Last April, I reviewed my bookshelves for diverse authors and characters, and was sorely disappointed to find that less than 10% of the books I owned could be considered “diverse” reads.
I’ve spent the last two months actively trying to learn about and find books written by authors that don’t fit the white/cisgender/heterosexual/able-bodied norm. Baby steps to some maybe, but they have required very real effort, and careful attention to conversations about diversity.
But it doesn’t just end with me. Sharing that knowledge is an important part of creating the diverse literature that we all need. So for the next few months at least, I’ll be sharing some of the books and authors I’ve discovered, in the hopes that at least one person will pick up a book they may never have encountered otherwise, and learned from a writer whose voice might not be as loud as others but is still important.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch..she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
For readers who love gorgeous prose, historical settings that draw you in with ease, and heroines who understand their flaws and push forward anyway.
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly:
Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her…or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.
For readers who have wondered where they belong, been caught between two worlds, struggled with loving who they are.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir:
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
For readers who are drawn to characters dealing with ethical conflicts, familial duty, a dream that might ask more of them than they can give.
An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay:
(October 16, 2015 from Merit Press)
As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve–or to avoid–their problems.
Rashomon–style storytelling? I am so very here for this.
Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson:
(August 11, 2015 from Tachyon Publications)
Falling in Love with Hominids presents over a dozen years of Hopkinson’s new, uncollected fiction, much of which has been unavailable in print. Her singular, vivid tales, which mix the modern with Afro-Carribean folklore, are occupied by creatures unpredictable and strange: chickens that breathe fire, adults who eat children, and spirits that haunt shopping malls.
Short stories are the essence of my creative writing background, so any chance to read a collection by a POC author is welcome.
Dream Things True by Marie Marquadt:
(September 1, 2015 from St. Martin’s Press)
Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.
Illegal immigration is a terrible reality for thousands of people in North America, and it affects hundreds of kids trying to grow up and start their lives. Marquadt’s novel could be a great stepping stone to constructive dialogue on this subject.
What are some diverse reads you’ve picked up lately? Has it been easy to find diverse books/writers?
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