Reading Diversely… Why Can’t We Just Read What We Want?

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I understand that minorities/marginalized groups want to see books with representation of their particular group. Whether it’s the author who is disabled, a person of color, an indigenous person, gender-diverse, or queer, or the characters in the story, people like to see their group represented. I get that. I also get that there are a lot of white, straight, cis, abled authors out there and that they grossly outnumber the marginalized authors.

But I don’t understand why it is that people who choose to read books that aren’t considered diverse are being painted as bad. I’ve literally had to leave social media because I’m tired of seeing it everywhere. I’m made to feel bad because I don’t actively seek out authors who are marginalized or books that contain marginalized characters? I’m told that if I do read a “diverse book” that if I’m not part of the intended audience, I can’t comment on whether or not the book properly represents that group.

I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me whether or not I know if a book represents a group properly. You know nothing about me. You don’t know that I’m not best friends or family with someone who is represented by that book. How do you know what kind of knowledge I have about Muslims? How do you know I’m not extremely good friends with a Muslim girl? How do you know I’m not best friends with or a sibling/cousin to a disabled person? You don’t. You don’t know who I am, you don’t know anything other than my profile picture makes me appear to be white, straight, cis, and abled.  Just because I’m not the “target audience” doesn’t mean I don’t know whether or not a book properly represents a that group of people.

I’m not opposed to reading diverse books – not by a long shot. What I am opposed to is people telling me that I’m supposed to do so even if the genre of book isn’t the genre I prefer. I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m required to read a book just to ensure I’m a diverse reader if the genres the books fall in aren’t to my liking.