Reading Diversely: Recently Read & Recommended

Over the past several years, I've been making more and more of an effort to read more diversely. Translation: less books by and about straight, white, cisgendered men. It's been an incredible journey, made all the easier (and more collective) by groups like We Need Diverse Books and the efforts of bloggers and writers to acknowledge and write about and highlight a lack of diversity in many, many publishing lists, reviews, and bestseller groupings.


So far this year, I'm counting 32% of the books I've read as by or about diverse authors, of varying races, sexualities, abilities. Here are some recent highlights:


1. No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions by Ryan Berg: Berg worked as a resident assistant and then caseworker in two different NYC-based group homes for LGBTQ youth in the early 2000s, and this is his account of those years. He tells the story of eight of the youth he worked with in particular, highlighting their highs and their lows and the very unique challenges they faced as individuals and as children. Not uplifting by a long shot, but an important read for anyone with an interest in social equality and a conversation that goes beyond marriage rights. (On sale August 2015)

2. Loving Day by Mat Johnson: Johson's novel explores the very unique position of being bi-racial in America. What is it like to identify as black when your skin looks white? What is it like to grow up thinking you are white when in reality your father is half-black? These are questions that are difficult, if not impossible, to answer, but Johnson's novel explores them without apology.

3. Kindred by Octavia Butler: The premise of Butler's novel is a little tricky (and not ever fully explained): a woman living in 1979 California is inexplicably transported back to a pre-Civil War era plantation in Maryland. This sci-fi premise is used to explore race and race relations in America in both the 1970s and before the Civil War, with interracial couples highlighted in both times.

4. Re Jane by Patricia Park: Park has reimagined the classic story of Jane Eyre in the early 21st century, in which Jane Re is a Korean-American immigrant struggling to find her place in the world. The story merges and diverges with the classic novel's storyline to explore not only the importance of remaining true to one's self in a search for love, but to highlight the cultural differences and difficulties for Korean-American immigrants in early 2000s Queens.

5. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Talley's YA novel tells the story of two sisters--and their close friends--who are among the first black students to attend public schools in Virginia following desegregation. The book is a starkly personal account of what it was like for black students in the years immediately following desegregation--and a compelling story of two young girls on opposite sides of the racial depend finding an unlikely friendship (or perhaps something more) with each other.

6. Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal by Wendy S. Walters: Walters collection of short pieces spans fiction and non-fiction to explore place and culture in America today--and it is, perhaps, impossible to explore place in the United States without also exploring race. (On sale August 2015)

And some I haven't read yet, but have been recently recommended:

7. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Coates slim volume is an open letter to his son about being a black man in America today. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard only good things.

8. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizen: On a recent visit to my local bookstore, one of the booksellers was reading this book. Naturally I asked about it: it's a queer YA book, and she recommended it, and that was all I needed to add it to my list.

9. The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward: I'm embarrassed to admit that I've had this on my shelf since BEA last year (or maybe the year prior?), but haven't read it yet. After seeing it mentioned side-by-side with Between the World and Me in this New Yorker criticism of the two, though, I'm planning on reading them back-to-back in the coming weeks.

10. Citizen by Claudia Rankine: I'm adding this as an eleventh book for Top Ten Tuesday because I can't imagine a list of diverse books without it--and I haven't read it yet. It comes highly recommended by bloggers and readers whose opinions I know and trust, and I need to make time for it ASAP.

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What would you add to the list?

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This post is part of the weekly Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

17 comments

  1. I am LOVING these posts! And I really need to keep up with the Top Ten Tuesday post topics better! LOL

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  2. I can wholeheartedly recommend Men We Reaped and Citizen! I really want to read Re Jane. Love this post!

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  3. Ove was great and I'm loving Americanah so far--I hope you like them both! I've surprisingly never read any of the Anne of Green Gables books, so may have to rectify that sooner than later. How are you liking them?

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  4. Loving it so far! About 100 pages in. For a long book with a lot to underline, it goes by surprisingly fast.

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  5. It would be a great book club pick. (I was actually the only person *at* the book club discussion on Sunday besides the bookstore staff--I guess 97-degree heat and 96% humidity is a deterrent for most folks?--but even so, we had a good chat. They said they'd done a book club meeting on it earlier in the week as well and it had been a great conversation.)

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  6. That is important to keep in mind, because I am convinced that the pudding air is actually trying to suffocate us. What's the name of the book you're reading? Sounds interesting!

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  7. Re Jane was fun! I liked comparing how and when it moved away from the original story. It was a bit heavy handed on literal "dear reader" asides, but besides that, really great.

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  8. I feel like my TBR is BURSTING with all of today's recs... and I've been offline most of the day so am only *just* getting to see them!

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  9. Although I am almost 60 years old, neither had I! I absolutely love Montgomery's writing. My reviews consist of mainly quotes because I love her use of language...and for me, at least, these stories are timeless! I highly recommend this series!

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  10. I recently added Salvage the Bones (another Jesmyn Ward) to my TBR list...I'll have to check out Men We Reap as well.

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  11. Kindred has been on my list for awhile now, and I'm not sure what's taking me so long! It just sits on my self staring at me, and begging to be read!

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  12. I love this! I featured some reads on my blog late last year, though they were tailored more towards conversations around diversity and identity and weren't as inclusive on the author side (http://manuscriptsandmarginalia.com/2014/12/09/so-you-want-to-stop-distancing-the-other-recommended-reading/). Personally, I'd add Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. One of the most touching, beautifully crafted books I've read, featuring young love between a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl in WWII-era Seattle.

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  13. A timely post for me. I have slacked off during the past couple of years regarding diverse reads. I guess because I've gotten myself committed to read-alongs, etc. Though I do plan to change that in the near future. While working at Borders I established two book clubs, one of which was "Cross-Cultural," and that was great for me, forcing me to read more diverse authors/books. I need to re-establish that system for myself, perhaps one of these books every other month... You introduced me to a few new titles and made me feel even guiltier that I haven't read some I've owned for years now (Kindred)... :) One book our Library Director keeps pushing on me is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, so I will pass that along here... :)

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  14. Really great list! I'm going to snag a few of these ideas for my own TBR list diversifying efforts. And 32% is really good! I'm only at 20% for the year, but the good news is that July is 44% so far. I picked up Men We Reaped at the bookstore last night and held it a while trying to decide if I was ready for that much heartbreak yet or not. I left it there for now, but will be getting it soon.

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  15. Lisa Almeda SumnerJuly 22, 2015 at 2:15 PM

    Great list, and great post! It was really hard (impossible) for me to choose just ten titles. Like you, I've made it a goal to read more books about diverse characters, and I can always use recommendations....

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  16. Great list! I've been making a concentrated effort in the last two years to read more diversely, so I've been tracking race and nationality (I'm comfortable with my male/female split, which skews heavily female), and I'm at 50% non-Americans and 45ish% non-white authors. Next year I want to pay more attention to the cisgender heterosexual side of things, which I have been woefully neglecting. :/

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  17. This is an excellent list! I've been itching to read The Men We Reaped since reading an excellent review over on Leah's blog.

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