I read 27 books in 2015 (according to Goodreads) and, in 2016, I have only read 14 books. When I took a good, hard, painful look at my 2015 reading via Goodreads, do you know what I found? Overwhelmingly, the fiction was dominated by White authors and White protagonists telling White, straight, cisgender stories.
There’s nothing wrong with these stories and I enjoyed (almost) all of them. But I noticed that I read a lot of what feels like the same thing over and over.
Almost every day I read about the marginalization of authors and MCs who don’t fit into the mainstream. It’s not that these stories don’t exist, it’s that, when (if) they are accepted for publication, they are often not marketed to a mainstream audience and so tend to slip by, unnoticed.
As I started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, a book set in Afghanistan and about two Afghani women, I realized that the story was familiar and totally new at the same time. Human struggles transgress all our differences but the reactions, cultural norms and customs, and the storytelling have been practically new to me, much to my chagrin. While A Thousand Splendid Suns isn’t marketed YA book, it easily could have been; the narrator is almost always a teenager and the material isn’t “too adult” (so far, I’m not done yet).
So, I decided that I am going to make a list of diverse YA and work my way through it, adding titles as I find new books to read. And I thought, “Surely, people I know will be interested in this!” And, if the reactions on Facebook and Twitter are any indication, many of you are!
Welcome to The Course of Events Diversity in YA Book Club! Or CoE’s YA Book Club, because any book club should automatically be diverse, we shouldn’t have to have special ones. 😉
Yay! *waves flag of happiness*
A few notes…
What does “diversity” mean for this Book Club?
What I’m looking for here is a protagonist who is:
- a person of color
- part of the LGTBQ community (including non-gender-conforming)
- disabled (physically, developmentally, etc.)
- mentally ill/neurodiverse
- devoutly religious (any religion since I don’t really read these stories now)
#Ownvoices authors will be preferred. What is #ownvoices? The #ownvoices hashtag is, according to the creator, used to indicate fiction (typically kidlit, including YA) “about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” This isn’t just about broadening my own reading, it’s supporting underrepresented authors, as well as underrepresented story.
The idea behind #ownvoices is also that someone who is from the same diverse or marginalized group as the MC will likely provide a more authentic MC. In addition, writers from diverse groups tend to have more uphill struggles in getting published compared to more mainstream writers, so #ownvoices is an easy way to tag and find those stories and authors you might have otherwise missed (psst, go check it out on Twitter!).
Now, I haven’t read any of these books before (that’s kind of the point!) but I will do my best to pick well-written books based on reviews and the recommendations of those I trust. Trigger warnings and notice of explicit sex scenes will be provided (if appropriate) as often as possible.
How does this work?
Oh, now we’re on logistics? I’m the ideas person! Uh…okay, how about we all read one book a month? I’ll post my thoughts on the book and release next month’s title in the last week of the month–with the goal that anyone who would like to read along has a few weeks between my reviews to acquire and finish that month’s pick.
So, if we start in June, I’ll publish my thoughts on the Chosen Book (see below) on June 23rd’s post and let you all know what the pick is for July!
Just a heads up right now, I’m going to pick the books that I am most excited to read. I have already gotten several recommendations and a couple are just really not up my alley BUT, in the interest of acknowledging my own biases, I WILL (probably) get around to all of the books that qualify for the list eventually. However, if I am not EXCITED to read it, it’s going to be up there for a long, long time. I hope you will be excited, too!
This is a true blue Book Club hosted on this blog. I’ll have posts dedicated to the discussion of the book of the month and I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE those of you who have read it or read along to comment and discuss. We can’t really have a club without members discussing the book!
When you say “YA” do you mean ALL YA?
Yes! And no. I’ll admit, my tastes tend to run toward the fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural side. I’m not big on romance, historical fiction that lacks supernatural elements, or contemporary. But, hey, I’m willing to try something new! Maybe a new perspective will change my opinion.
So, yes, if you have a suggestion and the book has been marketed as a Young Adult, Teen, or even a New Adult book, sock it to me! I am happy to take suggestions but make no promises about whether or not they’ll be on the final list.
Since we’re only doing one book a month, I’ve been a little more picky about my books so my list is only 21 books long right now–that’s almost two years worth of material! I hope to be running this book club forEVER. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.
Okay, okay, I’m IN. LET’S GO. WHAT’S THE JUNE BOOK ALREADY?
Goodness, calm down. It’s the first book. It requires pomp. Circumstance. A special announcement.
Without further ado, we’re starting with …
What better way to start off this book club inspired by #ownvoices than with a book by the creator of the hashtag?
Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.
She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.
Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.
All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.
Wait, how is this book diverse?
Okay, I wasn’t sure where to stick this little fine print so I’m putting it here.
I’m walking a fine, cognitive dissonance line here as I compile a list of diverse books but also refuse to explain why I picked those books. I’m not comfortable with pointing at the specific diversity aspect because, as a member of the majority, I don’t want to give the impression I chose a book BECAUSE the MC is Black or autistic or has one leg or whatever. I chose that book because it has good reviews, is probably a fun read, AND it is considered a diverse book by the book blogging community (where I get most of my recommendations), meaning it meets one or more of the criteria listed above. Feel free to look up the details yourself if you’re that curious!
So! Look for a review of Otherbound on June 23rd and feel free to discuss it in the comments as I might mention it in posts between now and then. I just ordered my copy off Amazon and can’t wait to dig in and discuss!
For those who might be interested in sending me suggestions, here’s what on the list so far (not in order of intended reading):
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Into White by Randi Pink
Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Not Otherwise Specified by Hanna Moskowitz
Run by Kody Keplinger
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
Black Iris by Leah Raeder
The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
The Iron Phoenix by Rebecca hArwell
Seven Years at High Tide by C.B. Lee
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
And I KNOW I have forgotten several that I have favorited and stored elsewhere and seen on Twitter so EXPECT THIS LIST TO GROW.