Diversity in All Forms! discussion

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Members' Topics for Discussion > A book that handled a diversity issue particularly well

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message 1: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Identify a book that handled a diversity issue particularly well. Any type of diversity This might be a book that really opened your mind, or showed multiple points of view on an issue, or exposed you to a new culture in a fair and effective way. Or however you define it.


message 2: by NancyJ (last edited May 30, 2018 01:20AM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments I thought Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was effective is presenting different points of view.

The white supremacist was particularly eye opening. He talked about different strategies they now use. They moved away from just beating people up in person, to spreading their message online. I think this book was written before the last presidential election, and it made me shiver.


I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was beautiful and awful, and taught me things I didn't know that I didn't know. It made me vow to appreciate the freedoms I have as a woman in my country.


message 3: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments NancyJ wrote: "I thought Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was effective is presenting different points of view.

The white supremacist was particularly eye opening. He talked about different st..."


oo great topic. i have no reviews to share right now but i can list some books that opened my eyes to other cultures or types of people. i read Small Things and agree with you on that.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Will Grayson, Will Grayson, #1) by John Green

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Purple Hibiscus Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

All American Boys All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir The Distance Between Us A Memoir by Reyna Grande

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Little Women Little Women (Little Women, #1) by Louisa May Alcott

The Call of the Wild/White Fang The Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London

The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom The Hiding Place The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom by Corrie ten Boom

The Diary of a Young Girl The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Wench Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dear Life, You Suck Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden

Roots: The Saga of an American Family Roots The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley


Of Mice and Men Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Island of the Blue Dolphins Island of the Blue Dolphins (Island of the Blue Dolphins, #1) by Scott O'Dell

Girls Like Us Girls Like Us by Gail Giles


message 4: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) NancyJ wrote: "I thought Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was effective is presenting different points of view.

The white supremacist was particularly eye opening. He talked about different st..."


I agree. It's hard to humanize someone like that but she managed to.


message 5: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Kay Dee wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "I thought Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was effective is presenting different points of view.

The white supremacist was particularly eye opening. He talked abo..."


Nice list! You have a few of my longtime favorites!


message 6: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I really enjoyed Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers. Immigrant couple in New York City and the struggles they go through to stay in the U.S. Beautiful writing.


message 7: by Maya (new)

Maya B | 42 comments Small great things and Behold the dreamers were good. I'm going to say The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett . The way the author wrote the black characters were awesome. I can tell she did some research and it showed in her writing


message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 123 comments Maya wrote: "Small great things and Behold the dreamers were good. I'm going to say The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The way the author wrote the black characters were awesome. I can tell s..."
I think this is a good recommendation. I read the book and saw the movie and thought that they were both spot on. The author grew up in Mississippi and knew what she was writing about.


message 10: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (new)

❄Elsa Frost❄ (elsafrost) | 4 comments A poetry book I highly recommend that presents diversity (and is an incredible book overall) is Don't Call Us Dead. It is written by a queer black writer and is an incredible work of art.

Another book I also recommend is They Both Die at the End. It is written by a queer Boricua writer and is a YA Fantasy book. The main characters are Boricua and Cuban-American, both queer.

There are more diverse books out there, but these are the first two that immediately came to mind. I'll try to think of more I could recommend soon.


message 11: by Megan (new)

Megan | 119 comments So many great book recommendations! I’ve added a lot to my TBR. I’ll add The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urea, A Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, Hotel at the Corner Of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and Sweet Whispers Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton.


message 12: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments I loved a Hundred Secret Senses!


message 13: by Megan (new)

Megan | 119 comments The Black Count by Tom Reiss, the story of Alex Dumas, the father of Alexander Dumas, who used many of his father’s adventures as inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo, etc


message 14: by Donna (new)

Donna (luvagoodbook) | 17 comments Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautiful love story. I might go back and do a re-read.


message 15: by NancyJ (last edited Jun 18, 2018 12:54AM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments So many great books! I really liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, A Hundred Secret Senses, The Help. Curious Incident.., and so many more listed above.

I vote for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer almost every day for the Great American Read project on PBS, and some of the others too.

I'm looking forward to reading Purple Hibiscus, The Hummingbird's Daughter, and a few others that I haven't read. KIndred is new to me and it sounds intriguing. I don't read a lot of sci-fi even though I like sci-fi films.


message 16: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) I love that everyone wants to read books that handle diverse characters or the topic of diversity well.

I loved Purple Hibiscus, but I loved loved loved Americanah even more - it's just SO good. It really has a lot to say about being black in the USA in particular and how Nigerians see the way we deal with race here in the US. There was an excellent article recently about Adichie ...hang on... https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... -- there ya go -- this is a great article about her in general, but the best parts are where she discsusses the strangeness of "learning you are black" by coming to the US and all of our weird racial stuff.

Zadie Smith's most recent book of essays has a terrific essay on who can write what - discussing, in particular, the militant stance insisting that certain people cannot - are not allowed - to write about minorities... I'll grab my copy & see if I can find out if it's posted anywhere besides the book. Her earlier book of essays had a good talk on being many-voiced (those of us who switch between colloquial and "lettered" voices depending on the setting.) But the most recent essay I thought was brilliant and also had a ton of common sense in it.

Just a thought - many of us in the black community don't find The Help (or the Secret Life of Bees, etc) particular good reading for the black characters. In fact, my friend and I have a saying ït's been a The Help" kind of day. I tend to have more because often white people assume I'm white, unless they see me with my family, and black people assume I'm black, unless they see me around a bunch of white people (funny how that works.) I thought about getting a sign once upon a time, but then I decided it was more interesting to hear everyone's unfiltered thoughts.

I know a lot of black women who loved Jodi Picoult's Small Great things. I wasn't one of them. In fact, I got progressively more irritated as the days went by and kept lowering my stars for that book. It wasn't that she wrote the characters poorly. It just felt like she'd taken a "racial sensitivity" class (she had) and shoved every bit of her new learnin' into the fiction book.

Here's where it gets interesting. I recently read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (I'd owned it forever & never read it) and found it OK, but then I read some Japanese and Chinese people's reactions and they found it lacking.

I am not a person who thinks you should only write from your own exact circumstance, be it race or able-ness or age or whatever, but I really do think it's urgent that we read a wide variety writers with different backgrounds. That's one of the best ways to grasp the massively diverse world in which we live. When I have more time, I'll find the Zadie Smith essay's title, if not a link and think more about books I've read that handle the topics well. It's far too easy to think of the ones that don't.

Finally, I'm NOT trying to shame or inhibit anyone's love for any book. Just offering an opinion that I'm pretty sure is widely shared (at least about The Help.)


message 17: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 143 comments Ella, I always learn something new from you. Thank you!

I'm curious about attitudes toward The Help (and ... Bees). Do you think the objections are more about the way the black characters were drawn, or the overall stories? Is The Help seen as condescending or patronizing in some way? (In a book club discussion we argued about whether the book concluded that the white woman helped the black women, versus the other way around.)

Or is the objection mainly due to the annoying fact that both books are sometimes discussed AS African American books, despite having white authors and protagonists? (White people might guess the books had black authors.) I can see why someone might take a militant view at being "represented" by someone of a different race. (Though I might argue that other factors- such as age, and residence in the North vs South - might be equally relevant to an author's ability to write about that particular time and place.)

If you took that heavy expectation out of the equation, would you say that the black characters were well drawn?

I definitely agree that Small Great Things felt like a racial sensitivity seminar at times. As someone who used to attend and give HR seminars, that vibe was very strong for me as well. I felt that she was being TOO careful at times, but I value learning through fiction, so I pushed it out of my mind. The book really did teach me something new, mainly from the character's thoughts rather than their actions.

I was more bothered by things that I felt were unrealistic (about the hospital's attorney and the legal case, and about Turk's wife's father.) My local book club is reading this book next month so I'll be re-reading it soon.


message 18: by Kay Dee (last edited Jun 24, 2018 09:25AM) (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments I liked The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. But they were NOT new ideas or themes. Same kind of stories have been written for decades. The classics Uncle Tom's Cabin, Gone with the Wind, and The Color Purple had similar storylines/characters. IMO, these books got buzz because WHITE folks learned something new. Just like they did when Uncle Tom's Cabin came out. And just like that was not a great reprsentation of a slave but it still revealed a life experience many people did not know. And it caused them to empathize. Same with the Help. Not every slave's experience was like Tom and his family's but some were. And Stowe wrote at. Not every black domestic in the South acted like the women in the Help but some did. Sockett wrote based on her memories and the people she knew growing up.


We say all the time that sterotypes don't fit every person, that we might be similar to them but still unique. So why do we try to fit POC characters into a box? There are some things in the above books that some people can identify with as having a similar experience. Just cuz it's not a majority or fits a sterotype doesn't make it a false experience. After all sterotypes happen cuz a majority of folks with similar things in common do similiar stuff. The opposite is also true.

This thread is about books that opened our eyes to new cultures and people groups. Books that showed life experiences we had never heard of and will probably never experience firsthand. Books that helped us to empathize with those who are different from ourselves. The books will not be the same. What is a revelation for one person is not for another because we are all different. I think that is why we all joined the group. So don't take it personal when one of us comments that a book you found revaltory was not for someone else. That happpens to me quite often with popular books (movies, music, and tv too). Like i just watched the greatest showman and it was good but i don't get tbe hype. I really musicals but don't get why showman was so special.


message 19: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) OK, I've been trying to formulate a short (hah) answer to your questions, Nancy, as you know b/c I spoke to you earlier. I'm sort of running late, but I don't want to leave this hanging another whole day.

I really did mean it when I said I wasn't trying to dis (two sses or just one?) anyone's reading or favorites and I think it is awesome that everyone is trying to diversify our reading (myself included - as we see from when I thought Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was just fine and I got chewed a new one by some Asian-American friends.) It occurred to me then, as it often does, that while I want everyone to be able to write everything, it really is important to try to read diverse authors - because a story is always going to come from an author (I'm not an author, but that seems fair.)

I was actually trying to be helpful and offer something I know to be true - of course not everyone of any race will agree on everything, but I've read/heard/seen on TV a lot of black discomfort with The Help.

I agree wholeheartedly with Kay Dee that white people learned new things from The Help & other similar books, movies etc. Heck, I just finished a book about minstrel shows last night. Hardly politically correct, but I did learn a couple things. I wasn't alive when those were in fashion, though it often feels like I am old enough to have been.

And I also mean it when I say that I have a very hard time with the almost militant stance on who is "allowed" to write about different kinds of characters. Should a white person write about black people? Sure. Hopefully that person will do a great job of it. It bugs me when that becomes a problem just because the person is white.

So I'm sort of in the middle here, and my main reason for pointing out The Help and similar books is that I've heard so many POC say how much they really hated those books (most recent famous person might have been Roxane Gay, who I also just learned really hates To Kill A Mockingbird. I won't comment on that one. I've not read it since I was a kid. It made me uncomfortable, but my whole class and my teacher was black, and that was easier b/c we could talk openly about how that word sounded to us. I don't think we were old enough to parse more than that. I plan on rereading it soon though.)

So my problem with The Help was basically two-fold: the magical negro trope gets a bit old and so does the idea that black folks were put on earth to make sure white children learn about racism or even just this idea of the happy negro taking care of white children and families rather than their own. It's nothing horrible. It's a touching story in many ways, but it does harien back to those happy slave narratives that still sometimes get pulled out.

The final punch in the face for me and The Help (the book) came when a woman called something awfully close to Aibileen (can't remember her full name) sued the author b/c she'd worked as a maid for the family (or something - I can't look it up right now and I am UNSURE of the facts - this is a very old memory - not a fact!) Basically someone accused the author of stealing her story - and rather than an actual trial it just got thrown out due to the statute of limitations (time). I'd have been fine if it was shown to be a frivolous case, but the time thing irritated me. I don't know much about it, but it's not important really.

My real reason for speaking up about it was basically just to offer some information - that not everyone thinks it's a very excellent book on diversity. I'll need to look up the Roxane Gay column on the movie. BUT...

https://harpers.org/archive/2017/07/g...

And here's that Zadie Smith article that I found just perfect on many levels. It's really long and all worth a read (it's included in a slightly different format in her newest book,) but if you scroll down to the part on just the artwork, she gets into the thorny question of who "owns" black pain. Can someone like me (only biracial) write or draw or whatever black people? Can her children? Etc. Now we're making #ownvoices more than a great idea (and it is a great idea - it's the whole "read as many diverse voices as you can" thing put in a much better way.) But when it becomes like a law, and when I'm afraid to write anything but a biracial girl raised by a black mother and a white Irish father (who didn't live with us) in Baltimore City who started at Catholic school then moved to music school.... that gets really "put in a box-ish" and if I was actually at all creative, that would bother me. Heck, I'm not creative and it feels very bothersome to me.

So, I'm not done and I'm very worried that I've not been clear or made things worse, which is NOT my intention, but I do have to run.

Please know that I say all of this with respect for everyone's opinion on all of these issues. I don't know what it's like to be anyone but me. I didn't bring this up out of disrespect or to shame anyone. I brought it up to add some information to the discussion of one book. Sorry - got to run. Ella


message 20: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) Here's Roxane Gay on The Help from a long time ago (it's also included, sort of, in Bad Feminist.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/page...

(It's only one part on The Help - ignore the "part 1" part UNLESS you're also interested in why American teenaged girls are unfairly and unrealistically portrayed in 'The Descendants' - http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/page... )


message 21: by Kay Dee (new)

Kay Dee (kdf_333) | 67 comments Ella wrote: "And I also mean it when I say that I have a very hard time with the almost militant stance on who is "allowed" to write about different kinds of characters. Should a white person write about black people? Sure. Hopefully that person will do a great job of it. It bugs me when that becomes a problem just because the person is white."

yes! humans always do extremes. like the whole cultural appropriation phrase is being thrown around for every lil thing, like do we want other cultures to appreciate our culture or not? yes, some white authors just write stereotypes of POC but not ALL white authors do.


message 22: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I think one problem is that you're told to write what you know. Also, some white authors are attacked for writing books from a POV that they have no experience with. You can't have it both ways.


message 23: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Kirsten wrote: "I think one problem is that you're told to write what you know. Also, some white authors are attacked for writing books from a POV that they have no experience with. You can't have it both ways."

I personally think authors should not be limited to only telling the one story that corresponds to their personal background. That said, usually your best writing comes when you have an intimate knowledge of the subject matter and can bring that heart into your narrative. This isn't to say a XYZ author can't write ABC well, just that sometimes if you try to take shortcuts and write ABC without taking the time to really understand what it is for someone to live the ABC experience, you may end up offending people who do.

And I find the idea of essentially "banning" all authors from writing something because of the color of their skin, their sexuality, their ability/disability, or any other reason, deeply troubling. Authors need to be allowed freedom to write, they just need to write thoughtfully and be aware of what they're willing to put into a project before they start.


message 24: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) Kirsten wrote: "I think one problem is that you're told to write what you know. Also, some white authors are attacked for writing books from a POV that they have no experience with. You can't have it both ways."

But you can have it done well or not. I say, go ahead and write. If you write poorly w/o research, without having others read your drafts, etc, someone WILL figure that out in fairly short order. But the idea that just because someone wrote something different from her own personal experience, that's a violation of the sort we can not forgive is troubling. Of course we want #ownvoices not to be crowded out by other people telling their stories, so it's a very delicate balance.

I'm not a writer, so I dunno what happens in writing/publishing/etc - beyond the stats that are all appalling...ie, no authors of color on best-seller lists, awards lists, few women, rarely any disabled author, etc etc.... And as a person of color, I completely love that I have more choice these days. When I was growing up, Dumas was the only biracial writer I could find (with help from my school librarian.) But that still shouldn't shut out an indian author from writing a black character... Thinking about Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar - she was harshly attacked for writing a POC - and she IS a POC, just not a black POC. I had some problems w/ that book, but it wasn't her skin color that I had the problem with. She asked should she be relegated to writing only indian fiction when she's lived in the US for decades and this is now her life? Apparently some people thought so.

I mean, it gets insane sometimes. I think we have to read the books and decide on their merits apart from the author's personal whatever. But at the same time, I do try hard to read diversely. This year I have a spreadsheet that tells me when I'm reading too many men or white people (which happens b/c I like to try to catch up on classics, so I have to find classics from other parts of the world too.) It's really easy to read almost 100% white male authors still. So I just think I have a sort of responsibility to myself. If I want diverse books and books to be translated etc, I have to show the publishing industry that I want them by supporting the authors of the books I love, especially those in marginalized and minority communities. But that's just for me.

What I'm trying to say is that every book should be judged on its merit or demerit. And if the characters aren't drawn well, the author should suffer ONLY if that's an issue , not just b/c of her race or religion or ability or whatever else.


message 25: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 48 comments Ella wrote: "I'm not a writer, so I dunno what happens in writing/publishing/etc - beyond the stats that are all appalling...ie, no authors of color on best-seller lists, awards lists, few women, rarely any disabled author, etc etc.... "

Eh... yes and no. I mean definitely publishing has historically favored white men, but to say there are no authors of color, or few women, etc, isn't entirely accurate either. Angie Thomas has dominated the NYT YA list for 65+ weeks now. Second on the list currently? Tomi Adeyami. Also on the list is "Leah on the Offbeat" by Becky Albertalli and a bunch of other books by female authors. Celeste Ng has written some super popular stuff. N.K. Jemisin (sorry if I'm spelling his name wrong) regularly wins the biggest sci-fi awards. Nalini Singh is super popular in paranormal romance. Tons of female writers in romance and YA winning awards all the time.

There is definitely a problem that marginalized groups are underrepresented in publishing and that the industry needs to keep being called on it. Without a doubt. Look at the general fiction list, and it's currently a bunch of white guys. But they aren't non-existent.


message 26: by Ella (last edited Jun 27, 2018 02:46PM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) katwiththehat wrote: "Ella wrote: "I'm not a writer, so I dunno what happens in writing/publishing/etc - beyond the stats that are all appalling...ie, no authors of color on best-seller lists, awards lists, few women, r..."

Of course (and I own and have read those books, so I am aware of this.) My concern comes more from the yearly surveys of the overall picture, which just came in and shocked me, given all the really good (and important -- prize-winning) books I've read by authors that aren't dead white men. So I was a bit shocked to see the VIDA count still shows real lag from women of color. (http://www.vidaweb.org/faq/ ) It's not a perfect picture, nor are the ALA's yearly counts of POC on the best-seller lists (and best sellers aren't maybe the best way to quantify this, since that's rarified territory overall.) And a couple lists that had "women problems" (no women) just a few years ago were 100% female this year - that's progress! Anyway - I was being hyperbolic when I said "none" -- it's improving, and I'm very pleased at that. That's partially why I think it's important for me to continue to buy and read good books by diverse authors so publishers won't fall back into the pattern of publishing only those w/ connections (which tend to favor structural systems which are problematic in a variety of ways.)


message 27: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (last edited Jul 09, 2018 06:47AM) (new)

❄Elsa Frost❄ (elsafrost) | 4 comments katwiththehat wrote: "Kirsten wrote: "I think one problem is that you're told to write what you know. Also, some white authors are attacked for writing books from a POV that they have no experience with. You can't have ..."

Personally, I find it odd when writers don't do the research and, usually, it's obvious to those of us who are minorities. I, as a queer person, experience life differently from a straight person. I, as someone who is Latinx, experience life differently from someone who is not. And then we could break it down and get into more details from there: I, as a queer who is attracted to men and women, do not experience life the same way as a queer who is attracted to the same-gender. I, as someone who is Boricua (Puerto Rican residing in the States) and Cuban-American, do not experience life the same way as a Mexican-American or a Haitian-American.

To put it short, these are topics that if decided to be delved into must be delved into carefully. Yes, people who are not minorities and are writing about these issues may make mistakes, but it's still important to research to make a more accurate portrayal. If a historical-fiction writer can study enough to write about times they have never lived in and work hard to accurately portray it to the best of their ability, then why can't anyone research and write (as accurately as they can) about a minority experience they have never lived?


message 28: by Joy (new)

Joy (audioaddict1234) | 53 comments Such a great discussion here. As a 50-something white woman, I know NOTHING about the POC POV unless someone shares it with me.

I do try to read a variety of authors and genres. I was surprised when I realized The Hate U Give was the first novel I had read from the POV of an African American teenage girl. I had to wonder why that was. I know my daughter & I read a middle grade book about a Mexican immigrant girl. And I’ve read about other minorities from their POV. But for African Americans it’s pretty much been the classics for me. And Toni Morrison’s Beloved which was too far “out there” for me to really grasp.

Anyway, thanks for talking and keep it up. I’m trying hard to listen but I might be a bit slow.

A nonfiction book that really opened my eyes to my own ingrained prejudice was America’s Original Sin. This is from a Christian perspective so not for everyone. And written by a white guy... I’ll try to come back and post a proper link—posting from the app right now somI can’t.


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