Thursday, June 2, 2016

Diverse Books Tag

Naz at Read Diverse Books started a Diverse Books tag, which I saw on Based on a True Story.  After reading over 50% books by non-white authors in May, I want to keep working on finding and reading more and more books by and about people who have a different life experience than mine, so I thought I'd take the challenge! I decided to further complicate it by choosing two books per category--one that I've read and recommend (possibly an older title), and one that I have not yet read, but hope to.

Find a book starring a lesbian character.

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.  This 2005 memoir set the bar high for horrific childhoods turned into stunning prose.  Rape, poverty, abuse--and coming to terms with her sexuality in an environment that already offered no support or nurturing.  Not an easy read, but so well written and gripping.  

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.   This sounds great.  When Cameron's parents die in a car crash, she's relieved that they won't find out she just kissed a girl.  However, her conservative Montana town, her ultra-religious guardian/aunt, and the times (1989) all continue to make it hard for her to find and accept herself.  

Find a book with a Muslim protagonist.

The Complete Perespolis by Marjane Satrapi. This four volume graphic memoir (as in "graphic novel" not as in "graphic violence") describes growing up in Iran in a liberal, educated family during the Islamic Revolution.  Satrapi is about my age, and her take on events that I was only dimly aware of from the headlines is eye opening.  It's also personally compelling.  

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hasseini.  I was too chicken to read Kite Runner, because all I heard about it was how heart-breaking it was.  Still, I'd like to read some Hasseni, and this book sounds interesting.  Set in Afghanistan, it's about the relationship between two women struggling to get through the war.  

Find a book set in Latin America.

Of Love and Shadows by Isabelle Allende.  Although she is best known for her magical realism and autobiographical novels, I have always loved this romantic, political thriller.  A journalist and a photographer fall in love while investigating the crimes of a military dictatorship in a country clearly meant to be Allende's native Chilé.

I am a Taxi by Deborah Ellis.  His parents are imprisoned, but 12 year old Diego is free to come and go, and to work as a "taxi" delivering items and running errands for the prisoners.  A change in circumstance pushes him to start working for cocaine growers in the jungles of Bolivia.  I'm wondering how depressing this book, marketed for middle grade readers, is going to get, because the premise sure sounds bleak.

Find a book about a person with a disability

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B by Teresa Toten.  I adored this book about a teenaged boy with OCD, his various family members with their own mental illnesses, and the people he meets in group therapy.  Of course, there's also this article by a university professor with Aspberger's, OCD, and social anxiety, about how "disability" is the wrong word to use for differences that can be assets in certain situations.  Which in turn reminds me of an essay I read awhile back by an author with a profound hearing loss, in which she said in a world where everyone had just one leg, having two legs would be a disability, because everything would be set up for one-legged people.  But I digress.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.  I am so excited that there is a new graphic novel by Telgemeier coming out in September.  This one features ghosts and sisters and a big move.  One of the sisters has cystic fibrosis, and both girls are affected by this reality.

Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a POC protagonist.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  I feel like this is cheating, because this series is so popular and well known, but damn, I loved it.  And I especially love how multicultural it is.  Winter is black, Kai is Asian, and Wolf is, um, a genetically altered moon native?  

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older.  According to Naz back at Read Diverse Books, this YA book features an "Afro-Latina protagonist, fun characters and dialogue, and [a] cool magic system that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings."  What's not to like?

Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  In high school in the 1980s, I found out that apartheid was not a historical event, but the current situation in South Africa.  We read this classic work my freshman year, and I went on to read Nadine Gordimer and Chinua Achebe (and maybe a little Isak Denesin, who's not exactly #ownvoices when writing about Africa) in high school and college.  A lot has changed since then, but the book holds up well.  

Aya by Marguerite Abouet.  Set in Ivory Coast in the late 1970s.  This is not about "the dark continent."   The author says about this book, "That's what I wanted to show in Aya: an Africa without the . . . war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on."

Find a book written by an Aboriginal or American Indian author.

Flight by Sherman Alexie.  I rave often about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie's YA novel, and everyone raves about The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his break-through novel, later adapted into the movie Smokescreens.  Flight is less known, but another fantastic work.  The Goodreads summary calls it, "the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity." and also sums up Alexie's appeal by pointing out that his signature move is  "making us laugh while he's breaking our hearts."  

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich.  It says something about my ignorance that the only authors I know of for this category are two I've been reading for decades.  Erdrich is a powerful novelist, and this story of a woman who keeps a secret diary as well as a decoy diary that she knows her husband is reading sounds fascinating.  

Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.).

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster.  Another blatantly NOT #ownvoices choice, but the Merchant & Ivory film of the 1980s made me fall in love with Forster, and his portrayal of colonialism, sexism, and racism is clearsighted and tragic.  

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.  I can't believe I've never read any Rushdie.  I really need to fix this.  This seems to be the popular favorite.  In it, the protagonist is born exactly at midnight on the day that began India's independence, and special powers come with his significant time of birth.

Find a book with a biracial protagonist.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow.  I think I read this when it came out because I heard it was set in Portland in the 1980s.  While there are few African Americans who are not in fact mixed race, Rachel is the child of a Danish mother and a black GI.  The only survivor of a horrific family tragedy, she moves to Portland to be raised by her grandma.  Looking at Goodreads, it seems to be a "love it or hate it" title, but I really enjoyed it.  

The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed.  This was like the second book I added to my to-read list back when I got in Goodreads in 2009.  And I still haven't read it.  Still, what says "biracial American" quite like slaves descended from a president?  Man, is our history f'ed up. 

Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues.

George by Alex Gino.  This is the first YA or children's book I've read about a transgender character.  I love it, because by making George a fourth grader, Gino prevents people from confusing sexual preference with gender identification.  My middle school students have been very accepting of this title, and very indignant on George's behalf when she's told she can't play Charlotte in the school play.  

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio.  I was wondering why the category said "or transgender issues," but when I was trying to decide if this book about a teenaged girl who discovers that she's intersex fit the category of transgender or not, I realized it makes sense after all.  


  1. Thank you for doing the tag! It's great to see all the lists bloggers are coming up with, especially the ones who have read a book for every category. :)

    You've got amazing taste in books! I want to read a lot of the ones you already listed and some of them are also new to me.

    I just read a positive review of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky. I'm glad you liked it as well. George sounds like such an important book. I will be sure to read it this year.

  2. This is a tough one.

    1. Rat Bohemia
    2. I've read a couple Rushdie books. There had to be some Muslim characters.
    3. I've read a few of these. Dostoevsky's Last Night - Cristina Peri Rossi.
    4. I don't think I've done this one.
    5. I don't read much in these genres, so I don't think I've done this one.
    6. I've read a few of these. Justine - Lawrence Durrell.
    7. I've read a short story by Sherman Alexie.
    8. Can I count Rushdie twice? LOL. Actually, I'll count Vietnam.
    The Lover - Marguerite Duras.
    9. Probably not.
    10. Middlesex

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. It's something to ponder.

  3. Great list! I recently started reading Daniel Jose Older and I love the multicultural inclusiveness of his stories.

  4. I love this post and am bookmarking it! I need more diversity in my reading, and most of these titles are new to me (yay!). Like you, Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich are the only First Nations writers I've read, and that makes me sad.


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