Someone explain to me how it’s halfway through November! After having a quite warm October, we are currently freezing this month. I can’t remember having a colder November–our lows are some days lower than we often get all winter (into the 20s).
The good news is we still have half a month left of Nonfiction November (hosted by Kim, Becca, Lu, and Katie). I just finished my first nonfiction read for the month (Crimes of Paris) and my nonfiction wishlist is exploding from all of the suggestions. If you haven’t joined in yet, it’s not too late! This week we are talking about diversity in nonfiction and there’s been great discussion all month on twitter using #NonficNov.
Diversity in Nonfiction
Becca from Lost in Books asks: What does diversity in nonfiction mean to you? Is it about the topic or theme of the book? Or is it the race or ethnicity of the author? Do you have any recommendations for diverse nonfiction books? Are there any topics that you’d like to see written about and/or read more widely?
When I was putting together my list of potential reads for this month, I started to realize how little diversity exists on my nonfiction shelf. Most of the authors on my shelf are male (except for the memoirs which lean more towards females), and because I’m not as familiar with the individual authors I have no idea what race and ethnicity most of them are (except for the memoirs).
Because nonfiction reading is so topic/theme driven, I suppose I’ve never paid attention to the diversity of authors other than when specifically seeking out diverse topics/memoirs. I don’t pay a ton of attention to diversity when picking fiction books either, but I am familiar with a wide variety of authors from different races and ethnicity so reading diversely comes fairly naturally in fiction without my trying too hard. I am, however, more aware of diversity with fictional readings.
Any time you’re talking about diversity, it becomes a bit complicated–do you read what you want to read and all of those folks just happen to be white men? Or do you make an effort and give up some of your comfort reads? I’m of the mind that every reader should read what she wants to read, but being aware only helps. I feel as though I’m talking in circles a bit. Though I do think it’s interesting that most of my historical nonfiction reads are written by men (I didn’t look up all of the authors to check race, but I’m going to go ahead and assume most of them are white).
One area where my nonfiction reading does lean toward diversity is in the autobiography/memoir section. I LOVE reading memoirs about individuals from different countries, especially countries and cultures that I am not as familiar with. Below are some of the more memorable memoirs I’ve read–all from the Middle East or Africa.
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – Ishmael was forced into a life as a soldier as a child in Sierra Leone. His memoir was my first real introduction to boy soldiers in Africa and the story was heartbreaking and horrifying. (My thoughts)
A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached – Zeina and her brother were just children during the Lebanese Civil War and her family lived along the danger zone in Beirut. Her memoir, in beautiful graphic format, tells of a night when she and her brother are left with family and friends while her parents leave home to check that all is well with the grandparents across town. It’s a story of loss and heartache that made me want to learn more about the Lebanese Civil War. (My thoughts)
My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar – Sabar is searching for his Jewish roots in Kurdish Iraq where a tiny fraction of the country is comprised of Jews. Sabar discusses the mass exodus of Jews from Iraq to Israel in the 1940s and 50s as well as the idea of Zionism, linguistics, Isreali, and Iraqi history. I highly recommend this deeply moving story and history. (My thoughts)
Spirit Boy by Paul Apowida – Also set in Africa, this time Ghana, Paul Apowida tells his story of his childhood amongst villagers who thought he was possessed by the spirit of demons and continually tried to kill him or rid their community of him. His story is not an isolated one and he is currently trying to raise awareness in his home village as well as with other Ghanan villages. See more on AfriKids website.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – Probably the most popular title on this list, at least amongst bloggers, The Complete Persepolis is still one of my favorite discoveries in the past several years. Persepolis is Satrapi’s memoir (told in gorgeous black and white graphics) about growing up during the revolution in Tehran and later growing up as a Iranian teenager in France. So many great things going on in this book! (My thoughts)
The Storyteller’s Daughter by Saira Shah – Many moons ago when I was a student teacher at Texas Tech, this was our assigned reading for all of the freshman students. Even if I had to read more essays about Afghanistan than I ever cared to, reading The Storyteller’s Daughter was a wonderful eyeopening experience to so many of the students. Shah is a British journalist and she traveled to her father’s homeland in Afghanistan in search of the jem of a country she remembers from childhood stories. (More on Goodreads)
I would LOVE to hear suggestions for other memoirs written by authors outside of the United States!
What are your views on Diversity in Nonfiction?