This weekend, I spoke at Denver Comic Con on a library panel for LGBTQ in science fiction and fantasy. It was a great experience before a full room. The audience laughed and cheered, and stayed engaged with everything we had to say. Plus had lots of great recommendations of their own. (You can find our book list here if you’re interested. We focused on recent suggestions rather than a comprehensive list.)
Most of all, I enjoyed finding books to talk about. I read a fair amount of LGBTQ books, but preparing for the panel made me realize how few of them matched up with my regular genre preferences. It’s one of the few topics that makes me stray into realistic fiction or mystery, and I realized how much of the LGBTQ books I read are realistic YA. In other genres, I’m much more likely to pick up a book with a queer character, but I don’t actively seek them out. I read what I come across from other bloggers and new release sources, which isn’t much. And I fill the rest of that need with fanfiction, which I don’t share at work or with many real life contacts.
Actively seeking out the kind of characters I want to read has made me enjoy reading again. Genres that I’ve been burned out on felt new again. Reading a different kind of story made even the most familiar worlds interesting. And a lot of stories I loved, but never would have found otherwise.
I want that experience year round. I want diversity in all forms, not just what I personally identify with and therefore reach for easily. I want to see myself on the page, yes. But I want to see other people on the page too. I’m making a commitment to seek out more diverse books, of more different kinds of people. Everyone should be able to find themselves in the books they read. Now I want to read further outside my experience, and find other people there too.
What about you? How often do you read characters from outside your own experience? Do you seek them out or read what you come across? How does it affect your enjoyment of what you read?