As I turned 30 years old last year, I felt like I had failed as a reader and failed as the diversity champion that I thought I was. I have read non-stop for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is finishing Charlotte’s Web, alone in my childhood room, and then stumbling downstairs to weep at my parents. I have wept on trains, planes and in automobiles. I have wept at partners, friends and strangers. I have also laughed, thankfully. I can link specific times of my life to particular books, parts of the world to passages. But, dear friends, I had failed.
In the work that I do, I strive to use my place of privilege to provide opportunities for everyone to engage in the arts and culture, and have been for the last 5 years. Through the amazing people that I have worked with, I have learnt so much about different peoples experiences and hope that people see me as an ally. But…
…when looking back on the books in my life over the previous few years, I came to the stunning realisation that I had predominantly read books by white, middle-class, middle-aged, mostly male UK or US authors. To me, this felt like such a waste and a little bit hypocritical. I am well aware that I am never going to read as many books as I’d like to, primarily due to having to work and not getting away with being the hermit that I could happily be if left to my own devices, but what sort of narrow world view am I reinforcing by reading only these authors?
One, of a number of, ways to expand my horizons is through the books that I read so I will read books written by authors from around the world, books that have been translated into English, books by LGBTQAI+ authors, contemporary and historical authors. This is not new, check out this amazing TED Talk by Ann Morgan.
I think that the more people who join me, and the more its spoken about, the closer we get to mending the rifts that exist within our local and global communities.
So this is me giving voice to my journey of diversifying my reading, hopefully to inspire others and also to hold myself accountable. Please feel free to follow along, share your comments, tell me about your own reading challenges. My aim is to start a physical Offbeat Book Club in Cardiff at some point soon so stay tuned if you’re local!