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 August?
I read 6 books, 5 of which were a diverse or inclusive read. Honestly, not a bad month! August was full of preparing the kids to return to the classroom (my oldest hasn’t been in one for 2.5 years), family visits, and one kid getting severe enough allergies (while diligently wearing his mask!) to be sent home with COVID tests. We’re all negative, so I’m glad we managed to dodge that bullet. For now.
The Diverse Books
Babel by R.F. Kuang was my first by the author, and I feel on the fence about continuing to read her. But I liked that it featured a Chinese main character who was raised in England and eventually had a diverse circle. Despite the diversity of characters and how well Robin’s group managed to become something that sort of worked, Babel is still a book that comments on racism, so there’s quite a bit of that woven throughout. It has a very nice commentary on it, among other things, but also was just not my cup of tea.
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez is still one I’m not quite sure what to say about. I believe it’s Filipino-inspired, at least it’s style and the use of lola for grandmother reminded me of another book that borrowed from the Filipino culture. Then again, I haven’t found anything concrete that links the two, so I might just be imagining things, though it does feature an LGBTQ romance. This book was brutal and painful all the way through, but did have that gorgeous love story woven through it.
The Inclusive Books
Not this time.
The Diverse AND Inclusive Books
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri is the book I started the month with. This is the second in an Indian-inspired fantasy trilogy, and definitely transports me to exotic locations. I love how lush and well-described the world is, and all the little details do wonders for transporting the reader. Beyond that, there’s a lovely sapphic romance that sometimes felt like it upstaged the rest of the story, but also added some really nice softer edges to an otherwise fairly brutal plot.
Thank You, Next by Andie J. Christopher sometimes felt like it walked the line of being inclusive since the characters sometimes pointed out how white or black someone was, but I generally felt the characters were open and accepting. It features a biracial woman who has been in love with her white best friend, who also happened to be formerly related to her by marriage. Both of them also have LGBTQ friends who were a ton of fun and, honestly, they stole the show for me. The actual romance wasn’t great and the main characters made me feel like I wanted to shake them. Still, it was a nice diverse read.
Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen is a beautiful, magical novel set on the fictional Mallow Island in South Carolina I’m wrapping up the month with. It follows several characters who all have a story. There isn’t quite as much diversity as I would like, but I love that there are black characters who play big roles and the fact that there was slavery in the area was woven in. There’s also a character with hoarding tendencies, though that story line feels more softly folded in instead of being a major focus.
Miranda Writes by Gail Ward Olmsted was an exceptionally fun read. A cross between women’s fiction and a legal thriller, I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t really any diversity, but Miranda was such a fun character to follow. The emphasis is much more on Miranda’s career and her determination to tie up a case that had hurt her career a few years prior. It didn’t focus much on what any of the characters looked like or anything that put them outside the norm, to the point where I can’t even say for sure what Miranda looked like, but the story really drew me in.
None this time.
Thanks for reading!