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Streetlight Reader

A Tired Rant About “Female” Writers


I have seen this list of 21 women authors you “should be reading,” passed around. I  have thoughts about the composition of the list, though I am thrilled to see Elliott Holt named because I loved her debut novel last year.  

No two lists will ever be the same and this list at least makes an attempt at diversity, albeit a… hmm… narrow sort of diversity, right? Like, no African American women? No Latinas? No South Asian writers? And at what point do we stop using Amy Tan and Louise Erdrich as the sole beacons of literary light for people who look like them? To be clear, these women are absolutely women of color (along with Smith, Adichie, Danticat, Selasi) you should be reading, but they are not the only ones.

We shouldn’t be reading anyone JUST because they are a woman or black or Asian or queer or any other mark of identity. We should be reading such that we can look at what you consume and recognize a diversity of perspectives from writers hailing from a diversity of backgrounds and ways of seeing the world. 

I have also been thinking about the ReadWomen2014 campaign. I have been thinking, “What a sad state of affairs it is, that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women.” If you need this reminder or instruction, I mean, come on! What is going on there?

It is exhausting that we are still trying to convince a certain segment of the population that women are equal to men, that women deserve respect and fair consideration in all professional and creative and personal realms. It is especially frustrating in the literary community, because I am part of this community. These are my people, or at least, that’s what I would hope.

I cannot believe we need to count and point out worthy women writers like we’re begging for scraps at the table of due respect and consideration. 

Sadly, we are there or we wouldn’t be reminding each other to Read Women and look at this list of great women and that list of great South Asian writers and this other list of queer writers you should know. And I, for one, will continue to read these lists and learn from them and contribute to them because the need is significant.

In a better world though, we wouldn’t read a woman writer because we’re women or ::insert identifying characteristic::. We would read a writer because they might be awesome or terrible or they might intrigue or infuriate us and we want to know more. We would take a fucking chance because that’s so much of what we do when we read. We take a book into our hands. We turn the first page. We wait to see where a writer will take us, what they will show us. We hope for the best and sometimes we’re disappointed and sometimes our faith is rewarded and sometimes when we are luckiest, we are utterly transported. Reading is the one realm where I am an idealist.

I look forward to the day we can stop obsessing over the tour guide and surrender to the sights. 

Shorter version: be better readers.

Books are weapons in the war of ideas.

Dave McFadden, The Great Canadian Sonnet

Book publishing…is the profession of professions, and blends the most enticing features of many kinds of enterprise: creative, critical, artistic, scholarly, recreational, technical, political, informational, and financial. Its scope is infinite.

Marsh Jeanneret, God and Mammon: Universities as Publishers (1989)

Addressing Troubling Tropes Regarding Asian and Asian-Americans in YA (and Excuses For Them That Need to Stop)


*While the main focus will be on the YA genre in this post, these tropes do apply to other literature genres as well* 

Read More

The past and the future are present.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The truth about stories is that’s all we are

Cherokee novelist Thomas King 


To celebrate the (approximate) 1-year anniversary of Diversity in YA’s launch on tumblr, we’re giving away all these books! Thank you for celebrating diversity in young adult books with us and continuing to engage in dialogue and increasing awareness!

(To view a document listing all the titles, click here.)

Here’s how this is going to work:

  1. We’ve divided these books into 4-packs of diverse awesomeness. Don’t worry, series titles will all be kept together, so you won’t end up getting a middle book or a third book in a trilogy without the others.
  2. We have multiple copies of some titles, so some of them will go into several prize packs.
  3. We’ll select 17 winners, each of whom will receive a prize pack of 4 books!
  4. Because of the large number of titles and the cost of international shipping, we’re only able to ship to U.S. mailing addresses. International folks may enter as long as they have a U.S. mailing address.
  5. Teachers and librarians get an extra entry!
  6. The deadline to enter is March 31, 2014.

Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If you can’t see the Rafflecopter entry form on your tumblr dash, you can also enter at our website.)

Thank you so much to the following publishers for donating books to our Anniversary Giveaway:

It occurred to me, after reading this excellent post on women in fiction and the Bechdel Test, that perhaps you could construct one to address issues of POC and race. The analog seemed obvious, so I just wrote it out.
1. It has to have two POC in it.
2. Who talk to each other.
3. About something other than a white person.
Now, you see the obvious issue there, right? Yeah, it has to do with number one. Even in stories that feature prominent POC characters, it is so rare to find more than one present, let alone who know each other well enough to talk to each other…