Diversity in Reading

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sloniger_jJen Sloniger writes contemporary fiction from Phoenix, where she lives with her multi-ethnic family built through birth and international adoption. She can often be found typing one-handed with the baby on her lap, while her hero husband ensures the safety of their six(!) other children. Jen has a penchant for stories featuring characters who make bold moves—some in search of truth, others running hard in the opposite direction. To learn more, visit Jen’s web site.

The best writers are readers, or so the great, nameless “they” say. I would add a caveat; I think diversity in who we read can be just as important as the amount of material we read. There is so much to be gained by exposing ourselves to a wide variety of authors. Writers who read outside of their genre can steal tricks from other genres and inject something fresh into their story. Beyond this, I find value in discovering writers from diverse ethnicities and nationalities for both personal enrichment as well as the added value of understanding different cultures, which helps me to build characters of interest. I enjoy the treasure hunt for powerful new authors I might not be exposed to if I hadn’t gone digging.

AfricaFor my current WIP, which takes place in Ethiopia, I was pleased to discover a talented writer named Uwem Akpan. Akpan is a Nigerian author and ordained Jesuit priest, and his description of the Nairobi slums in his short story The Xmas Feast, from his collection in Say You’re One of Them, swallowed my heart. So much of what I’ve learned to be true about heartbreak and poverty in Ethiopia was contained in his words. Akpan is a force, and his art is impossible to ignore. Even though Akpan is Nigerian and he wrote about Kenya, his voice and perspective helps inform the way I’ll write about Ethiopia in my novel. His well-crafted words enrich mine, and this is the gift that diversity in reading can offer, I think.

Let’s Chat: What are your thoughts about hunting for diverse new authors? Have you ever considered reading works by writers from a location were your fiction takes place? If you’ve got recommendations for great reads by diverse authors please share. 

 image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

 

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