Tag Archives: talking about it

A quick update on the Brother 3 Reading Situation, or what happens when you talk about books

19 Jun

Way back* in my second-ever post here, I talked about Brother 3’s reading habits. Specifically, his history of reading books traditionally pigeonholed as “girly”, the fact that he was doing this less as time went on, and my worry that the aforementioned pigeonholing was starting to push him away from certain stories. Stories he might enjoy, and stories that might help him develop the always-important skill of seeing the world from the perspective of people who aren’t similar to him, but stories packaged in a way that screamed “not for you”. Because when publishers see a female author and a female protagonist, they so often assume that the story is only for female people. And they present it accordingly, even though in reality, all stories should be for everyone.

My attempted solution at the time was to buy him a Kindle, removing the girly-cover obstacle. This didn’t have much of an effect: he never reads the thing. What did have an effect was hanging out with him in the California sunshine and chatting. He asked about my Kindle, and his Kindle, and whether I thought he should read the books on his Kindle, and which of them I’d read myself, and what else the authors had written, and what happened in those books… and then, apparently, he went home and took a book off the bookshelf in my old bedroom, one that he’d liked my potted summary of, and now he’s reading that book. And this is its cover.

Take a look at that cover for a moment. It’s got all the features of a Designated-Female book. Headless girl? Tick. Pastel colours? Tick. Loopy, feminine font? Yup, tick again. This is not the sort of book cover that’s designed to be enticing to boys, and I’m so proud of my brother for being willing to read it anyway.

I’m also a little ashamed of myself. I thought that giving him the Kindle would encourage him to read more of these books. Typical geek misconception, I suppose, believing that technology will solve everything. But it took me a whole year to sit down with him and have a proper conversation about the books on that Kindle. And almost as soon as we’d had that conversation, he picked up one of my old books and started to read it. So let this post be a reminder of what should have been obvious: when it comes to reading diversely, access is not the whole story. You also need to talk about the books.


* “Way back” in the time-elapsed-since-then sense, not in the number-of-intervening-posts sense. I’m not the most regular of bloggers.