If you follow me on Twitter or under my bookstagram account, then you are well-aware that diversity in books is something very close to my heart. I am, of course, learning everyday, but as a marginalized person/reader, I long to see myself represented in books. There are some who might say that books are "just stories" or that they don't see details when visualizing characters, but that's easy to say when you are the default, when you walk through the experiences of people you relate to all the time in the books you read. I'd also like to mention here that I'm not a proponent of reading a book solely for its diverse elements. All books have got to do the bare minimum of interesting me and if it can't do that, I don't care how inclusive it is. When I call for others and myself to read diversely, what I mean is good books. I'm checking for good, diverse books to read and support. There's a ton more to talk about in that vein, including book box projects and my own writing, but for now, I'm talking about two ways that I've decided to participate in the movement for diversity this year. But first, a definition:
A diverse book is one that recognizes diverse characters and experiences (ie. race, nationality, sexuality, disability, mental illness, social concerns, religious or spiritual beliefs etc.) or tackles diverse issues. Diverse books is about putting our experiences on the page, not just some of us, not just the pretty popular girl from 4th period - all of us.
Now, what I'm participating in...
DiverseAThon is a readathon dedicated to reading diverse books. This was the second time it's being hosted and this winter, it spanned from Sunday, January 22nd until Sunday, January 29th. (Yes, that means it's over. Shh. We still gonna talk about it.) There was a group book, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, but there weren't any challenges. The DiverseAThon hosts simply ask for participants to celebrate diverse books by reading them for the week. Want more information? Check out Christina-Marie's video and their twitter!
Here are the books that were on my TBR this past week and what actually happened:
When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
I mentioned in my favorite reads on 2016 that this novel is astounding. At the beginning of the week, I was rereading it in order to write a full review (which will be coming soon). When The Moon Was Ours tells the story of Miel, the roses that grow from her wrists, the witches who want them and her Samir, the Italian-Pakistani trans boy who literally hangs the moon. And let me confirm that it was just as amazing the second time around. Since I'd already known the plot, this second read felt more like a study in writing style and craft and we writers should be so lucky to write like McLemore because holy hell, this girl can tell a story. It's almost like the genre of magical realism is made for her. All of her books. Auto-buy. From here on out.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
I've heard such amazing things about this novel, this duology in fact, that I'm surprised I haven't gotten to this sooner. I purchased it during a BookOutlet sale, because hello, the cover is gorgeous and the price was too good to pass up and I planned to read it eventually, yet never did. As I stared at my shelves looking at my options for the week, that gorgeous cover called to me and so, I read it. And.
WHAT EVEN IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!?! I absolutely loved it. I could not put it down, I binged it all weekend, I cursed my past self for not having read it sooner. The second book is on the way to me (hurry up!) and thinking about how I do not have it in my hands right now makes me so mad that I need to just stop talking about it. Except I won't. For you. Because I still haven't told you what it's about. When Shahrzad's best friend is sacrificed by the King who kills all of his wives at dawn, she volunteers to be his next wife and vows to end his reign before he can end her life. Then the unthinkable happens - Shahrzad survives one dawn, then another, and another. And as she gathers more information, she wonders if she can kill the boy she's learned is nothing like the King she thought she knew. That's all I got. I am but a puddle of feels and a bundle of rage stalking my front door and chasing postmen for the final book.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
You've heard about this one. If you are part of the book community at all, you've heard. I mean, it had a movie deal and a lead actress, Amandla Stenberg, attached to it months before publication. It isn't even out yet. I lucked up and received an ARC of it a few months ago (Thanks Harper Collins!) but I wanted to wait until it was closer to the February 2017 release date to read it. The Hate U Give, or T.H.U.G. as it is affectionately called, is the story of Starr, a black girl who is the sole witness to the murder of her black best friend at the hands of the police, and her struggle on what to say and how to say it. It's the Black Lives Matter movement personified into what is sure to be a moving book, and no doubt part of any reader's must-read list this year. I didn't actually get to it during DiverseAThon but it's next, y'all, it's next.
With diversity in books becoming a bigger part of the conversation, I'm delighted to see that people have taken it upon themselves to start initiatives. This one is pretty intense and if I'm honest, it can be a little restricting in its specificity. But it's a great place to start, especially if you don't know where to start. I have nothing planned but I would like use this little bingo sheet as a guide of sorts, not a checklist.