2015 Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenges: July Roundup

July 31st, 2015 11:15 am by Kelly Garbato

This month’s Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenge roundup comes with the usual disclaimer: In several instances, I’m not 100% certain that the book’s diverse enough to be included in the challenge (for example, how to judge a book of short stories? Is one or two diverse tales out of a dozen or more acceptable?) – so I’ve included a brief note about each book’s qualifications at the end of the post, so you can judge for yourself.

Pro tip: these notes may contain spoilers.

 

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  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: YES! Diversity is the rule here, not the exception, as is so often the case. Of eighteen stories, only three stories don’t feature a character who is explicitly non-white, LGBTQ, disabled, etc.; and in these cases, the cast is rather small, and race isn’t mentioned at all.

    The other fifteen stories showcase casts that are as diverse as the plots are imaginative; characters who are black, Native American (Rosebud Sioux, to be exact), Indian, Latino, Armenian (maybe), and biracial; multiple gay and lesbian protagonists, some in committed relationships, others not – one gay man even recently out of the closet, after a decades-long marriage that resulted in children; interracial relationships and blended families; fat women and seemingly disabled children. In a refreshing change of pace, it’s white, heterosexual characters who are the rarity.

    I kept notes on diversity for the Dive Into Diversity reading challenge, but nearly gave up just three stories in – it would have proven easier to single out the heterosexual white male characters than vice versa.

  • In Wilderness: A Novel by Diane Thomas (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: Kate suffers from a mysterious constellation of symptoms – migraines, dizziness, nausea, confusion, fatigue, memory loss, generalized pain – that today some people call Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS, though the diagnosis is still a matter of debate). After her doctor gives her six months to live – her body is failing to “assimilate” food and thus she’s slowly starving – she goes into the woods to die. She tries to commit suicide once (with pills, which she throws up) and contemplates it often after that (she brings a gun for that purpose).

    While living in the forest, Kate meets Danny, a twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD. After the violent death of his best friend Jimbo – during which his brains and other various body parts exploded all over Danny – Danny lost it and couldn’t stop screaming for a week. He was discharged and now lives in self-exile in the woods, believing himself to be a danger to others. During a lightning storm, he has flashbacks to the war.

  • Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep edited by Peter Öberg (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: A little, but probably not enough to classify this as a “diverse book.” In “The Road,” POC are dominant and it’s white people who are discriminated against; MC Kita is dark-skinned, and has bad facial scars and suffers from PTSD due to an explosion. In “The Membranes in The Centering Horn,” the narrator meets a man who claims to have visited the mythical city of Nuzi. Here, he met an ancient alien who purports to have genetically engineered humans; according to her, blacks are the superior race and were meant to inherit the earth. She gives his “Negro guide” Mwunga a magical paper containing the secrets of the universe, but of course it’s lost when the (white, racist) narrator tries to rip it from his hands. There’s an Asian AI named Lucy in “Vegatropolis – City of the Beautiful,” but she’s a very minor character. Dr. Frederika Wilhelmina von Leibniz, the German mathematician in “The Philosopher’s Stone,” is described as North African in appearance. “Wishmaster” features an assistant (Emilia) who’s a woman of color and having an affair with her married boss, also a woman (Christina Lorentz). Monifa, one of the rebels in “Keep Fighting Until the Machines Fall Asleep” is a WOC with dark skin and plaits.

  • A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc (2013); reviewed here

    Diversity: Yes! The book is about two moms to a little boy of color. One of his two friends is Asian-American.

  • Black-Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberlin (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: Yes. Terrell Darcy Goodwin, the man wrongfully convicted of the murder of the three Susans (and the attempted murder of Tessie) is African-American; racial injustice, particularly in relation to the death penalty, is touched upon numerous times. Dr. Giles, Tessa’s therapist, is a WOC with “velvet brown skin.” One of the Susans, later identified as Carmen Rivera, was a Mexican exchange student. Benita Alvarez, a social worker assigned to Tessie’s case, is Latina. Tessie’s next-door neighbor Euphemia Outler (Effie for short) is an ex-science professor in the early stages of dementia.

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015); review coming in September

    Diversity: Yes. Madeline Furukawa Whittier has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and has spent the past fifteen years confined to her house with only her mom and full-time nurse for company. Maddy is biracial: her mom Pauline is third generation Japanese-American, and her father was African-American. Both Maddy’s father and older brother died in a car accident when she was only a few months old. Her nurse, Carla Flores, is Mexican-American. Maddy’s new neighbor/friend/suitor Olly is white and lives in a violent situation. His father, an alcoholic, physically and verbally abuses his wife and children. Olly’s friend Zack is black, with “enormous dreadlocks.” He’s also gay and an aspiring musician, both of which he keeps a secret from his parents (“How am I gonna tell them that their first-born son wants to be the African-American Freddie Mercury?”). Pauline suffers from an undiagnosed mental disorder.

  • The Suffering (The Girl from the Well #2) by Rin Chupeco (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: Yes! The seventeen-year-old MC, Tarquin “Tark” Holloway, is biracial: his now-deceased mother Yoko was born in Japan, and she and his white American father met at at Tokyo University, where both were attending college. Now a high school senior in Washington, DC, Tark is frequently the subject of racist bullying. Okiku (“Ki”), Tark’s ghost protector, was also born in Japan; she was murdered over 300 years ago by her lord’s retainer. Most of the story takes place in Japan; when their friend Kagura Kino sets out with a group of American ghost hunters in search of the fabled village of Aitou, only to go missing, Tark and his cousin Callie travel to Japan to help in the search. There they encounter the ghosts of seven Japanese girls (all named) sacrificed by a wizard in the 1800s, as well as the souls of the villagers killed in the aftermath of the botched ritual. The seventh girl, Oimikada Hotoke, whose rebellion prevented her father from assuming control over a hell’s gate, has blue eyes just like Tark. We lean from her diary that this unusual coloring – attributed to her mother, who belonged to an Auni tribe – made her the subject of suspicion and distrust.

     

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