focusing on their stories. At the time, it felt like white men were taking up too much space. I mean, when is that never the case, right? But it was fall 2018, right after Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, and I was disillusioned with the state of the world for women. It was soon after that when I just decided to hone in on women’s voices.
I did not find focusing on women authors a difficult feat at all, as I had always gravitated toward them my entire reading life. It was fun to read this way, and when it came time to track my progress every month, it felt good to see that I was sticking to what I had set out to do. Several bookstagram friends, whether they meant to or not, were mostly reading women as well. Our comments and discussions focused on the kind of agency women had in books. We always wished for more for the characters.
Upon reflection, it is clear that reading mainly women was my way of honoring women. I was coming from a place of feeling like our voices were being excluded, and setting up my reading like this was my way of combating that.
Where Things Went Wrong with Only Reading Women
It wasn’t until mid 2019 that I realized that in pursuing my well-intentioned goal, I was hurting my reading.
The problem with only reading women is that I was only reading women. About mid-way through the year, I found that I was excluding non-binary authors. I was excluding important BIPOC male authors. Without meaning to, I was EXCLUDING important voices. Talk about impact over intention.
I consider myself an intersectional feminist, but I’m also trying to reconcile my internalized, outdated understanding of feminism with my role as mother of a young boy. It does not feel right to simply decide to exclude male voices from the media I consume anymore. My son’s voice is valued, and I would never wish to exclude his thoughts, or do anything to make him think that his contributions are not important.
I took some time to reevaluate my whole reading life, going back to the most basic of questions. Why do I read? What areas of my reading are lacking? Where can I do better? I pivoted and drafted up new goals. While I feel good about these revised goals, I know that they will change as I learn more. This whole thing has been a reminder to consistently reflect on what I’m doing and why, as well as to be flexible and kind with myself.
Where I’m at Now
Since reading WoC authors has become almost second-nature to me, I decided to adjust my focus a bit. My tracking has shifted to BIPOC authors, which is more inclusive of all genders. I realized that I needed to specifically aim to read more Indigenous-authored books, and more books by LGBTQ+ authors. I gathered alot of inspiration from Rashmila’s post on reading resolutions. As you can well imagine, my to be read list has no end in sight. Recommendations are always welcome, though!