Above: Trying to read in bed but alas, Liberty Bell/Sabrina is interrupting me.
It’s no secret that so-called literary canons have a bit of a bias issue. Literature “classics” and “must-read-before-you-[die, turn 30, etc]-lists,” “are-you-well-read lists,” etc, are composed of books usually written by white guys of North American or European origin who are long dead.
For most of my life I’ve tried to read as many classics as possible, and this was spurred on even further when I was in university. I had an attitude of “why bother reading anything new when I can plough through another classic?”
Then I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” and it inspired me to throw this whole viewpoint out the window.
She got me thinking—why should I blindly accept certain stories as the story? As such,why accept these classics books as classics? As long as I buy into that system of thinking, I perpetuate the the idea that books outside the canon are somehow lesser.
Above: A Margot-inspired portrait of me reading by CS, which she painted for me while we were in university.
As a feminist, I was surprised that I had bought into this idea for so long. Considering that books outside the canon are very often written by women and people of colour, it was high time to put my philosophy into action with regards to my reading. This means reading and supporting the stories of women as central and essential, not fringe or elective.
I decided that I wanted to create my own literary canon of sorts. I wanted to read more books written by women, and more books by and about people of colour.
Above: Highlighting all my Jacqueline Carey books–soooo much more than just trashy romance/fantasy novels, but more on that later.
Since starting this new journey/project, I must say I have learned so much and enjoyed myself immensely. The books I have read have been excellent, inspiring, entertaining, and have given me new things to ponder. I find it thrilling to seek out new authors myself and read their work. Defining for myself which books are classics is surprisingly empowering.
I have new favourite authors now—I used to love Steinbeck and Salinger and I still do, but now my favourite authors are Dawn Powell and Catherynne M. Valente.
The books I share on here are part of this project. Here’s to women who write their own rules!