By Alexa Day
Black History Month starts tomorrow, and this year, I’m mindful of our #ReadHotter challenge. You saw that, right? We threw down the gauntlet about a month ago with ten reading challenges, which I’ve placed here again for your reference.
This year, we again challenge you to read “a book with main characters of a different race or culture than you.” We had the same challenge last year. I’ve always felt some sort of way about it, to be honest. See, for a great many readers for a great many years, the mere act of reading romance was reading books with main characters of a different race or culture. Hell, for me, writing romance is writing characters of a different race or culture.
But today we live in a climate of frankness and openness. We’re called upon to be allies, to protect and understand each other. We can’t fall back on the same old stand-bys of black history.
We all have to do better. We have to teach better, and we have to do a better job of learning. That’s going to be hard for everybody.
(We do all need to be allies for each other — for everyone. You’re hearing mostly about black people today because I’m a black author and next month is Black History Month, but be ready to hear something similar from other sources.)
For our purposes today, I’m presuming that you all have at least bought a book with main characters of a different race. I want to push you a little harder, though. I want to ask you about the book you bought with an author of a different race or culture than you. Because I presume you have at least one of those, too. Seriously, if you don’t have at least one Beverly Jenkins book by now, you’ve earned the side-eye I’m giving you. It might also be any one of the other books I’ve recommended on Lady Smut over the years.
Go put your hand on that book. If it’s on your Kindle, go pull it up. I’ll wait.
Got it? Okay. I’m going to ask some in-your-face questions.
Have you read that book? Have you actually read that book written by a black author?
Did you read all of it?
Did you talk to anyone about it? Did you recommend it? Review it?
Did you ask any questions it raised for you? Did you examine the ways it challenged you?
I’m not just asking because our #ReadHotter challenge requires you to actually read the book. I’m not asking because I want to make sure you check off the little box on your Good Reader list.
I’m asking because actually reading that book you bought is more important than it’s ever been.
Buying the book — whenever you bought it — is a fantastic gesture. It’s an effective way to support diverse authors and the call for diversity in publishing, and I will never tell you that isn’t important.
You’re not going to get any answers that way, though. You’re only going to move forward if you read the book and act on it by leaving a review, asking questions, and going deeper.
It’s not enough any more to just buy that book. It’s wonderful and all, but just having that one book doesn’t make you an ally. It doesn’t make you an activist. You’re going to have to read it.
Read that book. Then read another one with a different author. Consider the way the heroines walk through the world — the billionaire socialites, the ancient queens, the 18th century doctors. Travel through ancient Africa and the American South still smoldering after the Civil War. Immerse yourself in the authors’ blogs as well as their books.
(Just as a start, go check out Alyssa Cole’s blog and her books — you will not be disappointed there. I promise.)
We serve each other by going beyond the mere gesture. Buying that book, in order to support that author and the call for greater diversity in publishing, is absolutely fantastic. But reading it — taking in the places where your viewpoints differ, where the author’s culture teaches you something, where you have something in common — benefits both you and the author. Reading it is where we go beyond mere talk and good thoughts and move toward real understanding.
So … what are you reading this month?
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