The Broke and The Bookish.
This week's topic is: Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters.
Today isn't even Tuesday--that was yesterday, but I'm still thinking about the topic and my list. It occurs to me that diverse characters are more important than ever, because through reading about characters of every hue and orientation, readers develop empathy, a quality that is sorely needed in this world. I almost didn't know where to begin--or end--with this list, but here are a few thoughts.
1. Jaqueline Woodson's beautiful memoir Brown Girl Dreaming will appeal to readers of all ages. The memoir is composed of a series of poems, and begins with Woodson's birth in Ohio, takes the reader to South Carolina, where Woodson witnessed both segregation and the resistance against Jim Crow practices. The author warmly conveys the love and nurturing she experienced from her family.
2. James Alan McPherson should be better known and better read. He is a Pulitzer-prize winning author of several books; his short story collections Elbow Room and Hue and Cry are essential reading.
3. Octavia Butler was a ground-breaking author in the genre of speculative fiction. A good place to begin is Parable of the Sower.
4. James Baldwin is one of the most brilliant Americans to ever put pen to paper. I recommend reading all of his books, the essays and the novels. His Giovanni's Room was way ahead of its time in its depiction of a love affair between two men. My favorite Baldwin novel is Another Country.
5. Edward P. Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Known World, a book about black slave owners. His short story collections, Lost in the City and All Aunt Hagar's Children are gorgeously written and endlessly compassionate looks at the lives of the urban poor in Washington, D.C.
6. I'm absolutely in love with Attica Locke's character Jay Porter, the protagonist of two thrillers, Black Water Rising and Pleasantville. Locke writes fast-paced, immersive thrillers with a social conscience.
7. Walter Mosley is best known for his crime fiction, although he's written in several genres. I find his books completely addictive. He's probably best known for his Easy Rawlins books, starting with Devil in a Blue Dress, which was made into a feature film starring Denzel Washington.
8. Another writer I find addictive is Sarah Waters. I love, love, loved Fingersmith, but I think Tipping the Velvet might be my favorite of her books. This historical romance about male impersonators and music-hall performers is completely enthralling.
9. Leslea Newman is probably most famous for her children's book Heather Has Two Mommies. She was scheduled to speak at the University of Wyoming for National Coming Out Day in October of 1998; she flew across the country and was present when the world was made aware of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was a student at the University. To this day, Newman carries a photo of Matthew Shepard in her wallet. Her book, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, is a collection of poems in various voices.
10. Here's the thing: there are so many amazing writers out there telling stories that feature diverse characters. And so many of them are awesome. Keeping my list to ten is unrealistic. So here are a few writers to check out if you haven't already: Cynthia Bond, Natalie Baszile, Tayari Jones, Kiese Laymon, Celeste Ng, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Claudia Rankine, Jesmyn Ward, Ta Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz.
Reading about all kinds of lives being lived in all kinds of neighborhoods and worlds is crucial for developing the ability to empathize with and understand others. And its a matter of life and death.