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Diverse Books & Authors Recommendations


MuggleMaybe

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MuggleMaybe

Diversity and equity are issues that are near and dear to my heart. Currently there is a very interesting discussion happening around the issue of cultural appropriation in J. K. Rowling's description of Ilvermorny. This inspired me to create this thread to recommend published books from any genre with diverse characters, cultures, and authors that are well-done as well as enjoyable/interesting reads. Note that there is a separate thread for LGBTQ+ books, so if that is the central diversity element in your recommendation, please post it there instead.

 

Please stay within the forum guidelines/ToS, and make a note if the books you recommend contain any themes or instances that other readers might find upsetting.

 

[b]Title:[/b]
[b]Author:[/b]
[b]Genre:[/b]
[b]Year published:[/b]
[b]Summary:[/b]
[b]Why I would recommend it:[/b]

 

to start us off--

Title: The Round House

Author: Louise Erdirch

Genre: realistic adult literature. Features violence and scenes of a sexual nature. I would definitely rate this as Mature.

Year published: 2012

Summary: from Goodreads:

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

 

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

Why I would recommend it: Everything by Louise Erdrich is wonderful, and I particularly enjoyed this book. It's full of suspense and bursting with original characters. It sounds tacky, I know, but I definitely laughed, cried, cringed and had the feels while reading this. Plus, Erdrich's use of language is so good; she's a master writer in my opinion.

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TidalDragon

Title: Death and the Penguin (Mature)

Author: Andrey Kurkov

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Satire, Some say Surrealism, others Postmodernism

Year published: 2002

Summary: From Goodreads

Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.

Why I would recommend it: Kurkov's writing wonderfully intermingles satirical humor and absolute darkness while providing amazing insight into life in post-Soviet Ukraine and for a translated novel, it works really well because you can still get a real feel for the author's voice. There's also something for everyone: murder, politics, scenes of a sexual nature, friendship, betrayal, love, and obviously...a freaking PENGUIN. It's hard to do the book justice, but I've been recommending it for forever and I've never had someone come back disappointed.

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  • 4 months later...
800 words of heaven

Title: Sorcerer to the Crown

Author: Zen Cho

Genre: Regency, fantasy, romance

Year published: 2015

Summary: From Goodreads

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

 

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Why I would recommend it: History! Magic! Romance! These are just some of my favourite things. Everything is just wonderful about this story. The characters, the setting, the magic system. It's funny, but doesn't shy away from the serious topics either. There's this one particular scene that I remember vividly - it's been over a year since I read this book and I still find myself thinking about that scene and getting shivers. For those among us who aren't huge fans of romance, I can confirm that it's pretty light and quite secondary to the main plot. Plus that twist at the end has me trembling with excitement for the next installment.

 

Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: Fantasy, action, adventure

Year published: 2016

Summary: From Goodreads

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

 

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him... or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Why I would recommend it: This book is the kind that I didn't know I needed in my life until I read it. First off, I always want to sing 'Arabian Nights' from Aladdin every time I see that gorgeous cover. But it's even more wonderful on the inside. The main character is female and kicks major butt. She's got so much grit - and the pun is totally intended since they all live in a desert. For a lot of the story, the scope is quite small, but it builds towards something bigger. The next book in the series is definitely going to tackle that theme, and what it means to belong to something greater than yourself, yet still be grounded in very real, very relatable characters - including those that you just wanted to slap.

 

Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

Author: Sam Maggs

Genre: Non-fiction

Year published: 2016

Summary: From Goodreads

Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?

 

Women have always been able to change the world, even when they didn’t get the credit. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs introduces you to pioneering female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors—each profile a study in passion, smarts, and stickto-itiveness, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino, an extensive

bibliography, and a guide to present-day women-centric STEM organizations.

Why I would recommend it: It's a little sad that a book about history almost instantly becomes diverse when it focuses on women. This book knows this, and doesn't shy away from the way society has treated the wonderful women throughout history, especially women of colour. It focuses on various fields, highlighting a number of influential women across time - and space. And the illustrations are just the happiest of bonuses. This one is a delight - and also a great gift, too!

 

Title: The Sun Is Also a Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

Genre: Contemporary, romance

Year published: 2016

Summary: From Goodreads

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

 

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

 

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Why I would recommend it: Oh, my goodness! This book! I made the mistake of reading this book during my exam period. I don't even care - it was well worth it. I was so invested in this story, wanting, needing to know what was going to happen next. There's a particular chapter of this story that had me feeling legitimate anger for days after finishing this. Heck, I'm still getting angry about it, thinking about it now. Well worth the emotional rollercoaster!

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Title: The Bluest Eye.

Author: Toni Morrison.

Genre: Bildungsroman, I guess.

Year published: 1970

Summary: Pecola Breedlove is an African-American girl growing up in a very troubled and abusive family. She believes that if she had blue eyes, she would be pretty and her family would love her and white people would stop discriminating against her. The story is partly told from the point of view of a slightly younger African-American girl from a loving family who fostered Pecola for a short while.

 

Warning: All kinds of abuse appear in this story, including sexual, and parts could be triggering.

Why I would recommend it: I consider it, quite frankly, the best book I have ever read. The writing is poetic and the ending is so sad. All characters' points of view are considered and even the abusers are shown to have their own problems that lead to their actions. However the devastating affects of the abuse are clearly shown, so the abuse is not justified or played down.

 

Title: Sula.

Author: Toni Morrison.

Genre: I'm really not sure. It is a story of friendship and society.

Year published: 1973.

Summary: Sula and Nell are two African-American girls who become best friends around the age of ten. Nell is from a very conventional family and has a mother who encourages conformity. Sula's family are anything but conventional. As children, these differences attract them to each other and cause them to enjoy visiting each other's homes. After Sula leaves for college and Nell settles down to a conventional married life, however, they lose touch and when Sula returns, it becomes increasingly clear that she is more unconventional than her hometown is willing to accept and the women become estranged.

Why I would recommend it: Like all Toni Morrison's work, the language is beautiful. I could recommend two or three more of her stories. Also again, we see both women's points of view. I think most people would be more inclined to see Nell's view as the justified one, but if anything the book leads us more towards Sula's. The story questions women's place in society.

 

 

Title: Black Boy.

Author: Richard Wright.

Genre: Memoir.

Year published: 1945.

Summary: This is the story of the author's childhood and young adulthood in the Southern states of the U.S. in the early 20th century. The racism in this story is horrific and very disturbing. I think this quote sums up his experience to a large degree: "this was the culture from which I sprang. This was the terror from which I fled." (Black Boy, page 291, by Richard Wright.)

Why I would recommend it: I seem to be repeating myself over and over again, but again, the language is beautiful. Richard himself is also inspiring in the way he manages to succeed despite all the obstacles against him.

 

 

Title:Precious/Push (it has two names because of the film).

Author: Sapphire.

Genre: Bildungsroman.

Year published: 1996

Summary: Precious is a 17 year old African-American girl who has been abused all her life by both parents. At the time the story is set, she is pregnant for the second time and has been expelled from her school. She joins an adult literacy class and begins working to turn her life around.

 

Warning: Again, all kinds of abuse are discussed in this story and are quite severe. So quite triggering.

Why I would recommend it: From the point of view of diversity, it includes mental health issues as well as race. Precious is very believable and the book is written as she speaks which helps to characterise her and also reads really well. It is unusual for books to deal with illiterate characters or characters who are as aggressive as Precious can be. Yet she remains an extremely likeable character and the book allows us to identify with her although she differs in many ways from the typical reader.

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Title: Kiss the Dust.

Author: Elizabeth Laird.

Genre: Bildungsroman/war story/children's.

Year Published: 1991.

Summary: Tara is a young Kurdish girl, living a fairly normal life in a well off family in Bagdad.  However, this is the early '90s and as Saddam Huissein's oppression of the Kurds gathers pace, her family is forced to flee, firstly to the mountains of Kurdistan and then over the border into Iran.

Why I would recommend it: This book really shows how normal refugees are and how life can change virtually overnight. Tara is an ordinary teenage girl, suddenly forced to live in circumstances most of us would find hard to imagine. The book also highlights the differences between life in Iraq and Iran, two societies that many of us in the West would assume to be similar. Tara is Muslim, let the strict Islamic regime in Iran is entirely foreign to her, as her upbringing was fairly secular.

 

Unlike my previous recommendations, this is a teenage novel, so less graphic and there is nothing like the abuse shown in The Bluest Eye, Black Boy and Precious, but it is set in a war so there are still some scenes of violence, injury and death.

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  • 5 months later...
sinnersandsapphics

Title:Otherbound

Author:Connie Duyvis

Genre:YA Fantasy

Year published:2014

Summary: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.

Why I would recommend it: This book feels like  masterclass in how to be highly inclusive in ways that tie into the story. The female main character is mute and queer (and maybe POC? I don't recall for certain), and the male MC is a disabled bilingual POC incorrectly diagnosed with a seizure disorder. We see events in the book through both of their eyes, often simultaneously. The plot of the book addresses privilege and power (and how those things aren't always as straightforward as they seem) and differences in perspectives, making these diverse character choices feel pointedly relevant (beyond just plain refreshing). The story itself is interesting, and while it is slow at times as it switches between the characters' perspectives, I was always eager to see how the different character would perceive the same event, and the story threw in some twists I did not expect.

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Aphoride

Title: Sea of Poppies

Author: Amitav Ghosh

Genre: Historical fiction, I think?

Year Published: 2008

Summary: Deeti is a widow to opium, saved from her husband's funeral pyre by the low-caste Kalua, who has been waiting for her. Paulette is the orphaned daughter of a French botanist and Jodu, the son of her wet nurse, is the only link to her past. A bankrupt raja is chased from his estates, which fall into the hands of an avaricious opium dealer. Fate throws these characters, and a host of others, together as a motley crew on an old slaving ship, the Ibis.

 

Set against the backdrop of the Opium Wars.

Why I would recommend it: It's amazing - the writing is gorgeous, the settings are so beautiful, and everything in the story, from the scenery to the cultures to the characters, comes alive in such a vibrant, enchanting way. The main characters feature a number of non-white characters, and they're from a host of different backgrounds and countries. There's mentions of race issues (including passing as white, while being mixed race) and religious issues and sexism, and it's all handled so wonderfully. The historical elements of the story - the Opium Wars, the tensions between the UK and China, the blatantly racist attitudes - provide a harsh, matter-of-fact backdrop to it all, and you will end up learning the history as you go along, almost by accident. Everything about it is compelling, and it's the first of a trilogy, so there's more after this one, too :P

 

(I'm not doing the story justice by a long shot, but it's really amazing, and it's so beautiful, and such an insight into other cultures. Definitely read if that's the kind of thing which interests you :))

 

Warning: there is mention of rape via drugs, and addiction (opium), and slavery. None of them are glorified, and the rape and slavery are not mentioned in (from what I remember) detail, but just to be safe ;)

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  • 1 month later...
lebensmude

Title: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year published: August 1st 2016

Summary: From goodreads

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Why I would recommend it: This book is so wonderfully written and explores colonialism as well as slavery in Ghana and Africa. It follows characters through 7 generations starting with Effia and Esi and with each short story it's amazing how much you connect with the characters and their experiences. Definitely rated mature with advisories for sexual assault, violence, racism, discrimination, substance abuse. Definitely worth a read.

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  • 3 years later...
Aphoride

Title: The City of Brass (Book 1 of the Daevabad Trilogy)

Author: SA Chakraborty

Genre: Fantasy fiction

Year published: 2018

Summary: 

Quote

Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city's outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.

But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.

Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there's nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes...

Be careful what you wish for.

Why I would recommend it: I've been recommending it most places, so sorry about that to people for whom this is like the third time I've recommended it to them :P BUT. It's a brilliant, intriguing series: set in the middle east, in desert lands, filled with djinn and magic and political intrigues and with complex, complicated characters you'll fall in love with (I guarantee it. You just will), and lots of twists and turns as you go through, it's so so good. The writing is perfect, the plot is spellbinding; it's just really a great, great series. And the diversity... there's lgbt+ characters, an lgbt+ romance, and it gives you a bit of an insight into middle eastern cultures and legends, as well as handling issues like colorism and religious discrimination among other things. Plus I love it, so you should definitely read it ^_^ 

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tangents

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang 
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Year published: 2018
Summary:

Quote

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


Why I would recommend it: This is one of my absolute favorite books ever!! R.F. Kuang has weaved such a rich world based on Chinese history. Each of her characters are so three-dimensional and amazing to read, and you can see the amount of detail she's put in this book. A lot of this is based on the Japanese invasion of China, and generally, it is a book about war and the impact it has on people. It's very dark and horrifying at some points, but I read this book in one sitting because it was that amazing. The mythology is gripping. The characters are fantastic. The action scenes had me on the edge of my seat. I could wax on and on about the brilliance of this book (and series!) but I will just very highly recommend that you pick it up. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Aphoride

Title: Washington Black

Author: Esi Edugyan

Genre: Fiction

Year published: 2019

Summary: 

Quote

When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men.

The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him. Titch's idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger.

They escape the island together, but then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible. From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness and mystery of life.

Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is the extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.

Why I would recommend it: This book, omg. It's an award-winning book by an award-winning author who, probably, you've never heard of. But honestly, it's brilliant - genuinely, completely brilliant. It enthralled me from start to finish: it's an addictive story, following Washington as he goes through life, from place to place and meeting all sorts of people - good, bad, kind, sad - along the way. It's mysterious and strange, as the summary says, but it's also wonderful and at times horrifying and hopeful and sweet :wub: 

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  • 1 month later...
Hawksquill

Title: Akata Witch

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy

Year published: 2011

Summary: 

Quote

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

Why I would recommend it:  I don't read that much YA, but this book instantly sucked me in.  There's so much that's fun, interesting, and important at the same time.  The whole idea of a society where learning is valued above all else (and money literally drops from the sky when you learn something new!) really appealed to the Ravenclaw in me.  But the star of the book is Sunny, who feels so painfully real.  Her struggles and triumphs, and the realistic depiction of her relationships with her family and friends, make the book.  It's ultimately about a girl who is both black and white, American and African, normal and magical.  The magical setting is just the backdrop of her story, and it's so important. 

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la_topolina

Title: Hidden Figures (Young Reader's Edition)
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Genre: Non-fiction
Year published: 2016
Summary:
 

Quote

(from the back cover) From World War II through NASA's golden age, four African-American women confidently and courageously stepped into the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now known as NASA).


Why I would recommend it: There are actually three versions of this book: the young reader's edition (for ages 8-12 according to the book cover), a picture book for even younger readers, and the adult version. I decided to go with the young reader version so that my son and I could both read it--and I was not disappointed. He blew through the thing in one day. This is a moving story about four women of color who were responsible for the math that would send US astronauts into space for the first time. A really fascinating read.

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