Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books that celebrate diversity. I tried to pick books that have different types of diversity. I also attempted to mix in a few under-hyped books.
Brass Ankle Blues – Rachel Harper
As a young woman of mixed race, Nellie Kincaid is about to encounter the strange, unsettling summer of her fifteenth year. Reeling from the recent separation of her parents, Nellie finds herself traveling to the family's lake house with only her father and her estranged cousin, leaving behind the life and the mother she is trying to forget.
As the summer progresses, Nellie will have to define herself, navigating the twists and turns of first love. At the same time, her family is becoming more and more divided by the day. Does her newfound identity require her to distance herself from those she loves, or will it draw her closer?
Diversity: The main character is a mixed-race girl who is trying to figure out her racial identity.
What Happened to Lani Garver – Carol Plum-Ucci
The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl?
Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons—and the possibility that angels may exist on earth.
Diversity: This was one of my favorite books when I was a young teenager. Lani’s gender, age, and sexuality are a mystery. Lani may not even be human. Claire is a popular high school cheerleader who is secretly struggling with an eating disorder.
Esperanza Rising – Pam Muñoz Ryan
When Esperanza and Mama are forced to flee from the bountiful region of Aguascalientes, Mexico, to a Mexican farm labor camp in California, they must adjust to a life without fancy dresses and servants. Now they have to confront the challenges of hard work, acceptance by their own people, and economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. When Mama falls ill and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must relinquish her hold on the past and learn to embrace a future ripe with the riches of family and community.
Diversity: Esperanza is Mexican, and she lives in a labor camp with people from all over the world.
Stone Mattress: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.
Diversity: Many of the protagonists are elderly people. That isn’t a prospective that I’ve seen often in fiction.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
Diversity: The main characters come from different countries (Germany/Poland) and religious backgrounds (Christian/Jewish).
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Diversity: I had to put this one on the list, even though it’s probably on everybody’s list. LGBTQ Mexican-American characters.
Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri's stories tell the lives of Indians in exile, of people navigating between the strict traditions they've inherited and the baffling New World they must encounter every day.
Diversity: An amazing short story collection about Indian and Indian-American characters.
Battle Royale – Koushun Takami
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan—where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller—Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Diversity: I love translations. This book was originally written in Japanese, but it’s now very popular in English-speaking countries. All of the characters are Japanese.
Fat Kid Rules the World – K.L. Going
Troy Billings at six-foot-one, 296 pounds, is standing at the edge of a subway platform, seriously contemplating suicide, when he meets Curt MacCrae—an emaciated, semi-homeless punk guitar genius who also happens to be a dropout legend at Troy's school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. "I saved your life," Curt tells Troy. "You owe me lunch." But lunch with Curt brings more than Troy bargained for. Suddenly, Troy finds himself recruited as Curt's drummer for his new band. However, there are a few problems. Troy can't play the drums. Troy's father thinks Curt is a drug addict. And Troy's brother thinks Curt is a loser. But with Curt, anything is possible. "You'll see," says Curt. "We're going to be HUGE." Fortunately, mercurial Curt has an energy, enthusiasm, and wisdom that is as irresistible as it is contagious. Before long, Troy is swept up by his desire to be everything Curt believes him to be . . . .
Diversity: The main characters are a depressed, obese teenager and a homeless drug addict. Those are unique perspectives.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
Diversity: A Native American teen with hydrocephalus decides to attend an all-white high school.