With an undergraduate degree and an (almost) masters in English, it’s safe to say I’ve read a looot of literature. But the funny, and ridiculously laughable thing is, it wasn’t until I was in my 3rd year of doing my BA that I was hit with the sudden startlingly clear realisation of oh shit, the literary world isn’t just restricted to straight white male western European authors.
My day of enlightenment happened when I had to find an author and one of their plays, for one of my modules, and argue why they should be included in the syllabus. While I was researching that’s when I noticed it. A crippling lack of novelists, poets, playwrights that weren’t white or straight or male or European (or American for that fact). My happy little literature bubble had burst 😦
I mean, I was obviously aware of the fact that the literary world didn’t become wispy vapours disappearing into the night once you left Europe, but in my mind it diminished severely in quantity, and if there was other literature out there, it was *gulp* primitive in quality. As a British born Pakistani you’d have thought I would’ve been more aware of my literary heritage right? Nope. Right from primary school up until university I had been kept in this strict sphere of straight white, British, Irish, American male authors (with the odd female or coloured writer thrown in to ‘keep the balance’). I remember this intense rage of you lied to me! sitting there in the library surrounded by said authors.
The removal of so many types of authors, playwrights, poets, novelists from women, to people of colour, to transgender, those of different cultures, to LGBTQ, (the list goes on and on), is a failure and tragedy of the literary world. We are better with them than we are without, and we need to make a conscious effort not to exclude but to include. As a society we will be richer for it. It’s a reason why I seriously believe so many people are disillusioned with literature. If you only provide one style of writing or model of what an author ‘should be,’ how can you expect to appeal to those who don’t conform to those so-called norms?
So please get out there and discover different authors and literature, or write your own! I promise you, you will find something to fall in love with.