First of all, a big thank you to Naz at Read Diverse Books for the tag! I’m stoked to participate in this!
Here’s how it works (taken from Read Diverse Books’ post):
1. The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I will task you to find a book that fits a specific criteria and you will have to show us a book you have read or want to read.
2. If you can’t think of a book that fits the specific category, then go look for one. A quick Google search will provide you with many books that will fit the bill. (Also, Goodreads lists are your friends.) Find one you are genuinely interested in reading and move on to the next category.
3. Everyone can do this tag, even people who don’t own or haven’t read any books that fit the descriptions below. So there’s no excuse! The purpose of the tag is to promote the kinds of books that may not get a lot of attention in the book blogging community.
4. Spread the word! Be sure to tag at least 5 other people if you do choose to participate. I want as many diverse books to be shared and recommended as possible.
Because I am the queen of all things indecisive and all things over-the-top, I’ve decided to work outside the lines a bit and give a book I’ve read AND one I want to read for each category. If I’ve tagged you or you want to participate, please know that you only need one book for each category. I’m just a little out-of-my-mind about getting the word out as regards these categories.
Off we go!!
Book with lesbian protagonist:
I Recommend: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
This groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.
Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.”
This was the first book I ever read (at the tender age of 23) that had a lesbian protagonist. And it wasn’t shelved in the LGBT section, but right smack-dab in the middle of the YA Section at Barnes and Noble in El Paso, TX.
Annie on My Mind is one of the sweetest books I can think of that deals both with a newly discovered sense of self and young love but also with a long-lasting love that spans the years. Definitely a must read for all teens, gay, straight, bi, trans, etc and for parents of teens who fall somewhere on the LGBTQI spectrum.
I Want to Read: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.
Sarah Waters writes in the Gothic/Byronic style I love so much, and I loved her non-lesbian novels, and apparently Tipping the Velvet is like, a staple of lesbian literature? Our public library doesn’t have this book, but I shall find a way! Thank God for the Inter-Library Loan program!
Book with Muslim Protagonist:
I Recommend: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
A MEMOIR BY THE YOUNGEST RECIPIENT OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
“I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.”
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This incredible work has it all–political science, pathos, fiery passion for one’s homeland, ethics, and the real struggle that fear demands. I reviewed it here and am using the Young Reader’s Edition as part of my curriculum next year even though it will probably cause a major outcry amongst all the Christian patriot parents. Some stories are to important to stay hidden.
I Want to Read: I Love, I Hate, I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn
For readers of The Tyrant’s Daughter, Out of Nowhere, and I Am Malala, this poignant story about two Muslim sisters is about love, loss, religion, forgiveness, women’s rights, and freedom.
Two sisters. Two lives. One future.
Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. They used to share everything. But now, Djelila is spending more time with her friends, partying, and hanging out with boys, while Sohane is becoming more religious.
When Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school threatens to expel her. Meanwhile, Djelila is harassed by neighborhood bullies for not being Muslim enough. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. But she never could have imagined just how far things would go.
When I first heard about this book 6 months ago, I immediately wanted to read it. As the oldest girl in a family of girls, I totally get the love-hate-miss issues with my own sisters, both of whom are more religious than I am. This is also a book I will have to track down with the help of Inter-Library Loan, but I know it’ll be worth the wait!
Book Set in Latin America:
I’m drawing a blank on books to recommend in this category, so instead I’m going to add 2 books I want to read!
I Want To Read: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.
The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.
Magical realism? Yes, please! And our library has this one! So that’s a win-win! I’m really quite excited about reading it, hopefully this summer.
I Also Want to Read: The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
The prizewinning writer Luis Alberto Urrea’s long-awaited novel is an epic mystical drama of a young woman’s sudden sainthood in late 19th-century Mexico.It is 1889, and civil war is brewing in Mexico. A 16-year-old girl, Teresita, illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from the strangest dream–a dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream. This passionate and rebellious young woman has arisen from death with a power to heal–but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the Saint of Cabora. THE HUMMINGBIRD’S DAUGHTER is a vast, hugely satisfying novel of love and loss, joy and pain. Two decades in the writing, this is the masterpiece that Luis Alberto Urrea has been building up to.
This one is apparently based on a true story from the author’s family, which I am stoked to read! 🙂
Book Featuring a Person with a Disability:
I Recommend: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This timeless classic is a poignant tale of Mary, a lonely orphaned girl sent to a Yorkshire mansion at the edge of a vast lonely moor. At first, she is frightened by this gloomy place until she meets a local boy, Dickon, who’s earned the trust of the moor’s wild animals, the invalid Colin, an unhappy boy terrified of life, and a mysterious, abandoned garden.
This was probably my first unabridged “chapter book” I read on my own (when I was 6!). I never thought of it as featuring a person with a disability, but one of the major characters, Colin, is an invalid child. I recommend it because it’s marvelously written, and if you HAVEN’T read it, you should. Also, I have a fondness for it deep in the squishy places of my heart.
I Want to Read: Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon
From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.
Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.
This.book. I first encountered Andrew Solomon via this TED Talk, so when I saw that he wrote this book I knew I had to add it to the list. Watch the TED Talk. Bring tissues. Then hug someone.
SciFi or Fantasy with a PoC Protagonist:
I Recommend: Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
Elana, a member of an interstellar civilization on a mission to a medieval planet, becomes the key to a dangerous plan to turn back an invasion. How can she help the Andrecians, who still believe in magic and superstition, without revealing her own alien powers? At the same time, Georyn, the son of an Andrecian woodcutter, knows only that there is a dragon in the enchanted forest, and he must defeat it. He sees Elana as the Enchantress from the Stars who has come to test him, to prove he is worthy. One of the few science fiction books to win a Newbery Honor, this novel will enthrall teenage and adult readers.
This one is not WRITTEN by a PoC, and the main character Elana’s race is never revealed. But the author states on her website that “I deliberately leave out the details of their appearance so that readers can imagine them as they prefer (for instance, I have always hoped that black readers would picture Elana as black). This is one of the disagreements between my view and that of many writers in the SF genre. In my opinion, emphasizing physical differences between intelligent species detracts from reader identification. And it’s not ‘realism’ to do it, because we don’t know what they really look like in any case. They certainly don’t look like the actors in Star Trek! Of course, in Enchantress from the Stars there was another reason for making all the characters essentially human in appearance, yet not providing any details: the book deliberately leaves open the question of which of the three civilizations is our own.”
So she has a reason for it. I recommend this book because it was probably one of the most formative books I read as I moved into adulthood. It asks tough questions of all the characters, questions of loyalty and sacrifice and allowing others to make their own way. It emphasizes unconditional love over everything–which doesn’t always look the way we WANT it to. I reread this book about a year or so ago, which renewed my desire to leave a positive imprint on the world.
I Want To Read: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself ― but first she has to make it there, alive.
I read Nnedi Okorafor’s book Akata Witch earlier this year, so when this book came out and then was nominated for a Hugo Award and then WON a Nebula Award, it was a clear sign that THIS BOOK NEEDS TO BE READ-LIKE, NOW! Add it to your lists!
Book Set in Africa:
I Recommend: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
I read this my junior year in Bible college and walked around in a depressed fog for almost a month. Even though it’s written by a white woman and from the perspective of white family members, Kingsolver calls out the White Saviour Complex like a freaking BOSS. This was my first exposure to the idea that well-meaning people, like Christian missionaries, can REALLY eff things up. It totally shook my world and forced me to evaluate my intentions, motivations, and plans in life. And glad it did, too.
I Want To Read: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until the handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani shows up one day for work. Despite her resistance, the two become friends, and eventually, Vimbai becomes Dumisani’s landlady. He is as charming as he is deft with the scissors, and Vimbai finds that he means more and more to her. Yet, by novel’s end, the pair’s deepening friendship—used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind—collapses in unexpected brutality.
The novel is an acute portrayal of a rapidly changing Zimbabwe. In addition to Vimbai and Dumisani’s personal development, the book shows us how social concerns shape the lives of everyday people.
Now, now, now! Please! 🙂
Book by an Aboriginal or American-Indian Author:
I Recommend: Tracks by Louise Erdrich
Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender. The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality.
I read this for a multicultural American lit class and was overtaken with the themes of loss and betrayal and sacrifice. It’s one I recommend but that I also need to reread.
I Want to Read: The Swan Book by Alexis Wright
The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute young woman called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale, has Oblivia Ethylene in the company of amazing characters like Aunty Bella Donna of the Champions, the Harbour Master, Big Red and the Mechanic, a talking monkey called Rigoletto, three genies with doctorates, and throughout, the guiding presence of swans.
I’ve never before read a piece of literature written by an Indigenous Australian but have been fascinated by original Australian culture for some time, so this Book Tag has me feeling pretty pumped about the reminder to read in this category.
Book Set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.):
I Recommend: Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.
Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war–for a huge fee–by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task.
This book is a little “I’m a white kid who has grown a social conscience,” but it does bring to light a really important topic: Child trafficking. And I believe this book is important because Conor could have been another American guy who took some selfies with some orphan kids, disrupted their lives for a few weeks, and given himself a pat on the back for “doing something good in the world! Changing lives!” and moved on. But he stuck it out. And he gives major kudos to the Nepalese people who have been active with the situation for far longer than he has.
I Want to Read: The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam
Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking—rape, torture, deprivation—until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker. Emboldened by her newfound freedom, education, and security, Somaly blossomed but remained haunted by the girls in the brothels she left behind.
Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls. She has orchestrated raids on brothels and rescued sex workers, some as young as five and six; she has built shelters, started schools, and founded an organization that has so far saved more than four thousand women and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Her memoir will leave you awestruck by her tenacity and courage and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.
I know this book will make me ugly-cry. I don’t care.
Book with a Biracial Protagonist:
I Recommend: The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan
Sixteen-year-old Leilani loves surfing and her home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. But she’s an outsider – half white, half Hawaiian, and an epileptic.
While Lei and her father are on a visit to Oahu, a global disaster strikes. Technology and power fail, Hawaii is cut off from the world, and the islands revert to traditional ways of survival. As Lei and her dad embark on a nightmarish journey across islands to reach home and family, she learns that her epilepsy and her deep connection to Hawaii could be keys to ending the crisis before it becomes worse than anyone can imagine.
A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels.
I picked this book because now that I’m being asked to think of it, I sadly cannot think of any other books I’ve read that feature a biracial protagonist. And that’s not very cool, considering the author of this book isn’t himself biracial. But it was a good book and did capture what I can only assume to be the experience that a lot of mixed race people experience in their lives.
I Want to Read: The Bone People by Keri Hulme
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge.
Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.
Saw a lot of reviews on this one that were angry about the ending because it’s apparently quite gut-wrenching and soul-killing. That makes it just up my alley, so it’s now on the list. And the author herself is part Maori, part European, so I’m hoping it rings really true!
Book Starring a Transgender Character or About Transgender Issues:
I Recommend: Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.
This is the only book I’ve read starring a transgender character. It’s not my favorite, and I think the author could have focused a LOT more on Luna herself (the story is mainly focused on the sister, Regan), but it would be a good first read, like it was for me.
I Want to Read: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.
In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body.
I have this ARC sitting on my nightstand RIGHT NOW, and it’s one of the next read and reviews on my list, so look for it soon!
Ok! So! Hope you made it all the way through. Now it’s my turn to tag some people!
TAG: YOU’RE NEXT!
(Remember: You only have to do one book per category unless you want to do more)
- Napoleon @ NapoleonSplit
- Stefanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf
- Julia @ Books For Julia
- Beth @ Betwixt-the-Pages
- Emily @ Rose Read
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations! If you’ve read ANY of the books I’ve listed here, please comment and let me know what you thought of them! And if you’ve been tagged, I can’t wait to see what other books you recommend or will read as part of this Diverse Book Tag challenge!