There is little I can say about Charlottesville, and the events that have unfolded since, that hasn’t already been said more eloquently, by wiser people than me. When a mob of white supremacists attempt to negate the human life and dignity of entire populations, and when people in power condone hatefulness, it’s hard not to let the waves sorrow, anger, hopelessness, and disillusionment erode you.
You shouldn’t stop yourself from feeling whatever it is you’re feeling. But when you’re ready, there are small steps you can take to heal and resist. And one of the most meaningful ways to resist is to read books by diverse authors.
Don’t get me wrong, protesting on the streets, calling elected representatives, and donating your time and money are all impactful ways to get your voice heard.
But the work towards a more inclusive world starts with individuals. It starts with us, deepening our understanding about experiences that aren’t our own. Seeking art and stories from authors who have not been historically underrepresented in publishing (authors of color, LGBTQ+ authors, and authors with disabilities) gives a window into an experience that one may not have been exposed to growing up and is a mirror to one’s own lack of awareness.
And as someone who did not see a Filipina American character (my tan skin, my family) in a book until I was flippin’ 20 years old, I can attest that seeing one’s own identity represented in a book is validating and empowering. The stories you grow up with shape the way you see people in the world, and how you situate your role in it.
So when hate groups attempt to drown out the humanity of entire groups, and when equally culpable bystanders stand idly by, reading diversely is an act of resistance. Seeking education and empathy is radical at a time when ignorance has permitted intolerance to proliferate. And if you identify as a person of color, LGBTQ+, or having a disability, then reading to ground pride in your identity is an act of defiance.
In a powerful TED Talk, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” I’m proud of my friends and others who strive to change the narrative of oppression and prejudice. Let’s change the narratives on all levels: political systems, interpersonal norms, and the stories deep inside us.
To that end, I will focus my book reviews on diverse books. Look out for future lists and recommendations (of which I have plenty). And if you really can’t wait until then, check out my very first blog: It’s a diverse YA book blog, which I started after a summer internship at a multicultural children’s book publisher.
What have been the most impactful diverse books you’ve read? Do you have any on your To Read list?