I haven’t said much following the horrifying results of the 2016 Presidential Election. In fact, I haven’t really had a lot to say on politics for years now; I haven’t felt that I have a place in that discussion. The election of Donald Trump as our next PotUS came as a shock to me, as it was to many people—a shock that has spurred me to think about my actions in the past, and how I’m going to change those actions in the future. For too long, I have remained silent, not spoken up, not said things that need to be said. For too long, I’ve sat back and observed and not really done anything.
At this point in my life, I’m not in a position to donate to causes I believe in, or offer my volunteer services in the surrounding area. It’s not feasible for me to get involved in the traditional ways, which is part of why I’ve said so silent for so long—it just wasn’t feasible for me to speak up, nor did I feel I had any sort of audience. I still don’t really have an audience, but I’ve decided that’s a poor excuse for not offering my opinions, even if I’m shouting into the void of the internet.
With that being said, my goals for 2017 are pretty simple: I want to see if I can spend an entire year reading only books from marginalized authors. Of the few people I’ve told about my plans, many have expressed concern that I’m excluding cis-het white men from my reading list. After all, isn’t excluding a certain group of people exactly what I claim to stand against?
Maybe these well-meaning critics have a point, but I don’t see it that way. In my view, I’ve spent the better part of 26 years reading literature by white men: Dickens, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Franzen, Hemingway, Joyce, Steinbeck, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Twain, Updike, the list goes on. I have read and enjoyed these works for many years, just as I’ve enjoyed the work of women writers for at least as many years, particularly since college. But it’s not enough, not in a political climate of fear and intimidation, not for me as a white American woman. Not anymore.
I graduated from college over four years ago, but there is still so much I have to learn. The fact is, for a self-proclaimed feminist, I know very little about the experiences of people who are different from me. And what better time to change that than the year we elect possibly the worst president this country has seen or will ever see?
Maybe in some ways, my idea is extreme; others will say it’s not enough to read marginalized voices. I’m not trying to claim a prize of Good Citizen or Great Feminist or Exemplary White Person, because in reality I am none of those things, and I know that reading a stack of books isn’t going to change that. Maybe reading can’t change the world, but it has the potential to change my perspective. Sometimes getting a different perspective is enough to change my personal world—and at least that’s a start.