Diversify Your Reading- How What I Read Affected Me

The Diversify Your Reading Challenge was put together by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, both fantastic diverse authors.  Find out more HERE (this ends October 1st, 2011).
I read quite a few books that fit this challenge and I have to say that some unexpected ones took me by surprise.
As a teenager in the 90’s finding young adult books in my small town library was hard enough, but finding books that were at all diverse was nearly impossible.  By middle school I was mostly reading adult but to be honest, I don’t think I ever read a book where the characters were Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual or transgender while in middle or high school.  It’s possible I’m just not remembering though.  As an adult thinking, and looking back, I can see how books that are more diverse can impact young people.  They can connect with characters and stories that are like them.  It can show them that others go through what they go through and that they aren’t alone.  It also helps normalize it so people are just more accepting.
I grew up in a small town in the midwest and if anyone even hinted at being LGBT it was a BIG deal.  I know now of many of my classmates that didn’t come out until they were adults and had moved to larger cities.  I also know of a few who claimed they were as teenagers (and took hell because of it) but as adults they decided they weren’t.  Teenagers don’t always know and not knowing is fine.  It’s part of growing up.  Experimenting with what you like, who you love, etc, is normal.  Teens need to know that.  As an adult I’m incredibly thankful to see that YA has taken off and become huge a genre and people of all ages are loving it.  I know I can’t seem to get enough of it and I’m enjoying the fresh take on things and seeing more diverse books becoming much more popular.

While when talking about Diversity in YA we usually think of people of color or books with an LGBT theme.  I actually found some that aren’t either of those.  The one I’m going to talk about though is 
 about a teenage girl who is deaf.  This book was Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (Review).   I have never read a book where the main character is deaf and I found it very fascinating.  What I really liked was that the deafness and her issues with it was not the focus of the book.  Just part of it.  I actually liked that with all of the books I read that I consider diverse.  I like when the diverse part of it is just a part of the story and not a major focus.  It’s like these things are being expressed more as being normal, not an issue.  And sending out the message that being different is normal.  

The next book I’m going to talk about is Huntress by Malinda Lo (Review).   This book is a fantasy with Asian and LGBT themes.  I love that she wove those things together and once again, it was just how it was, it wasn’t an ‘issue’.  There are lots of teens (and adults) that love fantasy and including things they connect with on a more personal level is something that I love seeing.

Another fantasy series I started reading this summer is the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.  Hers is more a Native American (though it’s a fantasy so it’s not American…) type theme thrown in.  I actually hadn’t thought of it as being qualified for the challenge, but when I thought about it I realize that it really does.  And the second book has LGBT themes, just with some side characters though.

One book that I LOVED was Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.  Lola has two dads.  Two gay fathers.  I’m not sure if I’ve read a book about a child that has gay parents.  I’m probably just not remembering.  But in this one we see it from the childs perspective.  Lola never has a problem with it or anything, it’s just part of her life.  I liked that.  I liked seeing how it might be growing up with two fathers instead of a mother and a father.  It’s not really much different, but others may see it differently and make life difficult.  Another thing in this book, that doesn’t technically bring it under diverse, but I think with the whole theme of the book it kind of still fits, is that Lola is very different herself.  She may not be a lesbian, bisexual or be of color, but she is certainly her own person.  She designs her own outrageous outfits and it’s her.  But others don’t always see it that way and she sometimes gets a hard time from people.  This book was just amazing on so many levels, I couldn’t recommend it any more highly.

I read many other books that fit the theme, some with stronger LGBT themes that were issue books.  And I liked them, I enjoy reading those kinds of books.  But the ones that affect me more, that I connect with better, are those that weave these things into the story and it’s not an issue.  It just is.  
This has probably been my most favorite challenge I’ve done and I wish it was an ongoing thing.  I’ll definitely continue to seek out books that are diverse.

HUGE thank you to Cindy Pon (read her books, they are freaking AWESOME) and Malinda Lo (also awesome!) for putting this together.  I know it put many, many new books on my radar and I have an entire bookcase now dedicated to ‘diverse’ books.  Most I still need to read but plan to very soon!

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  1. Love your choices. One of my recent faves has been Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson, the main character has synthesia so she tastes colors, smells sounds, etc. etc. VERY cool to see how that works!

  2. I think this is a very important habit. I find if I do not switch it up I can become bored with books that I would normally love to read. Thank you for sharing today.

  3. I love the diversity being a “non-issue” as well!

    Speaking of your first one, being about a girl that’s deaf. In Stolen, the girl is blind and kidnapped. I really enjoyed it! I didn’t even think about that one being considered diverse.

  4. Great post!! I also grew up in a town (and still love in one) where being different is not acceptable.

    I really need to read Melinda and Cinda’s books asap! And I’m with you and Angela, I love when diversity is a non-issue.

  5. The best diverse books are those where the the LGBT, POC, or ‘diverse’ aspect is just a part of the story. I’m all for issues books, but I like it when the issue at hand isn’t necessarily the entire focus of the book. And while I haven’t read too many books that would have qualified for this challenge, I’m eager to check out so many. Glad you enjoyed it :)

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