2014: The Year in Numbers (2): Diversity Edition

PantomimeGender

The good news is, I read a lot of women: Women accounted for 60% of the authors I read, not including multi-author anthologies, and 43% of the protagonists, again, not including multi-character short stories, or books with male and female protagonists with equal presence.

However, these characters were overwhelmingly cis; two books featured trans characters: J, of I am J, a trans teenage boy, and Micah, of Pantomime, an intersex boy raised as a girl.

Hex is not the protagonist of Love in the Time of Global Warming, however, the book features an explicit enough sex scene between trans Hex and his cis girlfriend, Pen. (It’s not pornographic, but you know what they’re doing.)

I didn’t read any books about trans women.

The Beauty Myth and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex were also exclusively cis in focus, but both would have benefitted hugely from including trans perspectives on beauty, sex, desire, and science.

Sexuality

Miseducation of Cameron Post

Sexuality is a little harder to determine, considering I read a number of children’s books, and the characters are often so young that their sexuality plays zero part in the story. Ophelia (of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy) might be queer; we have no way of knowing, and it’s irrelevant to the plot.

In those cases, I’ve left the data blank, or included the book as “straight,” on the basis of the parents’ orientation.

Only four of the books I read could be classified as “LGB books:” The Miseducation of Cameron PostAfterworldsLove in the Time of Global Warming, and Pantomime.

I read no books primarily about male homosexuality, although gay male characters featured in Love in the Time of Global Warming and My True Love Gave to Me (which also, significantly, had zero queer women).

Race

Akata WitchMy reading list was blindingly white; 9% of the protagonists were people of color, excluding characters of color in multi-story anthologies. The diversity of authors I read wasn’t much better; white authors accounted for 86% of the books I read, and then some. (Again, multi-author anthologies were excluded.)

9% of authors I read were of Asian descent, either Asian-American or living and writing from Asia. Of those, one was a book in translation from Japanese.

(I also read one book in translation from German, by a white author.)

A mere 2% of the books I read were by African-American authors.

One of my reading goals for 2015 is to diversify my reading list. I’ve done a good job of putting my money where my mouth is, at least for library purchasing, but I need to read a more diverse selection of authors in my personal life, too, and practice what I preach at school.

Class

Sapphire BatterseaOne thing I’ve noticed, but found difficult to quantify, is the class status of protagonists. It’s rarely quite so obvious, unless it’s a “problem book” about poverty, but there are subtle clues about class, such as the characters working a part time job (or not), owning a car or cell phone (or not), living in a house or an apartment (or not) and so on, and man, a lot of books are about upper middle class kids, or higher.

I’ve found this especially true of historical fiction, which tends to focus on the upper class or even outright royalty at the expense of… Well, everyone else, really. A Mad, Wicked Folly would have been a much more interesting book if Sophie were the main character; frankly, I’m tired of reading about how bored these rich girls are with their balls and their fancy dresses. Give me more of Hetty Feather and how most of the world actually lived, thanks.

I’d like to point out that Jacqueline Wilson, in particular, has a good range of characters, including very many who are poor or working class. It’s one of the reasons she was my most read author in 2014.

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