This year I’m embarking on a personal Diversity and Inclusivity Challenge. This involves trying to ensure at least half of all the books I read each month feature either diversity or an inclusive, accepting world. I’ve defined diversity as involving books focused on one group (non-white because too many books have already featured enough white only characters) or featuring a varied and diverse cast. Inclusivity here refers to worlds that accept the differences between people/creatures with no or very little disparaging remarks. So, how did I do in January?
I read 8 books and 6 were a diverse or inclusive read. I’m so thrilled to be off to a good start this year, and have a few more diverse reads planned for the next few months.
The Diverse Books
Light Years From Home by Mike Chen features a half Asian, half South American family. The Shao family has a whole host of problems, most notably because Kassie and Evie’s brother Jakob disappeared a number of years before. Now he’s returned and they have a lot of issues to sort through. I really love that the fact their father was Chinese and their mother was Brazilian was so casually dropped in, but the family never really delves into the cultural roots; it simply is.
Love & Saffron by Kim Fay is set in the 1960s and follows the friendship of two women: an older woman, Imogen, on Camano Island just outside of Seattle and a younger woman, Joan, in Los Angeles. While both women are white, Joan goes through a cultural transformation of sorts despite the racism of the day regarding Hispanics. I loved the exploration of Mexican food both women dove into as well as a really sweet romance that wouldn’t have been acceptable for the day.
Muckrakers & Minotaurs by Rebecca Chastain features a delightfully diverse cast. Terra Haven isn’t just home to humans, but gargoyles, harpies, and minotaurs, among others, who interact with each other and the humans, or, at least Kylie, on a regular basis. Magic permeates this world, so it’s quite fitting and understandable that not all the featured characters would be human, though the gargoyles are much more accepted than the harpy trying to kill Kylie!
The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman also features a varied cast from humans to Fae to Dragons to werewolves. Most of this one is set in an alternate historic Venice that basically belongs to the Fae, but Irene must travel there to free her Dragon apprentice. With the Fae and the Dragons on opposite ends, the threat of war always seems to be right on the edge, so their coexistence in some worlds is almost like a juggling act.
Black Truffle & Spice by Mathis Bailey is an absolutely delicious book set in Toronto, and I’m so happy I’m wrapping up the month with this book. It’s absolutely perfect for my challenge this year, and it has food and it received praise from one of my new favorite women’s fiction authors, Samantha Verant (The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux and Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars). The characters are so diverse, with Indian-French, Indian, and black characters as well as straight and gay characters. There is one character who is more traditional in her view points, but, so far most of the rest of the cast appear to be very accepting, so maybe this book will move into a different category when I finish it next month! All I know right now is I adore how diverse this book is and I can’t wait to finish it.
The Inclusive Books
Nope, none this month. But this is kind of a long shot, anyways.
The Diverse AND Inclusive Books
Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler is set in NYC and features Tam Kwan as she grieves the loss of her husband and grapples with impending motherhood to two young children: one the daughter of her late husband’s cousin who died with him and the other the young boy from China Tam and her husband had been trying to adopt. I really loved the immersion into both the Asian culture (Chinese and Taiwanese) as well as Tam’s upbringing as Asian American. But there are also non-Asian characters who really care about Tam and her family, who are good friends and the fact that they’re different means absolutely nothing. These days with Asian hate crimes on the rise, it’s a breath of fresh air!
The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan appears to be a Germanic-inspired fantasy. It follows the adventures of a Justice who travels the empire to hand out the king’s justice, who thinks of every citizen of the empire as a citizen of the empire instead of an individual from a former country the empire subsumed. It’s interesting, but appears to have zero diversity, unless you count people from European-inspired countries mingling because they’re all now part of the same empire.
Butterfly Sisters by Jenny Hale is a gorgeous Southern women’s fiction novel with just the right dose of romance. Even though there’s no diversity, it’s just so honey sweet and such an incredible story of sisters and family. There’s certainly diversity of age as many of the long-time residents of Old Hickory Lake tended to be more elderly, but they only showed up now and then. Most of the story is focused on one family and the boy the sisters grew up with.
Thanks for reading!