I was tagged by The Bookie Monsters a long time ago to do this book tag. It was created originally by Read Diverse Books and it encourages us all to reach out of our literary comfort zone to read widely and deeply. This is a fantastic tag and I can’t wait to buy the two books from the categories I haven’t experienced yet!
Find a book starring a lesbian character
So it turns out I have never read a book with a lesbian character in it. Now I don’t know if that is a massive failing on my part or a harrowing fact about the lack of diversity in modern day literature. I have had a browse and I am going to buy myself a copy of The Sealed Letter. It sounds fascinating, I did promise I would read more books by Emma Donoghue in my review of Room and it’s encouraging me to read more diversely as Donoghue has written a number of important books in British Lesbian Fiction.
Find a book with a Muslim protagonist
I’ve read quite a few books with Muslim protagonists throughout my time at University studying English Literature, particularly in Postcolonial studies. They’re all fascinating and I’ll maybe write a separate post with some of my favourites at a later date. I loved Minaret because Aboulela’s portrayal of a Muslim woman living in Britain was really refreshing. Although she has many weaknesses, Najwa’s religion is her strength. Amidst a sea of “Imperial Sisterhood” literature, in which all Muslim women are portrayed as needing saving from their Western sisters, it was a breath of fresh air. I wrote an essay on the way Aboulela uses language in relation to gender in a post-colonialist context in Minaret, contrasting it with Labou Tansi’s Life and a Half. If anyone is interested in reading it, I’d be happy to send it over.
My mother is Egyptian. I’ve lived everywhere except Sudan: in Oman, Cairo, here. my education is Western and that makes me feel that I am Western. My English is stronger than my Arabic. So I guess, no, I don’t feel very Sudanese though I would like to be. I guess being a Muslim is my identity.
Find a book set in Latin America
The House on Mango Street is another Uni read and it is a unique collection of vignettes about a young Latina girl. I didn’t think it was a remarkable read but its poignant writing style and very subtle way of dealing with harrowing subjects like sexual abuse make it worth checking out.
The boys and girls live in separate worlds. The boys in their universe and we in ours.
Find a book about a person with a disability
The Curious Incident is the tale of a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome on a mission to discover the truth behind his neighbour’s dog’s death. Although incredibly mathematically gifted, Christopher is at times restricted by his need for patterns and routine. This is the most heartwarming and gentle tale that will make you ponder the “true meaning” of life.
I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them
Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a POC protagonist
I don’t read much (any) sci-fi and I’ve only recently started dipping into fantasy fiction so this was always going to be one I had to go and research. The Bookie Monsters pointed me in the direction of a fantastic list by The Illustrated Page called Non-white Protagonists in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Check it out. After careful deliberation I have chosen Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor as the book I’m going to read. According to GoodReads it’s a tale that combines everything from superhero comics to Nigerian folklore and that sounds pretty awesome to me!
Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa
Again, I’ve read a lot of books sets in Africa because of my interest in postcolonial literature at University. I’ve chosen Life and a Half by Sony Labou Tansi because I paired it with Minaret, which I mentioned previously, in an essay. It is one crazy ride of a book but I recommend it especially for its female lead, Chaïdana. She’s a female rebel who uses the power of the written word to fight her corner.
If I don’t speak, I die slowly from the inside.
Find a book written by an Indigenous or Native author.
Ceremony is a truly gorgeous book based upon the oral and ceremonial traditions of Native Americans. It’s the first time I had read anything about the plights of indigenous Americans and I found it fascinating. Its protagonist, Tayo, is a hybrid of modern day “rational” America and the spiritual Navajo and pueblo people. Its author, Leslie Marmon Silko, is a Laguna Pueblo writer and one of the key figures in Native American renaissance literature.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.)
As the name suggests this memoir is set in Iran and it tells the story of a group of women who meet illegally to discuss books. I have a love/hate relationship with this book. While it is beautifully written and full of humour whilst also dealing with some uncomfortable themes, I felt it sways too strongly to the New Orientalist side. After reading Jasmine and Stars (a come-back book). I felt like this plays into the Muslim woman stereotype of victimhood. However, I do want to revisit it. If anything, it explores the power of literature to change lives.
Do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life; what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.
Find a book with a biracial protagonist
I really loved this book about the trials and tribulations of a young mixed race boy living in London. Karim attempts to reconcile the difference between his English and Indian heritage and goes on a good old-fashioned journey of self-discovery. The downside is Karim is still a selfish and irritating character by the end of the novel. Nonetheless, this novel does dig deep into the dark underbelly of multicultural modern Britain.
My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost. I am often considered to be a funny kind of Englishman, a new breed as it were, having emerged from two old historie
Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues
I’ll admit I never actually finished Orlando in my first year at Uni when it was assigned but it is pegged as one of the most important pieces of literature when it comes to transgender studies. Written in 1928, it tells the story of a man of noble birth, living during the reign of Elizabeth I, who mysteriously changes sex one day and goes on to live for three hundred more years. It’s very Woolfian in its eccentricities and I hope I get the chance to read it properly one day.
As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.
I’m supposed to tag more people to join in but since I was tagged in this so long ago, I’m guessing it’s done the round already. Instead, I invite you to write about your own experience of diverse literature if you haven’t done so already!