Monday, July 25, 2016

DISCUSSION: What does the term "diverse" mean to you?

We all talk about reading more diverse novels, but what exactly does that mean? Typically, we use the term diversity to represent groups of people that are underrepresented in novels. I think we all automatically think about race or sexuality when it comes to diversity. While it's important to read about other races and about the LGBT community, diversity isn't just about that. 

Here's a list of other items that can be included in that diversity label.

1. Location
I live in the United States, so I do consider books that take place outside the United States part of that diversity label. And to go one step further, I like to read books that are set in locations other than the United States or Europe because Europe is almost as popular as the United States.

2. Religion
In most of the books I read, if religion is mentioned, the person is a Christian. But what about people who are Jewish or Muslim or even Hindu? I don't read about people who follow other religions very often so I would really consider that part of the diversity factor. And while we're at it, where are the books about atheists? And NOT the ones where they "suddenly" find their faith in God by the end. I am an atheist and I would love to read more books featuring them.

3. Medical condition or disability 
I recently read a book featuring a character with muscular dystrophy. Do you know how excited I was  to see that? I actually have a form of muscular dystrophy, so that was all kinds of awesome. I also recently read a book about conjoined twins and that was a first for me. 

What does the term "diverse" mean to you? Are there any other factors that may lead you to classify a book as diverse?

27 comments :

  1. Diverse means to me- a wide range of people from all different walks of life, experiencing different issues. I never really thought about it as different cultures, but you're totally right, it is about that too!

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  2. Great topic, and I think you're right to point out that there's more to diversity beyond ethnicity and sexuality. I would probably throw age into the mix as well, and economic status -- and I'm sure there's more!

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    1. Oh Lisa, you're right! How could I forget about those? Especially the age one. I know I read a lot of young adult, but even the adult books don't have a lot of POVs of elderly people. Great point.

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  3. You make great points here - diversity can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. I consider any sort of underrepresented people being featured in a book (in a positive way) as diversity!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  4. I love this post! We really do need to expand on the breadth of what we call diverse books. As an atheist too, I totally agree with you that we need to see more books with atheists that are accurately portrayed and don't suddenly convert and "see the light" at the end of the book.

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    1. Thanks so much Nerdgirl! I appreciate that. And books that have atheists convert at the end are just unrealistic. Maybe a few atheists change their minds, but the bulk of them don't. And I have pretty much been an atheist my entire life. If I haven't changed my mind yet, I'm not going to.

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  5. It annoys me that diverse seems to only mean sexual orientation, mental disability or race. Specifically black or asian races. Where are all the other races??? As a hispanic, it annoys me that there are hardly any hispanic characters out there. And not the ones where the hispanic characters are either illegal immigrants, poor or drug dealers/gangsters. It annoys me even more that no one else is bothered by the lack of this...
    I agree that diverse can mean so much more I never thought about location but that's a great example.

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    1. About 60% of my students are Latino, so I'm on the lookout for these as well, both for representation and for my own education. The kids like Matt de la Pena and Francisco Jimenez, although both do deal with the poor. Other authors you might want to check out are Benjamin Alire Saenz, Francisco X. Stork, Meg Medina, Isabel Quintero, E. Charlton Trujillo and Julia Alvarez.

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    2. Nereyda and Wendy, thank you so much for opening my eyes to that part of it, I hadn't even thought about the fact that there aren't many Hispanic characters out there. I have read books with black characters and white characters and occasionally, Asian characters. I can certainly see why you would be bothered Nereyda. We need to make sure ALL races are more equally represented.

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  6. Oh I agree that diverse means a TON of things!! Although w hen I start overthinking it I get super confused. hhahaa...because like is a book about a homeschooler diverse? Is a book about someone who speaks two languages diverse? Is a cancer book diverse?? IT'S SO CONFUSING SOMETIMES. *composes self* But I do think things like disability and illness often don't get represented as much as sexuality/race. Which is a shame...I just read a book about an obscure illness and it was REALLY interesting. I always find I learn a lot. :')

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    1. Cait, that is SO TRUE! I think I tried to start a Goodreads book shelf on diverse reads, but then I realized just about every book had SOME type of diversity in it.

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  7. Diverse means inclusivity. It means more characters of multi/diverse backgrounds and representatives of various cultures. It means breaking from tropes and breaking from social convention to include all different wakes of life.

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

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    1. Rachel, that is so true! Thanks for that helpful definition. :)

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  8. This is a great post! Food for thought about my own reading habits.

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  9. To me diverse means something totally different from the norm.
    http://thebestbasicblogger.blogspot.com/2016/07/its-monday-what-are-you-reading_25.html

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    1. Thanks Joann! That makes a lot of sense.

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  10. I guess non-diverse means white, English speaking, cis-gendered, straight, able bodied (including mental health) middle or upper class, culturally Christian, college educated or on their way. So diverse books feature protagonists who are Other is any of these ways. Some issues outweigh others though. Harry Potter isn't diverse even though the Weasleys are poor and classmates include a Cho and some Patils. Another way of looking at it is what's new to the individual reader? Books set on the east coast are vaguely exotic to me. But Between Shades of Grey didn't astound me, because I'm very familiar with the Soviet deportations in the Baltics.

    Fascinating take on this topic!

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    1. Oh wow Wendy, that is so true! There are so many different classifications for diversity. You listed a lot of areas that are just so common in books. So yeah, there is way more to diversity than just race or sexuality. I hadn't even thought of socioeconomic status. There are very few books that portray lower middle class or the poor or even the homeless.

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  11. I couldn't agree more with this. It seems like race and sexual orientation and sometimes mental health are the only things talked about in terms of diversity. I've been trying to find some SFF books about characters with physical illness/disability lately, but it's so ridiculously hard to find. And no one ever talks about that. Except much like you mentioned atheists finding God by the end of the book, most disabilities in SFF are cured by the end because it just turns out to be something paranormal causing them.

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    1. Thank you so much Kristen. And you are right about the disability. I was excited about a book with someone who had muscular dystrophy . . . but then he was turned into a robot so it just got weird. Still good, but weird and there was not that much of a focus on the disability. I would like to see more of that as well. I did recently read a boo about conjoined twins (Gemini) that was really good. The ending was really realistic and I thought it was very well done.

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  12. This is great! I think there are just so, so many things- I fear I wouldn't actually be able to think of all the ways a book could be diverse! But you totally nailed a few of them! I'll add to that socioeconomic differences, cultural differences (which can vary, even in same ethnic/race situations)... truly, the sky is probably the limit! Awesome topic!

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    1. Thanks so much Shannon! And another commenter also mentioned socioeconomic class and I can't believe I didn't think of that one!

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  13. This is such an interesting discussion! I have never really sat down and thought about what a diverse book contains. I don't think that there is a set of definite characteristics that defines a diverse books. To me, diverse means anything out of the ordinary or underrepresented, like you said. This includes, but is not limited to, race, sexual orientation, location, nationality, disabilities, religion, and really anything that makes a person unique. I wish more publishers and authors realized how limitless diverse reads really are.

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    1. Thanks Tessa! You are so right about how limitless the possibilities are. I just started thinking about the fact that most people consider race and sexuality when thinking of diverse reads, but there is just SO MUCH MORE to it than that!

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