Diverse Reading Challenge – My Recs so Far

Two of my favourite bookstagrammers, livs_little_library and sazloureads, are doing a ‘Diverse Reading’ challenge to encourage bookstagrammers to read a wider variety of authors and perspectives. Taking a look at the prompts, I decided I’d make a post of some of the recommendations I have so far – and next I’ll be doing a post on what books I’ll be reading to complete the other prompts.

So on with the recs!

A fiction book by a Black author:

Did I dream this book? It was so good but doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s radar. It’s a fantastic narrative set in Berlin, interweaving the experiences of expats and immigrants in the changing city. Habila captures Berlin (one of my favourite cities) beautifully and challenges the idea that Germany is a paradise for immigrants as is often portrayed in the media.

A book by an Asian author:

This snappy book of essays is hilarious and unique, with perspectives on everything from barre workouts to reality TV to Tolentino’s own Filipino-American identity. I only recently found out Tolentino also wrote this essay about the Shen Yun dance company, which was absolutely fascinating and I could have read about a thousand more pages of.

A book by an author from Africa set in their country:

This book is equal parts family drama and dark comedy, exploring the relationship between two Nigerian sisters, one of whom has a knack for murdering her boyfriends in ‘self defense’, the other who begrudgingly does the cleanup work. It’s hilarious, memorable, and hopefully leads a new charge of African fiction–I’m ready for lots more.

A book by a Middle Eastern author:

Hamid has lots of great books (The Reluctant Fundamentalist was one of my favourites that I read in a Postcolonial Literature class in college, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a more substantial companion to Crazy Rich Asians), but this has been my absolute favourite of his so far, exploring the current refugee crisis in a humanistic way.

A classic by a BIPOC author:

Maybe not quite a ‘classic’ in the traditional sense, but this is an enduring standard of UK school libraries that for whatever reason never jumped across the pond. Set in an alternate universe where the black ‘Crosses’ are the dominant race over the white ‘Noughts’, the book focuses on the star-crossed lovers Sephy and Callum, and the charged world around them. Even though it’s a YA book, it explores prejudice in really mature ways, with quick pacing and compelling characters.

A book on what it’s like to be an immigrant:

This is a beautiful novel and honestly would be one of my ‘desert island books’ because it has such a rich plot. It explores race and community in the postwar ‘Windrush’ era in London, featuring Jamaican immigrant Hortense, her husband Gilbert, and their white landlady Queenie Bligh, whose lives all intersect in surprising ways.

A book that challenges rape culture:

Chanel Miller was previously known to the world as ‘Emily Doe’, the victim in the Brock Turner rape case in 2015. Miller’s story of the case and its aftermath is a powerful and affecting read. She is already such an accomplished and brave woman, and a fantastic writer.

A feminist non-fiction book:

This book will make you want to SCREAM. Criado-Perez explores all the ways data is stacked against women–from the way city bus stops are designed to how drugs are developed to how research lags in evaluating the work safety of female-dominated jobs like housekeeping and beauty services. Not only is it compellingly written, it contains a lot of insightful details and actionable plans for improving the way the world works for women.

A book by a Jewish author:

After her father’s death, Ronit, who left a reclusive Orthodox Jewish community years ago, returns to London to find her brother has married her best friend and former lover Esti. Not only is this a great LGBT romance, it’s a poetic and well-written exploration of faith and identity. Don’t cheat and watch the movie first, which was a decent adaptation but really didn’t capture the soul of the book.

A book by a Muslim author:

What a fun read! As a teenager growing up in Bury Park, Luton, Sarfraz Manzoor found unlikely inspiration in the music of Bruce Springsteen. As a New Jersey native who now lives in the UK, this really ticked all my boxes. This memoir explores his relationship with The Boss, his journey to becoming a writer, and his thoughts on being a British Muslim music fan. This was adapted last year into a film called Blinded by the Light.

A book by a Hindu author:

A memoir exploring the author’s relationship with his parents, who were in an arranged marriage and later divorced, with Deb’s mother remaining in their adopted New Jersey hometown and Deb’s father returning to India. It was quite funny and touching.

A retelling of a classic from a new perspective:

One of my forever favourites. This is a retelling/alternate persepctive on Jane Eyre, telling the story of Rochester’s ‘mad woman in the attic’ who is actually a Caribbean heiress in Rhys’ story.

A book with a person of colour on the cover:

What the hell took me so long? This is such a touching and often funny book exploring immigration, mother-daughter relationships, and generational change among a Chinese community in San Francisco. I loved it.

A book about refugees:

This long but stunning book focuses on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, who worked with Eggers to tell his story of fleeing Sudan during the civil war and eventually arriving to the United States. It’s touching, inspiring, and has a lot of important commentary about American performative allyship, especially in the era when ‘caring about Darfur’ was the hottest celebrity trend.

A graphic novel by a person of colour:

A beautifully written and drawn coming-of-age graphic novel exploring friendship and loss. I want to reread this!

A book about the Black British experience:

A snappy and readable book of essays from contributors to gal-dem, an online magazine devoted to elevating BIPOC British female voices. Funny, heartfelt, and touching.

Those are my recs so far – next I’ll list the books I’m going to read to complete the prompts!

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