The Lack of Diversity in my Reading

Photo Credit: Valparaiso, IN

Before I continue with this post, I’d like to let you know that I’ll be talking about the lack of racial diversity in my reading. But I know that some people see anything Race related and automatically turn away, which is why I left it out of the title. The topic of racial diversity in publishing will NOT be discussed. This time. We’re strictly talking about my reading. Let’s begin.

One more point that I need to make before moving on is that in no way am I saying that these books, authors, or series are any less worthy of reading. We’re talking about me.

I’ve talked quite a bit about my reading habits on here. I mean, I have three different pages that are dedicated to books I’ve already read or want to in the future. And obviously reading is a big part of any discussion about books, so it makes sense to devote a good amount of space on here to my reading. But I realized something earlier today that I honestly hadn’t noticed before. It was something of a shock, actually. A huge percentage of the books I read not only have White protagonists, but they’re written by White authors. I can assure you that this was not done on purpose. That would be me saying that protagonists or authors of another Race are less worthy of reading. Absolutely not. I’m Mexican! Yes, I realize that in itself does not mean much, but I’m a Mexican author too. I want EVERYONE to read my books. And quite honestly, I believe my audience to be middle-aged, educated, White women. This is based off of the author events I’ve attended for writers in my genre. I saw the same person in the audience over and over again. I can tell you for certain that I was the youngest at every event I attended. By decades.

Anyway, let’s get back on topic. Let me tell you about some of the series and authors I read.

Authors

James Patterson – White

Suzanne Collins – White

Lee Child – White

Steve Hamilton – White

Robert B. Parker – White

Robert Crais – White

You get the point. There are more but it is not MOSTLY the same, it is EXACTLY the same. There is one author out of all of my books who is not White. Michele Martinez. I do have all of her books, but she only has four. Now let’s look at the protagonists I read.

Series

Spenser – White

Katniss Everdeen – White

Harry Bosch – White

Elvis Cole – White

Kinsey Millhone – White

Alex McKnight – White

Merci Rayborn – White

There are a whopping two series I read that revolve around non-White protagonists. Alex Cross, who is African-American. And Melanie Vargas. This is disappointing to me. Quite so.

I can guarantee that the Race of the main character is never once mentioned in any of these series, except for Alex Cross and Melanie Vargas. It’s not mentioned because it’s so obvious to the reader that it never needs to be mentioned.

I love all of the authors I’ve listed, all of them. Their books and writing and careers all speak for themselves. But I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I consider myself an avid reader and yet, it would appear that I’m an avid reader of the exact same thing over and over again. I’m sure plenty of readers are the same way, but I don’t want that to be the case with me. I want to be a well-rounded reader because there are plenty of great writers out there who are worthy of reading but may not be well known. It’s time for me to make an effort to read more books that follow a Black protagonist or Mexican or whomever, along with the series I already enjoy.

And the absolute worst part of all this, and I do mean the worst, is that I wrote a protagonist who is me in every aspect…except Race. And I’ll even tell you why. Because I thought him being White would attract more readers than him being Mexican. I sincerely love Andrew and the character I’ve created, but I HATE that I did that. Hate it. I don’t know if this is me conforming to the publishing industry or what, but I need to figure out whether I want to write the stories I want to write or whether I’m writing what I think might get me published one day. They may or may not be the same thing. Which is unfortunate.

I know my posts are typically witty, funny, and informative, but this was a post I needed to write for me.

Thanks for reading.

I ask that you glance over at your bookshelf and see if you find the same problem I did.

30 thoughts on “The Lack of Diversity in my Reading

  1. I never thought of it but you are so right! I did just finish a Grisham book where the main character was a black lawyer, though.

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    • I think it probably happens to a lot more readers than would be expected. And it’s doubtful that it would been done on purpose. Most of the time. Only 7-8% of my books are outside of the realm of this post. That’s ridiculous.

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  2. Try getting into world literature. There is a crazy amount of diversity there, and most of the classical literature lays the foundations for a lot of popular and current stories. I never really thought about all of the authors being white, though. Maybe the white authors write white protagonists because that’s what they know best? I think that most take a stab at having diversity (such as Rue in the HG).

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  3. Guilty! Probably 90% of my reading has similar issues, although in different genres. There are some books I read that have protagonists of other ethnicities than my own, but they’re much fewer in number. Can this be due to the genres we read? Or the areas we’re from? Do some genres have more white vs mexican authors? I suppose if we’re to branch out from these habits, we’d have to do a bit of market research. To the interwebs! Oh, wait. I’m already here…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So, I’m a little weird, I admit. While a lot of my reading is the same kind as yours … although I’ve never read a single James Patterson anything … my writing isn’t. Me, middle class American white woman … the protag in one of my novels is an 89 year old black man and in the other a miniature vampire.

    I think everyone reads to escape at times and when we do we either want to read about a fictionalized (meaning perfect) version of our own world or we want a completely different world. It may not be an active choice we make, but it’s still a choice.

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  5. I believe this issue is more UScentric, being antipodean we have our own issues of publishers unwilling to publish stories set in Australia. It’s a shame you didn’t make the character Mexican, as I do not think it would have made a difference to readers down here. It’s only an issue when it is brought forward as one eg the above post saying white vs Mexican authors. I mean sorry for my racial ignorance, but I thought Mexicans were white. If the character is good, the character is good.

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    • It may be US centric, but I don’t know. Cause I have no idea what publishing is like elsewhere.

      But no. Mexicans are not White. That’s why there’s always a Latino/Hispanic box on everything. At least over here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This issue is obviously a hot topic in the US. I meant no offence John when I said Mexicans are white, its just I don’t think of myself any colour just Australian as you do Mexican. All the television from the US we get here is the Disney type shows and don’t get me started on the lack of races they represent. Interesting topic though.

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    • And for the record, there was recently a major book festival in Texas, where I live, and I think there were more than 200 authors present. Not one Latino. That’s a problem and it was in the news. Cause the Mexican population here is huge.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Obviously there is some bias. A great book here called “Looking for Alibrandi” by Melina Marchetta an Australian author exploring growing up in Australia with Italian heritage and the discrimination at school. It was made into a movie and went on the school curriculum. sometimes it takes a book like this to break the stereotypes and barriers.

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  6. A very good point… It’s sad too for kids of color growing up who struggle to find books with characters who look like them. One of my favorite books by an author of color is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Not only is it written by a Native American author, it also really captures the clash of cultures and the struggle with cultural identity. It’s amazingly written and also hilarious! He’s got other books as well.

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    • Hmm. I may have to look that up. One of my favorites that I had to read in college was Minty Alley by CLR James. I think it’s technically considered British but it’s set in the West Indies. And he was from Trinidad. It’s a great book.

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  7. I’m glad you brought this topic up. As a child, I was interested in the Berenstain Bears and Babysitter’s Club stories, so I felt there was some diversity or race wasn’t in the picture. But I agree with you and others that a lot of popular stories or stories I’ve read do not have diversity in it or the main character is not of a minority race (US). I’ve thought about this as I write my own stories. One thing I have incorporated in my stories is character diversity, in terms of race. I’ve only written 2 stories right now and out of the 2, 1 Hispanic and 1 White are the main characters with other characters being virtually from any race or ethnic group out there. It is my intent to create main characters from different races because that is what I am naturally interested in doing!

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    • I LOVED the Berenstein Bears! And Little Bear! Haha. I made my main character white, but other characters in my first book are Mexican. Mercedes, Alejandra, and Carlos Vega. They’re all significant to the story.

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  8. Hi John,
    I really appreciate the fact that you shared this. For two reasons.
    1. I’m Sri Lankan. Obviously, if I’m writing I will be using a Sri Lankan (or Asian) back drop. Because that’s what I’m familiar with. The crowded cities, the bad driving, the noise, the poverty… etc. etc. etc. But that’s the same reason I DON’T write. It’s so sad!!!! On one side, I’m not interested in my own story, because I’m a fan of all those white stars you just mentioned. (From Sherlock Holmes to Katniss Everdeen, every character I love seems to be WHITE) I NEED a white setting in my stories, but I feel I’m not in touch enough with the Western society to write about it. And that’s really sad because it shows that there are not enough good books (or maybe I’m just ignorant of them) written in an Asian backdrop.
    2. I don’t write because I feel that putting in my name Lakmini Weerasinghe would just make potential readers drop off. Just with that name. I would love to use my pet name Lucky, but that just sounds so wrong for the name of a book author 😀
    Well I hate myself for posting this. Given that I’m sort of contradicting my own chances of ever writing a successful book (or even short story for that matter) So I’m going to post this before I back off… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm. First off, great comment.

      Okay. The thing is, is that I’m as American as any other person. Sure I identify myself as Mexican, but I do that because when you meet me in person you know I’m not white. So I’m asked where I was born and I’ll say here. Then I’ll get that look of…okay. But where are you from?

      Back to the writing part, I did some very basic Google searching when I wrote this and I found other nook bloggers who read more than I do face the same problem I do. But they don’t have a problem with it.

      I don’t know. I think I can write any character I want with the assistance of others, but I chose to go the route I did for dumb reasons. At least I have Mexican characters in my first book. But they’re the ones being saved. Ugh.

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  9. To add to that.. I’ve only read one English novel which centers on Sri Lanka… called “Murder in Pettah”.. There again, the story was written by a Sri Lankan author, but the main character was WHITE. About visiting Sri Lanka on holiday, having your (white) friend murdered, and looking for the killer. So maybe it’s not just me…

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  10. Wasn’t Katniss meant to be mixed-race?

    I find that some of my favorite books feature characters of diverse races and sexualities, but the MAJORITY of the books I read don’t, and a lot of those diverse books are specifically translations from foreign languages. I don’t see a lot of diverse books of US origins on my shelves.

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  11. Pingback: Buying Books Without Money | Write me a book, John!

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