Thoughts on Diverse Books

I’ve learned so much about diverse books since joining #bookstagram – it’s a very hot topic in the world of people sharing book recommendations. I’m always trying to include “diverse books” in my reading, but I’ve realized that there can be many different motivations and definitions of “diverse”, so I wanted to discuss a bit of that here. I don’t normally like to talk about serious topics like this on here, since I don’t think I’m coming from a place of authority, but I have truly seen a new side of diversity recently, and wanted to share that journey with all of you.

 

Awareness

When I first joined #bookstagam, my opinion was that the purpose of diverse books simple – awareness. It’s important to read books about people from other cultures to understand what their world is life. It may be as simple as reading Ginny Moon and seeing the world from the perspective of a foster child on the autism spectrum and understanding that not everyone’s brain works the same way; or reading Left Neglected by Lisa Genova and understanding the impacts of a chronic illness on the victim and their family, both in the immediate and long term. These were great examples of “diverse” books for me, because they taught me things that I wouldn’t otherwise know and raised issues to a wider audience, so that we can know go forward with more understanding and empathy.

Since I thought I was doing the right thing, I didn’t expect to hear that I was thinking about this topic with a heavy side of white privilege. Which takes me to point two.

Representation

I believe it was during Black History Month that I started to see a lot of comments around #bookstagram, about how messed up it is that white people think “diverse reads” are about awareness when it’s clearly about representation, and giving the reader of the minority the opportunity to see herself in popular culture and feel represented and included.

My initial thought was, admittedly, “back off – I’m doing the best I can”, but recently with the production of Crazy Rich Asians among others, I’ve started to see how much it matters to the groups of people who feel under represented. I want to share that I think Elissa and Simone and Her Books, do amazing jobs covering how books featuring an Asian or Asian American protagonist make them feel. I really enjoy reading their reviews about books featuring an Asian character as the main character instead of the “token Asian friend”, and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand why this is such an important topic in literature today.

And now on to my third category –

Own Voices

This one is very new to me, but I think it’s both a combination of the two and an  important subcategory of both. Own voices means books about African Americans written by African Americans, and books about Asians written by Asians, etc. This is truly the best way to achieve diversity because it portrays the truth based on an internal understanding as well as supports minority authors of a minority. Kate Olsen (of @kate.olsen.reads) has been promoting this topic a lot recently, and it has been amazing to me to see the responses of her readers, and how much this topic means to them. I think that’s really cool!

Recommendations

And of course, I want to suggest a few of my favorite diverse reads to you to get you started!

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Stay With Me Ayobami Adabayo

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Let me know what you think of this and if you have any books I should add to my list? Have your opinions on diverse books changed at all recently?