10 Books to Diversify Your Reading

This is so overdue! I spoke awhile ago about consciously changing my reading habits to ensure that it was more diverse.  At the end of that post I promised a reading list and then, you know, life happens. Here are some #ownvoices #weneeddiversebooks that I have enjoyed.  There are a ton of others.  I am concentrating on YA realistic fiction that has been fairly recently published in this list just be clear.  There is a whole diverse fantasy world that I NEED to get into to.

All American Boys cover

All American Boys
By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: September 29, 2015

This was one of the most powerful books that I have read in the last year.  If a book could personify zeitgeist this book has managed it.  This book is both well written and important as hell. I kind of want to buy a thousand copies and leave them around everywhere for people.

If I Ever get out of here

If I Ever Get Out of Here
By Eric Gansworth

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: July 30, 2013

This is the story of a Native American boy living on a reservation near Buffalo (ah, home sweet home) during the winter of 1977.  It is a very moving story about friendship and identity. Excellent use of music as well.

The Spider King's daughter cover

The Spider King's Daughter
by Chidbundu Onuzo

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: March 15th, 2012

Could someone please read this book so that I have someone to talk to about it?  Abike, one of the main characters, is manipulative and cold as hell and I am 100% on her side. I also love the cover.

Listen, Slowly cover

Listen, Slowly
By Thanhhà Lại

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: February 17, 2015

In this book a twelve year old girl discovers that the two worlds that she has been living in don't have to be separate and that she can be fully herself in both.

What Can't wait cover

What Can't Wait
By Ashley Hope Pérez

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: March 28th 2011

My love for this book is well documented.  Marisa's story is painful, real, and full of hope. See my review .

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If I was your girl cover

If I was Your Girl
By Meredith Russo

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: May 3rd 2016

This book isn't perfect.  It doesn't need to be.  It asks the question: What do you do when the world doesn't seem to want you to exist? You be who you are, Amanda! *sob

A Time to Dance cover

A Time to Dance
By Padma Venkatraman
 
Goodreads Amazon 
Series: no
Release date: May 1, 2014

A novel is verse, which isn't usually my thing, but this book managed to overcome that.  I love how it explores the idea of figuring out who you are when the thing that you have defined yourself with disappears.

Same sun here cover

Same Sun Here
By Neela Vaswani and Silas House

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Release date: February 14th 2012

This is one of my favorite MG reads ever. It touches on family, friendship, activism, and the things that unite us.

Into White cover

Into White
by Randi Pink

Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: September 13th 2016

I am putting this book on the list because the premise is so brilliant.  I had very mixed feelings about it but I think it is a starting point for a kind of book that is needed. See my full review here.

To All the Boys I've loved before cover

To All the Boys I've Love Before
By Jenny Han

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Release date: April 15th 2014

Because  fluffy happiness and butterflies. 

 

As I said before there are a TON of people more qualified to speak on this subject than me.  But this is an issue that we all need to see and do whatever small part we can to address.  We are all missing out on some amazing books because they aren't being published.  

I would like to do some internetting and see if I can come up with a list of links to specific articles/posts of all those people that I mentioned that know more about this than I do.

What book would you add to this list? 

How I Changed my Reading Habits to be More Diverse

Some Background

I don’t know if you have seen all the discussion about #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices either on twitter or on the interwebs.  It boils down to the fact that books in general and Children’s literature and YA in particular are very dominated by white characters. The publishing industry is largely white and breaking into it as a POC in incredibly difficult.  There are important and diverse stories that we are not hearing because authors can’t find a publisher.  On top of that often when a POC is written in a work the author is white.  This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing but it is important to note that it is much easier to publish a novel with a POC main character as a white author than it is for a POC person to get a novel about a POC character published.  This is significant for a whole lot of reasons and infuriating for a whole lot more.

I don’t want to talk that too much because other people have a much better understanding than I do and because frankly I am already represented.  I have never had to struggle to find books that reflected my reality.  Books have never disappointed me by telling me that I didn’t exist.  Books have never told me that being who I was meant that I would never be happy.

There is some great stuff (like this!)  out there about people needing books to be both mirrors and windows.

 If you are interested in this  then I recommend following:

@debreese
@shgmclicious
@bglcollective

on twitter for a much more authentic and informed discussion. This is not about me.   

How it began

So why am I writing this?  I ran intothis review of the book The BlossomingUniverse of Violet Diamond which really started me thinking.  I went to https://mclicious.org/  which is Hannahs website (awesome) and started doing some reading.  I had seen the #weneeddiversebooks hashtag and thought ,”Yeah!” but was I backing up that sentiment? I started looking at my goodreads list and found that I wasn’t reading all that many books with POC main characters and even books with POC authors. I think the ratio was something like 275:45.   I am a pretty diverse reader and I am comfortable with diversity so the gap was pretty troubling.  It made me examine myself and my biases.  Which is never comfortable.

Becoming Deliberate

It was time to become more deliberate in my reading choices.  I don’t know about you but my TBR list is pretty out of control.  I think that I add three books to it for every book that I finish.  I live in China and read almost exclusively on my kindle (aka: the best invention ever) so I do my browsing almost exclusively on Goodreads and Amazon.  I get some blogs and from twitter (now that I have it).  Both Goodreads and Amazon have a place where they suggest books.  Unfortunately, it is bases on your reading habits and the reading habits of others who read the book you are looking at.  If you are trying to get outside your reading bubble this isn’t ideal. 

Importance of #ownvoices

I started looking at authors more.  Before the author was just a name that I looked at so I could find them again.  If a book had a POC main character I started looking to see it it had been written by a POC author.  It is interesting how often that isn’t the case.  I don’t insist on #ownvoices.  The closest thing that I have to a literary mirror was North of Beautiful which is about about a white girl and written by a Chinese-American woman Justina Chen. Authors can use empathy and imagination to tell all kinds of stories and not just their own.  But it is important to ensure that POC stories aren’t being told for them.  I can research and empathize and imagine all that I want but I am never going to be a black woman, or an Asian woman, or a native woman.

I might not notice the lack of the nuance of experience while reading but I internalize them as truth.  This doesn’t even touch on how damaging it is to read about someone who is supposed to reflect you only to be staring into a bizarro carnival image.

What I Found Out

I found out that I have been missing out. A whole lot of great books that I had been unconsciously avoiding.  I found out that noticing what you are reading and who you are reading makes a difference.  I noticed that there had been books in my TBR pile for months (sometimes years) that had POC authors and main characters but that I hadn’t gotten around to them.  After I started paying attention I was much more likely to actually pick up the book and read it.  It has been about a year and I have read about three times as many diverse books this year than last.  It is still a work in progress but I am learning a lot.

Tomorrow I will list ten books to start with if you are looking to diversify your reading.

PS: If you are a POC author?  Write your story, fight to get it published.  You will have readers.