Why Authors of Color

A friend of mine asked me why I had decided to read 50 books by authors of color and I thought it would be wise for me to talk a little bit about who I am, and why I decided on this goal.

Firstly, I’m Mahasin, I’m 24 years old. I’m a woman of color and I guess I identify as a writer myself. Though like a lot of “writers” I have a lot of ideas and not a lot of follow through. One of the reasons I started this blog was the fact that even though I’m an avid reader the majority of the books I read are written by dead white men. Mostly because when I was 15 years old I said that I wanted to read the majority of “classic literature”. Over the years I’ve slowly whittled down the “to-read” list I had, but came to the realization that characters like me, both women and people of color, are drastically underrepresented. Not only as characters and as authors in the traditional lists of classic literature. Sure modern lists include Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and usually some Toni Morrison and if it’s a really all inclusive list The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. To me these lists were not only incomplete, but were provided and inaccurate depiction of what authors of color have contributed to the literary achievements of the world.

So why not include women authors as technically women are considered a minority group? Honestly, I’ve asked myself this question and the best answer I can come up with is this: Very few scholars question Emily Bronte’s position on lists of classic authors, many scholars still question the merits and abilities of authors of color in terms of literature. I don’t believe there is a shortage of white female characters (and authors) that are taken seriously in literature, I do believe however, that there is a shortage of characters of color that aren’t either buffoonish stereotypes or included as a sidekick, or included as a haplessly flawed character (I’m looking at you Stephen King with your Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker mess).

My other reason for starting this blog was that as a lover of science fiction and fantasy, I was growing discontent at the number of flaxen haired heroines and heroes. So many books that I’ve read that take place on other worlds have one thing in common –– everyone on these other worlds is white. Only not just white, but mostly the female characters are either blonde or red headed, if the lead female character is brunette it’s always black, or rather raven haired instead of just brown. If the book is from a female perspective and she’s brunette, you know for a fact her acknowledgement of the fact that she is inferior because her hair is brown is stated within the first five chapters. The vast majority of popular science fiction and fantasy works are not only excusive of people of color, but only inclusive of certain types of white people. (And as a side note, if I read one more book where the main female love interest had skin the color of milk, or cream or some other impossibly white color I will scream).

Finally, having attended college the last several (read: six) years and working fulltime my leisure time for reading dwindled to almost none. However my desire to want to read and my purchasing of books to read at a future date did not dwindle. My goal is to read the majority of the books that I bought to read (or marked as to read on my Goodreads account) for pleasure while I was in school and never got around to doing so. So hopefully that list will be shrinking and I’ll get back into the habit of reading for fun.

If you have a book that you think I should read by any author, person of color or not, please comment on this or any other entry! Thank you for reading Mahasin in the Morning

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3 thoughts on “Why Authors of Color

  1. Melissa Palma says:

    Mahasin! First of all, let me say that you are a phenomenal writer and as your former English teacher (he he), I am really loving your writing!! Second of all, I love this post. I agree with you wholeheartedly that people of color are underrepresented and that was one of the reasons I loved teaching African American Literature at Southeastern. It was my area of focus in college myself so yeah, I have recommendations but it is hard to know what you have read already, or your taste. So here goes, and pardon duplicates or obvious recommendations but I feel there are canons within Black or Latino lit that everyone should read, so here a few of my recs:
    -good poetry is “Borderlands/La Frontera” by Gloria Anzaldua
    -“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
    -“Their Eyes Were Watching God” or anything by Zora Neale Hurston
    -we read “Women of Brewster Place” by Gloria Naylor together but I also suggest “Mama Day”
    -I love “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin
    -I also love “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” by Audre Lorde
    -have to give a shout out to the Chileans…Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende (most famous is “The House of the Spirits”)
    -Rodolfo would recommend “Soccer in the Sun and Shadow” by Eduardo Galleano but also a very thorough historical book and what he is best known for is “Open Veins of Latin America”
    -“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is a very sad but rich story
    -“Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas” is incredible
    -“Native Son” or Black Boy” by Richard Wright
    -Rumi. Period.
    -“Ceremony” by Leslie Marmom Silko
    -bell hooks
    -one of my educational gurus, Paulo Freire, and his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
    -“coming of Age in Mississippi”, an autobiography by Anne Moddy
    -“Praisesong for the Widow” by Paule Marshall

    But I want to know what you are reading…or are going to read! Thanks for sharing this.

    -Melissa

  2. I’ve actually not read a lot of these and those that I’ve read I haven’t read everything by the authors so I’ve been planning on reading a lot.

    Right now I’m reading “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf” which so far is just a hey this is what Islam is like, which is amusing but still interesting.

    I love, love love “Invisible Man” by Ellison. “Their Eyes were Watching God” to me is a book like “The Color Purple” – no matter how many times i read it, at one point or another I’m either laughing or crying. “House of Spirits” is actually referenced in my last entry, a review of “Island Beneath the Sea” by Isabel Allende. It’s one of my favorites, though I’m also extremely partial to “Portrait in Sepia” and “Eva Luna”.

    I’ve read both “Native Son” and “Black Boy” but they were when I was a teenager now that I’m older I think I should reread them.

    I’ve read a lot of Rumi’s poetry, I need to read both more Rumi and more poetry.

    On my list of things to read is “47” by Walter Mosley, as well as “Blue Light” by him. Something by Tananarive Due, “Kindred” by Octavia Butler (I read “Parable of the Talents” and “Parable of the Sower” earlier this year and loved them). “Woman Far Walking” by Witi Ihimaera. To finish the rest of the Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemison,

    I also have “What you Owe Me” by Bebe Moore Campbell, “Create Dangeously” and “The Farming of the Bones” by Edgwidge Danticat.

    Gosh, you know how it goes, so many books so little times.

    All of the others I’ve added to my to read list. 😀

  3. Erin says:

    Here’s a few teen novels to add to your list if you havne’t already:

    Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
    We Were Here by Matt de le Pena, or anything else by him
    Julie Kagawa writes some popular Harlequin teen books
    Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin

    Then there’s always books by Sharon Draper, Walter Dean Myers, Angela Johnson, Nikki Grimes…

    🙂

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