“The book industry is focusing more on diverse voices and stories: a reflection of the real demographic of the United States, allowing all to find their stories reflected in books. Children’s publishers across the industry have put an emphasis on finding diverse authors and stories, and I believe adult publishers are accelerating their efforts as well. All voices should be represented and reflected in books, and I have been fortunate to work for a publisher that values the importance of publishing underrepresented voices. My personal mission is to make sure that my list includes diverse voices, especially by Latinx authors.”
There is a cultural trend right now encouraging everyone to read diverse books. This so-called trend is really just a matter of book choices reflecting the reality of readers in every culture instead of eclipsing entire people groups from possible selections. Simply put, we need diverse books. The Editorial Director of Harper Collins, Rosemarie Brosnan, makes an astute observation about diverse books and their increasing popularity:
“I don’t think this is a ‘trend’—it is a reaction to the very real need to change the balance of what is published and to make sure that we are publishing books that reflect the experiences and lives of all.”
Trend or no trend, there is something incredible happening with the emphasis on diverse books. Teachers are working hard to offer a wide range of diverse books in the classroom. Libraries, too, are setting apart diverse books to ensure parents and students are aware of the choices available. Parents are becoming more intentional about adding diverse books to their children’s bookshelves. Academics, too, are becoming increasingly more intentional about ensuring their writing and classrooms reflect the students reading their books and sitting under their teaching.
Diversity is not just about race, but ensuring the subject matter of books reflects the people reading it no matter their skin color, abilities, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Identity is not fixed or stable or static — it is fluid. In the same way meanders, spirals, and explosions reflect narrative architecture, diverse books reflect our human experience. This is the single most important lesson taught by diverse books.
We Need Diverse Books
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
We need diverse books because diverse books reflect the strength and beauty of our world. These ten books are some of my favorite books of all time. They celebrate diversity through emphasizing the fluid nature of identity and difference.
Caucasia by Danzy Senna
You will absolutely fall in love with Birdie and Cole, mixed race daughters of intellectual activists in the 1970s civil rights era. The novel explores the timeless themes of identity and difference.
Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
This is Barbara Kingsolver's first novel, and her delicate prose-style is already established. The main character, Taylor, takes care of a 3-year old Native American girl named Turtle. You will laugh out loud.
Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen
Two novellas in one, Nella Larsen addresses issues of sexual desire, religious hypocrisy, and racial tensions, all set in the Harlem Renaissance from the viewpoints of different characters with different desires.
Blindness by Jose Saramago
What happens when an epidemic attacks everyone? The way Saramago portrays the absolute best and worst about humanity in this story will open your eyes to some of the darkest aspects of our culture.
Parable of the Sewer by Octavia Butler
This post-apocalyptic novel highlights the racial tensions that are the ugly current flowing through American culture - tensions that heighten in an end of the world setting.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
This novel is an exploration cultural identity through themes of faith, friendship, love, marriage, and parenting. There is an underlying spirit of hope that leaves the reader deeply moved.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Scout navigates the racial tensions of the South, while raised in a non-racist family, despite deeply racial cultural tensions. Her father, the respectable Atticus Finch, defends what is right - not what is white.
Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset
Angela is light-skinned and passes for white, who is forced to make some difficult decisions about what constitutes identity when she becomes romantically involved with a racist white man.
Black No More by George Schuyler
Max discovers an opportunity to bleach his skin white, opening doors to privilege and opportunity previously closed to him. Readers witness some of the most absurd aspects of racial identity.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Searching for love and belonging, Pecola prays for the bluest eyes that represent privilege and beauty in American culture, finally discovering the emptiness of beauty based on performance.
3 thoughts on “10 Diverse Books That Reflect Human Experience”
Glad to see Harper Lee in there.x
Every school curriculum should include a book from this amazing list.
I celebrate diversity with you Jessica along with the representation here
of more women in literature.
Thank you, Dawn! I will definitely be expanding on this list. There are so many more diverse books to add.
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