On Supporting Diversity


So as sometimes happens when something negative goes viral, bookish Twitter took action on Monday and responded to an anti-diversity rant that had gone up the night before with a powerful message—that we as a community support diverse narratives.

It began with an author asking people to raise their voices and support diversity and the marginalized in the process. The author later asked to become anonymous and people not connect them to the hashtag anymore, because the backlash against the positive hashtag that came out of it unfortunately brought loads of racists and hateful people into their mentions—another problem all on its own. The hashtag began as #IStandForDiversity, but later transitioned to #ISupportDiversity because the first hashtag was unintentional ableist, but important tweets were shared at both, so I’m going to share some here.

As Paul and Heidi said, one of the best ways to really support diverse books and marginalized authors is to buy books and request them at the library. So, of course, here are a couple book recommendation threads.

And, in conclusion:

So there you have it. Support with your voices, and more importantly with your bought and requested books. Because representation is so, so important and we’re just getting started. 

On Supporting Diversity

One Month One Book – October: Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper – Daniel José Older (2015)

When I heard @danieljose reading from Shadowshaper during the first morning variety show of NerdCon: Stories this past weekend, in Minneapolis, Kevin MacLeod was providing live background music for this exhilarating scene of the book’s protagonist, Sierra Santiago, discovering some of the things she could do with her newfound ability to magically infuse her art with willing spirits, and it was GREAT. And I pretty much immediately ran to the Expo Hall and bought his book for my friend Moti, as a thank-you present for catsitting for me while I was away.

Of course I read it first.

Shadowshaper is incredibly fun and exciting and delightful and tense in all the right ways. It is full of smart, caring, fallible people who feel real, whether the stuff they’re dealing with is familiar (body image, crushes, owning your heritage) or unfamiliar (necromancy, animated murals, etc). The world Older builds is a riot of colour and movement and heart, rooted in contemporary Brooklyn and rooted deeper in the many traditions carried by the borough’s diverse inhabitants. The whole thing is shot through with magic that feels old, magic that feels vibrant and as incredibly full of life as the shadows that inhabit the corners of the world (”The dead were so alive! They carried their whole lives with them in those tall, walking shadows, brought each second, each thrill and tragedy with them wherever they went.”). There’s so much energy there that reading Shadowshaper feels like plunging into it, like being buoyed up by the same timeless force of life and love that surrounds the characters in the book’s most spiritual moments.

Also Sierra is a freaking badass and I love her. 

She’s a badass like anybody would actually want to be a badass, like I would want to be a badass. She’s braver than she is careful, but she’s also got some pretty solid common sense, and is aided by a group of friends who refreshingly avoid the genre tropes of miscommunication and making dumb decisions. She carries this great power and loves it; even when it frightens and confuses her, she embraces it and what it means, and uses it to help others without feeling weighed down by the responsibility it brings. She has playful, positive relationships with most of the people around her, and even when she gets into disagreements with her family, the mutual care and respect there is always evident. It’s really really hard not to want to be Sierra Santiago. And I haven’t even mentioned the cute boy.

Older’s characters might make mistakes, and they might have disagreements, but I love how most of them actually want to do the right thing, and are often willing to listen to others to help them get there.There are moments where it might feel a little too neat, a little too ideal – Sierra’s judgment calls are almost always correct, and her friends believe and support her even when she comes at them with really unlikely supernatural shit and death-defying plans. But it’s still really refreshing to read about a bunch of caring and sensible teenagers, when the opposite is so overrepresented in fiction.

I’m going to finish off with a quick mention of the writing itself – it’s fantastic. Sierra’s voice is clear and honest, and the book gallops forward in a fluid idiom that draws me seamlessly into the life of this young Afro-Latina woman and her passion for art and her Bed-Stuy neighbourhood. I’m really excited that this was the first book I chose for my “read a book a month” project, because hell, if somehow I don’t end up feeling inspired to read any other things later, I can always devour the rest of Daniel José Older’s excellent stuff. 


One month, one book

So, I love books. I’ve always loved books – as a little kid, I would check out as many hardcover bandes dessinées and flimsy, illustrated chapter books as I could (conscripting my parents’ two library cards along with my own for MAXIMUM BOOK), and I read voraciously throughout my school years.

Then university happened, and grad school, and reading became that thing I needed to do in order not to fail my classes; still, fiction was my constant friend, and in my free time I devoured sci-fi and fantasy novels, manga, mystery.

But as time wore on, I eventually found myself in the situation of needing to work full-time (and then some) to make ends meet, plus writing a novel and some short stories and some educational Youtube videos because when the Sorting Hat landed on my head it said HOUSE HAMILTON so things have been noooon-stop.

I think over the past year I have read about five books. When that magical thing called “free time” happens to me now, I usually feel like I need and want to spend it writing; if I don’t have sufficient brain for writing, I’ll watch Bones or something on Netflix, or revisit Skyrim, or take a glorious nap. But this past weekend I went to NerdCon: Stories, and an idea that came up a few times in panels could be paraphrased as this:

If you want to write, read widely. 

Now I have in the past treated my writing like it’s a tenuous thing, like reading too much will irreparably damage my personal authorial voice and turn me into a pale copy of whatever I’m reading. I think, at this point, that this perspective is actually crap. Sure, I can tell in the revision stage of my novel which part I wrote while I was reading The Poisonwood Bible, earlier this year. But the result is not any less my writing, and it doesn’t even stand out unless you already know it’s there. Really, there’s never been a time when reading hasn’t improved my writing, overall. And reading – especially reading widely, diversely, reading perspectives and priorities different from my own – tends to make me feel like it improves me as a person, too. There’s really no downside, except TIME. 

Ahh, time. Given that the full-time-and-then-some-plus-myriad-projects life is still one I’m very much in, I don’t really feel like I have the luxury of reading as widely as those helpful NerdCon panelists tended to suggest. I would love to try reading things that will challenge me and delight me and make me grow as a writer and a human. But I also need to like, sleep, and do dishes.

Which is why I have decided to embark on the AMBITIOUS PLAN to read ONE BOOK PER MONTH for the next while. Maybe it’ll last a year, maybe less, maybe more. I’m not putting myself any limits on genre, period, age group, or topic. I’m not letting myself feel inferior to those cool cats who aim for fifty books a year or whatever. Twelve books will be more per year than I’ve read for a long time, and the idea is really exciting to me. So I’m just gonna read one book per month starting now, and see what happens. 

Also, to make this even more fun, I’ve decided that I’m also going to write something about each of these books right here. 😀 Probably something review-y, although I’ve never written book reviews before now. Certainly some kind of summary of my impressions. So keep an eye out for those posts – I will be tagging them one month one book on tumblr.

The book for October: Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older. I’m like 30 pages from the end, so expect a review soon!


Read PoC//Fantasy and Science Fiction

I only listed one book per author, usually their most popular or highest rated book/series, so make sure to check out their Goodreads page for more of their hardwork!!

More Recommendations

Read PoC Posts
Young Adult//Historical Fiction//General Fiction//Autobiographies and Memoirs

This is like exactly the reading list I’ve been dreaming of

also if I can add to it: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, I met him at NerdCon: Stories this past weekend and bought the book and devoured it as close to literally as possible

Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages


A really interesting article interviewing five different translators of a book that does interesting things with gender, and how each of them dealt with that: 

In Ann Leckie’s novel Ancillary Justice (Orbit Books: 2013), the imperial Radch rules over much of human-inhabited space. Its culture – and its language – does not identify people on the basis of their gender: it is irrelevant to them. In the novel, written in English, Leckie represents this linguistic reality by using the female pronoun ‘she’ throughout, regardless of any information supplied about a Radchaai (and, often, a non-Radchaai) person’s perceived gender. This pronoun choice has two effects. Firstly, it successfully erases grammatical difference in the novel and makes moot the question of the characters’ genders. But secondly, it exists in a context of continuing discussions around the gendering of science fiction, the place of men and women and people of other genders within the genre, as characters in fiction and as professional/fans, and beyond the pages of the book it is profoundly political. It is a female pronoun.

When translating Ancillary Justice into other languages, the relationship between those two effects is vital to the work.

After reading a comment by the Hungarian translator, Csilla Kleinheincz, posted on Cheryl Morgan’s blog, we wanted to know more about this. We invited the translators of the novel into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and Japanese to discuss the process, with particular interest in the translation of gender. What emerges is an insight into the work of translators and the rigidity and versatility of grammatical gender in the face of non-standard demands. Where necessary, translators turned to innovative and even inventive ways to write their languages.

(Read the whole thing.)

Previously about gender in Ancillary Justice

This is SUPER COOL! I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately about the challenge of gender-neutral pronouns (and speech more generally) in languages like French or German which are just crammed with grammatical gender, and this addresses the issue in a way I never even considered. I wish my German was up to the task of reading this book in more than one language (actually, I wish I could read Bulgarian, because of all the approaches, that one seems the most exciting to me)!

Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages



Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner


Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories

Bordertown: a city on
the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens
come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find
themselves. Elves play in rock bands and race down the street on
spell-powered motorbikes. Human kids recreate themselves in the squats
and clubs and artists’ studios of Soho.

Terri Windling’s original
Bordertown series was the forerunner of today’s urban fantasy,
introducing authors that included Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Emma
Bull, and Ellen Kushner. In this volume of all-new work (including a
15-page graphic story), the original writers are now joined by the
generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed
authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman,
Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. They all meet here on the streets
of Bordertown in more than twenty new interconnected songs, poems, and

Recommended by @pleasecalmdownalice

The Underrated Book Project is a series of posts that aims to
promote books that are under-appreciated, overshadowed, scarcely read
or unknown. Click here to find out more

View all the posts [x] Directory [x]

Read these they are great. And if you are looking for queer and or pic characters you will find some!

This sounds pretty great, I feel like I’ll be looking into it soon!

A Linguist livetweets Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai



I recently read The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt, and it was linguistically delightful. I’ve collected my highlights into a storify, but the best thing I learned from this book was that Arabic has a very obscure word يَيَى “yayaya” meaning “to write the letter ya beautifully” (and I mean, to be fair, ي is a really pretty letter). It reminds me of when I learned that Yup’ik has a word for people who pronounce uvulars as velars

The book actually came out over a decade ago, but I somehow missed it at the time. Thanks to @thelingspace​ for recommending it and loaning me a copy!

This is seriously my favourite book in the world, even beyond the linguistics stuff, and I think @allthingslinguistic does a great job of capturing a lot of the linguistics stuff that helps make it great. So it’s worth looking through the Storify for sure! I’m glad that the recommendation went over so well. ^_^

Always reblog The Last Samurai. ❤

This is one of the very few books in existence that I will recommend to nearly anyone. If you’ve never checked it out, go do that thing forthwith!

what, there was a completely unrelated movie with the same name once? *dismissive handflops*

A Linguist livetweets Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai


We had some extra discussion with Steven Pinker about his upcoming books, and about a book recommendation for our followers. So we thought we’d share that with you all, too! Hope you enjoy it. ^_^

Extra materials for this week: moar video!

Check out our bonus interview footage with Steven Pinker, about books and other cool stuff.