Welcome to my second interview of diverse book bloggers. This time it is the Lunch Time Librarian. I met Liselle through Twitter, and I absolutely love reading her well-thought and well-written posts about diversity.
Lunch-Time Librarian is about fun and personable book reviews, round-ups of great books to read, inspirational quotes, and creative writing tips (see my “Nuts for NaNo” series for more on this). Not everyone has time to read a long review and so I have separated mine into small chunks. This makes it easy to see what’s great about the book, and what’s not so great about it. I also make sure to give readers a quick link to buy the book or add it to their GoodReads for later. My goal is to make it quick and easy to pick a book and then create a forum for discussing the book when you’re done. Or discuss while you’re still reading
What pushes you to get up every morning and talk about marginalized books every day?
It’s pretty natural for me, I’ve never felt like I need to be driven to talk about marginalized books. Nowadays, I primarily interact with the bookish community via Twitter and I can never go on there without chatting about diverse books to someone. As a marginalized voice myself on top of being a writer and reader, I know how important it is for these books to exist and I’m happy and excited to read them. And so it makes sense that I chat about them often.
What are some difficulties you encounter while searching for diverse books?
They’re hard to find sometimes depending on what you’re looking for. For example, I was looking for fantasy books with an MC that uses a wheelchair and it felt beyond impossible. It’s not as hard to find diverse books in contemporary (which I don’t read often) but for some reason it’s so scarce in fantasy and sci-fi. Or those books are out there but not enough people know about them. Which is why when I find a good diverse book, I blast it and advertise it, especially if I haven’t heard people talk about it.
Advocating for diversity in books comes hand in hand with receiving criticism or justification on why other people don’t do it. How do you deal with it?
This is where that post I wrote about excuses to not read diverse being bullshit comes in. I cannot stand listening to people create excuses about why they don’t read diversely. Usually when I encounter those people on Twitter I just unfollow them, because I don’t have time or energy to interact with someone who is essentially saying they only want to read about white, cis-het, able bodied people. And I only get into conversations with people that are willing to learn and take criticism.
What advice can you give to bloggers who promote diversity?
Keep doing what you’re doing and lean on people who support you if you encounter people that want to bring you down. I think when you’re a blogger that positively promotes diverse books there’s no backlash. But when you start pointing out problematic elements with other books, that’s when people get defensive and nasty. And I think that’s the time when diverse book bloggers really need to lean on each other and keep doing what they’re doing.
What are your future plans on advocating diversity in books?
Oh gosh, I don’t plan things very far ahead haha. But I am participating in #diversitybingo2017, albeit silently right now while I figure out how I want to format sharing all my reads. And I’ve started to really prioritize my reading of books I already have to favour the diverse titles. I didn’t read nearly as many diverse books last year as I would have liked because I kept putting other books first. And I plan to change that.
You are not only a blogger, but a writer as well. In fact you have written a diverse fantasy novel. What are your plans regarding the novel?
Right now, I’m querying the novel, so it’s been sent out to a couple literary agents to test the waters. This is my first time querying again after a major rewrite so I’m hopeful. And of course, I’m constantly taking in advice people give to writers on Twitter to make sure I’m not falling into any traps. I think sometimes there’s this idea that marginalized writers can’t write hurtful books, but we definitely can. I’ve fallen into traps of using ableist language or narrative, on saying ‘tan’, and using food descriptors like ‘cocoa skin,’ and ‘almond eyes’ all of which I’ve been working hard to correct. I think all that matters is that you listen to people and you’re willing to learn.
What advice can you give to writers who promote diversity?
Practice what you preach. It’s very easy to point out problematic issues in someone else’s work and much harder to see it in your own. And to always listen when people say your own is hurtful. I think this is hard for authors when their debut is just about to be published, because it’s such a long road, and I can understand just wanting to be done and published. But that’s no excuse for pushing forward something that you know hurt someone. And I would hope that if I ever get published that I would hold myself to that same standard.
As a book blogger myself, I cannot conduct an interview without asking you what your favorite book is.
This is going to make me look like a complete shit, but it’s The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I know, not at all a diverse book in any way. In fact, I cannot name even a single diverse character in that entire series. It also has problematic elements, such as using rape as a plot device. And for that reason, even though I love the book (the first one, really), I don’t promote it anymore. Someone a little while ago called out the author on an offensive article he wrote and I was right with them on condemning it, because it was offensive. I think it’s so important to realize these things about your favourite books and authors because if you get defensive then you hurt people, and you stay ignorant to things you ought to notice.
My favourite diverse read, on another note, is definitely Into White by Randi Pink. It’s the sort of book that had so much potential to go horribly wrong and yet it went right for me. I’m 25, and it’s the first time I’ve ever read a character that felt like me. I bawled at the end of it because it was so what I could have used when I was growing up. It reminded me why the diverse books movement is so important.
I discovered your blog through the #diversebookbloggers in Twitter. How does Twitter help you promote diversity?
Twitter is pretty much 99% of how I find out about diverse books and how I share information about diverse books. I don’t have as much free time to blog anymore and so Twitter is an amazing way to still keep in contact with the community. I think Twitter has this dual function of promote diversity and showing how far we still have to go. But more than anything it’s been an education. I constantly learn new things about people from other cultures, orientations, and abilities and it’s amazing. When I was just scrolling through blogs I was missing a lot of the diverse books movement, but Twitter opened me up to that.