2015 Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenges: December Recap

January 5th, 2016 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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  • Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu (2015); reviewed here

    Diversity: Rachel and Lauren were raised in a fundamentalist Christian community; Mathieu based it on the Quiverfull movement, of which the Duggars are adherents. Lauren’s father abused her physically, and both girls suffered the psychological abuse that comes with being indoctrinated into a woman-hating, anti-science, isolationist cult.

  • Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (2014)

    Diversity: The deputy store manager Basil is black. Though he’s a bit of a stickler for Orsk store policy, we learn that his rigidity is due in part to his guardianship of his nine-year-old sister, Shawnette; the siblings are from east Cleveland, as Basil’s job gave him a way out. Carl is homeless and has epilepsy; he has a prescription, but is unemployed and can no longer afford his medication. Trinity is Korean and her parents are Christian; it’s implied that she might be bisexual. Amy comes from a poor family. Finally, the story’s villain is the ghost a sadistic 19th century warden who tortured (“cured”, “purified”) his charges through repetitious work, offering a bit of commentary on today’s prison-industrial complex.

  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner (2016); review coming soon

    Diversity: This military biography of Minamoto Yoshitsune, one of Japan’s most infamous samurai, is set in twelfth century Japan.

  • The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1) by Heidi Heilig (2016); review coming soon

    Diversity: YES!!! The crew of The Temptation was hand-plucked by Slate from different places in space (and time!), resulting in a crew that’s as diverse as it is talented:

    Nix Song is half Chinese on her mother Lin’s side. Mom worked packing pipes in an opium den, which is where she met Slate. Slate is (presumably) white with blonde hair, a mess of tattoos, an addiction to opium, and a propensity to bouts of depression and blackouts. While Lin is native to 1800s Hawaii, Slate was born in New York City in 1965. Nix was born in Honolulu in 1868 in Auntie Joss’s opium den, but Slate whisked her away to The Temptation when she was just a baby.

    First mate Bee is Na’ath, a ex-cattle herder from Sudan. Her wife Ayen died years before Bee joined the crew, but Ayen never truly left her; in accordance with Bee’s beliefs, Ayen continues to travel with Bee as her “ghost wife.” Bee often blames Ayen for trivial things: improper thoughts blurted aloud, or a chore gone wrong. When she was younger, a man – jealous of a her marriage – attacked Bee, leaving her with a noose-like scar around her throat and a raspy voice.

    Cook and lookout Rotgut is an ex-monk from China.

    Kashmir came to the ship as a stowaway from the Vaadi Al-Maas (“Diamond Valley”), “a reference to the story of Sinbad and the Rocs.” At the time, The Temptation was using a French map of Persia circa 1740. Kashmir has “golden skin” and dark curls and is fluent in Farsi, Arabic, English and French. While in Honolulu circa 1884, he and Nix are subjected to a slew of racial slurs by a drunken boxer. And this is hardly the first time Kash has been treated unfairly because of his skin color; as Nix/Heilig keenly notes, “No matter the era, cops never liked Kashmir.”

    Additionally, Auntie Joss is Chinese, and we meet several indigenous Hawaiians, such as Kalakaua, the last King of Hawaii, who Nix and Kash encounter at a bar while out drinking. Nix ruefully observes that the King, like so many of his kinsmen, will succumb to alcohol addiction.

    Heilig also imbues the story with a strong sense of social justice that’s rooted in her knowledge of Hawaiian history and American colonialism. See my review for more.

  • Version Control: A Novel by Dexter Palmer (2016); review coming soon

    Diversity: Rebecca suffers from alcoholism and sometimes drinks so heavily that she experiences blackouts. It’s implied that her mother and best friend Kate are alcoholics as well. Rebecca also struggles with grief after the death of her son Sean. In another version of history, Sean’s pediatrician “regularly hint[s] that he might turn out to be on the spectrum.” After he discovered that his graduate adviser was manipulating his research data, Philip tried to commit suicide. Carson, one of the physicists who works in Dr. Steiner’s lab, is black, as are the security guards Terence and Spivey.

    Spivey likes to mess with Carson by “mistakenly” calling him Carlton, after the character played by Alfonso Ribeiro on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Spivey looks down on Carson for ‘acting white.’ He also doesn’t think – and wisely so – that it’s in the best interest of women and black folks to mess with time travel. (As he laid out his argument to Terence – then nose-deep in an Octavia Butler paperback – I found myself silently screaming “KINDRED! KINDRED! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE PLEASE MENTION KINDRED!” The main character Dana, a woman of color from 1976, experiences the horrors of slavery firsthand when she’s transported against her will to the antebellum South in order to protect a white ancestor, slave-owning rapist named Rufus. IT WAS RIGHT THERE!)

    Gaia Williams, head of Lovability, is “black, though it was hard to say”; or “maybe….Hawaiian or something? Sort of Asian, but not really? Polynesian. Maybe?” Rebecca’s avatar, Marcus, is The Ultimate Black Man; her/his “mark” is Catalina, a middle-aged black woman.

  • Join by Steve Toutonghi (2016); review coming soon

    Diversity: Yes! The book’s protagonist is a join named Chance. Chance is comprised of five members or “drives”; two of them are women, and three (or possibly four) are people of color:
    Chance One, formerly known as Ashton, is a 40-year-old black man, the son of Reform Individualist (“solo”) parents. He’s a researcher/data analyst with a specialty in risk analysis and macro weather modeling.
    Chance Two (Renee) is a white, middle-aged woman who’s employed as an airline pilot specializing in long-haul aviation. She and Ashton originally joined to create Rocket (presumably they were a married couple, as many new joins/joins of two are).
    Chance Three (Jake) is a middle-aged man who works as a join doctor. His ethnicity is a bit of a mystery; he’s described as having dark hair, but that’s about it. His parents are named Angela and Sarawut, so it’s possible that he’s part Asian (Thai).
    Chance Four (Shami-8) is a 38-year-old brown-skinned woman who’s skilled in carpentry and Jai Kido. A child of the “cloning” movement, she has genes from three+ people. Jake and Shami were previously joined to each other before joining with Rocket to create Chance.
    Chance Five (Javier Quispe) is a college student who was born and raised on a mining base in the Andes. He is diagnosed with terminal cancer six months after joining Chance.

    Leap is Chance’s best friend and another major player in the story. Leap also has five drives, two men and three women, only one of which is a person of color. Leap Four is a young Japanese woman named Himiko. Her uncle Tomohiro worked as the master gardener for Josette, Leap Five and mother of Ian, Leap One. (Tomohiro ends up having a rather significant storyline, which is only revealed near the end of the book.) Aurora, Leap Two, trained alongside Chance Two and also works as an airline pilot. Josette decided to join with Leap only after she was diagnosed with an advanced, degenerative autoimmune disease and was faced with the possibility of death. Now, Leap is suffering from a “flip” – a fatal reaction to the join process that’s triggered when one or more of the drives changes her mind, post-procedure.

    Hamish Lyons, a pioneer in join technology and one of the few (only?) joins to successfully separate, is a tall, white-haired black man. “Hamish” is actually a join consisting of Hamish Lyons, Derek Okoro, Qi Wei, Marina DelThomaso, and Duff Berjer. Chance and Leap seek Hamish’s help in curing Leap.

    When Chance and Leap travel to Arcadia, their driver’s name is Don Kim; he’s married to Elicia, a “tall black woman.” They also meet Marco, “a medium-height black man” and Emily, “a frail-looking olive-skinned woman.” These characters only have small bits in the story.

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