I have described myself before as an ‘equal opportunity reader.’ On my goodreads profile. In person. It was usually my response to an inquiry of what kind of books I read / what genres I read in.
I feel I have a fairly eclectic taste. I read in children’s, YA, and adult. Although my preference is for prose, I will read graphic novels and books in verse. Genre-wise, I read literary, mainstream, chick-lit, thriller, and various subgenres of speculative fiction. What I care about is a good story, good storytelling (two slightly different things), compelling characters, and decent-enough prose.
Equal opportunity was the term I decided to use to answer that question, in order to say, “I’ll read anything, despite form or genre labels, as long as it’s worth reading.”
Now, I definitely have my preferences and I definitely do not read in all genres equally or even in all genres, but I like the idea that I have the potential to.
Recently, however, I’ve been reevaluating my use of ‘equal opportunity’ in this context, especially in the wake of We Need Diverse books campaign.
I’m most familiar with the term ‘equal opportunity’ from the phrase ‘equal opportunity employer’ from all the job descriptions I read in the years of applications and resumes post my undergraduate gradation with a BA.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, or those like me that need a refresher, let me reference Wikipedia’s definition: “Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. The aim according to this often complex and contested concept is that important jobs should go to those “most qualified” – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, having well-connected relatives or friends, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste, or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, gender identity , or sexual orientation.”
My big error of using ‘equal opportunity reader’ in my definition, is that I made it about books in terms of genre and form, as opposed to book in terms of people.
A book may be an inanimate object, but it so not an inanimate object in the way, say, a stapler is. (1) Books are works of art, so that makes what they an intimate reflection of the artist, in this case, the author. (2) Books contain stories, stories about people. Even if the story is about something other than people, say rabbits, the story still contains human themes and messages and metaphors.
One can be an equal opportunity reader, I think, but that’s not what I was. I just had an eclectic taste in books.
To be an Equal Opportunity Reader, one has to read widely when it comes to diverse set of authors (in all genres and forms) and a diverse set of characters (fiction) or subject manners (nonfiction).
So when we say 'we need diverse books' it should not just be a call to publishers to publish them or writers to write them. It is a call to us as readers to reader them. We, the readers, need to read diverse books.
Insights from the life of an aspiring, struggling writer; a passionate reader, and a working librarian.
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