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 November?
I read 9 books, of which 8 were a diverse or inclusive read, I think. I’m writing this while fighting the sleepiness induced by my allergy shot, so there could be some wrong categorization going on in this particular post.
The Diverse Books
The Fountain by John A. Heldt is the book I started the month finishing. It’s a sweet story of family, love, and second chances as three elderly siblings get the chance to jump back in time and live again in youthful bodies and no major health problems. While they spent most of the book living in 1905, they do start off as close elderly siblings who have come to rely on each other. It was great to see them thrive in 1905 as teens and young adults, but also nice that they never really forgot they’re actually quite old. I also really liked that one of the secondary characters is an orphan who was adopted as an older child, but he’s just as loved as though he were their own.
The Descendants by Destiny Hawkins is a YA dystopian fantasy novel with an academic setting. It’s short, but there’s a lot in it, so this is really just the start to a larger story. There’s a lot of diversity packed into this book, some overt and some that’s just naturally worked into the story. The characters themselves appear to be quite diverse, with darker and lighter skin tones and hair color, but, other than relatively vague descriptions, the reader is left to imagine what they look like, but I got the impression the people of this world have quite a diverse gene pool. Then there’s the magic, where the color light someone can produce puts them in four different groups, some more preferred than others. In society and at the academy the main character attends, there are clear groups and divisions based on the light color.
The Diverse AND Inclusive Books
Holy Parrot by Angel A takes an Australian university student and drops him into an intern position in a small seaside village in Colombia where he quickly meets a pregnant girl named Maria. While she claims her parrot told her the baby will be the new Christ, her father is outraged she’s pregnant, so she runs to Leo, the student, pulling him into her narrative, which may be fictional or factual. He finds himself surrounded by Colombians he’s only sort of able to communicate with and finds himself both working with and kind of against a number of other individuals from different faiths across the world as they flock to the small village to see Maria and her holy parrot.
The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique by Samantha Verant is a relatively clean romance full of food as the main character, Kate, works to get her bistro opened in Paris. As an American who only partly grew up in France, she was a lot of fun to follow, mixing the two cultures, and then bringing in Charles who is of mixed heritage. I also loved that there’s a cat who gets to be his own character, and he has quite a personality. The mothers were particularly fun, with one of them being a sex therapist who loves burning sage in her daughter’s bistro and apartment whenever she thinks her daughter needs the air to be cleared and the other being quite wealthy and, honestly, a bit odd for much of the book.
A Mother Would Know by Amber Garza might actually be a little questionable, but I thought it was believable enough and resonated enough with my own limited experiences with someone with dementia. The main character, Valerie, is older in age and has two grown children, one of which is a new mother. She believes the ghost of a little girl who died decades before in the house is still haunting the house and she’s been experiencing memory lapses and forgetfulness. It was a lot of fun to see her with her grown children and read the flashbacks of her younger years when she was a mother juggling a musical career, and I loved how her dementia came into play.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is a science fiction novel about the multiverse where you could only travel to other worlds where you had previously died. Cara is exceptionally good at dying on almost every other world, so she gets sent out a lot. It was interesting to meet other iterations of the people she knew in her own world, but I still felt like I missed out on all the world hopping. There is a ton of diversity, though, especially with classism being explored and with characters from several backgrounds and sexual orientations. I liked that the main character has darker skin and prefers women, and I liked that her family is quite different from her, especially in terms of religion.
Only Ghouls and Horses by Dan Harris has a relatively mixed cast as it follows a young man who finds himself practically offered a job to monitor paranormal happenings throughout England. He’s quite ordinary himself, but I like that he has a female boss, kind of engages with some coworkers who are from diverse backgrounds, and encounters ghosts and witches. Tom felt like the only truly ordinary thing in this book. I liked that the witch is quite older and that she gets to tell part of her story.
Just a Wild Ghost Chase by Dan Harris closely follows on the heels of Only Ghouls and Horses, so the reader gets to see what’s immediately next for Tom, which happens to be another ghostly sighting. The witch has more of a presence and I loved that she never let her age keep her back. As a mother, the ending hurt a little, but I’m wondering what might be next for these characters.
None this time.
The Alpha Trial by Lian Skaf seems to be a medical legal thriller, but I can’t say for sure as this is the book I’m ending the month with. Set a couple of decades into the future, it involves the case of whether someone should be put to death or not. Years before, a procedure known as Unlock was done on many people. They were able to unlock part of their brain for heightened experiences, but it also had a dark side. Now the last known Unlocked person has been found and our attorney must work to sway the jury to let him live.
Thanks for reading!