The ‘Diversity Spotlight Thursday’ meme is hosted by Aimal! Every week, you have to come up with one book in each of the following three categories:
- a diverse book you have read and enjoyed;
- a diverse book that has already been released but you have not read;
- a diverse book that has not yet been released.
1. a diverse book you have read and enjoyed
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Laia and Elias, the two protagonists of An Ember in the Ashes, are POC.
Furthermore, this book deals with heavy topics such as rape, violence… but not at all in a glorifying way. I don’t think those topics should be excluded from fantasy settings, but I do think they need to be condemned. I absolutely hate it when people say “well, this fantasy setting resembles a medieval society, and rape was a part of that”. No, in fantasies, you can do whatever you want. Rape should never be normalised. And I don’t think it is in An Ember in the Ashes, whereas that often is the case in other books that want to portray violent circumstances.
2. a diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
If I Was Your Girl by Meridith Russo
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.
Last week, I already explained the importance of ‘own voices’. However, the majority of authors are able-bodied, straight and white. But if we want to do the effort to read more books featuring diversity, we should also pick up authors who are divers themselves. If I Was Your Girl is about a trans girl, written by a trans woman. I think it’s safe to say she will portray the character much more accurately than someone who is cisgender.
3. a diverse book that has not yet been released
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
According to Goodreads, this has already been released, but when I want to order the book online, it says the release date is October 6th. Either way I want to include it, since it is a very new release and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Anyway, here’s the summary:
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
As I’ve mentioned last week, the majority of LGBTQ representation in YA literature is gay boys. I don’t think I have read any books that feature lesbians, and certainly never butch lesbians. These women are so marginalized, whereas bi girls, lesbians… are often sexualised. And that’s not great either.
I grew up with the image that all lesbians were butch. Naturally, that is a huge misconception, and a harmful one. But that was the way people stereotyped them, or even villainized: everyone seemed to think lesbians hate men.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of lesbians who are butch. And I think they deserve representation, instead of being erased out of fear of them being stereotyped. And I understand that, but I don’t think we have to act as if they don’t exist either.
When reading about gay male characters, I sometimes get annoyed when they are portrayed in a stereotypical way: they hate sports, love art, only have female friends… But, there is a reason why that stereotype exists, because some gay boys are indeed like this. However, we shouldn’t think everyone who’s gay is like this and neither should we reinforce harmful stereotypes.
You might be wondering why I am mentioning all of this. I just want to make clear that these days, people are afraid to create characters who are even remotely similar to a stereotype. And while that is not a bad thing, I don’t think we should exclude people who do fit a stereotype from the narrative. Stereotypes are not necessarily a bad thing, but we shouldn’t generalize an entire group or reduce them to those stereotypes either.
Anyway, whenever this becomes available, I am going to get my hands on it!
This was my second ‘Diversity Spotlight Thursday’ post! Feel free to leave a link to yours in the comments 🙂 Recommendations are always welcome!