My roommate and I were watching TV when a nightclub scene came on. All of a sudden, she made this disgusted face and said, “That’s, like, my worst nightmare! It’s dark and crowded, and there’s no boba.” I love my roommate.
If you know me personally, you already know that I’m not about that club life. On a Friday after work, I would much prefer slipping on some fuzzy socks and catching up on TV. And if you do like to go hard, or if you fall somewhere in between, that’s awesome, too! This series is still for you.
I have this theory that your bookshelf is a portrait of who you are, particularly if you bought a lot of books growing up. Study your bookshelf closely enough and you can trace the ideas that compelled you at different point in your life. The seven volumes of Harry Potter captured my imagination between the ages of five and thirteen. There’s the Eragon series from my 5th grade dragon phase, those tomes that only Comparative Literature majors read, and some poetry that I thought was good when I was sixteen but now find extremely questionable.
My bookshelf reveals the meandering path I’ve taken to build an understanding of the world. And if you’re also like me, the majority of my bookshelves was occupied by books written by white authors. It’s not a totally bad thing. I truly value some of those books – even from a white, European perspective, they could touch on some universalities that I felt as an Asian American girl. But my bookshelf also revealed my blind spots: there was little that I knew about Black, Latinx, Native American, LGBTQ+, and disability experiences. I didn’t even come across an Asian American protagonist until I was seventeen, and I didn’t read a FilAm protagonist until I was 20!
The disparities on my bookshelf have less to do with conscious choices than subconscious biases, the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, the systemic barriers to entry for authors of color, and the dominance of a straight-white-male literary canon that is taught and valued in American high schools.
Since college, I’ve made it a point to diversify my bookshelf and deepen my understanding of stories that aren’t my own (after all, reading diversely is an act of resistance). Here are the 10 diverse books that helped shape my understanding of perspectives outside my own:
Not to perpetuate a stereotype or anything, but summers growing up in Southern California were amazing. With the ocean a quick drive away and warm nights in Los Angeles, there was always a wealth of fun, carpe diem-y things to do. Summer was a sparkler – bright, ardent, and fading fast.