The OF Blog: My current reading list in light of a recent social media campaign for more diversity in reading

Thursday, May 01, 2014

My current reading list in light of a recent social media campaign for more diversity in reading

For the past few days, I've noticed during my all-too-brief forays on Twitter a hashtag on my timeline called #weneeddiversebooks.  It certainly is a nice goal to have, but as is frequently the case for such discussions, it is limited in scope.  While I am far from downplaying the importance of reading stories written by and from the viewpoints of peoples of color and of diverse socio-religious backgrounds, the main language of discourse here is still English and due to that oft-cited "three percent" proportion of translated fictions to native English publications in the Anglo-American publishing sphere of influence, wide swaths of global literature in all the commonly-defined genres pass under the radars of those who might otherwise be potential target audiences. 

In thinking about this issue, I recalled another hashtag discussion group, #translationthurs, devoted to covering the diverse works of those translators across the globe to translate excellent fictions and non-fictions from various languages into other languages.  I also noticed today I was mentioned in a tweet about a new project, Women in Translation Month, set for this August.  This especially interests me, concerning my years-long desire to read more from other countries and to discover more women writers from those countries.  If I have the time in three months, I'll try to participate in this, if not on an exclusive-read basis.

Finally, I was curious to see from the books read so far this year how many came from certain countries.  Below is the tally by country (translated works are counted by country of origin and in some cases, decisions on authors' nationalities were made based on setting/story concerns):

Italy - 15

United States - 14

France - 10

Spain - 9

Portugal - 9

Colombia - 6

Argentina - 5

UK - 3

Serbia - 3

Nigeria - 2

Brazil - 2

Greece - 1

Iran - 1

Costa Rica - 1

South Korea - 1

Sierra Leone - 1

Japan - 1

Angola - 1

Germany - 1

Hungary - 1

Chile - 1

Poland - 1

In addition, 29 of these 89 books are by women and 5 are by writers of Jewish or Muslim faith.  It is so tricky in dealing with ethnicity when it comes to Latinos that it could be as low as 8 or as many as 13.  Yes, pretty low in percentage terms, but if I were to re-read several of the Latin American classics/modern novels I already own, I could easily see this number increase significantly.  Still, it is interesting to see that I've already read works this year by writers born in 22 different countries/influenced by their parents' place of birth.  I know there will be more shortly, as there is a Guatemalan writer, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, whose works I plan on reading once La orilla africana arrives in the mail from Spain.

All and all, interesting snapshot.

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