In order to push the boundaries of my own reading habits – I think like many folx I can get stuck in ruts – I joined two online/virtual book clubs during covid. I have found them an excellent way to encounter genres and writers I might not otherwise take a chance on.
Lawson’s book deals deftly with a topic that is hard to find the humor in – depression. Yet she keeps us laughing. . . when we’re not crying.
Groff’s book is of a very different nature: historical fiction set in a nunnery in the dark ages. An example of the range that book clubs can bring into one’s life.
Another set of different sort of books. The maid, while a murder mystery, tends to be a lighter read. The Survivors, a much darker suspense.
Book clubs can be an interesting way to stretch your reading in new directions. And many make their reading list public, so you don’t have to join the club to benefit from the ideas for new titles.
Being a writer is like so many things, both complicated and simple. First the simple – writers write. The biggest difference between a ‘real’ writer and everyone else is that others may want to write, but they don’t actually write. It isn’t enough to want, one must do. Just as one cannot be a lumberjack if they do not cut down trees, or a rancher if they never own cattle, one cannot be a writer without writing.
More complicated though, is first – who gets an opportunity to write? Who has access to the mentors, time, access to agents and publishers? Many of us who write have to do so alongside working jobs that pay the bills, many are also raising children and/or caring for other vulnerable family members. Writers have many obstacles between themselves and finding readers. Writing is in many ways the simple part, everything that comes afterwards is much harder.
When one doesn’t see published writers who seem similar to one’s self, it is easy to believe that publishing is a dream beyond reach. Or if one does not see other writers acknowledging the struggles one faces one’s self, then one may not believe that others would be interested in the kind of stories one has to tell. Or one may believe they do not belong.
As a writer who has several identities that are typically marginilized, I like to spend at least part of my time and money supporting other marginilized writers – or writers who started from a marginilzed position and have worked so hard they have become successful (by publishing standards at least. Personal life is just that – personal. We don’t necessarily know the struggles a writer continues to face.)
If you don’t know Roxane Gay, then you need to. She will be remembered as one of the significant literary figures of our time. And she’s just a very good writer.
Next to writing the most important thing a writer can do is read. Personally I think it helps to read good writing by great writers, which is another reason I recommend Dr. Gay’s work. She is both a writer of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, so she will either expose you to viewpoints you may not otherwise encounter, or share viewpoints that you already share.
I am among the many writers who live with mental health challenges; our community has a powerful advocate who informs and entertains with her humor. Jenny Lawson is also the owner of a thriving independent bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. (The staff is very responsive to online orders, of which I have made a number.)
Of course there are many more writers who write from positions in marginlized communities. Some have had the opportunity to become known, others are still trying to breakthrough. What I would like to see is the sharing of names and book titles so that we can help build each other up.
If you are a writer who is part of a marginilzed community, please say hello, so we can begin to recognize your name. If you have a book out, please share the title. And if there is a writer you particularly enjoying or that you’ve recently discovered, please share their name/book here in the comments. The more recognition we give each other, the more likely we are to connect with new readers.