There is a bit of a furore going on at the moment following Janet Maslin’s Cool Books for Hot Summer Days, her summer reading recommendations in the New York Times. (I have often wondered why there should be special beach reading lists. Why can’t you just read the same books you read the rest of the year? I do.) It seems that Maslin’s is all white. Not one single writer of colour. On this side of the pond, even The Independent wrote about it, presumably tired of producing yet another what Labour/the Liberal Democrats need to do to win back votes article. Gawker had a go at Maslin and BookRiot produced an alternative (i.e. non-white) list (of which I have only read one, see cover above left).
I am prompted to blog about this, as I am reading a book by a Nigerian-born English writer whose debut novel will appear next month. She criticised last year’s Man Booker long list for being too white and has also pointed out that Black British writers are not limited to Monica Ali and Zadie Smith, a very valid point. Having recently read books by Nuruddin Farah, Yambo Ouologuem and Alain Mabanckou, I can be reasonably smug about this, though I would be the first to agree this has not always been the case. Maslin has less of an excuse for, as far as I can see, all but one of her selections are from the US. The one exceptions is the only one I have read. According to this article, 37% of the US population is not white and, as the non-white population percentage is increasing and this article is two years old, it may well be even more now, so Maslin has even less of an excuse. Fortunately, I have no plans to read any of the book on Maslin’s list, so I can remain (slightly) smug.