March Roundup

Recommended Reading


I didn’t actually read many books in March (whoops!), but I still had an excellent reading month thanks to THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES by Ken Liu. This collection of short fiction from throughout Liu’s career (plus one new story) is absolute perfection. I was largely unfamiliar with Liu’s work before this, though I had read and loved one of the stories included here (“State Change,” about a woman whose soul is a literal cube of ice). Every single story is a masterpiece, but they also work brilliantly together in this specific order, often seemingly in conversation with one another. I was particularly taken with the pairing of “The Waves” and “Mono no aware,” which both follow humanity into the stars. Honestly, I finished this collection weeks ago and I’m still processing. I’ll probably need at least one more read through to be able to talk about it with anything approaching coherence. These stories deserve to be read intently and thoughtfully. They deserve to be read period, and carried with you for long after, perhaps until we finally meet the stars. Perhaps even longer.


Short Stories

Shveta Thakrar is one of my favorite current short fiction writers, and “The Shadow Collector” just reinforced that. This story is about girls born from flowers, the gardener who cares for them, and a queen and her flute. Thakrar’s beautiful language and vivid imagery are on full display here, as are the many emotions she’ll seed and nurture in you until they bloom full by the end of the story. (For an in-depth look at Thakrar’s body of work as a whole, definitely check out Haralambi Markov’s profile at Tor.)

One of my other current favorite writers is Alyssa Wong, whose latest for Tor gutted me. A story of sisterhood, death, grief, time bending, weather working, and love, “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” is both delicate and wrenching at once. I don’t want to say too much more, not because I’m afraid of spoiling the plot so much as of spoiling the experience of reading it for the first time.



Liminality‘s spring issue came out this past month, and it is wonderful. I particularly loved “The Lies You Learned” by S. Qiouyi Lu. It’s an incredibly powerful piece, and accessible for those who don’t read poetry often. Once you read the poem itself, I’d also suggest reading Lu’s liner notes.


Essays and Articles

Nicole Chung curated a month of essays for Catapult’s Adopted series, and every one of them is worth reading. Start with Chung’s introduction and then make your way through the whole collection.

This article on dysphagia (aka difficulty swallowing, aka the thing that means I can’t eat solid food anymore) was both fascinating and super strange to read as someone who has actually gone through it.

Daniel José Older’s essay, “This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution,” is powerful and passionate and beyond beautiful.

This is a devastating article on abuse in group homes for disabled children. Trigger warnings galore.


My News and Stuff

Disability in Kidlit hosted a two-week long SFF event, which was wonderful (I’m not biased at all, shut up), and I highly encourage you to check out the whole thing. As part of the event, I reviewed YOUNG KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE and co-wrote an article on overly convenient approaches to disability with Corinne Duyvis.

In speculative fiction, by the very definition of the genre, you’re dealing with magic, technology, or other elements that aren’t present in our world. This opens up tons of story possibilities for authors.

It can also close off opportunities. For example, if you want to include disabled characters without using magic workarounds, it’s occasionally difficult to realistically integrate them into your world. After all, if your characters are incredibly skilled magicians, is it realistic that they wouldn’t try to minimize or heal their disability? If you’re working with warp portals and faster-than-light travel, wouldn’t that world also have prostheses that are nigh indistinguishable from natural limbs, and far more effective medications around the board? Magic and technology will absolutely mean different approaches to disability, ranging from hyper-advanced tools to creative uses of magic to medical/magical cures. We want to acknowledge and integrate this reality into the narrative. Sometimes, though, books may use SF/F elements to circumvent dealing with the drawbacks of disability entirely. When you’re a disabled reader, that can sting: it’s like you’ll only be allowed to participate in exciting sci-fi adventures as long as you’re not too much trouble.

I wrote about my evolving sexual identity and the role that language choice has played in that evolution for the Queer Girl Cafe:

I settled on “bisexual and heteroromantic” the first time I came out publicly. I talked about how our culture’s inseparability of sexual and romantic attraction had confused my own understanding of my identity. I said that thinking about two orientations rather than one helped me find labels—words—that fit me. And that was all true, for a time anyway.

I dropped the heteroromantic relatively soon after I’d claimed it. I didn’t announce the rejection to the world or even to myself. It was barely a conscious decision at all. The word was a sweater that looked good when I tried it on at the store, but that suddenly didn’t sit right once I got home. So I tossed it away, my last linguistic connection to straightness.

Finally, my latest essay for The Toast is a quiet one focused on swimming:

My body stays bent for a moment, clinging to its familiar right angles, but then I stretch. I press the balls of my feet into the slick, scratchy concrete and push. I bob myself up and down—like the round plastic floats we’ll use later in the day to spot fish on our lines—before tipping my head back and dousing my hair. I’m careful not to lose my balance (I’d never get myself upright if I did), but I’m not worried.

The water covers and carries me, both of us glimmering under the sun.

February Roundup

Recommended Reading


Earlier this year, Rachel Syme started a book club dedicated to reading biographies of women written by women, and this month was the inaugural read: The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm. (I was particularly pleased with this selection as it gave me an excuse to finally read The Bell Jar.) Ostensibly it’s a biography of Slyvia Plath, but in reality it’s a critical look at biography as a genre, the role of the biographer, how (and by whom) legacy and narrative are shaped, and other fascinating issues. In many ways, the reader learns more about Malcolm herself and the various parties who survived Plath than about Plath herself. The book asks a lot of complicated questions, and Malcolm answers them (or doesn’t) in a way that’s both utterly compelling and understandably divisive.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert was nominated for the 2015 Morris Award and for good reason. This book wrecked me. It follows a high school baseball player whose white father has been arrested for murdering a Latino cop. Gilbert creates some of the most complex, fully-formed characters I’ve ever read, and navigates a whole host of complicated subjects (religion, race, class, abuse, homophobia, and more) with the deftest hand. I was particularly drawn to the way the main character engages (or doesn’t) with his whiteness. I also couldn’t help thinking of Pointe by Brandy Colbert while reading; both feature a tender yet unflinching look at power imbalances in relationships (and society) and the devastating consequences that result.

Easily the early front-runner for Favorite Book of 2016, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is Indian-inspired fantasy and gorgeous in every possible way. I’m often drawn to beautiful language—sentences that are perfectly crafted and hauntingly lovely—but Chokshi’s language manages to surround you, suffuse you, carry and claim you. Her writing isn’t just technically flawless, it feels alive. It’s also in service to an achingly romantic, thoroughly suspenseful, and beyond epic story. I could gush about literally every aspect of this book, but I’ll end by urging you to pre-order immediately.



Inkscrawl’s latest issue, “Atypical Weather,” is guest-edited by Bogi Takács, and it’s phenomenal. I particularly loved “Even If You Want To” by Gabby Reed, “a weather witch’s vengeance” by Stuti Telidevara, “Confections” by Alexandra Seidel, and “Mage / / Cirrus” by Naru Dames Sundar. Inkscrawl is a great venue to follow for those who don’t have a lot of experience reading poetry. The poems are no more than ten lines, so you can read and reread and reread to fully appreciate the depth, complexity, and beauty that these poets manage to fit into such a small space.

I also hiiiiiiighly recommend “The Dead Girls Speak in Unison” by Danielle Pafunda.



“The Unopened Wardrobe: Brown Girl Beauty and the Written Word” is everything I’ve come to expect from a Kaye M. essay: thoughtful, nuanced, and beautifully written. (I’d also like to point out that she just announced her BOOK DEAL writing as Karuna Riazi!!!)

“A More Perfect Love” by Sophie Lucido Johnson is a wonderful essay on friendship, platonic love, romantic love, and the ways those categories can blur so easily.


Personal News

I forgot to include this in January’s round-up since it went live right at the end of the month, so here’s my review of I Funny for Disability in Kidlit.

Again, violence is shown as the purest way to tell you aren’t being pitied or given special treatment because of your disability. Over and over we see Jamie being grateful for his abuse. This is dangerous. It tells disabled kids that they should long for physical and/or verbal abuse, and that anything short of that is pity. It tells disabled and abled kids alike that abuse is the standard way to interact with others. That it’s expected. That it’s normal.

I’m thrilled to be conducting a series of interviews with disabled creators, artists, and makers for Design*Sponge. The first of these went up earlier this month, featuring disability fashion stylist Stephanie Thomas.

Founder and editor-in-chief of Cur8able (a site dedicated to curating the best in disability fashion), and a fashion instructor at the Art Institute of California, Stephanie has become a “disability fashion thought-leader.” In addition to her teaching and editing, she is a stylist for paralympians, actors, and public figures with disabilities. She’ll be branching out even further soon, offering seminars to the general public. “Just as people without disabilities benefit from understanding basic styling,” so do those with disabilities, and Stephanie intends to use her decades of knowledge to provide specialized styling tips to that underserved audience.

Finally, I talked about the importance of #ownvoices in children’s literature for Brightly. (I also nearly had a heart attack when the NY Public Library retweeted said article to their 1.3 million followers. THAT IS A LOT OF FOLLOWERS.)

Even when portrayals of diverse characters by majority-group authors arerespectfully and accurately done, there’s an extra degree of nuance and authority that comes with writing from lived experience. Those books that are #OwnVoices have an added richness to them precisely because the author shares an identity with the character. The author has the deepest possible understanding of the intricacies, the joys, the difficulties, the pride, the frustration, and every other possible facet of that particular life — because the author has actually lived it.

January Roundup

In an effort to keep better track of my life, I’ve decided to start posting monthly round-ups of notable things I read and any news or publications of mine that came out. Hopefully you’ll find some interesting tidbits in these posts!

Recommended Reading



THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a stunning sci-fi set in a futuristic Brazil. Several hundred years after the world as we know it ended, June Costa is an artist in Palmares Tres. When she meets Enki, the newest Summer King destined to die within a year, the two start a blistering campaign of art-as-revolution. A fascinating look at art, politics, technology, order, tradition, and ambition, this is one of the most fully formed sci-fi worlds and compelling sci-fi stories I’ve read. (Also, it’s hella queer. Just queer all over the place.)

In DELICATE MONSTERS, Stephanie Kuehn creates yet another darkly beautiful study of humanity. The language is magical, but it’s the characters who will haunt you. Sadie, Emerson, and Miles all have fascinating individual stories but it’s the ways in which they converge and interact that make this book unforgettable. I’m hesitant to say much about the actual plot because I think it’s best to go in with as little information as possible, but suffice it to say you may not want to read this one right before bed.

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro doesn’t come out until March, but you need to put this one on your TBR right now. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that can be accurately described by “cute as all get out” and “contains quite a lot of hardcore drug use.” The premise—Sherlock Holmes’s and John Watson’s descendants meet at boarding school and solve murders together—is fantastic, but the execution is even better. And Charlotte Holmes is already in the running for my favorite character of 2016.



There’s only one link in this section, but you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of essays within. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Kickstarter is kicking ass, and as part of the campaign, they’re posting daily essays by people of color about genre fiction, writing, reading, identity, and so much more. Some of the authors included are Alyssa Wong, Aliette de Bodard, Julia Rios, Ken Liu, and S. L. Huang. I sincerely recommend taking the time to read through every essay already posted, then checking back regularly for the rest to come. And make sure you donate to the Kickstarter if you can while you’re there!



I read barely any poetry this month (and no short stories—whoops!), but the one I did read was exactly what I needed. “Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up” by Kaitlyn Boulding is beyond comforting and a lovely meditation on self-care that I’m sure I’ll come back to again and again.


News and Publications

I HAVE AN AGENT!! I’m so thrilled to be represented by Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

My essay, “Nobody Catcalls the Woman in the Wheelchair,” about street harassment as a disabled woman and the exclusionary language feminism tends to use to discuss street harassment, was published at The Establishment. It was also reprinted at the Huffington Post and linked to on Autostraddle.

Issue 8 of Uncanny Magazine included my poem, “tended, tangled, and veined.” It’s about names, roses, living glass, gender, and identity. It was also read beautifully by Amal El-Mohtar on the Uncanny Podcast.

Favorite books of 2015

I was originally going to do a top 10 list for this post. Then I was going to do two top ten lists (one for books published in 2015 and one for those that weren’t). But then I decided top ten lists are overrated altogether. So we’re going the superlative route today! I did always love superlatives (even though I didn’t get any good ones in high school—and no, I’m totally not still bitter, shut up).

Because I make the rules here, I’m pulling from all books I read this year, regardless of when they were published, but most of these ended up being 2015 books anyway. Go figure!


Young Adult

Favorite Contemporary

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Colbert’s debut (from 2014)—about a ballerina whose best friend suddenly comes home after being kidnapped four years ago—absolutely gutted me. It’d be easy to call Theo a complex or flawed or compelling character, but none of those feel sufficient (or informative at all, really). I ached for Theo. I felt her in my every bone while reading, and I wanted nothing more than to soothe her pain and fight her demons and bring her joy.

This is not an easy read, but it’s a necessary one, a powerful-beautiful-wrenching one, an unforgettable one. And Colbert infuses so much compassion and empathy into these pages. She pulls you through the story almost gently but without ever letting you flinch away. Colbert writes as much grace as Theo dances with, and it’s a painful joy to read both.



Favorite Fantasy

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

This is a book about fairies and gnomes and tightropers. About war and violence. Sex and power and desperation. Choice and choices.

It’s about history and fiction and where they meet and where they fight and where neither is enough but both are all that matter.

It’s about a girl and a boy and another boy and the one speck of a boy they’re trying (hoping, praying) to find.

It’s about writing a story that’s not yours but somewhat yours but does the somewhat make it yours enough to tell?

It’s about bodies and glitter. Broken bodies and missing glitter. Perfect bodies and more missing glitter.

It’s about life and death and both and neither.

It’s about Beckan and Scrap and Josha and Cricket, and you need to read it.


Favorite Science Fiction

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I don’t read a ton of sci fi and even less space-based sci fi, so it’s saying a lot that I capital-L LOVED this book. That it’s told entirely through “found documents”—emails, interviews, chat logs, audio transcripts, and some other, shall we say, less expected formats—was enough to hook me, but then Kaufman and Kristoff had to go and write a story that’s at times terrifying, breathless, hilarious, and philosophical, thus capturing my heart entire.

Illuminae also boasts one of my favorite ships of this year. Kady and Ezra start the book as newly minted exes, and it’s fascinating to watch their relationship evolve in the midst of multiple disasters and threats, not to mention almost certain doom.

Also, there’s a malfunctioning AI, a legitimately don’t-read-with-the-lights-out scary virus, and all sorts of shady intrigue.

Also also, Kady’s a hacker. Just in case you needed more reasons to read this thing and flail with me while we wait for book two.


Favorite Overall

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore’s debut takes a familiar premise—a boy and a girl from two feuding families fall for each other—and creates one of the most tender, complicated, beautifully-rendered romances I’ve ever read. Though I did indeed swoon throughout, calling this book “swoon-worthy” would feel dismissive and woefully inadequate. Like I said when I finished it, this book “filled me up, filled me almost to bursting. The language is so delicate it hurts and so powerful it soothes. The relationships are all as layered, complicated, and wrenching as the language, too. There’s beauty tangled up with pain in every moment. This is a book that reaches into you and lifts you up so slowly and surely that you don’t even notice until you’re floating.”

I stand by every word of that, even months after finishing it. I still find myself drifting back to its world of mermaids and tightrope walkers, my eyes lingering on its spine, my fingers tracing the cover. Even now, all I want to do is go curl up in the haunting, lyrical, magical comfort I found there the first time.


TIE—Favorite 2016 Releases

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I am so grateful I stumbled upon an ARC of this one, and I am so sorry for everyone who has to wait until February to read it because it. is. so. good. Time traveling pirates! Hawaii! Fairy tales! Boys from fairy tales who will steal your heart! But also TIME TRAVELING LADY PIRATES who will steal it even harder.

Seriously, though, this has one of the most immediately engrossing plots I’ve read and it never lets up. The writing is beautiful (and beautifully suited to the story), and the characters are so dear I imagine they’ll feel like family before this series is over. (Oh, who am I kidding, they basically already do.)

And did I mention the time travel? It both makes intuitive sense and leads to unpredictable twisty-ness that will make you gasp at least fifty times. (I’m guesstimating.) Definitely get this one when it comes out and start reading immediately, although I should warn you you won’t want to stop until you’re finished.


On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

I beta’d this one, and I’ve been dyingggggg for people to read it ever since. Set in Amsterdam, this is an apocalyptic novel that explores (among other things) morality, equity, whose lives are worthy, and how we measure worth. It uses the apocalypse to the greatest possible effect by exposing, examining, and critiquing existing societal values.

It’s also super worth noting that this book stars an autistic protagonist written by an autistic author. If you (for some reason) need convincing that ownvoices books are important and wonderful, look no further than this one (which was written by the person who coined the term in the first place!).

On top of all the above goodness, the familial relationships are complex and difficult, the plot is tense throughout, and the stakes are literally astronomical.

This one doesn’t come out until March, but when it does I need everyone to read it because I’ve been waiting ages to shout about its brilliance with others.


Middle Grade

Favorite Contemporary

George by Alex Gino

(Slight spoilers in this one.) This is possibly the cutest book I’ve ever read. Of course, it’s an incredibly important book, too, but I really want to talk about how freaking adorable it is. The core friendship, especially, had me beaming throughout. Melissa’s so passionate but nervous, and her BFF is so supportive. When they were running lines together? I died from cute.

I also don’t think I was happier for any character this year than when Melissa took the stage as Charlotte and dazzled everyone, even herself.

I’m so thrilled that trans kids have this book, one that’s written by someone trans themselves no less. It’s the perfect blend of sweet, earnest, eager, and joyful, just like Melissa.



Favorite Fantasy

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

As I said when I first finished this, The Jumbies is spooky, citrus-soaked perfection. The story itself is tense and unpredictable with Baptiste zigging when I expected her to zag. The writing is gorgeous and so present throughout that I could hear the sea, feel the mud, taste the oranges. And the characters felt just as alive as the setting, just as vibrant and full.

Not to mention that there is some serious creepiness in here. Quietly creepy moments building and building on that slow dread until you’re suddenly wary of flipping every page because you know something worse surely lies ahead.

This Caribbean fairy tale—focused on family, history, and magic—is lovely with just a spritz of scary, which is pretty much my favorite combination.



Favorite Overall

Bird by Crystal Chan

I read Bird fairly early in the year, but I can still feel the chills I got when reading this lyrical, penetrating book. I imagine I’d be happy to read even a research paper on the history of dental fillings by Chan, but it’s not just the writing that floored me.

Bird boasts easily my favorite familial relationships of the year: Jewel and her dead brother; Jewel and her silent grandfather; Jewel and her parents; Jewel’s parents and Jewel’s grandfather. Every one of these individual relationships are fraught and full of a love so strong it’s sometimes painful (for the characters and for us). Add to that one of my favorite friendships of all time, and you get a book bursting with relationships so intense and vivid you almost feel intrusive for watching them play out.

This is the kind of book I have a hard time talking about because nothing can capture the way it made me feel. Suffice it to say, I’ll keep it perched on my shelf, ready and waiting for any future kids who might be story-searching through my collection.



Favorite Fantasy

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin is a noted worldbuilding master and her latest is no exception. But while the Stillness—a continent plagued by intense seismic outbursts where apocalypses are regular parts of life—is endlessly fascinating, the characters were even more compelling. (Of course, Jemisin would likely be the first to tell you that characters cannot be divorced from the world they inhabit, but still. I don’t think she gets enough credit for her character work.)

I’m hesitant to give many more specifics. This is the kind of book best approached with as little foreknowledge as possible. Not because the story relies on twists or revelations, but because part of the joy is in sinking so far into this world that the vibrations of an overhead plane while reading makes your heart skip. Let yourself get to know these characters (and this world) with nothing to go on except the words Jemisin uses to introduce them and to tell their stories.

Be warned that this is the first in a series, though, and I guarantee you you’ll want—no, need the second one as soon as you finish.


Favorite Science Fiction

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

This will end up being my last read of 2015 and one of my favorites of the entire year (and all time? Probably).

Radiance is set in an alternate universe where Hollywood operates on the Moon, kangaroos have taken quite well to a Chinese-owned Mars, and Venus is home to giant and mysterious callowhales.

The story revolves around the disappearance of documentarian Severin Unck during a shoot on Venus. It’s told through gossip magazine clips, home movie transcripts, debriefing interviews, snippets of Severin’s documentaries, scripts from her father’s more fantastic films, and more.

This is not a mere mystery, though. It’s a meditation on film, on seeing and being seen, on narrative, on reality. It’s drenched in the most alluring and strategic combination of aesthetics: noir, Hollywood glam, fairy tale, the Jazz Age, even vaudeville. All wrapped around a cast of characters you’ll adore, even—or maybe especially—when you aren’t sure you’ll ever really know the heart of them.

2015 diverse reading audit (and a giveaway!)

A couple Decembers ago, I noticed something fairly alarming while looking through my Goodreads: I’d read exactly one book by an author of color that year. One. Out of 50. I really shouldn’t have been quite so shocked. I wasn’t making intentional reading choices, after all. But to be frank, I still believed at the time that a) I chose books based on nothing more than what I felt like reading, and that b) that was a good way to make decisions.

In reality, of course, our reading choices are never only a matter of personal preference. We pick books based on recommendations, bookstore presence, marketing, cover copy, cover image, author recognition, buzz, reviews, and more. And every one of these factors are in turn affected by systemic racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, etc. It’s no secret that books written by and featuring white, straight, abled, cis men get the majority of publisher backing, bookstore exposure, critical acclaim, and reader attention. It’s also no secret that that’s because we as a society place a higher value on those stories and those authors—on those lives. We do it instinctively, but it’s a learned instinct, and what is learned can be unlearned—to a certain extent, anyway—with conscious, continuous effort.

When we don’t make that effort, we aren’t merely complacent; we’re actively supporting a system that benefits some and harms others. The year that I read one author of color (Malinda Lo’s ADAPTATION, by the way, which was wonderful), that’s what I did. I propped up a publishing industry and a society founded on white supremacy. (If this seems like a melodramatic intro for a blog post about What I Read This Year, well, I’d suggest researching the many ways popular culture can impact and reinforce oppression.)

Since then, I’ve tried to make more intentional and more diverse reading choices, but I’ve still got a long way to go (not that there’s any end destination—you don’t read a certain number of diverse books and pack up shop). So in the interest of keeping myself accountable, here’s an overview of what and who I read this year, broken down into three categories: authors, main characters, and ownvoices.

(I realize this may not actually be interesting for anyone but me, so feel free to skip down past the charts to the “Now What?” section where I try to translate all this into action and host a giveaway! Ooooh!)



With this section, I’m looking at the number of books written by authors with marginalized identities rather than the number of authors with marginalized identities. Yes, this means some people were counted twice if I read more than one of their books (Seanan McGuire and Hannah Moskowitz, for example), thus increasing some category counts a bit. But I decided it was worth it, because a) with the exception of McGuire, all authors counted more than once were writing in multiple series/worlds, and b) I’m interested in not just whose voices I’m reading, but also where my money’s going, so looking at number of books versus number of authors seemed like a decent approach.

None of this is an exact science, of course, not least because people don’t always disclose every aspect of their identities (which is completely legitimate; readers have no right to any personal information except what the author chooses to share). And even when an aspect of their identity is public, I may still miss it. Having said that, it’s fairly easy to find most of this information for most authors.

authors of x id

The numbers work out to 82% women, 28% POC, 23% queer authors, 3% trans authors, 9% disabled authors.

I’m doing pretty okay with women (although I would’ve bet good money I’d be at 90% at least), but I could/should be doing better with pretty much every other category. Especially trans and disabled authors. Part of the reason those category counts are so awful is that there just aren’t as many trans and disabled authors being published as cis and abled authors (see: ableism and transphobia), but mostly I just wasn’t intentionally seeking those authors out. They exist, they’re writing, they’re being published, and I need to be better about supporting them.

And even when I was making intentional choices—like with POC and queer people—I’m still only averaging 1 in 4. It’s tempting to say, well, that’s much better than 1 in 50, but that’s not how this works. I don’t get to pat myself on the back for doing better than Absolutely Abysmal.


Main Characters

I’m mostly interested in the authors I’m reading and supporting, but I was also curious how those numbers lined up (or didn’t) with characters’ identities. Determining which categories each character belongs to tends to be pretty clear cut, but I did have to settle on a definition of “main character.” For my purposes, a main character is any perspective character, meaning we follow them specifically and get inside their heads (even in third person). Note that I excluded some books from the total count: essay collections, short story anthologies, basically any book without proper main characters.

diverse mcs

The percentages here work out to 73% women, 38% POC, 22% queer characters, 3% trans characters, 22% disabled characters.

What I find interesting here is: a) quite a few white people writing characters of color and abled people writing disabled characters, and b) more women than I would’ve expected writing men. I don’t have anything conclusive to say about these observations. There are all sorts of nuanced discussions surrounding who is “allowed” to write whom, but it all boils down to complexities of power, ownership, marginalization, self-determination, etc., none of which I have room to tackle here. Still, I think it’s important to pay attention to not only which authors you’re supporting, but also whose stories they’re telling.



Speaking of which, Corinne Duyvis coined the super handy term “ownvoices” earlier this year. It refers to books where the author shares some marginalized identit(ies) with their character(s). For instance, Corinne is autistic and she wrote about an autistic girl in her upcoming ON THE EDGE OF GONE, making that an ownvoices book. These books are important for many reasons, but a big one is that people with marginalized identities telling their own stories will forever and always be more important than outsiders (usually privileged outsiders) telling those stories for and instead of them. Which doesn’t mean marginalized folks should only ever write about people just like them, because super nope. This is about what you as a reader should be seeking out, not about policing what authors should be writing.

(Here again I excluded books without proper characters.)


Percentages: 25% POC, 12% queer folks, 3% trans folks, 3% disabled folks.

Once again, this shows some pretty big gaps. While I read a fair number of ownvoices characters of color (not that I shouldn’t be reading more, just that compared to the other categories and considering the total number of authors of color I read, this is the most “successful”), I’m super lacking in the other areas, especially trans and disabled ownvoices. But really, I need to do better across the board.


Now What?

Tracking your reading habits is an excellent first step, but a meaningless one unless you use the data to make better choices in the future. I’m all about measurable goals, so in 2016 I want to read at least:

  • 85% women
  • 50% authors of color
  • 35% queer authors
  • 20% trans authors
  • 20% disabled authors

(I’m particularly interested in reading more authors with intersecting identities, so that’s a sort of sub-goal.)

Hopefully I’ll soar way past those figures, but I like to start with something that seems pretty easily attainable based on past performance. If I give myself a goal (any kind of goal, not just in terms of reading) that feels immediately daunting, it’s likely that I’ll go hide from it until it goes away and forgets about me.

I considered giving myself an ownvoices goal as well—for instance: 50% of books I read should be ownvoices—but I figure if I’m already hitting all my other goals, I’ll probably be getting a lot of ownvoices books in the mix automatically. I’ll keep an eye on it, though, and if I notice my ownvoices numbers aren’t where I want them, I’ll reassess.

And now, the fun part of the post! Book giveaway time! I’m hoping others will also be in a reflective mood given the upcoming new year, and I’m hoping even more that you’ll join me in committing to your own diverse reading goals in 2016. So! If you want to win four wonderful books by women of color, follow the instructions in this tweet by December 31 (US only, sorry!!):

Even if you can’t or don’t want to enter the giveaway portion, please still join the discussion on Twitter using #DiverseReadingGoals and/or in the comments. I can’t wait to see not only what everyone else is aiming for, but also how everyone’s fared come next December.