At the start of 2019 I made a promise to myself: to only read novels written by women of color. I couldn’t have predicted how much this would change me.
The decision wasn’t solely driven by a desire to invest in people and communities that I believe in, but an attempt to balance a lifetime-so-far spent reading the voices of those who represent systems and ideologies that oppress me and communities I care for deeply.
The content we consume directly impacts the way we see the world and the way we interact with others (this point is driven home acutely when I speak to family members who rely solely on Fox News for information). When I realized I’d spent a lifetime mindlessly absorbing the narratives and ideals of the dominant voices in our Western society, without mindfully considering whose voices in our vibrant world I was not giving my ear to, I realized it was time to change.
The results have been incredible. I found myself reading voraciously. Faster than the year before. More books than the year before. I found myself focused intently to finish work so I could catch up on my reading, or waking up earlier on the weekend so I could read before a social event. I’d discover an author who spoke to my soul and read all their books one after the other (shoutout Diana Evans).
Often, after delivering a talk or workshop about fostering inclusion, I am asked by audience members, “If I could start with one thing today to work towards my goal, what should that be?” Often, I say the same thing:
Think about the books and articles you read, the podcasts you listen to and the TV shows you watch. Who writes those stories? Are they representative of the world you see around you? The world you see when you take public transport? If not, why not? Start there. Listen to more voices. That’s how we shift our mindsets and create lasting change.
The Novels I Read in 2019:
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Family Trust by Kathy Wang
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I Do Not Come To You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Black Isle by Sandi Tan
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
26a by Diana Evans
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
The Wonder by Diana Evans
Night Dancer by Chika Unigwe
Chasing Butterflies by Yejide Kilanko
Wiping Halima’s Tears by Yejide Kilanko
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
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