A friend gave me a copy of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when I was 17, and I was completely changed by it. I remember being so crushed by the heavy topics, but also blown away at Angelou’s carefully-crafted prose. She was writing about some of the most difficult times in her life, yet I could not stop reading. She was able not only to put those feelings and experiences into words, but she wrote them so beautifully that I remember needing to read some things aloud. After reading the book, Maya Angelou became (and still remains) one of my favorite authors of all time. I keep my now-tattered and yellowing copy on my shelf, to remind me of why I read.
This was the first time that I became faintly aware of my need for diverse authors, specifically women. After reading Angelou, I sought out and found Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Jaqueline Woodson, Adeline Yen Mah, Isabel Allende, Gloria Anzaldua, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others. These voices informed my reading tastes that remain intact today.
A couple of years ago, I began tracking my reading habits. After awhile, I was surprised to find that I had not read from as many WoC authors as I thought I had, or would have liked to have read. So I became more strategic about my reading goals the following year, and made reading from WoC a priority. At the end of that year, my stats showed that I had read more than double the amount of WoC authors than I had the year before. I discovered so many new voices, and in the process, made more online book friends.
So many working WoC authors are publishing books right now, and I make my best effort to share, support, and read their titles. I follow sources that consistently publish lists and reviews directing me to books by WoC authors. Yet at the same time, I feel like I could be doing more.
To ensure that I am being more specific about my approach to achieve the ongoing personal goal of reading more WoC authors, I have set for myself the following plan: read at least 2-3 books by WoC every single month. Setting reading goals may seem trivial to some, but it is one thing to want to do something, and quite another to engage in a focused practice to get there.
This is my personal goal because I want to read from a variety of voices and experiences that I can relate to and learn from.
I want to hear from women whose experiences are different from mine.
I want to be challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone.
A plethora of books have been and are being written by WoC, and they’re not being circulated widely enough. There is definitely a lack of WoC representation across all forms of media, but especially in the publishing industry. In a time where conversations about diversity and inclusivity have become more normalized than ever before, there is still so much work to be done, particularly in publishing.
I urge you to pre-order and purchase books by WoC, read them, and share them with friends and family, IRL and on social media. In doing so, you are helping to create a demand for publishers to put more women authors into print, which will ensure that more people (especially younger readers) can have access to voices that represent them.