Saturday, January 9, 2016

Diversiread 2016: A Challenge To Myself

The Met Office uses this image to promote its diversity
Although I'm a keen crime fiction fan, I like to think that I read fairly broadly within the genre. I love trying new authors, stories exploring new settings, and I've regularly signed up to reading challenges that encourage me to mindfully choose something different when I'm grabbing my next crime novel off the shelf.

But we can always improve, right?

For me, one of the many beauties of reading, along with entertainment, is getting to explore other worlds and perspectives through others' eyes. Perhaps even gaining some insight, in among the rollicking stories.

So this year I've decided to challenge myself to read a more diverse array of crime writers: more female authors, more minority authors, and more LGBT authors. Similarly, to mindfully choose more books with female/minority/LGBT heroes.

Before looking ahead though, a quick look back on where I've been so far.

In recent years, I've been really good at reading a broad geographic range of authors, inspired by Kerrie and Dorte's Global Reading Challenge, and my own love of travel and different settings. Whenever I travel, whether it's to Latin America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, or North Africa, I try to buy local crime fiction (in English - my language skills aren't so diverse, unfortunately). Last year I read crime novels set in around 20 different countries, from authors of more than a dozen nationalities (including several novels in translation). So that's not too bad (a normal-ish year for me) and is something I'd like to continue.

On and off, I've also been pretty good at reading a decent amount of female authors, though some years this has slipped (last year around 30-35% of the books I read were by women, which is a little low).

I've found that keeping a record can be helpful, as much as I often like to 'just wing it' in life in general. So this year, along with using my Good Reads reading log to note the titles, author nationalities, and settings of the books I read, I'll be paying more attention to the diversity of the main characters and authors themselves.

I've already noticed this challenge to myself affecting my reading choices - hopefully in a positive way. Although I've read several crime novels from lesbian authors over the years, some with lesbian main characters (eg I read Rose Beecham's Amanda Valentine trilogy last year - an enjoyable mystery series), I can't recall ever reading a crime novel with a gay hero. Some gay supporting characters, but never a mystery revolving around a gay cop etc. This week I've changed that, noticing Neil Plakcy's MAHU VICE while browsing in Book Mongers, an excellent secondhand bookstore in Brixton. I picked it up, intrigued by the Hawaiian setting, but then reading the backcover blurb about a gay cop in Hawaii who gets caught up in an arson-murder case with his ex-boyfriend fire investigator, I decided to buy it.

I'm glad I did. Plakcy crafts a good mystery tale. I'm not used to reading descriptions of gay sex in crime novels, so that was interesting to get used to, but after feeling a bit wary at first, I like the way things are woven together, and to me at least - and I'm a neophyte to gay crime, so don't have much to compare it to - it seems that the love/sex elements are organic and necessary to the crime story and the hero's character, rather than gratuitously put there in an erotica kind of way.

So here's the start of my Diversiread 2016 efforts:


  1. THE NIGHT CHARTER by Sam Hawken: US male author, Florida setting, Hispanic female hero
  2. KILLING TRAIL by Margaret Mizushima: US female author, Colorado setting, female hero
  3. THE POLAR BEAR KILLING by Michael Ridpath: UK male author, Iceland setting, black female hero
  • CRUCIFIXION CREEK by Barry Maitland: Australian male author, Sydney setting, Aboriginal male hero
  • MAHU VICE by Neil Plakcy: gay US male author, Hawaii setting, gay Hawaiian hero

So that's a pretty great start on main character diversity, I think, but I will have to keep an eye on the authors I choose to ensure I increase the diversity there as the year progresses (more female, more minorities etc). 

It's a self-challenge rather than any official challenge, but feel free to join me on Diversiread 2016 if you like. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm thrilled that you've discovered my Mahu series and delighted that you enjoyed it. There's actually quite a thriving sub-genre with gay detectives, from amateur sleuths to private eyes to homicide detectives, and I'm proud to follow in the footsteps of many great authors before me.