If you couldn’t tell by my Irish name, I’m white. My whole family on both sides is white (no interracial marriages to speak of), I grew up in suburbia North Carolina and went to Catholic school for 16 years. I’m also a non-trans individual and heterosexual. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diversity growing up, but my parents were always sure to instill acceptance and tolerance in my sister and me. Going to a women’s college allowed me to interact, befriend, and create a second family with an incredibly diverse group of people. I spent four years listening to my black, hispanic, LGBTQ+, disabled and Muslim friends tell me about their experiences as minorities. It allowed me to see the cracks, the flaws in our society, sneaky things I had never noticed before.
And that’s exactly what diverse books and reading diversely can do for readers.
I’m no longer in class with my Salem College sisters and siblings (the term used out of respect for students who don’t identify as women), so I don’t have the constant opportunity to listen and learn anymore. And many people may have never had this opportunity or interacted with people who could enlighten them on certain issues.
And that is where reading diversely comes in. Those of us who live in society with certain privileges (white, cisgendered, able-bodied, male, heterosexual, etc.) need to understand the experiences of those who do not share those privileges. And if you don’t have the opportunity to learn in person, as I did, then reading books by minority authors and books featuring minority characters can help you start to get an idea of what life is like for those who don’t have lots of privilege.
And even if you did have the opportunity to learn in person, continue to read diversely. There is no such thing as being over-educated, and every person’s experience is unique and interesting. It shouldn’t be a white-guilt or straight-guilt thing; get excited to read about other experiences, other ways of life, other ways of seeing the world. It will only open your mind to new ideas and help you grow as an individual.
Do you read diversely? What’s your favorite book featuring a minority character or by a minority author? Let’s discuss in the comments!