Category: Diversiverse

Jul 21

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Characters

Diversiverse, Top Ten Tuesday 31

Greetings Bookworms!

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?!

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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.

crazyhorsesgirlfriend4. 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 frogmusicespecially 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? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 22

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Banned Books, Diversiverse, Psychological 20

Hey there, Bookworms!

It’s one of my FAVORITE weeks of the whole year. That’s right kiddos, it’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK! This week I’m going to be basking in the glory of books that have been banned and challenged. I’m planning to, as my friend Shelli is fond of saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (because why would you want to kill the birds?) and chose banned books by authors of color. It’s a Banned Books Week/Diversiverse hootenanny up in here!

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I’m going to start this party with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It is challenged ALL THE TIME. A few pages into the novel and it’s clear why. You’ve got naughty language, sex, booze, alcoholism, incest, child molestation, rape, domestic violence, bullying, poverty, and basically every other horrible thing people do to break each other. Why you gotta bruise my soul, Toni?!  The Bluest Eye is a book designed to make you uncomfortable. How could it not? The fact that it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s without value though. Not by a long shot!
thbluesteyeThe vast majority of book banning and challenging takes place with regard to school curriculum. This book is not an easy read, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it aloud to a 4th grade class. (I do have some common sense, I promise.) I would, however, defend The Bluest Eye as a choice for an advanced high school English class.I know, I know. I don’t have kids. I was, however, a teenager, and I remember that whole experience keenly.

As far as profanity goes, I heard more casual swearing in my high school hallways than I have anywhere in my adult life. I knew kids who would drop F-bombs to punctuate phrases the way I’d say “like.” I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t mind the profanity, Katie, but what about all the sex and incest and violence and general horribleness?” To which I respond, “Why, this book is chock full of cautionary tales!” All the things you should NOT do in order to be a decent human being are represented. It’s also got a hefty dose of what I like to call getting-inside-other-people’s-crazy-heads. For every broken psyche, you find out what happened to the character that contributed to their particular problems. Empathy! Teenagers need it!

My teenage self would have eaten this up. You know what was not at all interesting to my teenage self? A ginormous book about a freaking whale. Kids get burned out with all the classics. That doesn’t mean they’re without value either, but changing it up every now and again with something that’ll make a teenager’s jaw drop? That’s amazing. Take your pitchforks elsewhere, book banners, The Bluest Eye is here to stay! On the off chance you know nothing (Jon Snow), here’s a little about Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are there any books you wish you’d been assigned to read in school? Is there a classic you’ll hate forever on principle because you were forced to read it? Inquiring minds and all that…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 19

Diversiverse! The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Asia, Diversiverse 24

Salutations, Bookworms!

I am SO HAPPY to be participating in A More Diverse Universe right now. It’s offered me an opportunity to FINALLY get something off my TBR pile. A few months ago, I won a copy of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan from Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall. I’ve read several Amy Tan novels and enjoyed them immensely, but I felt rather ridiculous knowing that I hadn’t read her most famous work, The Joy Luck Club. I mean, you say “Amy Tan” and that’s what you think, right? I was determined to tackle this one. So determined, in fact, that I chose it for my IRL book club this month as well. I am nothing if not efficient. Well. Efficient, or lazy. One of the two.

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In case you were living under a rock like I apparently have been, The Joy Luck Club is a novel about mothers and daughters. Four Chinese women emigrate to the United States and settle in San Francisco. Each of the women goes on to have a daughter (or several) to raise in the US. The mothers and daughters struggle to understand one another through clashing cultures.

thejoyluckclubThe book is divided into four major sections, two devoted to the stories of the mothers and two devoted to the stories of the daughters. If I’m being honest (and really, when am I not honest?) I found myself flipping back and forth through the chapters to connect which mother belonged to which daughter. Learning a bit about each mother’s childhood and not realizing right away which daughters’ life they were connected to frustrated me a little bit, hence the flipping. Still, a bit of page flipping didn’t dampen what was an excellent story.

The daughters in The Joy Luck Club had a heck of a time trying to live up to the expectations of their mothers while growing up in a world with vastly different values. The mothers were desperate to impart the complexities and nuances of Chinese culture to their offspring, but communication styles differed so vastly between the two cultures that conflict was inevitable.

I can’t help but assume this book, with its emphasis on mother/daughter communication was heavily influenced by Amy Tan’s life. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Tan was raised with one foot in each of two worlds, Chinese and American. After reading her bio, I am seeing parallels all up in this piece! Here’s a little about Amy Tan written by the lady herself:

Amy was born in the United States in 1952, a few years after her parents immigrated from China. Her father, John, was an electrical engineer and also a Baptist minister. Her mother, Daisy, left behind a secret past, including three daughters in China and the ghost of her mother, who had killed herself when Daisy was nine. The Tan family belonged to a small social group called The Joy Luck Club, whose families enacted the immigrant version of the American Dream by playing the stock market. Nearly every year, the Tan family moved, from one mixed neighborhood in Oakland after another and eventually to a series of nearly all-white suburbs in the Bay Area.

Let’s chat, Bookworms. Mother/daughter clashes are certainly nothing extraordinary, as virtually every mother who has raised a daughter through her teenage years can attest. It’s time to air the dirty laundry. What is the dumbest fight your teenage self ever had with your mom? Mine involves an impassioned request for a drum set… When I’d never actually played the drums… So. Yeah. Spill!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll use it to buy my mother a thank-you gift for, well, dealing with me. I was an especially morose teenager…*

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Sep 18

Diversiverse! Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika T Wurth

Contemporary Fiction, Diversiverse 14

Greetings Bookworms!

If you’ve been floating around the book blogosphere at all, you’ve probably noticed there’s a little event going on called A More Diverse Universe. It is, in a word, awesome. The purpose of the event is to encourage readers to step out of their comfort zone (or for me, my lazypants-can’t-be-bothered-to-pay-attention-to-things zone) and pick up books written by people of color. To participate you need to read and review ONE book by a person of color. Talk about low-pressure! I’ll be the first to admit that my reading list ends up being rather, uh, Caucasian-heavy? It’s not something I do intentionally, but this event is the kick in the pants I need to PAY ATTENTION. So I am! Today we’re going to talk about a book by Native American author Erika T Wurth called Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This in no way affects my opinion of the book. My integrity is more expensive than a paperback novel.*

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Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend tells the story of a mixed race Native American girl living in Colorado. Margritte’s community is poverty stricken and plagued with alcoholism, drug use, and violence. Though only 16 years old, Margritte and her cousin Jake supplement their pathetically small incomes by moonlighting as marijuana dealers. Margritte spends most of her time hustling and partying, giving her schoolwork short shrift. crazyhorsesgirlfriendShe’s just trying to survive high school so she can leave her dead-end town in the dust. Her home life leaves much to be desired as her father is an abusive alcoholic and her mother refuses to leave him despite his dangerous behavior. Margritte is often tasked with taking care of her young twin sisters and trying to keep them out of harm’s way. Jake keeps landing himself in juvie, and you never know when a meth-head is going to stab you. And because all that drama isn’t enough, let’s not forget about teenagers and their raging hormones! Margritte’s got a hot steaming pile of crap to wade through if she’s ever going to escape her circumstances.

I know this book sounds like a total downer but it is INCREDIBLE. It’s raw and gritty and intense. It gives a very realistic portrayal of poverty in Native American communities and the choices young people are forced to make. I will warn any tender-hearted readers that this book doesn’t shy away from anything. If you’re offended by profanity, sex, drug usage, or violence this book is NOT for you. If you’re on the fence, though, you need to give it a shot. It really is just THAT good. Since we’re celebrating diversity this week, I thought I’d share a little something-something from the author’s biography:

Erika T. Wurth is Apache / Chickasaw / Cherokee and was raised on the outskirts of Denver. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and was a writer-in-residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including Boulevard, Fiction, Pembroke, Florida Review, Stand, Cimarron Review, The Cape Rock, Southern California Review and Drunken Boat. Her debut collection of poetry, Indian Trains, was published by The University of New Mexico’s West End Press.

Did y’all see that?! She teaches at Western Illinois University! Why, that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my cornfield. You can bet I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for author events in the area!

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you typically pay much attention to the backgrounds of the authors you frequently read? Is my laziness normal?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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