Let’s Talk Bookish: Diverse Books

It’s time for Let’s Talk Bookish, a weekly meme created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion where you chat about topics in the book world.

Today’s topic: diversity and books

We talk a lot about diverse books and reads, but what really makes a book diverse?

I don’t like the term “diverse books” and I don’t like when books are marketed as “diverse.” Is a book written by an American person of color “diverse” to another person of color living in the U.S.? Does “diverse” really just mean it’s a book not written by the majority race of the country it’s been published in?

The reality, imho, is that a book is diverse based on who is reading it and whether or not the book opens their mind to new ideas, cultures, and ways of living.  A cis-gendered guy might consider a literary fiction novel focusing on the experience of women to be diverse because it’s opening up his perspective to understand a worldview he couldn’t on his own. But that book might not be labeled “diverse” if it was written by a white woman in the Western world.

Are books written by authors or about characters from Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Ukraine, Hungary, etc) considered diverse? Would you consider a book set in Spain about a Spanish main character diverse? Why or why not?

I’d argue yes, but the reader makes a difference. I love reading books in translation because I feel they broaden my horizons. Modern Russian literature feels completely different from American contemporary literature, and reading it helps me understand more about cultures that aren’t my own even if the author’s skin color is the same as mine.

Does diverse mean characters or authors from South America, Asia, and Africa, or from different religious, sexual, ability, etc backgrounds only?

I’d argue no (even though a marketing team might disagree). I’m not sure I’d consider Crazy Rich Asians a “diverse” read even if the author isn’t white. It was a unique setting for a standard romance story. I’m not sure a book should be considered diverse based on the author’s racial, sexual, religious identification alone.

Reading is an amazing way to come into contact with new voices, perspectives, cultures, and experiences. It’s one of the foremost ways to learn and grow empathy. We shouldn’t just read authors and stories that are familiar to us (if our goal is to grow through reading). But we also shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that because we’ve read a book by a person of color we’ve read about the “black experience” or because we’ve read a book by someone non-binary we know get the “trans-experience.” Humans are nuanced. Experiences are nuanced and ever changing. Reading diversely should mean reading broadly, building empathy, and then going out into the world and meeting new people.

One Comment Add yours

  1. evelynreads1 says:

    Great discussion! I really think the meaning of th term diverse depends on the reader! I would say a diverse character is a character that is different from me (ethnicity, sexuality, ability, etc) but that is of course different for every reader!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

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