A month or so ago, in the middle of our department meeting, the supervisor of our high school ENL department asked us to go get the books or short stories that our students were currently reading. We laid them on a table and she asked us what they had in common. These book, poems and short stories represented different genres, historical time periods and topics. It immediately became obvious to what she was referring.
All the authors were white males.
We were all shocked.
Our district represents a diverse population. We have a little over 50% Latino students, most of whom were born in the US, and have more or less 15-20% Black and 25-30% White students and a small percentage of Asian students. Those numbers are not exact, but the gist is right. I don’t know the male to female ratio, but it must be more or less even.
Obviously, we all “teach” some stories, novels etc by minority writers. But I’d have trouble coming up with a list on the spot. This is not including our elective courses exclusively devoted to racism and sexism.
But it is even more startling in our department. The English as a New Language Department is, by definition, comprised of students from other countries. Almost all of those students are from Spanish speaking countries, along with some Asian, African and Caribbean students. And I have them reading mostly stories by and about white teens and white male adults?
The school district wants to ensure that the reading choices and materials that we give our students include more authors of different races, religions and gender. Perfect.
As I was driving home from work and contemplating this discussion, I thought about what I read in my personal life. I’m a voracious reader and yet almost everything I read is by white authors. Not exclusively male authors, but dominantly male authors.
I started to tick off a mental list of favorite authors as I drove.
- Simon Winchester
- Lee Child
- Jonathan Kellerman
- Louise Penny
- J.K. Rowling
- George R.R. Martin
- John Grisham
- Ray Bradbury
- Agatha Christie
- Robert B. Parker
This is by no means an inclusive list, but these were the authors who immediately came to mind.
How is this possible?
Yesterday, I opened a Goodreads account and started browsing. Of course I have read books by authors of diverse backgrounds. But my default list is comprised of books by white authors.
I added the following books to my “want to read” list. And I’d like your opinions if you have read any of these.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon
Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction by Delia Poey (editor) and Virgil Suárez (editor)
Native American Fiction Stories by Grey Eagle Thornton
Please recommend other authors and titles to me. I read all genres, but love spy novels, mysteries, detective stories, sci-fi, historical fiction and fantasy the most.
I am thankful to be able to remedy this glaring hole in my reading choices.
It’s an embarrassing personal admission.