Instead of a Diversity Spotlight Thursday, I thought I should share a semi-discussion/rant post. Reading diverse books has been pretty hyped up around the blogosphere lately, especially after recent news. But does reading diversely actually matter?
I don’t usually get too personal with my posts so bear with me. Yes! YES a HUNDRED TIMES YES. Diversity matters SO MUCH.
I grew up in a conservative Muslim family and there were a lot of things I was kept away from. These things include: other religions, other cultures and mainly, other sexualities. Things like homosexulity and bisexuality are NEVER talked about in our culture and most people (including my parents) are uncomfortable with it.
I remember the first book I picked up where they talk about two women being in a relationship in sixth grade and putting it down because I thought I wasn’t supposed to read things “like that”. Note that I absolutely hate old me and am ashamed of myself for ever thinking that way but it happened.
But I started reading more and realized how wrong my thinking was. A HUGE reason for it was reading more and more diversely (even if I didn’t do it on purpose). Writers started writing more books with diverse characters and diverse relationships without it being the main focus and somewhere along the lines, I became the person I am today. Diverse books in general are super important but diverse kids books can really be the medium that changes people’s attitudes.
The first book series I’ve read with a homosexual main character is The Mortal Instruments series later in sixth grade. And I’m going to admit, I almost put it down a few times. But I didn’t! And what made me want to continue reading the series was how much Alec seemed to struggle with his identity and it surprised me how much I felt for his character. And I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal but it was such a big deal to me.
Despite all the faults I have with The Mortal Instruments series and Cassandra Clare, those books will forever and always have a place etched into my heart. And then of course came the ball drop in House of Hades about Nico and thank the Heavens for Rick Riordan because it was exactly the kind of plot twist I needed.
Reading about other ethnicities was also very important but what affected me the most is reading about South Asian characters in YA books. This is still pretty rare and I’ve read very few novels where a South Asian character had nice, loving parents who supported her and didn’t have problems that seemed so other. By other I mean: forced marriages, evident sexism where the main character is emotionally or physically abused by either her father or husband, mothers who always take in their husband’s anger and daughters who hate their parents. These are important stories to tell, don’t get me wrong, and books about these topics are some of my favorite books but sometimes it can seem like that’s all there is for characters who look like me. (Granted I might have just also missed a lot of books with South Asian characters so I would love some recommendations!)
Diversity matters! It matters so much!
My absolute favorite books with LGBT+ main characters that you MUST READ AS SOON AS POSSIBLE IF YOU HAVEN’T:
My absolute favorite books with South Asian main characters:
“Written in the Stars” by Aisha Saeed
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini
“An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green
“Afterworlds” by Scott Westerfield
“When the Moon was Ours” by Anna-Marie McLemore (hats off to McLemore for having such an awesome diverse book!)
I would love some more recommendations so feel free to leave me some! What do you guys think of diverse books?