As  LGBTQ+ History month draws to a close and Women’s History Month begins, what better time of year to discuss reading diverse books? It’s certainly a topic that is very much in the news at the moment. There has been focus on diversity in publishing, particularly in children’s books, and on book award lists. Coupled with studies into how reading is an important way to nurture empathy in both children and adults, having access to a diverse range of books, featuring a multitude of characters, stories and experiences is important. If you saw our blog from earlier in the year, you’ll be familiar with the range of books we have in Warwickshire to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month (and if not, have a read, or browse our book list here) but what about other books that celebrate the diversity of experience that exists in our everyday lives?


Why read diverse books?

Because it’s interesting!

In other words, if you only read about what you know, things can get very dull and very repetitive very quickly (though it can also be comforting and familiar and that’s fine too!). Reading diverse books can enlighten, present topics in new ways, develop greater insight into experiences other people have had and show the world in different ways. It provides variety and can bring to life events that would otherwise be missed, ignored or forgotten.

Reading is also important in providing representation – life is diverse in so many ways and experiences may differ along lines of race, class, sexuality, gender, and language to name but a few. Stories translated into English can expand appreciation of different worldviews and the increasing popularity of book prizes such as the International Man Booker Prize demonstrates that readers enjoy a wide variety of reading experiences. By ensuring we have books on our shelves, on our displays, featured on our catalogue, e-books and e-audio offers and on our blog, we at Warwickshire Libraries hope we meet the many reading wishes of our borrowers, both young and old.

Before we dive in, I’d like to flag up some great websites that have additional resources and reading suggestions for both adults and children. I will also add what is fast becoming my usual disclaimer – there are so many more titles out there than I can fit in a single blog post so please do share anything that’s been missed in the comments.

Book Trust

There’s a wealth of suggestions, ideas, hints and tips throughout the Book Trust website, not just to promote diverse books but to inspire a love of reading in general. If you look after a child or young person and are in need of book suggestions, then look no further. All ages are catered for, there are suggestions to help share books with children, tips for reading aloud, the list goes on! In particular, there are a number of themed book lists and a book finder – always fun to do and see what suggestions are made.

Scottish Book Trust

The Scottish Book Trust website is also a great resource for suggestions. Their adult lists page features comic and graphic novel suggestions, and one that I will be having a good look at – ’10 Books on New York City Everyone Should Read’

EmpathyLab

The EmpathyLab website has a huge number of resources and suggestions for children’s titles in their ‘Read for Empathy‘ guides. We celebrated ‘Empathy Day’ last year and will be doing so again this June so keep an eye out in your local library for displays of the books suggested in this year’s guides.

Good Reads

There are no limits to the reading lists you can find on Good Reads for all ages. From award winners to individual picks, books set throughout the world to books charting the experiences of those who move from one place to another and the changes they face, there are a huge amount of choices for the reader. A note of caution – some books mentioned may not have been published in the UK but you can always check the Warwickshire Libraries catalogue to see if they are available.


Some reading suggestions – Adult fiction

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini’s novel is often regarded as a modern classic. Set in 1970s Afghanistan, the book follows 12 year old Amir and his father as their father-son relationship develops. Set against the upheaval of regime changes, the uncertainty of refugees fleeing Soviet Union military aggression and dealing with big themes of guilt and redemption, this is a must read.

The Trick to Time

Kit de Waal’s Birmingham-set novel explores the whirlwind relationship between Mona, a young Irish girl moving to the big city, and William. Drawing on her own experience of growing up in 1970s Birmingham, this novel provides opportunity for reflection, insight into the discrimination communities faced at that time and shows the impact of tragedy, loss and the differing ways people experience the world.

Girl in Translation

Following the transition of a Chinese family as they adapt to life in Brooklyn, Jean Kwok’s 2011 story  portrays what life is like when you don’t speak the language and are torn between two cultures.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Set in a post-9/11 America struggling to process worldwide events, this short but impactful novel tells the story of Changez, a Pakistani immigrant who begins to question his own world and outlook.

Convenience Store Woman

Translated from Japanese, this book follows Keiko, an outsider who passes her days fulfilling the routines of her job in a convenience store and is happy with that. Her family, however, are not and this novel explores the expectations of women themselves and of society.


Some reading suggestions – Adult Non-fiction

Neurotribes: the legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently

Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, this charts the history of autism, looking at research into why diagnosis numbers have risen and the barriers faced by those on the autism spectrum.

Diversify

June Sarpong’s work calls for change – for all of us to recognise the unconscious bias we have and outlines ways to alter perspectives and overcome the challenges faced in today’s world. Featuring case studies and personal accounts, this is a must read.

The Gender Games

Juno Dawson explores femininity through the scope of science, media and society. Subtitled ‘the problem with men and women . . from someone who has been both’, this is a look at how gender is expressed in today’s world. Part personal memoir, this insightful read will have you thinking and pondering.


Some suggestions for young adults

The Children of Blood and Bone

A very anticipated YA novel that takes inspiration from the culture of West Africa. When those who practice magic are eradicated by a vicious ruler, those who survive must hide to protect themselves. Already optioned for a film adaptation and with a second volume soon to be published, this will top many ‘To Be Read’ lists.

Rebound

Kwame Alexander delivers a prequel to his bestselling book The Crossover. Charlie Bell discovers basketball one summer and doesn’t look back. While the influences of the court are strong, however, other, less positive influences are also impacting on Charlie. Which will prove strongest?


Suggestions for younger readers

Amazing

This picture book has the perfect title – a captivating story of a little boy and his pet dragon and the scrapes they get into as they navigate their world. Fantastically illustrated by Steve Antony, I don’t think I could love this book more (particularly as the dragon learns to breathe fire).

The Boy at the Back of the Class

When Ahmet arrives at their school, the children in his class have a plan to make him feel welcome and discover more about his life, having escaped a war. Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award 2019, this gives a child’s perspective on the confusion and upheaval of those fleeing from danger.

A is for Activist

Incorporating sign language, this illustrated book by Innosanto Nagara brings the fight for social justice to younger readers and introduces some big topics from an early age.

Collage


There are so many other great books that I haven’t mentioned here – from best sellers such as Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give‘, Malorie Blackman’s ‘Noughts and Crosses‘ series and Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple‘ to Miranda Kaufmann’s ‘Black Tudors‘,  Barbara Demick’s exploration of life in North Korea, ‘Nothing to Envy‘ and the many titles mentioned in our previous LGBT blog. Likewise, many of the titles mentioned above will be available in alternative and accessible formats – large print, spoken word, or as e-books and e-audio books. We’ve also recently added more large print and braille children’s books. All can be found on the catalogue.

I hope that you can explore the wide variety of books that look at diversity and inclusion and what both concepts mean in today’s society. We’ll have reading lists and suggestions on some of our other catalogue pages for you to explore during March for Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on the 8th and as always, happy reading!

ED