Sunday, 22 January 2017

Diversathon 2017: My TBR

Diversathon, which starts today (22nd January) and runs until next Sunday, is a readathon that aims to encourage people to broaden their horizons by reading about communities/cultures that are different from their own. Specifically, the aim is to read books that are about people who are not typically represented in books or other media. Hosted by the YouTubers (or rather BookTubers) ChrstinaMarie, SheMightBeMonica, SquibblesReads, and SavideReads, the emphasis this year is on "own voices" - which means authors who have direct first-hand experience of what they are writing about. 

For example, The Diving and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby is an own voice book because it's a book about disability by someone who themselves is disabled (admittedly, it's an autobiography but it would still be an "own voice" book if it was fictional). By contrast, Jo Jo Moyles' Me Before You - which is a novel about a love affair between a woman and a quadriplegic man - is not an own voice book because Moyles is not a quadriplegic and (as far as I am aware) doesn't have close relatives who are.

I was a bit unsure about taking part in Diversathon, aside from the fact I am at least 10 years older than most of the hosts, because I couldn't see what the benefit would be to marginalised communities. Me reading about someone who was trans, for instance, is not by itself going to stop transphobia etc - for that, I have to confront transphobia when I come across it etc.

Also while Diversathon will hopefully show publishers that there is an audience for books about marginalised communities, I am doubtful about the value of my role in this. Say, for argument's sake, publishers bring out more diverse books because I buy diverse books (so they see there's a need). They would be publishing diverse books based on what a white, middle-class, cisgendered (and any other "normal" category you could think of) woman wants to read. Surely, they should publish diverse books on the basis of what marginalised communities themselves want to read? Not that I shouldn't read diverse books; more that I shouldn't be the one dictating what diverse books are published.

Anyway, I figured that taking part wouldn't do any harm and would certainly be of benefit to me (reading interesting books while learning about other people's experiences etc.). Therefore, given all that's happened with Brexit, I decided to focus on reading about the immigrant experience in Britain. I have chosen to read The Boy with the Topnot by Sathnam Sanghera, which is a memoir about Sanghera's experience of growing up in Wolverhampton in a Punjabi family. It also deals with him coming to terms with the realisation that both his father and his older sister have a severe mental illness.

If time, I will also try to read Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones. In the past, I have been guilty of being a horrific snob (to my shame, I frequently used to use the word "chav" as an insult). Therefore, I do need confront certain prejudices of mine. I don't think it counts as an "own voice" as Jones probably can't be classed as "working class" (his mum is an IT lecturer). However, Jones undoubtedly did extensive research for the book and is dedicated to addressing social injustices. Therefore, I think it's fair to say he does have some authority on the issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment