2015 Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenges: November Recap

December 2nd, 2015 9:05 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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  • Among The Shadows: 13 Stories of Darkness & Light, edited by Kate Karyus Quinn (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: In “Such a Lovely Monster,” Tamara’s single, low-income mom upgrades to a rental home in a nicer neighborhood – made affordable because there’s a monster living under the bed. Tamara is one of the few black girls at her school. When she was younger, she was best friends with a girl named Rai Chakravarty – but that all ended when Rai snuck into her room late one night and the monster ate her. In high school, her besties are Merry and Jamie, who just so happen to be a couple.

    The narrator of “Heroin(e)” is homeless and struggling with drug addiction.

    Evan, the ill-fated boy in “Canary,” has blond hair and light brown skin (“like the cakes her mama fried up for breakfast”), while his friend Kendall is black.

    In “Reunion,” Sabrina’s mother physically and emotionally abuses both her and her father for the affair he had many years ago.

    The protagonist of “Blarach Bridge,” Deven Bhatti, is Indian (he and his mother are both immigrants to the US).

    Set in the distant future, “Chasing the Sky” concerns an illegal settlement on an alien planet; many of the citizens have names that hint at Indian descent: Akash, Tanar Dev, Ratu.

    Matthew and Marty Shelton, the twins in “The Cowbird Egg,” have dark hair and olive skin.

  • Horns by Joe Hill (2010)

    Diversity: After transforming into the devil, Ig has the ability to read people – their worst thoughts and deeds, usually – by touching them, and his horns compel them to share their sins with him. Unsurprisingly, he learns that many men around him are rapists/potential rapists/sexual abusers; for example, Dr. Renald masturbates while spying on his teenage daughter’s friends in the pool (and also abuses drugs, including while at work).

    Upon learning of Officer Posada’s attraction to his (very homophobic) partner Sturtz, Ig tries to persuade Posada to make a move on him, hoping to turn the two corrupt cops against each other. Instead, by story’s end, Posada and Sturtz are together – demonstrating the potential for good, as well as bad, in Ig’s horns.

    Sister Bennett confides to Ig that she dreams about running off with the Church’s money and thinks she might be gay or bisexual. She once kissed (read: sexually assaulted) one of her students, a sixteen-year-old girl named Britt.

    Lee Tourneau, the aid to a right-wing Christian congressman, suffered a brain injury as a child that may or may not be responsible for his adult sociopathy. He killed a cat as a child and, as an adult, slowly cooked his dying, senile mother to death and raped and murdered Merrin Williams, one of two of his best friends. Lee is partially blind in one eye due to a childhood mishap with fireworks/explosives.

    When they were kids (in the ’90s, presumably), Father Mould beat Ig’s brother Terry for misbehaving in class. When Mould was in his twenties, he and a group of friends committed a hate crime – they assaulted a group of Nation of Islam kids who visited Syracuse to speak about civil rights. They were never caught.

    Ig’s grandmother Vera is faking a hip injury so that others will dote on her; she’s confined to a wheelchair.

    Eric’s father, a police officer, abused him as a kid; as a grown man and cop himself, Eric is prone to acts of brutality. At one point in their childhood, Terry has to talk Eric out of blowing up a cat with fireworks.

    Merrin’s older sister Regan died of breast cancer. When Merrin is diagnosed with the same strain of cancer, she begins to plan her death/suicide, but is murdered before it comes to pass.

    Merrin’s roommate is Asian.

  • Those Left Behind (Serenity #1) by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad (2006); reviewed here

    Diversity: Zoe – played by Afro-Latina Cuban-American actress Gina Torres in the tv show and movie – is a woman of color. Her husband, Wash, is white, and the two typically display inverted gender roles in their partnership, with Zoe playing the gun-toting, skull-crushing warrior woman badass, to Wash’s more gentle, sensitive, conflict-averse pilot. Additionally, the opening panels show Mal, Zoe, and Jayne vying with a second crew of thieves over a big score; one or two of the members are Asian in appearance. This is especially notable since the show – set in a future where the two big Alliance superpowers are the US and China – is curiously lacking in Asian characters.

  • Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: Yes! Drew – one-third of Emmy’s BFF triangle – is gay, and dating a cute barista named Kevin. When he came out, Drew’s parents started treating him differently, even though they said they were okay with it. But when Drew asks to take Kevin to his grandmother’s upcoming birthday party, they refuse – grandma’s “old school” and controls the family’s purse strings. To paraphrase Drew, they’d rather force him to live a lie than move into a smaller house.

    At the time of the kidnapping, Oliver’s father was struggling with alcoholism.

    Emmy’s AP Bio teacher is named Mr. Hernandez (and all the moms swoon over him).

    There’s also some wonderful feminist commentary on slut shaming, street harassment, girls hating on girls to curry favor with guys, the “natural” look, and the like; Benway drops it in in such a way that it feel matter-of-fact, not heavy-handed. (Though the GamerGate/MRA crowd might disagree.)


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