Books and Learning

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about professional books and a default to male authors (or, often, white authors, but that wasn’t the issue in this instance). I believe I mentioned my goal of not reading books by white men. A friend reached out and asked me about that, mentioning that they don’t really notice the authors of the books they read. I am always glad when people ask me why I do (or don’t do) something as it pushes me to think about it and evaluate whether or not I really have a good reason. It’s one of the things I love most about working with pre-service teachers; it forces me to think through the things I do as a teacher and I often end up rethinking some.

One quick caveat, I don’t wholesale write off white male authors. My goal is to not read books by white males, but my goals are regularly not fully achievable. I figure if I set an ambitious goal then even if I fall short I’ll be doing fairly well. So my goal is no white male authors but I do end up reading some. Making this my goal means that I don’t fall into a rut of reading white male authors.

So, my reasons for this goal:

  • One of the reasons I read is to learn and expand my understanding of the world. This works better if I read authors who don’t look like me, have the same experiences I have, etc.
  • I believe far more white men are published than other groups. Reading women and IBPOC authors is one way I can encourage the publishing industry to publish more diversely.
  • Setting this goal forces me to pay attention to my reading more closely. I can’t read nearly as much as I would like to do so I want to be sure I don’t just slip into habits without being thoughtful.

I’ll admit that I often put books on hold at the library as soon as I read/hear about them and I don’t always pay attention to the race or gender of the author. I do typically pay attention before I actually begin reading, meaning that if I opt to read a book by a white man, I am doing so purposefully. I am also more lenient with this when it comes to professional books in education, although I do try to be thoughtful about it there as well.

The books I’ve read in the past month:

Gary Larson is a white man. That book was one my youngest and I picked up at a little free library on a walk and I read it needing something very light. It was a deliberate choice made out of need and convenience.

Edgar Cantero is a white man but he is a Spaniard so I decided to consider this an exception. A friend recommended the book during a mystery book club meeting with some of my students back in June. It’s a strange book. Not the kind of thing I’d normally read, even though it is a mystery.

No white men on this list.

Early on in the stay-at-home time I found myself reading a lot of white women. A LOT. In the past two months I’ve been working to do better about that. Looking back at this list, it’s very heavy on fiction. I try to be aware of that too, as I read.

The first few of the books list as “currently reading” for me:

In a recent meeting with some other educators to discuss anti-racism efforts and how we, as white women, can do better, someone asked about the music we listen to. It was jarring. I try to be so thoughtful about my reading and yet it hadn’t occurred to me to be as thoughtful about music or movies or television or some many other things in my life. Again, I am grateful for the push. I’ve got some serious thinking and learning to do.

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