#ArmchairBEA Day 1: Intro & Diversity in Books

IMG_2515

Hello, Armchair BEA friends, and welcome!  My name is Grace, and I’ve been blogging here at Books Without Any Pictures since 2011.  I started my blog because my friends told me I really should have an outlet for my bookish thoughts other than ranting about books while at the bar.  (Of course, now we have a book club, which pretty much consists of ranting about books while at the bar, so really not much has changed.)  I’ve gone to BEA most of the years that I’ve been blogging, but did ABEA back in 2013 when I couldn’t make it.

Do you have a favorite book? If you cannot choose a favorite book of all time, pick your favorite book today – just this second. Remember that favorites are allowed to change if something affects you deeply enough.

My absolute favorite is Deathless by Catherynne Valente.  It’s a retelling of a Russian folk tale through the lens of Russian/Soviet history.  It’s dark, lyrical, and enchanting, and it’s one of those books that will make every other book you read look flat and lifeless by comparison.

What is your favorite genre and why?

 Sci-fi/fantasy for sure.  There’s a part of it that’s escapism, for sure.  But I also find SF/F to be some of the most thoughtful literature I’ve read, because taking a step away from preconceived notions of reality provides a nice sandbox to play with social, political, and philosophical ideas–for example, Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness examines the concept of gender roles, and Octavia Butler’s work tackles issues such as the abuse of power.

How do you arrange your bookshelves? Is there a rhyme or reason? Or not at all?

 My book collection is rather large, and my SO and I live in a one-bedroom apartment, so it’s all about maximizing space.  My books are arranged in the style of Tetris.  If there is a space, it shall be filled.  And as such, the only rhyme and reason in terms of organization has to do with putting books of the same size together for a neater fit.

On a more meta level, my bookshelves themselves are physically arranged to partition off a corner of the apartment as my reading nook.  In it I’ve got a fuzzy rug, a gaming chair, a cozy blanket, and my wine rack.  It’s a great place to relax and unwind.

#ABEAShelfie #bookstagram #bookish #shelfie #bookshelfporn

A photo posted by Grace Troxel (@gtroxel) on

What book are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by?

 The two are the same, oddly enough, and it’s Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.  I have a signed hardcover sitting in my shelf, and I know that it’s going to be absolutely amazing.  At the same time, the book is a giant doorstop.  My biggest problem with Brandon Sanderson’s writing is that it’s so good that I try to read it in one sitting, and when a book is 1000+ pages, that usually means all-nighters and overall sleeplessness.  Pretty much the entire reason I haven’t read it yet is that I know I’ll be a zombie librarian for days.
And now for today’s second discussion prompt.

Our secondary topic focuses on diversity in books and the publishing industry. Whose voices do we see? Whose voices do we need more of? Where do we find representation lacking and what can we as bloggers do to address that? What about negative or stereotypical representation?

 As a sci-fi/fantasy reader, this is the part where I shake my head and start muttering incoherently about puppies at the Hugo Awards.

I’d like to see more authors from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds than I already do.  I admit that part of it’s selfish; fantasy authors tend to get caught up in a stale Tolkein-esque stereotypical recreation of medieval Europe, and it gets old.  There are so many other worlds that could be created!  So many other stories that could be told!  And really, that gets to the core of it–everyone’s stories should be valued, not just those in positions of power.  I’d like to see gay characters treated the same as straight characters, and not have it seem like a big deal.  I’d love to see different races described with words that are not food (you’ve all seen the coffee-colored skin, almond-shaped eyes bullshit).  There should be no more whitewashed covers.  And female SF/F authors should be able to use their own freakin’ names instead of having to hide behind initials to achieve commercial success.

As bloggers, can intentionally diversify our own reading and reviewing, even if those aren’t the ARCs we’re being offered.  We can use our voices to speak out against stereotypes in the books that we read.  We can increase the demand for more diverse literature.  But we cannot change the publishing industry alone.  We occupy a strange niche in the publishing world where we’re neither insiders nor outsiders.  We chat with authors, offer publicity, go to conferences, etc., but we’re not on the payroll.  We’re not in charge of hiring.  And we don’t get to decide whose manuscripts get published.  Change needs to come from both within the industry and from without.

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

18 comments

  1. WELL SAID! *claps*

    Also, I LOVE the sound of your reading nook, it sounds perfect! I totally loved Words of Radiance, even more than The Way of Kings. I’m highly jealous of your signed copy! I hope you manage to find some time soon to pull an all-nighter and read it.

    1. Brandon Sanderson is pretty much the coolest guy ever. When we went to his event at a local bookstore, I arrived much later than most of the crowd because I had work and show up several hours early. He stayed until he signed every single person’s books, even as the bookstore (and the mall itself) closed around him. I was amazed that he would do that, and take the time to personally connect to so many readers. 🙂

  2. Ooh, if you like Russian folklore, have you read Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire? Also, do you like Catherynne M Valente’s Fairyland books? They’re so beautifully written.

    Octavia Butler has been on my TBR for forever. I really need to give her a try.

    I want to read Brandon Sanderson’s huuuge books too. But giant books!

    Whitewashing on covers drives me crazy. I hate images of characters on covers at the best of times, but whitewashing is my pet peeve.

    Look forward to seeing you around Armchair BEA!

    1. I actually have never read any Gregory Maguire, although After Alice is in my TBR. Never read a complete Fairyland book either, although I’ve read a couple of her adult stories now and am always blown out of the water by them. I’ll definitely have to check them out! 🙂

    1. Haha, my unscientific thought is that if the shelves bend, at least there will be enough books underneath them to hold them up. 😛

  3. I haven’t heard of Deathless by Catherynne Valente but it sounds like something I would really like. I’m reading my first Brandon Sanderson book Elantris right now and it is difficult to put down.

  4. I just finished Kindred by Octavia Butler last night and really enjoyed it. I really like science fiction, but it was the first time I’ve read any of her work. There was an interesting reading guide at the back too that talked about how she grew up loving science fiction even though there weren’t many POC in the stories and she unintentionally became a pioneer for women of colour in science fiction.

    1. Kindred was so good! I think the fact that she used a modern protagonist made the past seem even scarier, because you can’t be like, “Well people back then were used to how things were.”