Hey all! Welcome back. As always, Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Today’s topic is: What is the Meaning of Diverse Books?
This was my topic and I chose it because it’s been nagging me for the past few months. I’ve been reading a couple of books set in Europe, and every time I want to shelf these books, I hesitate when it comes to marking them as diverse or not. So, I’m very curious to see what you all think and I’ll also talk about how I decide if a book is diverse.
Let’s get started!
Since around July, I’ve been reading quite a bit of historical fiction set in Europe and it’s made me wonder how these books fit into the diversity label.
For instance, I read The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys, which is set mostly in Spain, with alternating POVs between a Spanish main character and an American one. At the time, I instantly shelved it as diverse because it was a totally different culture and language.
A few months later, I read another Sepetys book set in World War II about a Lithuanian girl living in Lithuania and then being forced into a concentration camp (it is phenomenal, I highly recommend it!). When it came time to shelf it, I paused. Was it really diverse just because the MC doesn’t speak English and doesn’t live in the UK or US?
And then that raised a series of questions. Why don’t I consider books set in the UK diverse, if I’m American and have never been to the UK? Are Canadian or Australian books diverse? What about French ones? Is any book that isn’t Hispanic/Latinx, African, or Asian not considered diverse?
And that finally led to the ultimate question: What exactly defines a diverse book?
Most of the times, I automatically include books with Black, African, Latinx, or Asian main characters on my diversity shelf. I also include books with disabilities rep, mental health rep, different religions and sexual orientations, etc. on the shelf. If it’s a fantasy and the author is part of one of the previously mentioned groups then I also include the book on that shelf.
However, when it comes to characters from Europe, I tend to hesitate because they are still White (I think?) even if they don’t speak English. But then I also wonder, doesn’t the fact that they don’t speak English make it diverse? Isn’t that still diverse representation for Europeans who are accustomed to just seeing English speaking characters in books, or characters from “English speaking” countries?
and English speaking is in quotes because most countries do have English as a predominant language besides the main language, but in this case I mean countries like the US
And if you say that language doesn’t really make a book or character diverse, then does that make books set in Spain or with Spanish characters not diverse? Same with Italians. Are they not diverse?
Their cultures are completely different from the “standard” I have issues with this “standard” too; why is it even considered a standard? and so vibrant and amazing, just like any African or Asian culture. If we consider Africans and Asians diverse, then I think non-English Europeans should be considered diverse as well.
Actually, that doesn’t really satisfy me that much. What about Australians or Canadians? They’re different compared to my American self and aren’t usually settings for books, so can’t a book set in Australia be considered diverse since it’s different from the normal standard setting and from my life in the US?
I know. I like to make things unnecessarily complicated.
But these are questions that I really want to know the answers to so I don’t feel weird when I have to shelf a book that isn’t automatically identifiable as diverse.
This Week’s Participants:
Rian @ Dogs and Books
So, what do you guys think? What do you consider a diverse book? Do you consider books written by authors from diverse backgrounds to be diverse even if the book itself isn’t? What are some of your favorite diverse books? I overthink things way too way much, right? Share your thoughts in the comments below!