Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the industry about the need to bring diversity to books. Initially stemming from upset over the all-white panel line up at BookCon, the conversation has spread from the panel line up to why we need to bring greater diversity to the book world as a whole. There has been so much conversation it has sparked the We Need Diverse Books campaign on twitter #weneeddiversebooks.
Reading the various discussions on this topic made me realize why it’s so important that there be greater diversity in books. One of the benefits of reading is you can open up your world through story. By not having broader diversity available in books, we are closing off the opportunity to find new worlds. While I agree it’s important that we can see ourselves reflected back in the books we read, it is equally important to get windows into those who are different. When you open up that window you can truly appreciate the perspectives of those who are different from you in many ways.
With that in mind I have put together a list of novels that you can pick up today from indie publishers that offer perspectives of other cultures, while at the same time offering a wonderful story. (Note: These books are on my to-read list, but have not been read.)
Family Life by Akil Sharma from W.W. Norton & Company: We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America.
Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe from Soho Press: Foreign Gods, Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon from Bolden Books: This dazzling debut novel is a Twain-esque exploration of celebrity, authorship, violence, religion, and coming of age in Post-Katrina Mississippi, written in a unique comic voice that's scabrous, lacerating, tender, and wise. The book's two interwoven stories span from the "Freedom Summer" early sixties through the mid-Eighties and up to the present day. In the first, 14-year-old Citoyen "City" Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube celebrity after an onstage meltdown during a nationally televised quiz contest. The next day, he's sent to his grandmother's small coastal community, where a young girl named has Baize Shephard recently disappeared.
Curse The Names by Robert Arellano from Akashic Books: High on a Mesa in the Mountains of New Mexico, a small town hides a dreadful secret. On a morning very soon there will be an accident that triggers a terrible chain reaction, and the world we know will be wiped out. James Oberhelm, a reporter at Los Alamos National Laboratory, already sees the devastation, like the skin torn off a moment that is yet to be. He believes he can prevent an apocalypse, but first James must escape the devices of a sensuous young blood tech, a lecherous old hippie, a predator in a waking nightmare, and a forsaken adobe house high away in the Sangre de Cristo mountains whose dark history entwines them all.
Sankya by Zakhar Prilepin from Dzanc Books: Sasha “Sankya” Tishin, and his friends are part of a generation stuck between eras. They don’t remember the Soviet Union, but they also don’t believe in the promise of opportunity for all in the corrupt, capitalistic new Russia. They belong to an extremist group that wants to build a better Russia by tearing down the existing one. Sasha, alternately thoughtful and naïve, violent and tender, dispassionate and romantic, hopeful and hopeless, is torn between the dying village of his youth and the soulless capital, where he and his friends stage rowdy protests and do battle with the police. When they go too far, Sasha finds himself testing the elemental force of the protest movement in Russia and in himself.
Have any suggestions for diverse reads? I'd love to hear about them.