Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Armchair BEA 2016: Introduction and Diversity in Books

Hi, everyone! This is my first year participating in Armchair BEA (but I'll talk about that more below). I'm excited to get to talk with a lot of awesome people about books this week.

For anyone who happens upon this post and doesn't know what is going on, I'll direct you to the Armchair BEA blog to learn more.


What is the name you prefer to use?

Feel free to call me Haley.

How long have you been a book blogger?

I started this blog back in September 2009 (on my sister's birthday actually) when I was a sophomore in high school. So, seven years come this September. At first it was more of a personal blog where I just happened to talk about books I was reading though. Talk about books took it over gradually, although I do still post about other personal stuff and TV reviews and such.

Have you participated in ABEA before?

Nope. This is my first year. I've seen other bloggers participate before, and I was always interested. The problem was that I would never remember until ABEA was already happening. Luckily, that didn't happen this year!

 Do you have a favorite book? If you cannot choose a favorite book of all time, pick your favorite book today - just this second. Remember that favorites are allowed to change if something affects you deeply enough.

Harry Potter is always my answer to this question, but I can't pick one favorite from the series. I like them each for different reasons, and it really depends on my mood. One thing I can say is that the fourth book is my least favorite. I feel so terrible having a least favorite and not a most favorite. If I was really being pressured, I'd probably choose Deathly Hallows. Fun fact about me: I have a fondness for the endings to stories.

What is your favorite genre and why?

While I love a wide variety of genres, my favorite has always been fantasy. I'm not sure how much of an influence Harry Potter had on that, but I have a good feeling that fantasy would be my favorite with or without Harry Potter. I love being able to explore new worlds. While I love characters and plot and the other sorts of things that you can find in any book (or even the world building in other genres) there's something about exploring new worlds in fantasy books that can only be rivaled by some scifi books (which I also love). I think that's what makes it my favorite.

Oh, and magic. Magic is always cool.

 What book are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by?

My favorite TV show of all time is Avatar: The Last Airbender (with Legend of Korra being another top favorite). I got the art books from both shows for Christmas, and they're still waiting to be read. I've been wanting the Avatar one in particular for ages, and the animation in both shows is so beautiful. I'm really looking forward to reading both of those.

As for most intimidating, I'll go with my literary criticism textbook that's from a class I took a couple of years ago. Technically, I've already read parts of it, but the book is massive and we couldn't study the whole thing. Now I've gotten it into my head that I'm going to start reading through it on my own, which may or may not be a good idea. We'll find out when I get started.

If you could choose three characters to have lunch with, who would they be and why?

This is definitely one of those questions where I'll never have a definitive answer. Who I choose would be different if you asked me five minutes later, but here's my attempt at choosing three:

1. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I've loved her since I was a kid, and it would be great to discuss books with her. Plus, she's read all these awesome magical books. I would love to get her to tell me more about those, even Hogwarts, A History, and I'm sure she would love that as well.

2. Alec Lightwood from the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. My all-time favorite fictional character. I relate to Alec a lot on a personal level. For one thing, I feel like Alec and I share a similar role among our friends. I'd like to think that we'd get along well with each other, and he might find all of Hermione's magical knowledge interesting to learn about as well.

3. Tamaki Suoh from the Ouran High School Host Club manga series by Bisco Hatori. I think my primary motivation for choosing Tamaki is that he would be great at providing ice breakers if they're needed. And just all around humor. He's another one of my favorite characters, and it's largely because he is so bright and caring. He always wants to make people happy, and I feel like it would be difficult to have lunch with him and not be in an excellent mood afterward.

Diversity in Books

Whose voices do we see?

I think the answer to that question is obvious. Unfortunately. I know the majority of the books I read have white, straight, cis female protagonists. I know that the female part comes from the fact that I read more YA than anything else. It seems to be dominated by female main characters (and authors for that matter) in a way that not all genres are.

I do think that things are getting better. There are more characters who aren't white. There are more characters that aren't straight. I still think I'm reading about them in books with main characters who are straight and white more than in stories of their own. The norm is still the norm, but I hope we're (readers, bloggers, writers, publishers) making progress.

 Whose voices do we need more of?

All of them that aren't currently being heard as much as they should be. It's so hard to describe it all because there is such a diverse range of stories that I will never be able to list all that we need to hear here. The most obvious places to start is that we need stories about characters of all races and all sexualities. Characters who are autistic. Characters of all types of gender expressions. And so many more.

We especially need voices that fall into a wide range of these different categories. Voices who are Black and autistic. Voices who are Japanese and asexual or bisexual. We need all of the voices that haven't been listened to.

Where do we find representation lacking and what can we as bloggers do to address that?

Again, I think we find representation lacking in a lot of ways. I think the biggest way to address this as bloggers is to talk about stories that do represent people who we don't hear from all the time. I'm never going to claim that I'm perfect at doing this, but it's been something I've been thinking about a lot as I want to get better about it.

I think this not only involves reading a diverse range of books but talking about them when you do. Help promote the stories you enjoy, and I also don't think the importance of discussing the topic like we are here should be forgotten. I know that discussions alone mean little if no one actually goes on to read diverse books, but at least it's a start.

What about negative or stereotypical representation? 

This is another problem that I think would be less of a problem if only there were more books about a wide variety of people. Stereotypes themselves are bad, but they become so much worse when the stories of a particular group are limited, making the stereotypes stand out even more than they would otherwise.

It's a difficult topic because you obviously want representation for different groups, but you don't want that representation to come in the form of stereotypes. I think the best thing we can do as bloggers is talk about these stereotypes and be willing to bring them up when we find them in a book. Even if we enjoyed the story, I think we should talk about any stereotypes present in the novel and ways the author could have handled characters or topics better than they did.


  1. It's funny that you love series endings. I talk in my post about how I put off reading last books in series, too worried authors going mess something up

    1. They can definitely feel bittersweet for me. I hate that great series have to come to an end, so I often feel a bit reluctant to read them, but I also get so excited that I tend not to put it off. And once I'm finished I feel really satisfied knowing I've finished. Sometimes it is disappointing in certain ways, but I think I just like knowing that I now know everything that happens.