The Benefits of Reading Diverse Books
A string of recent encounters encouraged that universal phrase, and this post.—1. Alex Tizon’s Big Little Man memoir… 2. A comment on one of my dated posts I happened to come across… 3. Several comments and postings on various online social networks… 4. a Tweet I caught… and 5. A string of commentaries made by prize journalists, and followed by many supporters adhering to old customs and beliefs, evidenced by events that persist to this day.
My argument however, is not to advocate that ‘things change’, even if for peace’s sake change might not be an altogether bad thing. My challenge is wrangling over reading and writing generalizations that persists.
Starting with Tizon’s memoir; a MUST READ book that speaks to stereotyping, being ostracized, marginalized, and cast in dark corners of irrelevance, I caught myself thinking back on an Ethnology paper I wrote while in college. I don’t recall the title, but vividly remember the subject. I refuted race as a classification, backing this contention by personalizing my encounters living within a range of black American communities distinctive in its dialects, habits, beliefs, customs and interests.
Diversity back then wasn’t yet a popular polarizing topic, so this paper astounded the instructor. She scribbled a flurry of notes on my paper …told me she wanted me to elaborate…and was one of the first educators who told me I was a writer.
Yet, I’m going to free us from venturing down that uninspiring ‘never changing’ lane. Long before all of us here today were born, research on race was being conducted. Instead, I want to appease those comments and remarks I’ve been bumping into, to toggle the fine line between typecasting and interest…as it applies to ‘stereotyping what we read and write.’
This is not an easy toggle, the reason the subject has been around for eons. Electing not to read books based on the skin color of who wrote the book, or based on the ethnicities of characters broached in the story, or any other similar generalizations, even ahead of having read the book, are NOT baseless reactions. These are reactions based on personal interests.
But I also remember another axiom that hung around... a lot. In fact, there was a commercial devoted to its premise. “First try it before you say you don’t like it!” Or, “Hey, let’s get Mikey! He’ll try it.” Apparently Mikey tried and liked everything.
Occasionally too, I revisit my preconceived beliefs about people and places before I left my beloved city and started traveling and living in a number of states around the country, and the world. I could have easily become a very unenlightened, benighted, narrow-focused, PREJUDICED individual had I subjected myself to believing only what I heard, or read in books only written by or about black Americans or Africans. And still, I do not promote diverse reading and writing because I believe it is the right way to read. My reading and writing habits are diverse because my interests are diverse.