We know the world is full of different beings, including us humans and we also know how humans are adept at creating biases based on things they like or don’t like in others. I’ve been reading about biases and prejudices that we have in almost every aspect of our existence. Even I have my biases, which I’m slowly trying to overcome thanks to the voices of others from books.
But us readers aren’t any better than the rest either. We learn a lot from our books, but somehow, we end up creating biases even within the reading community.
Here are five times I have come across or personally faced a bias or prejudice with respect to my reading, from other readers:
Romances Are Unrealistic and Not Considered Worthwhile Reads
Mostly, you’ll hear this coming from men, and especially men who read only non fiction. I’ve been a recipient to this remark for long myself. Yes, I admit, there was a time when Mills and Boons were selling sexism and probably unrealistic expectations of what it means to be in love or fall in love that I had grown up reading.
But just look at some of the romance novels that writers are writing these days – The Brown Sisters Trilogy, The Bromance Club, Today Tonight Tomorrow, Call Me By Your Name, Aristotle and Dante, just to name a few…books that talk about realistic relationships and love. These stories have diverse representation and also deal with issues like ableism and how that impacts relationships and daily lives for some of us. I mean these books are brilliant (I have to confess that I haven’t read the Bromance series, but I’ve heard rave reviews about them from others). So no, romances are not for brainless women. I think all of us should read at least one romance a year. Just to laugh, to feel empathy and to learn about realistic relationships on the side as well 🙂
SFF Readers are Escapists or Live in Their Heads
I can’t tell you how many times I feel hurt by this comment my partner throws in, in every conversation we have with reader or non reader friends. Our conversations go like,
Friend: “Wow, you read so much! I wish I could read even half of what you read!”
Me: “Thank you, I can recommend some starter reads for you if you’d like…”
My Partner: “Oh well, only if you like Fantasy stuff..she reads only Fantasy” (That is always said with a bit of disdain and also a comment which is untrue, because I read a variety of Literature including non fiction. Only the count of SFF reads are higher)
First of all, people who read Fantasy or Science Fiction are not escapists or day dreamers. If others would read these SFF novels, they will realise that 90% of these books are based on actual history, or the political climate we are in. They just provide more hope, more information and more entertainment than real life. I learnt all about China’s history from WW1 to the beginning of the rise of their Communist era from The Poppy War trilogy. I learnt about the racism and Mafia rule and drug abuse brought about by the hands of Colonists in 1920 Shanghai from These Violent Delights. I learned about finding humour in life and the futility of our quest to find the meaning of life from the Discworld novels and Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy series. I learned about daily racism and prejudice through the Grishaworld books – books that are more feminist than some mainstream books that I’ve read. The list is never-ending! 🙂
Illustrated Books/Manga are for Children
To this, I have only one thing to say – come back to me once you are able to illustrate a complete book and add story and dialogue and then we can discuss this again. LOL..
Anything Written by an Author of Color Never Quite Compares To A Book Written by a White Author
I’ve been seeing this a lot in the reading community lately. If an AoC writes a Fantasy that starts gaining popularity, other readers are quick to slam is down, calling it a copy of some other existing work (which most of the times is incorrect information), or saying that the AoC has written scenes just for the sake of attention or popularity and that some of these authors revel in violence by depicting what their characters go through. But the truth is, that all fiction is based on fact at the end of the day. The story might be fictional, but what our characters go through, did happen in one way or the other in their history and that is what these authors are bringing to light with their books.
I think before we slam authors, give a read to their books first. Make an informed decision. Check your facts and check where the Author is coming from, their background, their history, their suffering. Encourage them, because we need diverse voices in our Literature if we want to bridge the gap created by differentiation.
I grew up on reading fiction written by White Authors and some of them have been my favourites and will always be. But I’ve also discovered some exceptional work written by AoC over the last few years that have become a favorites as well and have changed me in various ways. So I’d say, lets read everything good and not miss out eh? 😉
Non Fiction is Boring/People Who Read Non Fiction Are Boring
I won’t lie, I used to think that until three years back. I would literally skip the entire non fiction section in a book store and go straight to the fiction section. I had read or tried to read some autobiographies during my early reading years and the text had made me fall asleep.
But that’s not the case anymore. I think the trick with Non Fiction is that you have to find something you care about. A topic you care about – and really, it doesnt need to be a social cause. It could be a Cookbook, or a Self Help book even! I found my non fiction love in feminist books and I’ve been hooked since then. Now slowly, I’m starting to read some really interesting non fiction on Casteism and Queer subjects and I realise that mixing one Non Fiction with a few other Fictional titles makes my reading life so much better! I can also tell you, I don’t think I’ve become any less or more boring than I already was, since I started reading non fiction 😀
To conclude this bit of a rant-like post, I think the best reader is a reader who just reads. Mix up your reading life a bit and see how amazing your life becomes! Let’s just be a supportive tribe where we encourage each other no matter what our reading preferences 🙂
Have you faced or come across similar biases from your reader/non reader friends? Or any other that you’d like to talk about? Hit me up in the comments section and I’d love to have a chat 🙂