So... I have something to admit. I have not read a lot of diverse books, whether that be featuring LGBTQ+ characters, disabled characters, characters of different ethnicities and races, and so on. I have read some, but I don't think enough to warrant having favorites. I think the reason for this is just the fact that I don't openly try to read diverse books. That is something I am trying to fix and I'm trying to read more diversely, but as a mood reader it is hard for me to say "I'm going to read this book" even though I want to support the cause. What is a bit sad is that people still have to openly seek to read diversely in order to do so. The books I'm reading right now could be considered diverse in one facet, but it seems more like a selling point where the author/publisher/whatever is saying "lookie here! I don't just write about white characters with the perfect life! Buy my book!!" instead of being organic.
My opinion is that every book should be diverse in some way, because our world is diverse. I can't imagine a life without my disabled mom, my sister who is a sexual assault and harassment survivor, my best friend who has depression and PTSD, my other best friend from Bangladesh, and my other Lutheran best friend who goes on mission trips. All of these people are a big part of who I am, all of these people are diverse in one way or another. And having all of those things in my life is normal. But the fact that I read a book and there is a good chance that there is a character that is white, happy, and has healthy friends, life, and experiences, is startling and saddening.
Let's look at the books I'm reading right now, and see how diverse they really are.
First is City of Heavenly Fire. In City of Heavenly Fire, there is a lot of facets that can be considered diverse. Alec, a main character, is gay and has a long term relationship with Magnus. There's also a f/f relationship between two side characters, Aline and Helen. There is also an overarching plot about childhood abuse and abandonment, and the psychological affects that come with that. A plethora of different races are incorporated into the books as well. But the thing is, when I think about this series, I think about Jace and Clary. Two white people in which one of their biggest issues was that they were siblings (spoiler alert: they're not). Jace and Clary are the core of the series. All the other diverse aspects could essentially be thrown away, and wouldn't impact the story that much besides Alec's sexuality. And really, isn't real life more diverse than that? When I thought about CoHF, and the series in general, I knew that it was diverse in some way, because I immediately thought of Alec. Everything else I had to think about, which just emphasizes my point that authors tend to add diversity to make sure it's diverse instead of it coming naturally to them. At least, that's how I take it.
The second book I'm reading is Unblemished by Sara Ella. To be honest, there are not a lot of diverse aspects to this book at all. Eliyana, the main character, has a blemish that covers half of her face. Because of this, she is bullied and always judged. However, I literally cannot think of anything else that is diverse about this book. Also, instead of showing how cruel people can be based off appearance, Eliyana is instead transported to a world wear her blemish is beautiful. Body positivity is great, but the book doesn't even try and comment on the fact that people who are scarred, have severe birthmarks, or have skin conditions, etc. are commonly dismissed or are rude to. Instead the author just spins the story around and throws away any of the hard-hitting points she could have made. I wish that Sara Ella took some more time, possibly even a a couple pages, to hit on that. I can see the affects of it, (Eliyana is not confident, and often remarks about how people were rude to her) but the actions and ramifications are never shown, just told.
Lastly, the third book I'm reading at the moment is Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I'll talk about this in my review, but I genuinely don't know if this book is problematic or helpful. Bray plays on a lot of tropes (the ditsy valley girl, the sassy black side kick, the misunderstood delinquent, the butch lesbian) and then turns it on it's head. This book, I have to say, is extremely diverse. But it is not organic in any sort of way. It's like Bray tried to stuff as much diversity as possible in one go, without thinking that it might come off as disingenuous. I do think the book shines light though on how many other books (like Unblemished!) are not diverse, or barely are. I love the amount of diversity in here, and I know it is realistic to be as diverse as this book is, but it doesn't come off as realistic.
So, those are the three books I'm reading. While they are all diverse in some way, the diversity does not feel genuine or is almost nonexistent. All I'm asking for is a diverse book that seems organic.
Unfortunately, what I'm reading is not representative of the real world, or even my world. To put it bluntly, I'm a white teenager who lives with my two parents and a dog in suburbia. My biggest personal issue has been dealing with my mom's disability. My next "crisis"? That was deciding which college to apply to, and whether or not I'd been accepted. Life has been good to me. My small world is not nearly as diverse or as difficult as others, and yet YA has not caught up to me. Where's the disconnect?
Reading diversely is important, because diversity is everywhere in our real life. A diverse book isn't special, it is indicative of what reality is. I wish that I didn't have to openly search for a book that reminds me of real life.
However, if I have to search and actively try to read diversely, I will. It is important to read diversely, and it takes two to tango. While not a lot of books are being published that are truly diverse, there are those out there. It's our responsibility as readers to find these books and advocate for them!
Have you been reading diversely? What are some of your favorite diverse books? I would LOVE recommendations!
Also, I would love constructive criticism or any pointers you have about my discussion! I don't do them regularly, and I wan to know how it went for you! I hope to do some more discussion posts, I had a lot of fun with this one!
Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you soon with another post!
Genni @ Ready, Set, Read!