It’s important to remind ourselves that the literary canon and world of fiction need not be restricted to the voices of predominantly white men and women. Some questions that I have asked myself recently, as I try to read a broader range of fiction, are: should we be consciously aiming to read more diverse voices? Do these voices tend to be fetishished when it comes to the marketing of books whose writers come from a diverse range of backgrounds? How are these authors represented in the book marketplace and are they equally represented? Must these authors be necessarily dissident voices and is that what the public expects? It wasn’t until I reached university that I realised that I had been brought up on an appetite of reading (particularly in primary and high school) that was quite restrictive: white men and women writing about a slice of life that I did not always resonate with, but found myself wanting to aspire to (case in point: Sweet Valley. The complexity of projecting my aspirations to be ‘white’ into the character of Elizabeth Wakefield is not entirely lost on me, an adoptee, who at the time was grappling with my Asian-ness). While reading fiction might not necessarily formulate our values and ethics system, it does expose us to a realm of minds and worlds that may not always be accessible to us on a day-to-day basis. Identity politics aside, how we view ourselves is reflected in the society in which we live, through cultural representations in art, film, tv and books. If all we are ever exposed to is a narrow scope of voices that replicate the experience of these voices, might we be missing out on a whole chunk of literature that does not get the marketing it deserves, that deals with issues that may not interest the general public and might only interest them when it is framed in a ‘rags-to-riches’, triumph over oppression formula. So, here’s to being more conscious of what we read. Reading for pleasure, but also read with a purpose to expand our literary horizons beyond what is only marketed to us through flashy publisher advertising.
First place to start: @sophia_stories