Today starts the beginning of A More Diverse Universe (aka #Diversiverse) started by Aarti of Book Lust. This is the third year for the event and one that I encourage you to check out. What started out as an event to drive awareness to speculative fiction authors of color turned into a wide campaign for readers to read any genre of book by a person of color during the two week event. Think of it as a celebration along the lines of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.
Now, here’s where I get a little upfront and honest with you. Talking about diversity makes me a little uncomfortable as I am a white, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender woman. What authority do I have to talk about diversity? Looking back to high school, I was the only white straight person in my group of friends but other than jokes and such no one discussed their diverse experience. I didn’t think a whole lot about it at the time and now don’t really know how to talk about it. But one thing that I do know is that diverse authors have a tougher time being published, their stories are not as widely told, and the white experience is the one that shows up most frequently in our books.
Just as I wish that there were more female superheroes in the cartoons that my 4 year old daughter likes to watch, I know that other parents wish that their own diverse backgrounds (or that of their children) were reflected in the books and programs that their children watch–or the books that are read at bedtime, or the books that adults enjoy to consume on their own.
And the comment that I receive most when I talk about diversity here is “I like to read what I like to read” or “I don’t want to have to feel guilty about my reading choices” or “I don’t pay attention to an author’s race before I pick up a book” or “what difference does it make and why does it matter.” I get it. I like to read what I like to read as well–and I definitely do not have time to feel guilty over what I’m reading and what I’m not reading, and does it really matter if I pick up a book by an Asian author rather than a white author?
But here’s the rub–you do not have to read outside of your comfort zone in order to find diverse authors. And if you are having troubles finding an author of color to read within your specific comfort zone, maybe ask yourself why that is. Is it because authors of color aren’t writing that genre? Unlikely. Trust me, my goal is not to make anyone feel guilty…reading is a hobby and should be enjoyable! But awareness is a good first step.
So, you want to join in #Diversiverse but don’t know where to start? Below are a few of my favorite books by authors of color:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker – a beautiful book of letters, two sisters, and a dear god.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Janie’s story of love and loss–I hope to listen to this one on audio as a re-read! (more of my thoughts)
Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro – Another book about love and loss, though to be cheeky this story is about an old white man. (more of my thoughts)
Bayou by Jeremy Love – A graphic novel (two volumes published) about a young girl who is trying to clear her father’s name in the deep south. (more of my thoughts)
No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi – a memoir about growing up as a South Asian man in Florida via the UK. Funny and thoughtful. (more of my thoughts)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – a rich story about the Dominican Republic and a cast of colorful characters. (more of my thoughts)
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – Vignettes of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American born daughters. (more of my thoughts)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – I’m now wondering if any of these books aren’t about love and loss. This tale set in India left me a sobbing heap! (more of my thoughts)
And please check out Aarti’s #Diversiverse event over the next two weeks! I’m currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson for my first selection and hope to update y’all with other selections by the end of the two weeks.
Are you participating in Diversiverse? What book would you add to my list of recommendations?