Tag Archives: diversity

Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Two years ago we heard nothing but complaints about our choices for who to vote for in the 2016 presidential election.

We hear complaints that there aren’t enough minority or female voices in the process.

People are frustrated that their views aren’t represented.

I’m a big believer in ‘stop complaining and start doing.’

We’re heading into the 2018 midterm elections, with all of the U.S. House, a third of the U.S. Senate, and control of state legislatures and governors’ offices around the country, as well as all kinds of local races on the line.

If you want to see candidates you support, now is the time to get involved. Here in Minnesota, caucusing begins Feb. 6. This is a byzantine process for parties to endorse their preferred candidate. It’s not the only path to office, but it’s a big one. So it’s time to start paying attention. Continue reading Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

2017 Reading Statistics

In addition to tracking my reading, for 2017 I started grabbing some more stats.

The biggest numbers I’ve been tracking are for diversity, and I’ve been keeping an eye on those for a few years now. Being more intentional makes a difference (Just compare my favorites from now with a few years ago—if you have very few diverse reads among your favorites, you’re doing it wrong). If you ignore the numbers and hope it all works out, it’s eye-opening how it doesn’t.

Of course counting these numbers is tough: I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

This year’s numbers:

  • 64% POC books.
  • 55% female authors.

Here’s how that stacks up historically:

Books read by people of color and female authors

Here’s what that looks like compared to my total reading:

All time total books read, people of color authors, female authors.

I’m pretty thrilled to see those diversity numbers getting higher. If you think that’s silly or ridiculous, well, talk to my kids. It matters to them, and it matters to me.

Quick Trends

I also tracked some other details this year, which revealed some interesting trends:

  • New is always better: 75% of the books I read were published in the last five years. I only read 10 books that were more than 20 years old. (The oldest? A Wrinkle in Time, 1962.)
  • Nerds forever: As much as I love sci-fi, I don’t always read that much of it. This year I did. It was the top genre with 37% (last year it was 10%). Next came non-fiction with 18% (last year 6%). Then comes graphic novels and YA at 10% each, followed by fiction at 9%.
  • That’s how we’ve always done it: 82% of my reading was print books. Audio snagged 11% (mostly car rides) and digital 7% (thanks to the library not having Octavia Butler’s full collection in print; last year digital was only 0.6%).
  • Spring slump: For the months of March, April, and July I only managed to finish four books each month. For August I rebounded with 15. (Not sure that means much, and it’s easy to game, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read the most during the month I took a vacation.)

If you want help reading more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

2016 Racial & Gender Diversity in My Reading

I read a lot of books. That’s no secret.

I love the power of reading, but I also think we have to be intentional about the kinds of books we read. I’m a big fan of reading what you love, but I think it’s still important to pursue diversity in those choices.

I’ve learned from experience that you have to be intentional about that. So every year I track those diversity stats to see how I’m doing. It’s not a perfect system and it’s not the only thing I do, but it’s one step.

I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

Here are the results for 2016:

  • 54% POC books
  • 59% female authors.

Here’s how diverse my reading has been since 2001:

2016 diverse reading chart

Here are the actual numbers (with totals) for 2016:

2016 diversity tracking

Results

While the numbers are just numbers, I think the real results are showing up in my lists of favorite books for the year. Both my fiction and non-fiction lists this year were topped by writers of color, and my fiction top five is all writers of color. Those lists have been getting more diverse over the years.

It’s all pretty subjective, but in general I think it continues to push me toward hearing and responding to more voices, especially ones that are different from my own experience and perspective.

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Love Trumps Hate

A lot has already been written and will be written about Donald Trump’s stunning victory yesterday, and I don’t imagine I have much to add. But I’m also a writer and need to get it out of my head.

The one thing I keep coming back to is how divided we are as a country, and not just that we’re divided, but that we don’t understand each other.

I shared this quote when I explained why I voted for Clinton:

“If two smart and logical people disagree, it’s most likely because they are acting on different information.” -Bill “Billo” O’Donnell (A Truck Full of Money by Tracey Kidder)

I think we’ve been acting on different information. If we’re going to overcome that division, we need to reconcile that information (not an easy task). I wish candidates did a better job of this (they rarely do because it doesn’t fire up their side), but now it’s time for us to do a better job of it.

So let me explain some information as I see it.

Today my social media feed is full of fear.

My minority friends are scared. People of color, LGBT friends, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled—scared.

And they’re sharing examples of harassment, intimidation, hate. (Those are just a few examples. Ask a teacher. Talk to a minority.) They’re justifiably scared.

Trump may say he’s not a racist, not a misogynist, not a xenophobe, not a homophobe, not an Islamophobe, but his words and actions—whether intentionally or through mere carelessness—bring hate out in people. (And it’s not just my liberal friends saying this. Many of my conservative friends refused to vote for Trump because of this.)

This political campaign has given license to hate. The rare few (I hope) who are racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic and/or bigoted have been emboldened to speak and act their hate.

And that’s not OK.

I know we disagree on a lot, but I have to assume that’s not OK with Trump voters either. I know we disagree, but I have to believe you don’t support hate. 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump, and I know faith in Jesus shouldn’t spread hate.

So prove it. Don’t endorse hate with your silence. Let’s make sure Love Trumps Hate is not just a campaign slogan tossed around as an insult. Reclaim it, bring unity across the aisle, and reject what I must hope are isolated acts of hate and violence.

Prove to my minority friends that there is a place in America for them, that you will defend them and stand up for them, even if you disagree with them.

Because otherwise, what are we doing?

These hateful acts are not America. I don’t believe that. But if we let them continue because they don’t impact us personally, then we’re enabling hate.

I can’t believe all Trump voters are hateful. Maybe we don’t understand each other, but that’s something we can work on.

I’m naive and idealistic and probably foolish, but I think love truly can trump hate.

Update: Maple Grove Students Respond (Nov. 10, 2016)

This is how we need to respond to hate. (And let it not just be warm, fuzzy words, but real action. May those kids love and protect one another.)

Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

This year’s election has felt more divisive and caustic than previous elections. That’s no secret. So in such an environment, it’s helpful to focus on the positive: Women achieving public office.

On my ballot there are at least three women running for positions that a woman has never held before. I think that’s exciting.

I think it’s worth talking about these potential milestones, regardless of your political leanings.

Let’s take a moment to address why celebrating this kind of diversity is important. Continue reading Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

2015 Racial & Gender Diversity in My Reading

Last year I started tracking diversity in the books I read. It wasn’t exactly good news.

It became apparent that race and gender diversity only happen when you’re intentional about it.

I tracked both the gender and race this year. I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

Here are the results for 2015:

  • 54% POC books
  • 56% female authors.

Here’s how diverse my reading has been since 2001:

Diversity and gender in my 2015 reading

And here are the actual numbers:

Reading diversity since 2001

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Star Wars The Force Awakens: Pre-Movie Thoughts

Han Solo, Chewie, Rey, BB8 & Finn.The hype has been building up forever, and tonight I’m going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes!

I’m also going tomorrow.

But I’m not a crazy nerd or anything, I’m doing it for my kids. Yeah, that’s it. I’m screening it tonight to make sure there’s nothing too intense for my 7-year-old. Also if the kids do need to step out or ask ten thousand questions, I’ll have seen it once already and (hopefully) won’t be as annoyed by the distractions.

It’s a happy accident that I’ll get to see it twice in 24 hours.

Plus, unlike my dad and brother, I think the best part of seeing a movie like this is seeing it early with the die-hard fans who clap and cheer. Part of the fun of going to the movies is the atmosphere, and you couldn’t ask for better energy than a theater crammed full of excited fans.

My wife and I saw the Hunger Games on opening night, not because we loved the series but because we happened to have a babysitter. The theater was full of teen girls with Catniss braids who were super excited. Made the whole experience more fun. Also saw one of the Potter movies that way, with a crowd full of teens who had grown up on Potter. Way fun.

So anyway, I’ll be there tonight with my nerds. Continue reading Star Wars The Force Awakens: Pre-Movie Thoughts

Diversity Is Not Enough

“We’re right to push for diversity, we have to, but it is only step one of a long journey. Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism.” (“Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing”)

In many ways it comes down to white privilege (that phrase can be difficult to digest—this is the best explanation of white privilege I’ve found). The white establishment (i.e., people like me) doesn’t understand what people of color face.

People like me are blind to all the small things that are stacked up against people of color. Each one on its own seems small, but together it creates institutional racism. The result is things like the Noah movie using an all white cast as “stand-ins for all people” because “race doesn’t matter.”

If you don’t see anything wrong with that, that’s white privilege.

If you watched the Noah movie and didn’t think it odd that everyone was white, that’s white privilege.

Or any movie.

As G. Willow Wilson commented, “Where are all the black people in Middle Earth? The answer is ‘In Laketown,’ apparently.” Extras in the Laketown scenes in the second Hobbit movie were the first non-white human characters in the Lord of the Rings movies.

If you think it’s political correct garbage to want racial diversity in a fantasy movie, that’s white privilege.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

It reminds me of the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas where the 9-year-old Bruno is oblivious to the German Holocaust, even though he lives outside the gates of Auschwitz. He befriends a Jewish boy, Shmuel, but is completely unaware of the ostracism and hatred his friend endures.

Bruno is not antisemitic. He’s not even aware of the German propaganda about Jews, and when he hears it he doesn’t believe it. But he’s blind to all the barriers Shmuel faces as a Jew in 1940s Germany.

It’s not an ideal comparison. But it feels familiar. When people don’t understand the need for diversity or insist that we’re beyond racism, it reminds me of Bruno.

Complicating the Single Narrative

At last week’s Festival of Faith and Writing I was pleasantly surprised that the conversation wasn’t limited to the Christian faith. I don’t know about the extent of the diversity, but I did hear from one Muslim writer and one Hindu writer.

Why is that important? Because, as Muslim comic book writer G. Willow Wilson said at the Festival of Faith and Writing, “If a belief system is worth anything it should offer value to those who don’t believe it.”

Our society is so polarized right now I think it’s more important than ever to hear from voices that are different from our own. It’s too easy to become overly homogenous and clueless of anything that’s different. It allows all sorts of negative things to blossom.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie talks about the danger of the single story in her 2009 TED talk, when we allow a single narrative to tell the entire story of something we don’t understand. It happens all the time when the continent of Africa is turned into a single country. It’s what we do to Islam when we assume all Muslims are conservative or even terrorists.

Wilson also said that she’d never been to a mosque that separated men and women until she came to the U.S. The most liberal mosque she’d ever been in was Iran.

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, it is that they are incomplete,” Adichie said. It’s not that there aren’t conservative Muslims (and even extremist Muslims), but that’s only a tiny sliver of the truth. Just as the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all of Christianity.

Swati Avasthi, a Hindu writer who spoke at the Festival of Faith and Writing, said that in order to disrupt this single story notion, we need to make it more complex. We need to explore the wider narratives and understand things more fully.

Two great examples are Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang and Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. Both stories explore deeply divided issues—the Boxer rebellion in 1900 China and persecuted refugees in Burma today, respectively—from two conflicting perspectives. The result is a more deeply nuanced narrative. It’s not a simple, one-sided story.

I think we need to pursue those multiple narratives, the more complicated threads that start to give us fuller picture, a more honest glimpse of the truth.

Don’t be content with a token bit of diversity. Don’t assume one story about Nigeria will tell you all you need to know. Don’t be so jaded as to think a single refugee story gives you insight into the experience of all refugees.

“Let’s tell stories that humanize, rather than demonize,” said Eliza Griswold, who has done a lot of work in Afghanistan and seen firsthand the result of our single narrative. She disrupts that narrative herself with this book of poetry by Afghan women.

Searching Out Diversity

I keep coming back to the conversation about diversity in literature. I think it’s important. I heard it several times during the Festival in Faith and Writing and today I came across an article about how to get more diversity in your YA fiction.

That piece has some good advice. You have to actually search out diversity, recommend it and support it. It doesn’t happen automatically: Search, share, support.

Lately I’ve been trying to search out more diversity. If I don’t, my shelves are mostly full of white folks. It’s the same with my music collection. I don’t like most hip-hop, and the alt-rock and punk genres are pretty homogenous. So I’ve been working at it.

You also have to recommend it, and it’s something I need to be doing more. Though I should be clear this isn’t about simply recommending stuff because of the diversity, but because it’s good. So here are a couple recommendations, something I’ll try to do more consistently:

Books

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow WilsonAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
The hacker youth culture of a Cory Doctorow novel meets an Arab security state and slips into a fantasy world worthy of J.R.R. Tolkien. The mix of realism and fantasy was pretty great. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of fantasy, but I really enjoyed the glimpse into the Muslim world.

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul CurtisBud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is a YA classic but somehow I’ve never read it. An orphaned boy goes in search of his long-lost father in Depression-era Michigan. An early scene of Bud being abused by foster parents made me physically angry, but the story moves to tenderness as Bud encounters more warm-hearted people on his journey.

Music

Music seems like it should be easier to find diversity. But I’ve always been a rock fan, and aside from a few big names, rock isn’t very diverse. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, so that leaves my musical horizons pretty limited.

Thanks to Spotify, I’ve been researching more diverse voices.

“You Can’t Be Told” by Valerie June
This foot-stomping single is a bit different from the rest of her album, but I love her rootsy voice, regardless of anything else.

“Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)” by Noisettes
This one has a swing-dance style that’s just fun. The band has some more recent stuff, unfortunately it’s only available in the U.K.