Do I Make Enough Effort? | My Struggles In Promoting Diverse Books

Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! This post has been a long time coming and I really was just delaying it out of fear. I hope you all won’t shame me for this but I’m also well aware that my experience is valid. This isn’t like my usual discussions where I drop a condensed list of my thoughts.

This is more of a confession and I do hope that you would all hear me out.

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I started this blog mainly because of the influence of my fellow Filipino book bloggers that championed diversity. And yes, of course, it’s Shealea @ShutUpShealea and Kate @YourTitaKate. It’s thanks to them that I became more involved with the community and I gained access to books through their blog tours!

It was an exhilarating journey because I met more bloggers that also have the same advocacy. Not only am I reading more, but I also get to promote local books! The book community became a safe space for me where like-minded people are gushing over with my passion as opposed to my usual circle in real life.

Having that power to be actively promoting books as dare I say, an “influencer” was empowering but also intoxicating.  

Being labeled as a POC blogger (or is it blogger of color?) magnified my voice and I enjoyed wielding it but, there are always obvious limitations.

I fell into the trap of thinking more about the label of being an advocate and how it made me entitled with policing other people’s lack of diversity in their reading.

There was a time when I judged people for their problematic favorites and have this urgency to berate them, to correct them, and to impose what I deem was right. I felt so entitled and also conflicted. The fight for diversity in literature and other forms of media won’t cease until there will be apt representation for everyone.

Inclusivity is the real deal, and while I still do support this, I was beginning to realize that my thinking process in promoting diverse books is flawed and hinged on both external and internal pressures.

I realized that I cared more about how this advocacy represented my identity than its initial purpose.

You see, there were a lot of us doing the same thing about diversity, and sometimes I felt like one blogger is trying to magnify their voice while another one tries, even more, to dampen it and magnify their own.

It became some sort of shouting competition when viewed from a different angle.

I don’t really think that the whole blogging community of POCs is like that but I do know that there are people like these who exist. Alongside this, what made matters worse for me was because I felt pressured to read and promote every other diverse book even if I don’t hold any initial interest in it and have difficulty in accessing them. I know, these are all in my head but it didn’t make me feel any better anyway.

At times the act of promoting feels performative and I just want to receive the validation from others that I am actually doing the work as a POC blogger. Yeah, pretty flawed right? 

Then last year I started reading out of my comfort zone and found that I actually enjoy reading epic fantasy from white male authors. I genuinely love them but there was this nagging voice in the corner of my head that said how shameful it was for me to enjoy them.

Book twitter drama is ceaseless and while I partake in some tea-sipping along the way, I was fearful sometimes that other POC bloggers will judge my reading preferences sooner or later.

It’s like I’m just waiting for the roulette to stop on me and then I’ll get canceled indefinitely. Yeah, it’s kind of a stretch LOL but it never really left my mind. I aspire to be a well-rounded reader and I don’t want to just focus in my comfort zone all the time.

The obligation of a POC blogger and the even more demanding expectations from other non-POC bloggers (is this even a word? LOL) was finally suffocating me and I hated it.

I had a mini hiatus when I was doing my thesis work and when I came back I saw how my stats plummeted. It was then that I realized how I was hyper fixated on being a blogger with more influence rather than just enjoying the process it gave me in the first few months.

I started reading again and wanted to redeem myself by genuinely reading only the diverse books that I’m interested in. It was freeing and it was also the easiest transition that I even didn’t think was possible.

After all these realizations I resolved to not capitalize on the advocacy of promoting diverse books anymore in an offhand and general way. If I’m going to promote books by AOC I’m going to do it my way.

When I let go of the pressures I permitted myself to succumb to I began to really enjoy the process.

While there are more people raving for Young Adult, Fantasy, and Contemporary books, I wanted to promote other rosters from AOC that I have a genuine interest in. Nobody can fault me for my process because it didn’t feel like a competition anymore with other bloggers but a competition with my former self. I fell in love with blogging again and it’s the first time that I don’t actively look at my stats! Yeah, it’s a miracle and I felt like I’ve transcended HAHAHAH.

I would like to clarify that while I’ve shared some of my apprehension towards the POC blogging community, I am in no way villainizing them.

To do so, will just topple all the hard work they did and invalidate all their, take note, unpaid efforts in trying to fight the systemic oppression predominant in literature consumption. Not all POC bloggers are perfect but they all have the right intention in their hearts. I know I still have a lot to learn but I hope that in due time I could better myself as a POC blogger.

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Thank you for reading this “confession” of mine and I hope you get to ponder on what I revealed here if some of them resonated with you. 

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  • What are your struggles in promoting diverse books?
  • What are the ways that you adopted that made you a more effective advocate?

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46 thoughts on “Do I Make Enough Effort? | My Struggles In Promoting Diverse Books

  1. This was such an interesting read! I never thought about it from that perspective before. For me personally, I sometimes have a hard time promoting diverse books because I don’t know how accurate they are. I live in a pretty dominate white area and don’t really see many POC around. I want to read diverse books and support diverse books and spread word about them but at the same time I get scared because I don’t want to be promoting the wrong thing. I know there have been several books that have gotten backlash because the diversity was misrepresented or full of stereotypes. I don’t want people to get mad at me for supporting an inaccurate diverse book. I have been reading more and more books by diverse authors and I’ve really enjoyed that. I’m glad you wrote this book. It can be so hard to voice how you’re feeling so I’m glad you feel safe to do so ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you Amber and I think it’s pretty thoughtful of you to have the awareness to second guess if the book holds an accurate rep! Even POC readers find it difficult sometimes hahaha. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the diverse books you’ve chosen to read! Might you recommend some books you find great?

      Thank you so much for the kind words! And yes, our book blogs are our safe space don’t you think? ^^

      Like

  2. this post 😭😭 i can’t tell you how much i relate!! don’t get me wrong, i’m 110% a supporter of diverse books and representation, but i really started to feel pressure when people started referring to me as a POC blogger and as a blogger that promoted books by POC. the thing is that i really don’t do a good job of promoting books by POC? i never read books based on the representation they have (as bad as that sounds). i always look at reviews first, because i know that i’m a little hard-to-please, and if i read just *any* book by an AOC/diverse author, my negative reviews would probably hurt them more than help them.

    additionally, i have enjoyed books by white authors, and in fact, i’d say that most of my favorite books are by white authors. some of them are LGBT, but as a POC blogger, i feel like there’s more pressure to have favorite books by authors of color, and while i do have them, i don’t have a lot? i struggle with the irrational fear that one day someone will go, “you say that caitlin supports diverse books, but look! all her faves are by white authors, and she rates books by authors of color 3 stars.” but the problem is that i can’t lie about my ratings?? if i felt like rating a book by a white author 5 stars, then i will; but if i felt like rating a book by an author of color 2 stars, then i will too.

    bottom line, i feel bad about the fact that i don’t have many faves by authors of color. (though right now, i’m reading The Silence of Bones by June Hur, and it’s so good 🥺) sorry this comment is so long by the way!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TRUE!! I feel the same way Caitlin, sometimes specific diverse books are raved often that the pressure to read them even w/o prior interest is frustrating XD

      AND OHMYGAHD WE HAVE THE SAME FEAR HAHAHAHAH it feels like just because you have more white authors as faves it makes you an invalid POC blogger. It’s such an unhealthy take but I think we all just have to remind ourselves that before we are POC bloggers, we are first and foremost readers. And it’s okay to like books by white authors as long as there are no problematic reps!

      I think that’s very thoughtful of you to be cautious with your choice of diverse books so that you won’t hurt their ratings if you don’t really like them. I hear you! HAHAH and I have the same dilemma, I have DNFd a lot of diverse books bc I didn’t like them and never really put a rating. 3 stars is great btw HAHAHA and what’s important is we don’t lie to ourselves :>

      I’m really /really/ glad that you related to this post! It’s a relief to know that I’m not alone with these struggles XD I hope you’ll love The Silence of Bones :> Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for the long comment HAHAHA.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post and your candor 🧡

    I felt the same with some of my favorite reads, I remember loving Dune when I was young and Lord of the Rings, and when I enunciate them as my favorites, it nags at me how much I promote diverse books and reads and then have favorites that not only lack diversity, but misrepresent the diversity they do have… I’m left with a serious case of imposter syndrome even now, when I read new books by white male authors I love.

    Ultimately, I don’t think it’s fair to us or even the authors to think like this (w, of course, exceptions where the author’s work is outright ableist/racist).

    I’ve been thinking abt this a lot lately and still don’t have an answer lol. But I think we should be critical with what we consume, while still able to enjoy the books we like that aren’t perfect, that have their flaws and weaknesses. The important is that we promote and fight for an industry where diverse books get as much space as those imperfect reads.

    I’m so happy you’re back to blogging w a passion 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I think we should be critical with what we consume, while still able to enjoy the books we like that aren’t perfect, that have their flaws and weaknesses. The important is that we promote and fight for an industry where diverse books get as much space as those imperfect reads.”

      AMEEEENNNN!!! I completely agree with this Arina! I’ve been more critical of what I read recently regardless of the rep (tho I still try hard to read more books from AOC) and it’s really freeing to do. Afterall, as readers, we kind of have this responsibility with the books we promote :>

      Thank you so much for this insightful comment and for reading this post of mine! (I also love Dune btw and I know that if I want to defend my love for it, I also have to acknowledge the problematic portrayals of it) TYYYY

      Like

  4. “Then last year I started reading out of my comfort zone and found that I actually enjoy reading epic fantasy from white male authors.”

    This like cracks me up 😂😂😂

    In a more serious note, I relate to this a lot. I got into blogging (and into fantasy) reading primarily “traditional white male” fantasy and it took a while to make the switch. Which in turn had me doing a full 180 and burning out hard because I felt like I was trying to fulfill a “duty” or an “obligation” as a PoC blogger to push that rep, but in doing so I ended up giving a lot of those books 1*-2* reviews and feeling even worse. Since I’ve resumed blogging, I’ve been mostly trying to not be so gung-ho with ARCs and more just clearing backlog where I can read reviews from friends (though even that’s hard to balance at times!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHAHAH I’m glad that you find some humor in this post XD But tbh, I really could not believe at first that I will like them!

      Burnout is just the bane of our existence, I hope you’re doing much fine now and I personally love you Asian book recommendations! Thanks for reading this Katie :>

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I kinda want to do a joke post called “underrated white male fantasy” but it’s just Sanderson and GRRM haha

        It truly is, but I’m definitely getting back into the grove of things!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so thoughtful and important but relatable too. As someone who is not comfortable being very active on social media or be very open with my opinions, I feel the same struggles as you. I think it’s taken me two years of blogging to realize that if I wanna continue enjoying blogging, I have to enjoy the books I read too. I do tend to gravitate towards POC authored books naturally, but I do have my non diverse favorite books and authors and I’ve just accepted that this is my complete personality and I’m not gonna change.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely loved reading this post,Divine! The honesty and transparency really comes across your words as a PoC blogger, and as a fellow BoC (?) I can relate to it as much. There’s definitely this thought at the back of our minds to not like or read or love something that doesn’t actively coincide with our intention to promote diversity, but sometimes we need to refocus on what just makes us happy for our blogs ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I confess, I’m a fan of these honest and eloquent confessions ❤️ I totally understand what you mean. I’m glad you’re not letting yourself be consumed by any advocacy or “brand”. It’s always admirable to fight for something we are passionate about, as long as we still stay authentic to ourselves. Fake or forced advocacy is not really helping the cause, and it will definitely not help you ❤️

    I think it’s so much better to be a well-rounded reader, and promote more of what you love. I believe you are a sincere supporter of diverse reads so I know it will still show—regardless if you also read books of white male authors😛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks so much for posting this!

    I recently decided I want to start promoting diverse books, I mean I read them all the time without really thinking about it but wanted to draw more of a spotlight to them. With me being white I can’t say how accurate the POC is portrayed though. It’s hard to want to do the right thing but not know the best way to go about doing it or backing inaccurate books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww I’m so happy that you’ve given thought about this Aubrey! I really admire people like you that actively support books by AOC as well even if the rep isn’t really relatable. I think it’s thoughtful of you to be cautious about this as well, I suggest you follow Fadwa @ Words of Wonders and other bloggers as well that really know about the rep of most books by AOC so that you know that it’s not a harmful representation.

      Thank you for reading this and I hope you discover more books by POC :>

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The way that this post made me feel seen my gosh. I feel the same way, and other times I feel like even if I do promote latinx books people dont really care. Also about the cancelled thing: MEEEEEE. Such a relatable post, amazing as always ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d be glad to! Isabel Allende has some great books like The House of Spirits, then there’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez his most known book is One Hundred Years Of Solitude but most people like Love In Times of Cholera. If you have spotify Clarible Ortega posted Ghost Squad as an audiobook! the Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante has a great cover and has great reviews! Lobizona by Romina Garber is one of my most anticipated latinx books of the year! Hope the list is helpful xx

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing this with us, Divine! I can relate to this so much. In my case, I feel like I needed to yell at people (mainly book twitter) to read books by authors of colors, especially after they say people don’t hype them enough. Even though I disagree with the statement, until this day, I always ask myself whether or not am I doing it in the right way; what if they’re right and I don’t hype them enough? What if my effort is not enough? After knowing that a lot of people trust my review and recommendation, I feel a little heavy because I can’t enjoy some trashy books for entertainment purpose only. But you’re right, we should do it in our own way that works for us. Thank you for this! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree w/ your sentiments Ikram!! And personally, I think you’re an effective promoter of books by AOC and I admire you for that.

      “I feel a little heavy because I can’t enjoy some trashy books for entertainment purpose only.”

      This is so true ahahahha but I guess we just have to be critical of what we read no matter the rep. Thank you so much for reading this, it always relieves me to know that I’m not alone in these struggles!

      Like

  11. i love this post, divine! it’s so insightful and highlights the double edged sword that comes with being a poc book blogger in this community. looking at my reading stats last year, i remember feeling so ashamed of how many white authors i read? and i think that was fine for me, because i truly believe i can do better at reading/promoting aoc, but it makes me upset that a white reader could see that they were reading 90% white authors and not care at all, if that makes sense. there’s so much more pressure on poc to not fail, constantly, and i never thought about it applying to this situation before but you are completely right! thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much May! “i think that was fine for me, because i truly believe i can do better at reading/promoting aoc, but it makes me upset that a white reader could see that they were reading 90% white authors and not care at all, if that makes sense. ” I completely agree w/c is why its so crucial for us POC to promote more. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this as well May :>

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been so far away from all the drama for the past years that I didn’t know about these stuff. I just recently rejoined bookstgram and tried twitter and sobrang dami palang issue tho I don’t really succumb to the pressures of the reading world (thank God) because I read what I want and when I want it. idk which is better, being on the loop or look like i don’t care about the issues at all? the world is crazy 😭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t really say that book twitter is the problem hahahha I still love it there bc of the diverse recs but there really is sometimes this kind of tension and maybe it’s just me hahahhahahah tho some bloggers also agreed w/ what I said. I’ve been reading more diverse books that I specifically love anyway :> Also like I said, before we are POC bloggers, we are first and foremost readers so I think there’s no harm in not really actively promoting diverse books just as long as we still do our own way of supporting them.

      Like

  13. Thank you for writing this post, Divine! You actually voiced one of my concerns as a blogger whose focus is primarily on books. I didn’t realize it was a concern for me until I read your post. Thank you. After not reading that much for several years, I (re-)started my blog last year with the hopes of getting off this reading (and writing) rut that I’ve been on for so long. My main goal was just really to get back to reading. Period. I didn’t set any limitations or restrictions as to what books I should be reading because all I wanted is to get into the habit of reading again for joy. Books were a source of happiness for me, and I was desperate last year to rekindle that feeling. So when I met a lot of book bloggers on Twitter and joined several book tours, I was ecstatic. They introduced really awesome authors and books that were so darn good. I love the book community because the people made me more critical and aware of the issues surrounding books and how little diversity is being promoted. But that’s also when I started to feel the pressure a bit. I felt that I needed to do more and to promote diversity in my reading and in my tweets. This is tough for me because I have little resources to buy books that have diversity in it, whether it is a physical or digital copy. I also felt that I am not “valid” to talk about diversity in books when I was still learning or reading about it. I sometimes felt guilty because I read a book with little to no diversity in it, even if it was so good. Your post made me realize two things: 1) I should just read books I love and talk about them (whether it focuses on diversity or not), as long as they are not problematic books, and 2) make an effort to read and promote books that are diverse. These two might clash a bit (haha) but I just really want to read without feeling guilty and find joy in reading again, but at the same make a conscious and best effort to promote diverse books. I realize that any effort we make to promote diversity is in itself a huge leap for the book community. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YESSSS I feel you Celuna!! ” I also felt that I am not “valid” to talk about diversity in books when I was still learning or reading about it.” Same here! I just started really reading diversely last year too because of blog tours and twitter friends.

      “I just really want to read without feeling guilty and find joy in reading again, but at the same make a conscious and best effort to promote diverse books. I realize that any effort we make to promote diversity is in itself a huge leap for the book community.” AMEN. Our efforts as POC bloggers no matter how small or big is valuable for the community! Mindful reading is really the goal. Thanks for reading this and sharing your experience :>

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ahh, I was so excited for this post, and it did not disappoint 😭😂. I feel like I sound like a broken record whenever I comment on your posts hahaha, but I really loved this discussion, Divine!
    Honestly, it’s only been a few months since I’ve tried to embrace being POC and a blogger, and I was definitely hesitant about it for most of the reasons you mentioned. The biggest pro of it is for sure standing in solidarity with AOC, but there’s no denying that there is a sort of appealing attention attached to being a POC advocate. I feel guilty trying to gain that attention by almost piggybacking off the hard work an AOC. I also don’t want to be picking up books for the sake of saying that my reading taste is diverse.
    I think what changed is that I realized that regardless of all the internal and external pressures, it’s okay to be proud of being a POC – because I am hahaha 😅. I’ve also been trying to read more books by AOC that I’m genuinely interested in, but the thing I’m struggling now with is reviewing them 😬. Your point about dampening voices made me think about how I find that I need to be extra cognizant of how I critique AOC books in reviews, especially when race is a theme, because there’s often a fine line between pointing out my dislikes and invalidating the author’s experiences.
    I think I’m just rambling at this point HAHAHA but this was a fantastic post as usual, Divine 😄💛.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ” I feel guilty trying to gain that attention by almost piggybacking off the hard work an AOC. I also don’t want to be picking up books for the sake of saying that my reading taste is diverse.” AAAAHHH SAME BELLE!!! And I agree with what you said on being cognizant on reviewing them! Sometimes I read books by AOC and I was focused on the plot that I fail to appreciate the cultural details and allusions to real life events esp on war and race. The good thing is we’re all becoming more critical and sensitive with our reading :> Thank you so much for reading this Belle!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I loved this post. I think you’re right that once you settle in and it isn’t a competition anymore then everything works and feels better. And however you end up going about your blog and its purpose know that your message does get across. Keep up the great job. I appreciate all of your posts and they help me with seeing and understanding some of my blind spots.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I randomly stumbled across this post on Twitter and I’m SO GLAD I did! I rejoined Twitter at the start of quarantine in the US and have been wholly sucked into the world of POC-bloggers. I don’t think it’s an intentional feeling, like you mentioned, but I definitely agree with the occasional guilty voice that creeps in when I look at the books I’m promoting and most of them are by non-AOCs. Especially with May being AAPI month, my feed everywhere has been overflowing with information and while it’s so exciting to see this type of promotion, I do feel a bit of panic that I’ll never be able to “diversify” my reading enough. I do want to contribute more to the bookish POC community because for the first time since starting my blog, I finally feel like there’s a close knit community that I can relate to on more levels than just reading tastes, but I agree with you that I don’t want to lose my sense of identity in that conversation either. Ahh you bring up so many good points I can’t process them all quickly enough, but thank you so much for sharing!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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