Reading More Widely

When I first started tracking my reading stats, I was consciously trying to make sure I read works by more than just cis-, white, hetero authors.

But over the last year or so, I’ve gotten lazy.

Admittedly, I’ve always been hindered by what’s available through my library’s audiobook app (since that’s where I get most of my reading material), but over the last year I gave up on searching for books I’d seen recommended online, and instead just picked whatever came up on Libby that sounded vaguely interesting.

And they were overwhelmingly by cis-, white, hetero (at least as far as I could tell from their bios) authors.

Part of it may be that I was going through a cozy mystery phase, and that genre is depressingly white – many of the books I read had no characters of color at all. (In fact, I read a twitter thread this month pointing out that the genre basically has to be white because a BIPOC character could not get away with defying the police, and skirting or breaking laws the way the white main characters do.)

Even worse, the cozy mysteries I read that *did* feature BIPOC characters (especially if they had historical settings) often contained everything from (hopefully unintentional) microaggressions to outright racism. I DNF’d more than a few books, and have a running “never read again” list of the most egregious authors.

On top of that, the quality of the books I’ve read in the last year has been…not great. I couldn’t even come up with a decent recommendations list out of my own reading list last year (instead I passed along recommendations for children’s books from my circle of fellow writers.)

Sadly, it took the recent protests over racial inequality to wake me up to the injustices I’ve been doing, not only to BIPOC and other marginalized authors, but to my own reading enjoyment.

After only three weeks of making an effort to select recommended books, the quality of my reading has skyrocketed. (It helps that since I’m not spending much “fun” money during the pandemic, *and* I want to support bookstores and authors, I can justify actually buying books – even if it takes me longer to read physical books.)

So, if you’ve know of a great book by a marginalized author, let me know in the comments – especially if it happens to be a cozy mystery.

And if you’re looking for a great book to read, check out Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (YA Contemporary) and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (YA Fantasy), my two favorite reads of the month so far.

Separating the Creator From Their Work

A few (actually, now that I think about it, it’s probably more than “a few,” but time is meaningless these days, so whatever) years ago, the lead singer of a band I admired was arrested for assault and many accounts of bad behaviour came to light.

This band’s songs had been the theme music of my twenties, and was the only band I had ever seen in concert (unless you count stumbling past U2’s rooftop concert in Dublin). I had all their CDs (yes, I’m old), met them in person a handful of times, and memorized the lyrics to all their songs.

After the arrest (and subsequent credible stories) I stopped intentionally listening to their music.

But sometimes if a song shows up on a playlist, I start singing along out of habit, transported back to the carefree joy of twenty years earlier, before I remember why I stopped listening to that band, and disappointment crashes down on me.

Knowing the music was created by someone who did such awful things feels like a betrayal (yes, I know there were 3 other people in the band, but it’s hard to believe they didn’t know *anything* about their bandmate’s bad behaviour.)

And now it’s happening again.

After J.K. Rowling’s repeated statements against trans people (Check out Kacen Callender’s excellent essay for reasons why Rowling’s words are not only hurtful, but dangerous) I’m now starting to feel that same way about my Harry Potter paraphernalia.

And I have a lot of Potter paraphernalia.

I was an adult when the books came out, but I still got swept up in the excitement of waiting for each new segment of the story to arrive. I’ve always been a sucker for witches and magic, and the stories captured my imagination in a way not many other tales have. The feeling was only cemented by our trips to Universal Studios, Florida, where our family got to feel like we were actually living in the books, walking through the streets of Hogsmede and indulging in cups of hot Butterbeer.

And there was just something about having the House system as a shorthand for personality types – even if I know my personality has changed greatly since age 11, and I wouldn’t consider myself in the same House now as I would have been sorted into then.

It’s easy to say we should separate the books from their creator. Appreciate the worlds she created, and just pretend Rowling has nothing to do with them. But that’s hard to do when she’s actively out there using her huge platform to do harm.

Plus, it’s not like the books themselves didn’t have harmful elements. Like misogyny (why doesn’t Hermione have any female friends? Not to mention how rudely the girl students are talked about), racism and anti-Semitism (although I’m afraid I needed those pointed out to me), and a whole lot of fat…phobia doesn’t seem like the right word for the amount of disgust she clearly has for her overweight characters (who are, of course, all evil, except maybe for the gentle-but-not-too-bright giant who owes his size to his parentage).

Each new discovery of harm (not to mention all the garbage that has come out of the extended universe and post-Potter works) has tainted my appreciation of the books (and I know it’s due to my white, cis privilege that it took me this long), but I think her current tirades are the straw that has finally broken this camel’s back.

While I’m not quite at the point of yeeting all my merchandise into the void, I know some people will be looking at anyone wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt with the same wariness they would someone sporting a red ball cap: is it a fashion choice or political statement?

My house is full of reminders of the imaginary world I lost myself in, and seeing them has gone from giving me joy to inducing melancholy. But at the same time, they still have an emotional tie to the memories I made around them (a fun family vacation, a group cosplay, a convention). So, while I won’t be sending any more money Rowling’s way, I’ll probably still have a soft spot for the esthetic she created, if only because of its links in my memory to good times past.

And as for personality shorthands, I’m sure we can some up with something different. Ninja Turtles? Golden Girls? Bending Nations? Sailor Scouts?

(For the record, I’d say I’m a Leonardo [even if Raph is my favourite], a Dorothy [though I want to be a Sophia], a water bender, and, Sailor Pluto [fun fact, I actually was sorted into my Sailor Scout at age 15 by a friend, and I’ve stuck with her ever since – forever the tall, lonely one.])

What about you? What’s your personality type? Have a better system to sort by? Let me know in the comments?

 

(Belated) June Update

And I thought March was a long month. It feels like a thousand things have happened in the world since I wrote my last update.

My family is still staying locked down pretty tight, due to our increased risk factors, despite our province reopening more and more (especially since I don’t think they’re actually ready). That included skipping the protests last week, although I’m still trying to boost voices on my Twitter timeline, sign petitions, and doing my best to keep educating myself.

It’s been a rough month for my fandom-loving heart, as a few of the authors and celebrities I follow have made public statements ranging from ignorant to incredibly hurtful and wrong, and I’m still grappling with how to deal with my relationship to their works (expect a future post on this).

In case you’re wondering where I stand: Trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary and genderfluid folks are valid, menstruation is not limited to women, and not all women menstruate. And Black lives matter.

Oh yeah, and Covid-19 is not only real, but still out there and dangerous.

On a personal writing note, I finally managed to squeeze in some time on my Adult Urban Fantasy manuscript this week, which feels great. I’ve hardly done any writing since the pandemic started, so this is a big step for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up in the weeks to come. (Seriously. I need to finish this book.)

I didn’t get as much reading/listening done in May as usual (probably at least partly because I was glued to my phone watching everything unfold on social media). I bought a handful of new books last week (for me and my kids) and I can’t wait to start reading – but don’t expect to see them counted in my reading stats for a while, as paper books take me a lot longer to get through than audiobooks, thanks to my migraines.

May Reading Stats:

  • YA Paranormal (1)
  • A Mystery/Suspense (9)
  • Re-Reads (2)

May Total: 10 (+ 2 Re-reads)

Year-to-Date: 88 (+ 10 Re-reads)

 

Not an Update

Normally I use my first post of the month to update you guys on what’s going on with me, but given the state of (*waves vaguely at the world*) everything, that didn’t seem right this week.

The protests in the US are a result of hundreds of years of inequality and systemic racism – both of which exist here in Canada as well (here’s just one example)- and it’s well past time for changes to be made.

If you want to help out:

Because Black Lives Matter.

(PS Before you consider replying that “all lives mater” read this.)