How I Learned to Love Genre Fiction
The novel had been staring at me from the bookshelf for months and its pages seemed to give a flirtatious ruffle when I walked by. The novel, Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older, was a gift--not one I probably would've picked out for myself. For my birthday last year, my boyfriend signed me up for a book nerd subscription box, so I get books and bookish goodies shipped to my door every three months. That was how Half-Resurrection Blues found its way onto my shelf.
The novel is mass market paperback size, which I found disappointing since I tend to have negative connotations with mass market paperbacks. Those are the smaller, more cheaply made books you find in the grocery store magazine aisle. I almost put it in the discard pile for that reason alone. Every book nerd has her quirks and mine is that I hate, hate, hate having books with broken spines and the spines of mass market paperbacks are easily broken. I should also mention it's urban fantasy, which I'd never read before.
But I decided to be adventurous. I've been wanting to expand my reading tastes, so why not start with an urban fantasy mass market paperback? It'd be tackling two reading firsts at once.
Before I know it, I'm whisked into a world where relations between the living and the dead are mediated by the New York Council of the Dead, which sends halfie--half dead, half alive--Agent Delacruz to keep things in order around Brooklyn. I'm finding that immersing myself in his adventures is such a welcome respite from the grind of working a full time job and taking two grad school classes this semester.
Before starting Half-Resurrection Blues, the last book I read was Ready Player One, which was a reading experience unlike any I'd had previously. I'd somehow missed the memo when it was published in 2011, though it recently resurfaced on the bookternet since Hollywood is planning on butchering it soon (also known as making a movie). It's science fiction--again, not something I would typically read--but the premise of a Steve Jobs-type character dying and leaving all his fortune to whomever knew enough '80s pop culture references to figure out the clues he left embedded in this flagship video game was too much to resist.
If you're in the Off the Beaten Shelf community, you already know how I raved about this book--so much so that three people in the group have now bought it and are currently reading it. I was actually sad upon finishing it because I realized that I'm not familiar enough with the sci-fi genre to be able to find something similar that I might like. I felt this way, too, after reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last summer.
What little I did know about sci-fi, it seemed like a gated community where only certain people were allowed to enter without getting disapproving glares. One of the reasons I'd avoided sci-fi is because I'd that it's a genre that consists of predominantly white male authors and many of the "greats" like Isaac Asimov, weren't particularly friendly to women in his books. As a staunch, unapologetic feminist, I wanted no part of it.
Of course, I had heard, too, that time's are a-changing and modern sci-fi writers are taking strides to be more inclusive of women and marginalized people. I took a chance on Hitchhiker since I'd been assured that it would not offend my feminist sensibilities. However, after reading it (and finding that it wasn't an affront to my feminism), I realized I had no idea where to go for another great, non-sexist sci-fi read.
It wasn't until I decided to read Ready Player One that I realized that the only way to figure out if you like genre fiction of any variety is to just take a chance. I had to tell myself that if it offends my feminism, it's okay to stop reading it and throw it across the room. While a lot of genre fiction subsets have extremely dedicated followings, (ever met someone who reads romance and ONLY romance?) I'm under no obligation to like it. But I'll never know if I don't give it a chance.
So sci-fi was my gateway book. It introduced me to the notion that genre fiction is something that I can like because, contrary to misconceptions, it can really good! If I hadn't have tried Hitchhiker and Ready Player One, I probably wouldn't have tried Half-Resurrection Blues. And if I hadn't tried Half-Resurrection Blues, who knows, maybe I would've never tried urban fantasy.
Even though I'm still in the midst of Half-Resurrection Blues, I'm already on the hunt for my next genre read. Maybe it'll be sci-fi, maybe it'll be another urban fantasy. Maybe I'll jump into mystery or romance or suspense thrillers. What I am sure of, though, is that wonderful reading experiences can be found in every genre if you're only brave enough to look.