Here we are again for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is books or characters that are examples of 'diversity'. I've put inverted commas in there because diversity is often quite difficult to qualify. It seems to be a trending topic lately (for quite a while actually!), but it's not always clear what diversity really means. I guess in this context, I'm talking about books and characters that represent experiences outside of the 'norm' that is usually presented in books: straight, white, from the UK or North America, with a certain type of background or outlook on life.
I initially decided not to do this topic, just because I wasn't sure I actually had enough books to mention (and I'm definitely lacking in some areas of 'diverse' experiences), but having read other people's lists, I realised that I do actually have quite a few books to mentions. So without further ado, let's get on with the list.
I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God last year, and was completely engrossed by the story and blown away by how much it opened my eyes to people's different experiences. Janie, the protagonist, not only has a completely different experience to my own in that she is black and lives in the American south in the early 20th century, but she also has a totally different outlook on life and love. Even the use of dialect plunges you into a completely different world. This is a type of experience that is ridiculously under-represented in literature.
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
I spotted this on Katie from Words for Worms's list yesterday and just had to include it. Christopher has autism and therefore processes the world and interacts with people differently. This book is great for understanding people with autism and helping people know how to interact with them better, most importantly it leads us to empathise with Christopher and helps us to see his point of view.
This slightly unexpected book (or is it a collection of novellas?) addresses grief and love in its different forms. But the reason it made it onto this list is because it features a transgender character, which is exceptionally rare in books! And the character is interesting and well-rounded. Besides, the book is great! Well worth a read even without it's 'diversity' bonus points.
4. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The stories of four mothers and four daughters, all of Chinese immigrant families, intertwine in this novel about what it means to straddle two cultures and feel like an outsider in both. I think the most powerful part, for me, was the struggle of these families to understand and love each other across cultural barriers. An amazing book!
I don't think I can recommend this book enough. The experiences represented here are not only diverse in the sense that they take place in Africa (a continent that is wildly under-represented in my reading and, I suspect, in many other people's too), but the two main characters also both go on to experience different continents themselves and go through changes, both in themselves and in their perception of the world. It's also a really interesting look at race in America and the experiences of an illegal immigrant in the UK.
6. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
This is probably the most famous of Schlink's books, but he also wrote a brilliant detective series about Gerhard Selb ('Self' in English!). This offers an interesting look at post-war Germany and people's complex motivations for doing what they do.
7. The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson
Shoutout to Susie from Girl with her Head in a Book who hates Jacqueline Wilson (sorry! :P), and who was very scathing about her novel The Suitcase Kid in her Top Ten Tuesday this week. But I vividly remember being really challenged by Jacqueline Wilson's novels when I was reading them as a child and young teenager. The Illustrated Mum is the example that comes most readily to mind; it's the story of a woman with bipolar disorder, told from the perspective of her young daughter. Throughout the book, we see the main character struggling to balance her fierce protective love for her mum on the one hand with her frustration and fear on the other. I remember discussing this one with my own mum afterwards.
Another one inspired by Susie's list (she disliked this one too! :P). I found this book to be a highly complex and nuanced look at race relations in colonial India, with Forster's trademark subtlety and understanding of human interaction. This book is so interesting, particularly in that all the characters are so flawed; even the 'good guy' is only free from prejudice (or at least relatively so) because of circumstance.
This book offers the perspective of an unrepresented and misunderstood character from Jane Eyre, which addresses the wider issue of white stories being given more page-space and importance than those of people of colour. I didn't actually love this book all that much, but it was really interesting and thought-provoking, and it's definitely worth a read as it offers a really important perspective.
10. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I almost just put this as an honourable mention on the end of #1, but I just couldn't do it! This book (more than) merits a space of its own. It encompasses so many issues such as racism, the experiences of women in black communities, sexuality, abuse, faith, the nature of love, and the complex relationship between Africans and black Americans. Plus it's beautiful and heartbreaking. What more could you want?
As usual (but perhaps especially in this case), if you have any recommendations of your own, let me know in the comments! Feel free to share your own lists too :)