A couple years ago, somewhere on the internet gave me the idea to read more books by women. I discussed this somewhat in My Life in Books post. I know I usually just talk about my fiber arts on my blog. But reading, books, knowledge, and being an inclusive human are other passions of mine. I feel strongly that knowledge is power, and that we should NEVER STOP LEARNING. Going outside of your comfort zone, physically, intellectually, and in fiber arts is where you make the biggest, best strides.
Background: I grew up in a small, largely conservative, VERY WHITE town in Pennsylvania. My family is mostly white, my friends are mostly white. I was exposed to a LOT of white voices in my reading for school. I moved to Philadelphia to attend college and stayed for another 6 years afterward. I love Philadelphia, I felt at home there. I lived off campus, in mixed neighborhoods, college neighborhoods, and lower-income neighborhoods on the outskirts of gentrification. I loved that there were so many different types of people I could encounter- and depending on where I was in the city- they didn’t look like me. I now live in a moderate income (predominantly white) suburb of DC.
My freshman anthropology class introduced me to Ethnocentrism (specifically Eurocentric ideology). Broadly meaning: you believe your culture is superior and evaluate other cultures by how they compare to your preconceived notions of what is “civilized”. It forced me to look at culture through a different lens, and it was transformative to how I view the world. This was THE defining moment that made me notice that I had a bias. Something I work EACH day to identify and dismantle.
Why Other Voices?
I thought about my reading, and said, I’ve had a lot of white guys telling me how the world is. How can I call myself a well educated and informed person when there is only one perspective in my ear: that of white men. There are other voices that DESERVE to be heard. One perspective (the white straight male perspective) is not intersectional. That voice is not the only voice. Women, People of Color, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQIA individuals, religious minorities, and any combination of those identifying within and outside of those labels (i.e. “Other” voices): they all have experiences about how they navigate the cultural space created by White men. Living vicariously the experiences of others through books can help you be more empathetic, it allows you to adjust the lens you use to view the world. I can add someone else’s lens to my perspective; see with a whole spectrum of experiences that I could never live as a conventionally attractive, college-educated, middle-class white woman with the inherent privilege afforded because of those factors.
That’s why I feel so strongly about my personal Other Voices reading project. Not only do I get to share the experiences of others, I’ve read some TREMENDOUSLY good books by authors that were outside of my radar. I am winning all around. I’m not NOT reading books by white men, I’m just being more intentional with my selections. I read a Neil Gaiman book back in January- it was really good.
Some of the books I plan on reading are with the intent on making me uncomfortable.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur has been a rough, slow go. I had NO idea what I was getting into when I borrowed that book.
A bunch from Victoria Alexander’s suggested reading list here are just a couple that will encourage me to self evaluate more deeply:
Me and White Supremacy (Layla F Saad), How to be an Anti-Racist (Ibram X Kendi)
Here are some additional titles from Ms. Alexander’s suggested reading list that I think will be informative and really good books: Stamped from the Beginning (Ibram X Kendi), The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander), Evicted (Matthew Desomond), The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson- this one was already on my radar to read), Malcolm X (Alex Haley), Ain’t I a Woman and Feminism (Bell Hooks), Giovanni’s Room (James Baldwin)
Other Authors on my to read list: Octavia Butler, Marlon James, James Baldwin, Isabel Allende. And as always: Haruki Murakami- there are only a couple of recently translated works that I haven’t read.
In the spirit of Pride Month may I suggest reading Officer Clemmons by Francois S Clemmons. This book has a surprising amount of heart. I was pensive that it would be a lot of Fred Rogers “nice guy” stories, but that was not the case, its a good biography of Francois S Clemmons. I was moved to tears numerous times- and I don’t cry easily. Some of the story editing could have been better in the last part- but it doesn’t take away from the readability of the book itself. I read this on Hoopla, a free app supported by my public library. Shout out to FCPL!!
I read and knit or crochet simultaneously quite frequently. I don’t have to choose, and that’s awesome. Also: I know some people LOVE audio books. I try and try and try, but they just aren’t my jam. I wish I liked audio books, many of the titles and authors I want to read are not ebooks on Hoopla, but only audio books. Its a truly difficult problem to have (/scarcasm).
What are you reading? Do you have a format you prefer? Let me know!