Buenos días amigos! Welcome back! It is a beautiful Friday with a lovely sun which is a nice change from yesterday’s stormy morning. I hope the weather is amazing where you are!
Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by me and 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: Diversity in Books
This was my topic for the month, and goes very well with next week’s topic which will be promoting diversity in the book industry. So definitely check out that post next week as well when it comes.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
I like to talk about diversity in books a lot because it’s such an important topic that has so many layers and nuances that should be addressed. I also tend to have a lot of questions when it comes to diversity such as “who determines what’s diverse” and “who gets to write something diverse” and “are arguments about the authenticity of diversity in a book valid since people’s experiences are different (only in certain cases)“.
At any point in time, I probably have the same overall approach to each of those questions, but I’m not sure when it comes to specifics. My philosophy in life is mostly “live and let live” so I don’t get caught up that much in the details of the author’s qualifications in writing a book about a diverse character/subject and how accurate that representation is. But there are cases where I can’t just apply that philosophy and move on because it’s more complicated than that.
I think what adds to that complication for me is that I prefer having a clear-cut guideline when it comes to such issues. I just need to have a list of what’s right or what’s wrong so that I can comfortably move on with my life. But diversity just doesn’t work like that. much to my dismay
One of my previous posts on diverse books was inspired by a dilemma I had. I was trying to figure out if Eastern European representation could count as diverse. There were a lot of valid points raised in the comments of that post, and I loved the respectful discussion and different views that were shared. By the end of the day, I’d come to the conclusion that deciding diversity was more of a personal decision since diversity differs for each person.
And this applies to authors writing about diversity too. Their experience or knowledge of that diverse subject is different compared to the next person, which is why it’s a tricky thing to say that their view on the subject is wrong. Now, sometimes they are very much clearly in the wrong and it’s just harmful and problematic in a billion different ways, and that should be pointed out (in a respectful manner).
But other times, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for an author that isn’t from that group to write about it, as long as it’s done in a correct and sensitive way.
How do you find diverse books to read?
Surprisingly, Kindle has been very helpful this year in finding diverse books to read. What I do is I borrow my books using OverDrive, but then I read them using Kindle. And Kindle has this feature where it recommends books based on what you’re currently reading/last read and so I’ve been using it to find new diverse books to read.
Some that I’ve read this year are:
- proud is actually a memoir that i really really enjoyed which is surprising because i don’t read memoirs or auto/biographies except if it’s on Wikipedia or something like that. but Ibtihaj’s story was really inspiring and i loved reading about her journey
- a woman is no man was an interesting novel and i love how the story was put together. however, i wish we’d seen more of Deya’s life in the present day, though Isra’s story was just as powerful. that ending though was really sad. and Fareeda is pretty despicable
- you guys, a sky beyond the storm killed me. Sabaa is cruel. the entire thing was a snowball of emotions and all the Things that happened made me cry so much 😭. but diversity wise, i like how it’s inspired by real cultures, regions, and ethnicities so much so that i recognized the real life version of many of the customs of the peoples in the book
- once upon an eid is full of so many happy and warm vibes!! it made me miss eid sooo much and i plan on rereading it next eid just to get the good feelings
- american as paneer pie was such a wholesome middle grade book that tackled racism and the problems of fitting in as a young brown girl in a predominantly white town. i loved Lekha’s story and how she grew with her friendships, and her courage to speak for what she knew was right. also, i’m a sucker for new cultures and foods so i loved seeing that part of her life too
Besides Kindle, checking out blog posts listing diverse books and the “diverse” shelf of other GoodReaders is a great way to find new reads. The posts in particular are really helpful in finding new and upcoming releases so you can be hyped about the book.
Also, I know that the recommendation thing by GoodReads (on the homepage) is positively atrocious at times, but sometimes it gives half decent recommendations if the book you’re currently reading is diverse. Or if it’s giving recs based on your diverse shelf. So look at that sometimes; you’ll be surprised what you’ll find.
What are some diverse topics/POVs that you specifically look for when you’re finding books and why?
The top two types of representations that I look for are cultural representations and Muslim representations.
Cultural could mean Asian, African, Latin, Desi etc. I just love learning about new cultures and seeing how other kids struggle with merging their outside American identity with their cultural identity at home. It’s also very fun to read about because there are general underlying themes that we can all relate to even if we’re from a different culture (especially when it comes to dating/boys lol).
I also really like seeing Muslim representation. Do I always agree with it? Definitely not. More often than not I am very disappointed by the representation, but I still look for it in the hopes that it won’t be half bad anyway. Why do I like it? Because I’m Muslim as well so I understand the issues and problems that the characters face (except if it’s one of those marriage ones: I have not reached that stage so I really don’t understand that yet lol) and it’s easier to relate to their situation. Their choices are where we probably will differ, but I still like that ability to relate.
How do you decide if a diverse topic/POV is done well?
That is an excellent question. How do I decide when the diversity has been done well?
If it’s Muslim rep for instance, then I know that type of diversity very well so I can find what’s wrong with it a lot easier.
If it’s a cultural rep, I don’t really know for sure in those instances, but I assume that it’s for the most part accurate. And sometimes you’ll have this feeling or something will rub you wrong so you might feel icky about how correct the representation is. I’d really suggest you follow your gut in those instances and check it out further.
Maybe it’s just a different kind of experience that you’re not used to seeing (which goes back to my point that diversity is so subjective) or it could actually be a very problematic situation.
Another sure way of knowing if it’s been done well is to search it up, especially if it’s a popular book. I guarantee you, there will be some post or maybe even a full blown controversy surrounding the book if the topic was not done well.
If the book is not popular, then it’ll be harder to find information about it and so I just assume the best unless something really rubbed me wrong about it.
And that, my friends, is pretty much all my thoughts on diversity wrapped up into one post. I didn’t go as in depth as I did in some of the other posts I’ve done on the topic, but you get the general idea of my feelings about it. And hey, you got some recommendations too, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
This Week’s Participants:
What are some of your favorite diverse books? How do you decide if the topic/rep is done well? What kind of representation do you look for? Have you read A Sky Beyond the Storm? Can we cry about it together? How has your week been? Share your thoughts in the comments below!