2015 Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenges: August Recap

September 1st, 2015 11:02 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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  • Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers (2015); review coming in October

    Diversity: YEEEES! Theodore “Rory” Callahan is gay. When the story begins, he’s having an “affair” with his much-older boss, Andy Barnett (scare quotes because Rory is seventeen and the relationship is described multiple times as statutory rape). Andy started dating men later in life; he has an ex-wife and two daughters, the oldest of which is just a few years younger than Rory. By story’s end, he and Andy have broken up, and Rory is in a healthy relationship with a guy his own own – Speed Briggs, a black football player. A plus-sized guy (“fat,” in Rory’s words), the bookish Rory was recruited to play defense in his senior year.

    Rory’s best friend Lula doesn’t quite know what she is – gay, straight, or bisexual. She thinks she has a crush on Rory, but comes to realize that maybe she was confusing platonic for romantic love. During the course of the book, she kisses two women – her English teacher, Sam Ridell, and older friend/college classmate Julia “Jay” Fillmore. Jay has an ex named Carol who’s black. Eventually Lula starts dating “Sexy” Seth Brock, the school’s “requisite hot quarterback,” who’s actually rather nerdy too. (Both Rory and Lula are the Hawthorne High misfits – the titular “weird girl” and “what’s his name?” – at least at first.)

    Lula’s friend Tracy, who gives her a place to crash when she runs away, is multiracial: her dad is half-white, half-Filipino, while her mom is half-black, half-Colombian.

    Like many of their classmates, Rory and Lula come from “broken” or “dysfunctional” homes. Rory’s dad left when he was little, and his mom’s a barely-functioning alcoholic. When he’s accidentally outed, she kicks him out of the house. After a few weeks of living in his car, he visits the youth center at a Unitarian Church that does LGBTQ outreach. Seth’s dad is the minister and, when he learns of Rory’s living situation, the Brocks invite Rory to stay with them (Insta-brother, in Seth’s words; Seth’s older/only brother Donnie died of testicular cancer).

    Lula’s mom left her with her parents, Janet and Leo, when Lula was just three years old. Though Leo refuses to talk about Christine, Lula tracks her down in Santa Fe. Their relationship remains rocky, but she bonds with her stepdad, Walter. She also learns that her bio dad, Peter, is gay – that’s why the marriage didn’t work out. Janet is Jewish, and Leo was Lutheran, but neither are practicing.

  • A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (2015); review coming in October

    Diversity: Just in terms of disability. The story takes place in two late 1800s mental asylums; and, while many of the women committed there aren’t crazy – merely inconvenient to the men around them – there is Grace’s friend Elizabeth, who talks to “String,” like her grandmother before her. (Her father thinks she’s a witch.) Nell is dying of syphilis, and there’s an unnamed girl who thinks there are spiders in her blood; she’s “cured” with a lobotomy.

  • The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace) by Erin Bow (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: Yes! The story is about seven teenage Children of Peace – the sons and daughters of world leaders, held hostage as a means of discouraging war, by Talis, the AI who rules the world four hundred years in the future. While the plot unfolds in North America, the cast is international and thus fairly diverse (and often in unexpected ways).

    * Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a 7th generation hostage and our hero/narrator. She’s very fair; white, with blonde hair and a wolf-like face. She’s also bisexual: she has relationships with both Elián and Xie.

    * Li Da-Xia (“Xie”), the Daughter of the Heavenly Throne, is a goddess from the Mountain Glacials in Yunnan (Yunnan is in China and is at the far eastern edge of the Himalayan uplift). She’s also bi; while Atta is her longtime “playing coyotes” companion, she and Greta eventually fall in love. Xie became pregnant and suffered a miscarriage when she was just 15 (Atta was the father).

    * Thandi is heir to one of the great thrones of Africa and speaks Xhosa (one of the official Bantu languages of South Africa; the Xhosa people live in southeastern South Africa).

    * Gregori Kalvelis (“Grego”) is the son of a grand duke of the Baltic Alliance and is Lithuanian in descent; he suffers from albinism and has had cybernetics implanted in his eyes to more effectively regulate light.

    * Atta Paşa, a prince in the line of the Prophet, is “from Vlad’s part of the world” (Romania?), while the surname Paşa suggests Turkish descent.

    * Han, who we learn little of, save for he’s small and slight and bad with subtext and sarcasm.

    * Sidney Carlow is the son of governor of Mississippi Delta Conference.

    * Elián Palnik’s father is a Jewish sheep farmer from Kentucky. His grandmother is Wilma Armenteros, leader of the Cumberland Alliance; her great-great-etc-grandfather led the evacuation of Miami. Between his grandmother’s surname; the fact that his matrilineal line hails from Miami; and his loose, dark curls, I got the impression that he was part Latino. (Elián is Sidney’s replacement.)

    The story also references two Children of Peace who were killed in the years preceding the story: Vitor and Bihn.

  • nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: Out of 22 stories, 5 feature diverse characters. Only in the first two stories are the roles prominent ones.

    “Naomi” is a lovely and heartbreaking story about a young trans woman who commits suicide. Not only was she bullied mercilessly by her classmates, Naomi received little support from her mother – an addict who’s later put on suicide watch herself – who locks her in the closet while she cuts up her dresses and other feminine clothing. The narrator, her uncle, is gay.

    In “The Masques of Amanda Llado,” the titular character may or may not be a trans man; it’s kind of unclear. There’s a lot of gender ambiguity and genderplay going on here. Also, Amanda Llado is Latina – or at least her surname is (“It’s Spanish.”).

    The detective from “Street of the Dead House,” Auguste Dupin, “lives in a ruined house with his boyfriend, I suppose.”

    In “Finding Ulalume,” the narrator rescues a grandfather (Henry) with Alzheimer’s. One of the detectives, Cheng, is Asian.

    Father Robert, the parish priest in “Dinner with Mamalou,” is black.

  • One by Sarah Crossan (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: Yes. Sixteen-year-old Grace and Tippi are ischiopagus tripus conjoined twins. Fused at the lower halves of their bodies, they look perfectly “normal” – beautiful even – from the waist up (as Grace wistfully notes on at least one occasion). They have two heads, two hearts, two sets of lungs and kidneys, four arms, and a pair of fully functioning legs between them. Their intestines begin apart, and then merge; below that, they are one. When Grace is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, the girls have to consider the possibility of separation.

    Additionally, their father is an alcoholic and younger sister Dragon is anorexic. The family is struggling with crippling debt due to medical bills, as well as their father’s chronic unemployment and recent layoffs at their mom’s workplace.

    Their best friend Yasmeen has HIV; she got it from her mother, before she knew she was infected. Jon is poor; he’s attending Hornbeacon on a scholarship. He’s lived with his stepfather Cal ever since his mom took off.

  • The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (2015); review coming soon

    Diversity: Carly/Kaitlyn Johnson suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, perhaps more commonly known as multiple personality disorder). Carly may be gay or bisexual; towards the end of the story, it’s revealed that she thinks she’s in love with her best friend, Naida. Brett sexually assaults her after figuring this out, and continues to harass Kaitlyn after Carly disappears. Carly is anorexic and Kaitlyn self-harms. Naida’s boyfriend, Scott Fromley, is described as “a lanky boy with dark skin, a little over six feet tall, with a slim frame and black hair.”


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