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 September?
I read 10 books, all of which were a diverse or inclusive read! I must commend all these authors for slipping in some form of diversity into their novels. While it wasn’t always apparent, I love that there are so many different ways we can find diversity. But I have to say I’m most impressed with the fact that I at least started and finished 10 books this past month. I guess having both my kids at school did open up a lot of time in my schedule.
The Diverse Books
The Mime by Tommy Tutalo is an MG/YA novel set in Oaxaca, Mexico. It really highlights the Mexican culture, and especially focuses on performance art. When we first meet the main character, a young girl named Florina, she has been rendered mute after the deaths of her parents. It’s heartbreaking reading about how she’s treated, but, as she embarks on a magical journey to free her city from the clutches of an evil, jealous magician, she learns the power of her voice and meets some wonderful and delightful adult performers who will do anything to take care of her.
Redspace Rising by Brian Trent might be a stretch considering all the body replacing that goes on, but the main character, Harris, is brought back into a black teen’s body whose parents have a…unique relationship. But most of the characters are actually Martian, as in they were born and raised on Mars, so they’re technically Martians. And Mars would rather keep itself apart from the IPC, which basically rules over Earth and all other colonies in space. Maybe I’m stretching here, but it was also nice to see another race of beings. They were not exactly accepted by the Martians in general, but one of them had a fantastic role.
The City Beneath the Hidden Stars by Sonya Kudei is set in Zagreb, Croatia, and there really isn’t much diversity. But it does feature two grown men and two children, so I suppose there’s a diversity in age. Unfortunately, the men didn’t feel particularly grown up and the children were in over their heads, but were left to their own devices. Additionally, since this story involves such a big age gap, it felt like it wanted to be adult fiction, but really came off as more akin to MG/YA.
The Prophet Paradox by Danny Tuttle is the book I’m finishing the month with, so I don’t quite have an accurate place for it yet. However, the main character is a black woman who has found herself stuck in a secluded, unknown Egyptian monastery that predates Christianity, so I believe there are a number of Egyptian men surrounding her.
The Diverse AND Inclusive Books
Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen is a beautiful, magical novel set on the fictional Mallow Island in South Carolina that I finished reading on the first of the month. 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.
Six Feet Apart: Love in Quarantine by Elena Greyrock is a surprisingly delightful romance featuring a gorgeous black woman and a stunningly hot white man, and her gay best friend is along for the ride, as well as some good nuggets of advice for his friend. This is a short, fast-paced read, but it really packed in a delightful romance and excellent character development. I loved just how much this couple longed for each other after a lack of communication breaks them apart. The best part, though, was that this is set during a permanent COVID time, which also works to highlight the difference between the wealthy and the average where the wealthy, of course, have more options for leading a more normal life.
The Boy with the Bookstore by Sarah Echavarre Smith is a sweet and cute romance between a hot bookseller and an adorable Filipino woman. I loved their biracial romance and how family was woven into every piece of fabric in this story. It was fantastic to get to know Joelle’s Filipino family as they’re instrumental to helping her bakery be a success. Speaking of her bakery, the family bakes European and Filipino pastries, and they all sounded absolutely delicious, so I was disappointed there were no included recipes. But I loved just how much all the characters loved the Filipino pastries, and how they all loved and adored Joelle.
All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon features, as far as I could tell, a mostly white cast, though I do believe one of the minor characters might have been Hispanic? But I liked that sexuality was explored, at least a little bit, as the story wore on. The main couple, Becca and Blake, are at an isolated hotel for a murder mystery weekend with three other couples, one of whom appears to be a couple of swingers and at least one of them seems to be bi. I liked how it made things slightly awkward for Becca, but also opened her eyes to some alternatives as she deals with a major breach of trust in her marriage.
In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker is set in Yarrow, Kentucky and follows members of the three founding families (the Haywoods, the Bonners, and the Bakers) as they deal with what happened during the summer everyone in town forgot twenty years ago. While most of the characters appeared to be white, I want to say that one of the families, the Bakers, is black. At least, their darker skin was mentioned a few times. The Baker daughter is also in a relationship with one of the daughters of the Haywoods and their relationship was very sweet, though not mentioned as much as I would have liked on page.
Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young is set on an isolated magical island off the Washington coast, where the population relies on the tourists who head to the apple orchard, but things are not quite as they seem. There’s an unsolved mystery that’s been lying in wait for 14 years, and, now that the assumed murderer is back, it reopens a can of worms. I didn’t get the feeling that this was particularly diverse, but I liked the inclusion of a blind woman, the grandmother of one of the main characters. Born blind, she had to learn to navigate by sound and touch, and I just loved how it was incorporated into the story and how her blindness was important to a key moment in the story. She was also just a delightful lady, so I loved it when she was on page.
None this time.
None this time.
Thanks for reading!