Happy Friday! I was going to end the week with a round-up of some of my favorite discoveries related to graphic medicine and comics librarianship in general…but that was before I spent an extraordinary amount of morning dealing with the fallout of a Book Riot article from fellow librarian Molly Wetta – “I Can’t Even with Librarians Who Don’t Read Diversely”. Go take a moment and truly read through the post before coming to any conclusions.
If you aren’t familiar with Book Riot, its editors, or the quick-fire world of library Twitter, the article might be a little harder to follow, but the gist of it all is this: as librarians, we should all make a concerted effort to read from a diverse group of creators. That’s it. It seems so obvious that librarians – especially those working with the public and/or children – should not only be aware of, but also reading, literature from a wide range of creators. So what is the problem?
According to many readers, there are quite a few – if you are curious for direct quotes, take a look at this post in a Facebook group – including things like “improper tone” or “book policing” or even things like “only want to read good books”. I cite these three specifically because each one bothers me on a visceral level, more than other complaints about the article and I want to take a moment to address each.
“Improper Tone” – Perhaps the most common complaint lodged at Molly’s emotive article is that it “comes across the wrong way”. Period. That’s it. The response stops there and fails to even begin to address the issue at hand. This is the equivalent of saying “Well I don’t like the way you express yourself so I’m just going to ignore any valid points you may have to make”. It is childish. It is seeing the tree-but-not-the-forest. And most importantly, it is harmful.
“Book Policing” – Okay, this one just seems facetious because surely no one read that piece and seriously believes they are being censored or forced to read a specific thing. Similar to the “only good books” problem, readers making this statement seem to be conflating diverse creators and diverse genres – which are not the same at all. Should librarians periodically read books outside of their area of expertise? Sure, everyone should. But that isn’t what the issue at hand is about, which leads us to…
“Only Read Good Books” – I damn-near broke my Banned Books coffee mug when I saw this response the first time. I don’t care what genre you read: to profess that the only books you read are good ones and those are all by white authors is sheer, unadulterated ignorance at best. I’m not going to post a bunch of lists for each genre (they DO exist) for the sake of brevity, but here are just a couple of examples from genres I read – which are also the most commonly erroneously cited as lacking options:
- Rich in Color*
- 15 Diverse Magical Fantasy Novels to Read ASAP
- 17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors
- The Minds Behind Diversity in Comics: A Reading List**
*This is a complete site that compiles not only suggested titles to read but also reviews and thoughts on those titles. Focus is on Young Adult.
**This is not a list of diverse books to run out and buy, but rather a list of articles by creators of diverse comics – which is better.
All of that complaining-about-complaining aside, I think this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of diversity in our libraries, in our books, and in our comics. The following list of resources is just a small fraction of what is out there, but these comprise my biggest “go to” references when I need to know more – or need to share with others.
— Aisha Saeed (@aishacs) April 24, 2014
- We Need Diverse Books – We Need Diverse Books is the result of a Twitter conversation about how frustratingly few books there are for diverse audiences, which spawned the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks that continues to be used all over social media today. Their website includes information on where to find diverse titles, press materials, and a slew of other interesting and informational resources.
- We Need Diverse Comics – Rising up from the same vein, #WeNeedDiverseComics highlights the need for more diverse creators as well as characters within the culture of comics. Their main home is the Facebook page linked above, but the conversation happens in numerous places including comic conventions, Twitter, the Diverse Comics Tumblr, Women Write about Comics, Native Realities, and dozens more!
— First Second (@01FirstSecond) July 21, 2016
- Reading Diversely FAQ – This 5-part series of posts from Book Riot contributers is the best, easily-accessible source for getting started with learning to read in a more diverse way. It includes arguments for doing so, recommended readings, resources to find new titles, and more. If you only have time to check out one place for learning about reading more diversely, go here.
- ALA Book, Print, and Media Awards – The ALA keeps track of all awards related to the mediums that we handle in librarianship and collects that information here. If you have some time on your hands, this is a great place to dig around and you will see that there is diversity in all genres across all mediums! If you are short on time though…
- Where to Find Diverse Books – …head back over to this page from the folks at We Need Diverse Books, where they have put together a great resources list!
Phew! All of this, from a single article! I hope you find at least some of these resources (or arguments) valuable. Have you had experience dealing with diverse reading? Do you know of another great resource for finding them? Perhaps you know of a medical comic that deals with diverse populations? Share all of these things with us here in the comments or tweet to @NoetheMatt!