There’s a Reading Challenge happening for 2016 which is essentially to read all female-authored books next year. In case it doesn’t go without saying, I am extremely pro supporting my fellow female authors. I also happen not to really read men, which isn’t something particularly intentional; they just tend not to write the books I’m interested in. I read 177 books this year, and only 10 or 11 were by men, although I bought many more that I hope to read in 2016.
(ETA: Just to clarify! This is about ways I’ve seen people run with the original challenge, which was not about YA/the whole year. But I’ve been seeing a lot of people in the YA community talk about applying it to their year of reading, so this is in response to that. Sorry, that definitely should’ve been made clear at the outset. Thank you to everyone who pointed that out.)
However, I wanna talk about some issues I have with this challenge, and the general way we approach diversity in a way that often throws some marginalized people under the bus for others.
I’m not trying to talk anyone out of the challenge, and I do suspect that there are plenty of people who will probably make exceptions for authors who aren’t cishet white men, but I don’t want this stuff going without being said. These are my reasons behind not doing it, and things I think are worth thinking about, especially if you’re a blogger:
A) As someone who blogs about and recommends books, especially LGBTQIAP+ YA, the #1 most important thing to me to be able to rec are books with #ownvoices (“about-and-by”) representation. I’m not gonna rec only gay m/m YA written by women, and I’m not gonna miss a book in which a man writes his disability really well.
B) White women still do waaaay better in this industry than its few men of color do.
C) I don’t want any confusion when I say that there’s trans-exclusionary feminism inherent here; I know that people doing this challenge will read transwomen as part of it. (And honestly if If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo isn’t the top of your 2016 TBR, we should have a talk.)
What I have a big problem with is that regarding authors who were assigned female at birth and identify as genderfluid, non-binary, or men (which, before you’re like “Who is that even really?” – literally the authors of two of my most highly anticipated books of 2016, and the author of a 2015 I hope people will be picking up next year if they haven’t yet) your options are:
- Read them anyway as part of the challenge, which is misgendering
- Don’t read them, and ignore that on top of the experience of being trans in America, they’ve also lived the very female-presenting experience you’re aiming to reward with this challenge for decades
D) I think we under-support male authors who write female or non-binary characters, period. There is no bigger pushback they can possibly enact against toxic masculinity than putting a non-male-identifying character front and center in a story and saying, “This is someone who deserves a voice.” We know the importance of girls’ stories but we don’t talk about the importance of men writing them too, because it gets wrapped up in talk of “ally cookies” or whatever. And you can make that argument, if you want, but with toxic masculinity being at the source of so many of our hugest issues – the ones that hurt women the most – I will never stop placing support in that pushback, and in the few authors who contribute to it. Lord knows it’s not like they’re getting tons of awards for it either.
Again, this ain’t that many men (especially for someone who reads 85% contemporary), but to the ones who make YA a better place as far as I can tell, thank you ❤