It’s Tuesday and I haven’t made you a list in forever! This week, the folks at The Broke and the Bookish have challenged us to come up with a list of diverse characters. Honestly, I feel a little squidgy discussing diversity, because it feels like it’s so easy to do it wrong. But. It’s still an important thing to be aware of. I’ve always thought that reading about people who are different than you is a good way to work on developing compassion, soooooo let’s list some characters who are diverse, and we’re talking all kinds of diversity here. Ready?!
1. Cal from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: Cal is born with a genetic condition and is intersex. Outwardly appearing female at birth, Cal is raised a girl, but the onset of puberty causes quite a lot of emotional and physical tumult. Puberty is pretty awful for everyone, but Cal’s got a whole lot of extra complications to deal with. It’s a fabulous book, I recommend it to anyone interested in gender identity.
2. Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (review): Christopher is a fascinating character. I’m not sure exactly how well he’s portrayed in relation to people who are actually on the autism spectrum, but wow. His brain is just wired differently and it makes it difficult to function in the neurotypical world. He faces a lot of unique challenges.
3. Dana from Kindred by Octavia Butler (review): I love Dana for a million different reasons. She’s an African American woman living in the 1970s and married to a caucasian man. Some weird loophole in the space time continuum causes her to be drawn back through time and deposited into a pre-Civil War southern plantation. Racism is still a complicated and ugly legacy in the modern world, but going from freedom to slavery is just beyond comprehension. Great perspective with a cool sci-fi twist. Octavia Butler basically rules.
4. Margaritte from Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika T. Wurth (review): Margaritte is a Native American teenage girl struggling with the limited opportunities of her life in a small poverty stricken town. This book offers a glimpse into the sad legacy of once vibrant Native American cultures. Powerful read, y’all.
5. Patroclus from The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (review): I feel like Achilles and Patroclus would have been pretty stoked to hear that same sex marriage is now legal in the US. Or maybe they wouldn’t care, I mean, they were Greek, and Achilles’s mom was pretty intolerant and unlikely to care about the laws of mere mortals. Sea Nymphs, am I right?! Seriously though, this is such a beautiful love story.
6. Max from The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (review): This book is all kinds of emotionally intense. No matter how many books I read set in Nazi Germany or specifically about the Holocaust I still cannot wrap my brain around the idea that people would want to destroy other people because of their religious beliefs. Max’s Judaism is a death sentence in the time and place he lived. How much does that suck?!
7. Keiko from Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: World War II was seriously the worst. The Holocaust was unimaginably awful, and here in the US, people of Japanese decent were being rounded up and shoved into internment camps. SUPER not cool. Keiko is a young Japanese student whose family is a casualty of this particular brand of awfulness.
8. Jenny from Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (review): I loved everything about Frog Music, but especially Jenny. The fact that she defied gender norms by repeatedly (and illegally) dressing in men’s clothing was pretty badass. It’s hard to go around applying labels but it’s pretty clear that she prefers women to men in a romantic fashion. I’m not sure if the dressing in men’s clothes was an indication that she was also transgender, or if it’s just an indication that it’s really hard to ride a penny-farthing bike in an ankle length skirt. Maybe a little of both?
9. Celie from The Color Purple by Alice Walker (review): If you haven’t read The Color Purple by now, you definitely should. Celie is an African American woman who has suffered unimaginable abuse at the hands of her family but her spirit can’t be killed. Another lady who may or may not prefer the ladies (again, you know, it’s not about labels) she busts out with the pants-wearing as well. Ladies in pants, we should thank our pioneering pants-wearing sisters. Even if they’re fictional.
10. Oscar from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: Oye, Oscar. This guy has it rough. Not only is he marginalized for being Latino, he’s relegated to the outskirts of the local Dominican culture. Being overweight and obsessed with fantasy novels doesn’t mesh well with a macho ideal. In case you hadn’t guessed from the title of the novel, things don’t turn out too well for this guy.
There we have it! A very diverse list of characters, if I do say so myself. Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you ever intentionally try to diversify your reading list?
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