Looking Back on A Year of Diverse Reading

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These men have written fantastic books, but there are other authors.

In my Dec. 2020 post reflecting on that year and looking forward to the next, I discussed a desire to diversify my reading list away from the old white male cishet authors who have dominated the sci-fi and fantasy genres for generations. I promised that at least 12 of the books I read in 2021 would come from authors outside that demographic.

I found some amazing books.

Honestly, that could be the entire post. For anyone who has just never considered seeking out diverse authors, know that doing so will lead you to a world of rich, exciting, nuanced stories that demand to be read.

In the reading community, I occasionally see people imply or outright state that they have difficulty finding diverse titles. All I have to say to that is that Google is not a person. It will not judge you for searching “Black Authors Science Fiction.” Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

These blurbs cannot do these wonderful books justice, so follow the links for more info. Enjoy!

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – A heart-wrenching tale of the modern African Diaspora in America.

This is How You Lose The the Time War by Amal El-Mohtah and Max Gladstone – Just a beautiful, weird sci-fi romance.

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter – An action-packed revenge-fueled epic with dragons, demons, and an African flair.

David Mogo: Godhunter by Suyi-Daves Okungbowa – A gritty urban fantasy featuring a gang war with fallen African gods.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi – A powerful memoir about one woman writer/professor’s struggle for equality in post-revolution Iran.

Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship by Sarah Khun – This series is a comedic, fast-hitting homage to comic books in a demon-infested San Francisco with an unapologetically Asian flair.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – A deep, tragic world both ecologically and structurally, with earthbenders. Simultaneously dramatic, thought-provoking, and action-packed.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – An African-flavored fantasy thriller filled with ancient grudges and blood magic.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris – Witty creative nonfiction essays about growing up queer in the 70’s, life as a public figure, and quitting smoking in Japan.

House of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard – An atmospheric, mysterious urban fantasy in which fallen angels rule a post-apocalyptic Europe as rival warlords. Along the way, this title dissects the lingering impact of colonialism.

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu – An action-filled sci-fi with heart and levity featuring a shadow war of ghostly aliens.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This gothic mystery is a love letter to Spain and the power of storytelling.

Honorable mention (from 2020…)

Viscera by Gabriel Squailia – A quirky, very queer fantasy about searching for belonging in a broken world.

I want to make it clear that in no way, shape, or form do I suggest we should never purchase books written by white men. I have enjoyed several, both this year and last. I myself am a straight Anglo-Saxon protestant white male writing speculative fiction I hope other will read. I definitely plan to bite the bullet and read some Brandon Sanderson and the Expanse series before I die. My only point is that I recognized an unconscious, unexamined bias in my purchasing habits, and took intentional steps to correct that. Along the way, I discovered many fantastic authors. Several of these names are likely to appear in this space again in the near future. There are series I need to finish.

I have not yet worked through my To Be Read pile to many other well-reviewed diverse titles such as the Gideon/Harrow the Ninth series by Tamsyn Muir, the Jade City books by Fonda Lee, and recent releases like No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull or Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. In my experience, reading diverse titles leads to discovering more of the same.

Happy reading, folks. 🙂

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