Last year, I wrote about my efforts to implement an anti-racist approach in my teaching and how that dovetails with my efforts to hack algorithms in my own reading practices and choices. Since then, I have made a few meaningful strides in my reading practice. I'll write separately about my teaching practice.
First, I have managed to read a lot in the past two years. Initially, during those long months of pandemic lockdown, my reading practice was a strategy for coping with cabin fever. But I felt so enriched by reading more, a lot more, than I used to, that I decided to keep it up. Friends have asked me how I manage to read so much, given all of the other things I'm juggling, including family responsibilities and a heavy Netflix habit. For me, it is key to have books within reach. Usually, wherever I am, on the subway, my couch, in bed, or on my lunch break, I have a book handy. I find it most comfortable to read on a vintage Kindle Paperwhite, circa 2010, that one of my sons was given by a grandparent and which I long since commandeered. I have adjusted the font size over the years as I've faced typical middle aged vision problems, and it's the most accessible way I have to read. Reading paper books is more difficult because I have to know where my reading glasses are, have excellent focused light, and even have to control my position to be able to see the text without strain. The e-reader enables me to read in low light and in any old position or room. I usually have paper books in the room in my house that has the best light, the Kindle next to my bed, and my mini iPad for subway, work, and everywhere else. E-books keep up with where I am in my book, so I can switch back and forth between the e-reader and iPad without losing my place.
The New York Public Library has tons of e-books. Virtually all newer publications and lots of older ones have plenty of e-book copies, and I make sure that I put books I want to read on hold so that even if I have to wait a few weeks, I know books are on the way. The NYPL books can be read on Kindle, so I get all the versatility I have when I buy an e-book on Amazon. Making good use of NYPL e-books has enabled me to break my Amazon habit which I've been wanting to do for ethical reasons for a while. Now the only books I buy on Amazon are out of print books that I purchase from third party sellers when I can't get them anywhere else. I read 31 e-books from the library last year, so this is has enabled me to expand my reading practice without expanding my book budget. The rest of the books I read were books I was given as gifts, bought at Bookshop.org (a nonprofit consortium of independent booksellers) or read in manuscript form (I regularly peer review book manuscripts for academic publishers). Because I am not spending more, when there is an emerging author whose book I enjoy, I buy multiple copies and give them away, so that I am supporting that author's sales, while not overdoing it on my spending.
I read as an escape and and as a form of entertainment, and also to educate myself about topics in my own fields of study and topics I want to learn more about. I do not leave to chance that the books that find their way to my awareness are representative of all that's out there. For that reason, I keep track of who I'm reading and to ensure that I am not simply reproducing my past reading in my to-be-read stack. Like last year, three quarters of the books I read were by women, and 70% BIPOC authors. Given the lack of representation of BIPOC and women authors in my schooling, I think I could read only Black and Indigenous women authors for several years before achieving "balance."
This year, in addition to continuing to follow suggestions from authors (Kiese Laymon's suggestions have never let me down) and thinkers I follow on Twitter and podcasts like The Stacks, I will be doing the Fold Challenge-- I'm already reading Revery: A Year of the Bees by Jenna Butler. While I don't like the idea of reading a diversity of authors a "challenge", I like the suggestions of books I may not otherwise hear about.
Finally, I'd like to share some of the books I found most engaging or thought-provoking this past year. For a complete list, click here.
The Sum of Us, Heather McGee
Fantasyland, Kurt Andersen
The Cruelty is the Point, Adam Serwer
Eat the Mouth that Feeds You, Carribean Fragoza
Epidemic Illusions by Eugene Richardson
The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavincencio
The Disordered Cosmos, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
You are Your Best Thing, Tarana Burke and Brene Brown
Parable of the Sower/of the Talents, Octavia Butler
The Cruelty of Citizenship, Cristina Beltrán
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall
White Kids, Margaret Hagerman