I’ve always been a fan of Harper Collins Canada’s 50 Book Pledge, but as I explain in this 2012 blog post, I love it more for its celebration of reading and for the community of readers that it builds rather than for the motivation to read 50 books in a year. Part of that, to be honest, is because I’m such a book nerd that I probably read 50 books or more in a year anyway, and aiming towards a particular higher number like 100 or 150 books feels a bit arbitrary.
Then I read Glenn Sumi’s article on the 50 Book Pledge, and how it inspired him to go from five or six books a year to 55 in 2014. The article is titled “My year of magical reading,” and it reminded me of how inspiring — how magical — a reading resolution can be.
And that’s when I decided to make my own pledge this year. I’d recently read an excellent article by author Celeste Ng, about the lack of awareness around female Asian American writers. Ng talks about the feedback she’s received that there aren’t enough female Asian American writers around to invite to speak at conferences and panels, and then sets about proving this assumption wrong. She takes to Twitter to invite female Asian American writers to raise their hand and be counted, so to speak, and then ends her article with a fairly impressive, though by no means comprehensive, list of these writers.
So here’s my 50 Book Pledge of 2015: I will read books by writers on that list, as well as by other female Asian American writers who I encounter that may not be on that list. I cannot promise to read 50 books by Asian American women writers, because there are a lot of other books I want to read that don’t fit in this category, but I do pledge to do at least one a month.
Here’s the reason for the pledge: I agree with Celeste Ng that there isn’t enough awareness of Asian American writers, and particularly female ones. I find that despite efforts to the contrary, much still has to be done to achieve gender equality in terms of book review space in prominent publications. I also find that ideas of “Asian American” literature are generally limited to East Asian writers, and I’m thrilled to find that Ng’s list includes Southeast Asian (including a few Filipinos!) and South Asian writers. As a female Filipino-Canadian, all of this matters to me. And this pledge is my way of taking a stand and saying Asian American voices matter, female voices matter, and the publishing industry needs to pay more attention.
In this, I am also somewhat inspired by others on Twitter who have mentioned pledging to read more diverse books this year, or more books by women writers. I love this idea of reading for a cause, of an activity for pleasure also being an instrument for change. I realize this may sound somewhat pretentious — I am only one reader, who will likely borrow most of her books this year from the library. But then I think, if many readers do something similar, then perhaps a movement can happen. And perhaps a difference will be made.
If you want to join me in this pledge, here again is the link to Celeste Ng’s article with the list of writers to check out. I also created a shelf on Goodreads with some titles from the authors on that list that I personally am interested in reading.