Over the holiday break I found myself at my local Barnes and Noble with money to spend. I happily made my way to the romance section, eager to pick up a book or two on my list.
I walked out with nothing. I first looked up an author whose series I’d been following. I found only one of her books, and I already owned that one. The little romance corner consisted mostly of a few very popular authors, and very little diversity.
I paused to wonder why and the answer came to me immediately: eBooks. Many romance readers predominately buy ebooks, so the buying trends change the dynamics, which leads to me finding a diminished selection.
It’s more than just romance. I headed over to the fiction area and still couldn’t easily find my diverse authors. Young Adult was fortunately different, and I was thrilled to see a “recommended by Angie Thomas” display featuring other authors of color. While my local store might be failing the adults on diversity, it did a better job on the young adults.
Still, I would have liked to see a better selection. Heck, a day later I was at a movies/music/books store that had new and second hand options and not only found a few of my diverse friends, but I also found two books, at a great deal, to purchase.
Whether this is a shifting of trends or not, it would be great to see more diverse romances given shelf space. Let readers find us! Sure, we all want to check out the latest from A list author, but we also need new voices to read. The same old same old left me walking out empty handed, knowing I could go to my TBR list and order a bunch of ebooks.
Perhaps we’ll see more change soon. Perhaps this is just the start of limited options with the digital phase of publishing growing stronger. Especially in romance.
I still dream of finding my books on the shelves, and my friends books on the shelves. I love a good paperback. But I, too, predominately buy digital. It’s easier on storage and my budget. I find perks to both methods of reading. Doesn’t change the desire to see many diverse titles in the fresh new book smelling store.
In 2018 I stopped giving myself reading goals, with a few small exceptions, because it created added stress that I didn’t need. Add to that a great deal of the books I read are unpublished, and therefore harder to count and track on a place like Goodreads, and it made more sense to simply keep track on my own.
So what did I make a goal out of? Not number of books or pages or anything like that. My goal was to have half the books I read be diverse stories. Ultimately I prefer diverse stories written by diverse authors, but that’s not always something easily visible. For my own notes I mark down when I know it to be ownvoices, beyond that I simply enjoy.
Why only half? The answer is simple: I already follow a lot of non-diverse authors and have those books in my collection, waiting to be read. I am also building my list of diverse authors to read and follow, because unless one is actively seeking out diverse voices, it’s too easy to overlook them.
So how did I do with that goal? Out of 29 books I read 15 diverse novels. Not bad. And out of those 15 I suspect 12 are ownvoices, or at least a diverse author writing diverse characters. I think it’s important to read when the ownvoice status is known, to help identify potential bad rep when it’s not. No one wants bad rep out there!
Now, 29 books is on the small side, I know. I did also read 6 full length books from my critique partners, beta reads, and contest submissions, along with who knows how many chapters and pages. The 29 is low for one simple reason: my mental health. It’s no secret I’ve been struggling with this, to the point where I’m pretty darn proud of those 29. For me, the hardest part of a book is the beginning. I need something to really grab me and pull me in. There are two I did not finish on my list, but the other 27 I enjoyed quite thoroughly, and those special words were a great help in lifting me out of my funk.
I’m not going to list all of the books I read, but I will mention my favorites, let me see how long this list becomes:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Hard Pursuit by Sheryl Nantus
Reality Wedding by Laura Heffernan
Toxic Desire and Captive Desire by Robin Lovett
A Lady’s Honor by A.S. Fenichel
Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward
Forbidden Hearts Series by Alisha Rai
Only For A Night and Only For Your Touch by Naima Simone
Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
R is for Rebel by Megan Mulry
Acting on Impulse and Pretending He’s Mine by Mia Sosa
A Princess in Theory and a Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
Scoring the Player’s Baby and Scoring Off the Field by Naima Simone
West Coast Love by Tif Marcelo
Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis
That “short” list of favorites turned out to be 22 out of those 29 books read, and 27 finished. I’m not able to pick just one favorite, don’t make me! Quite a few of those authors are ones I’ve read before and keep going back for more of their lovely words. And, writer bonus, I know a few of them! It’s a special writerly honor to know people with such talent, and extra special when gobbling up their words.
In case it’s not obvious, I highly recommend those authors and books above. Many of them are diverse, so check them out!
For 2019 I only have two small goals: continue ensuring diverse authors are in my list, and maybe read 30+ if I’m able. That’s it. Life comes with enough stressors, reading should not be one of them. Heck, I actually let go of the diverse goal at one point this year, but since I make a point of out searching for these voices, I still got them in without trying.
I hope your own 2018 read list contains many wonderful treasures in them. And may 2019 bring more!
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