There are lots of easy answers to this to this question, but let’s start with ourselves. Why do WE need diverse books? As writers, we have lofty and lovely goals of battling prejudice and making the world a nicer, more fair place. But before we can do that, we need to look at ourselves as readers. As humans. And all humans by default walk around with prejudices and opinions and pre-conceived notions.
If we’re going to celebrate diversity, we need to recognize our own perceptions and be willing to have them challenged. We need to admit that we don’t have all the answers yet! However, embracing diversity doesn’t mean you have to like everything and everyone. In fact, there will certainly be things about different cultures or belief systems or individuals that irritate, bother, or anger you. But the magnificent, magical thing about a STORY is that it allows us to transcend those differences and find the human underneath the differences – even when they’re extreme.
You know the old saying, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes?” Reading an engaging story is walking that mile, not just in a character’s shoes, but in a character’s HEAD. You feel their feelings. Hear their thoughts. Understand their biases. Love their loved ones. Hate their enemies. And that’s one of the most powerful experiences on the planet.
So take a few minutes and think about the stories that have challenged your pre-conceived notions, biases, or misunderstandings. Tell us in the comments about why diverse books have mattered to you personally!!
Here are a few recent reads that have changed me……
The Tyrant’s Daughter, by J.C. Carleson
The narrator in this book is the refugee daughter of a Middle Eastern tyrant king. Her own perceptions of her family and self are challenged when she is brought to the United States and put in the middle of murky political bargaining, family betrayal, and most shockingly to Leila – an unfiltered Internet. I became so attached to Leila and fully felt her angst about the ethics of her family’s past, her duty to her country, and her desire to be loved. She is compassionate, funny, and a truly relatable teenage girl.
Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman
This book will blow your every perception of Schizophrenia out of the water. Based on the author’s son’s experience with schizophrenia and including his son’s artwork, this story is a first-person journey into mental illness and recovery. It’s beautiful, poetic, sad, joyful, and basically just amazing. You’ll laugh and cry and look at people differently forever.