It’s been four years since I graduated high school and my reading has increased exponentially. The first year after graduating I didn’t read much. A few books here and there. I mostly re-reading books I had sitting around, to kill time while waiting for a family trip or to temporarily offset my boredom. By the third year I was an going to bookstores and buying books to read, or listening to the audio versions. It wasn’t until I started blogging about the books I read that I realized what made me stop reading in the first place, the narratives.
My reading list for high was pretty standard. To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men Wuthering Heights, and Shakespeare. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the value and validity of these books, but for an African American male this reading list is lacking. Yes, I understand that people say To Kill A Mockingbird is a timeless book. Sadly, all it really does is make white people feel less guilty about the oppression of black people, even though Atticus Finch never actually existed. That book and many of the others mentioned are assumed to be book all can enjoy. I didn’t enjoy wuthering Heights, I didn’t care for any of the families, Heathcliff bothered me, and I felt bad for the servant Nelly. I couldn’t get into reading these books because I couldn’t relate to them, I couldn’t see myself as them.
Now it’s hard to question why people don’t like to read books. So many things play into it, but I can be certain a big portion of it has to do with because for so long we’ve been forced to read books from people who write about perspectives we can’t relate too. How much can I gain from reading The Great Gatsby. Nothing, I could care less about a rich white man. I don’t want to read about a rich white man. I want to read about the Pecola Breedloves, Ali’s & Noodles , et al. I enjoy reading about me, something I wasn’t able to do in high school, but even that has been a challenge.
Walking into a bookstore, or searching through online websites can be a few shades of lackluster. Especially when you’re shopping for diversity. Ciswhite men dominate this industry. With there limited perspective on other people, or their lack on caring how they represent other characters outside of their protagonist.