By: Adam Sockel, Marketing & Communications Specialist and co-host of the Professional Book Nerds podcast.
I grew up a fortunate reader. Though my family was not wealthy, my parents always had the means to provide as many books as I could read. Library and bookstore trips were not special occasions. They were weekly staples.
I grew up a fortunate reader not just because of the volume of literature I had access to, but also the breadth of diverse subjects and authors. I grew up in a multicultural city. My hometown residents come from more than 70 nationalities. It’s nickname is literally “The International City.” Birthday parties and sleepovers were a mixture of children with African, Eastern European, Puerto Rican and Mexican backgrounds. We never understood that this might be a rarity. We were all just friends.
I grew up a fortunate reader because I was born in the same city as Toni Morrison. As a world-renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, her works are enjoyed by all walks of life, but living in the city she was from meant that every student had copies of her works from early on.
I grew up a fortunate reader because Toni was just the tip of the iceberg. Alice Walker’s classic The Color Purple and Maya Angelou’s poetry were frequently on my nightstand. I was handed Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison as a part of my reading list when I was a freshman and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain soon followed.
I grew up a fortunate reader because reading these authors in my formative years led me to pick up powerful works by the likes of Zadie Smith, Roxanne Gay, Colson Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ayobami Adebayo. The landmark books by these incredible writers have shown me aspects of society I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. They’ve opened my eyes to new cultures and life experiences different than my own. They have shaped my worldview.
I grew up a fortunate reader because African authors were a part of my everyday life but this is not always the case. For that reason, it is essential that libraries not only provide access to these books but to promote them to your communities of readers. To that end, we’ve created several lists in OverDrive Marketplace ready for you to purchase and curate. These include a selection of what our staff is reading for Black History Month, Science Fiction & Fantasy novels by African American authors, African American Romance titles, and several more lists you can highlight as well.
Books have the power to show us aspects of life we wouldn’t otherwise know exist. By featuring these books in your collection, your providing readers the ability to see things through someone else’s eyes and, perhaps more importantly, you’re empowering others to read stories by people who look exactly like them. Few moments are more impactful than seeing yourself through a character in a book for the first time. The literary world is as diverse as the society around us and it’s our responsibility to make sure our reading choices are as well.