Reading Diversely In 2014

This is my final end-of-2014 wrap-up post, everyone! The next post will be a looking-ahead type of post in which I discuss my bookish goals for 2015, and after that I’ll be back to my regular programming.

Anyway. Today I’m recapping the diverse books I read last year! Diversity and representation are really important to me, so I thought I should tally up the diverse books I read and talk a little bit about them!

Figuring out how many I read was pretty easy, actually. Throughout 2014, I used Goodreads to categorize everything I read, including my diverse reads: They’re tagged as “diversity-in-literature.”

What counts as a diverse book, though? I decided to add books to my “diversity-in-literature” shelf if and only if they featured a diverse protagonist – or, if the book was narrated by several people, at least one diverse protagonist.

Let’s use the example of LGBTQ+ characters in literature, since I’m gay. I’m really, really not interested in seeing characters like me stand on the sidelines of someone else’s story. (Ooh, alliteration. Niiiiiice.) I’d much rather read about queer people as the heroes of their OWN stories. So by this logic, books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (gay friend), Lola and the Boy Next Door (gay dads), Fangirl (gay minor characters), and City of Bones (gay friend again) didn’t make it onto the list.

Anyway, here’s the full list of types of diversity I looked for:

  • LGBTQ+ protagonists
  • Protagonists who are not white
  • Protagonists who follow a religion other than Christianity
  • Disabled protagonists

the mark of athenaSo let’s get started! The following books are NOT listed in the order in which I read them – instead, they’re grouped by author, genre, subject matter, et cetera. In addition, I’ve provided short comments about my opinion of each book/series. Enjoy!

I FINALLY read Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series last year because the final installment was released in October! Although I struggled to get through the first few books, my efforts definitely paid off and I loved the middle/end of the series. The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, and The Blood of Olympus feature Latino, Native American, Chinese, black, and queer characters. I’m really proud of Riordan for realizing that his earlier series (Percy Jackson) was not all that diverse… and then doing something about it.tenthings

In January, I read two books by Randa Abdel-Fattah: Ten Things I Hate About Me and Does My Head Look Big In This?. Both books were about Muslim girls living in Australia. (Yay for YA novels not set in the USA!)

That winter, I also read the first three books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar ChroniclesCinder, Scarlet, and Cress. They’re set in dystopian Beijing, and I’m so excited to read Fairest in just a few weeks and Winter this November!

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson was a nonfiction book told in verse, about the 1955 lynching of a African-American teen. I cried.

I read several of Gene Luen Yang’s books this year! He’s written and illustrated a bunch of graphic novels with Asian-American protagonists. In 2014, I read The Eternal Smile (co-written with Derek Kirk Kim), Boxers and SaintsLevel Up, and The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew).

I also read Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, which was about a trio of twenty-something Asian-American friends trying to navigate adulthood and life in general.

E. Lockhart’s Fly on the Wall was about an adorably geeky Korean-American girl who loves to draw superheroes. It’s also a modern version of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis!

inheritanceMalinda Lo’s Ash was by FAR the best book I read in 2014! Love, love, LOVE that book. I already loved the fairy tale “Cinderella,” so… queer Cinderella? OH MY GOSH YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. This had beautiful writing, too.

I also LOVED Lo’s Adaptation and Inheritance – dystopian thrillers about aliens and bisexual characters and a love triangle that was actually written well. (And resolved perfectly. I won’t post spoilers, though, so you’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself!)

I read Geography Club by Brent Hartinger during summer vacation, and it was OK. Didn’t make me fangirl or anything, though. It’s about a school GSA.

I began reading David Levithan’s books this year, and read three of them. WHICH IS THREE MORE THAN I SHOULD HAVE READ. Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) all received two-star ratings from me. Honestly, I don’t know why I thought I’d like that last book, since I’m not a fan of either author. IT MADE ME CRINGE WITH ITS STEREOTYPES, PEOPLE. But I’m not sure whose sections made me cringe more.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay, on the other hand, was an adorable and lovely book about the fan artromance between two boys growing up in Idaho. I LOVED IT.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio and El Deafo by Cece Bell were middle-grade books about kids with disabilities/other physical problems. They were cute and, well, diverse, but I can’t honestly say they made much of an impression on me.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie was AWESOME. Very sad, though. It’s a collection of short stories about life on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state.

Katie O’Neill’s Princess Princess was a very, very cute webcomic about how one princess rescues another from a tower… and then they fall in love. So much cuteness!

Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming was a beautiful autobiography told in verse. Highly recommended!

I read Amélie Sarn’s I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister not too long ago, and it would probably be a good idea for you to read now, in light of the Charlie Hebdo attack. (It’s about Islamophobia in France.)

like no otherEmiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston was a quick read – it’s a graphic novel about a young Asian-Canadian girl who is struggling to find an outlet for her
creativity.

Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks was… well, if I’m honest, it wasn’t that great. Did they think up the plot while they were high? Because it was really weird. Anyway. One of the narrators was Asian-American.

Una LaMarche’s Like No Other was a SUPERBLY-written novel about the love story between a black boy and an Orthodox Jewish girl. I don’t normally enjoy reading about romance, but THIS WAS SO ROMANTIC. And realistic, too. Their relationship wasn’t always perfect, which I appreciated. I think too many YA books gloss over that kind of thing.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri was about gang violence in inner-dramacity Chicago.

Raina Telgemeier’s middle-grade graphic novel Drama was a cute story about two queer brothers and their friends.

Orange by Zhang Bin was about a Chinese teenager who tries to commit suicide. Very sad stuff.

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay was about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. I think maybe I should read the original version, too.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan was a graphic novel about an Asian family that immigrated to the United States and… fought monsters? Or something like that? IT DIDN’T HAVE VERY MANY WORDS SO IT WAS DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers series was FANTASTIC. One of its protagonists was Latina, and pretty much everyone on the team was super queer. It was great. If you like Marvel superheroes, you need to try these books.

i am jazzIf you’re looking for LGBTQ+ children’s books, I recommend I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. It’s about a little girl who is transgender, and is loosely based on the life of one of its authors. (Who is still only about thirteen, I think? Wow. I wish I’d been published at that age!)

And last but definitely not least, The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff was a beautifully illustrated graphic novel set in China. Oh my god, the watercolor pictures were amazing! And the story was, too – it’s about a girl who is wanted dead and alive.

All in all, I read forty-five diverse books in 2014, which is a decent amount. I read 203 total, which means that approximately twenty-two percent of the books I read last year featured diverse protagonists. Not bad!

would like to increase that figure, however. My 2015 Goodreads reading challenge goal is, once again, one hundred books – so I’d like to read at least fifty diverse books this year. That way, if I only manage to read one hundred(ish) books in 2015 (which is totally possible, because I’ll be attending college full-time in the fall), at least half of those books will be diverse.

And if I end up reading more than one hundred books, then, well… I’ll just try to adjust the number of diverse books accordingly.

I have one more thing to say, and then I’ll wrap up this post: I need some recommendations. Not for LGBTQ+ books, though, because I can handle that on my own – my to-read list for those books is huge!

Anyway, I would love recommendations for books with:

  • African-American protagonists
  • Latino protagonists
  • Protagonists who are some sort of minority in their country (for example, Chinese-Candians – I read a lot of books about people of different races living in the USA, but absolutely none about, say, non-white people in the UK)
  • Disabled protagonists
  • Jewish protagonists (especially if it’s not a Holocaust story – my brother and I studied WWII for an entire YEAR a few years ago, and this included reading a bunch of books, so I’m looking for books with Jewish characters in the modern world, please)
  • GRAPHIC NOVELS WITH DIVERSE PROTAGONISTS!

Thanks!

Your turn! Tell me: What diverse books did you read last year? (And which were your favorites?) Which ones would you like to tackle this year?

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Reading Diversely In 2014

  1. Ok, I know I just recently read a book about a queer Jewish girl, but I cannot remember the freaking title. I stg I sat here for 10 minutes racking my brains and I am totally blanking on it.

    But dudeee, Young Avengers is my bae. You should try the current Thor series (the one with femThor), it’s pretty awesome and Thor basically whaps sexism in the face several times ❤ Captain Marvel is also really good too. Carol Danvers is an Air Force Captain who gets superpowers and is really awesome at kicking ass yo. Plus people hc her as Nat Dormer which is a hell of a plus. (also apparently Agent Carter–the show–is really good but I haven't watched it yet ;-;)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ehehe! Well, let me know if you remember the title! 🙂

      I sooooo want to start reading the lady!Thor comics!! Do you know if there will be any more Young Avengers books, or are there only those three? BECAUSE I NEED MOOOOOOORE.

      Captain Marvel, got it. And I want to start watching Agent Carter… hopefully it’ll be added to Netflix after season one! 🙂

      • I will uwu.

        I’m not sure? What issue do the books go up to, because I know the YA comic series’s been concluded with issue #15. But yesss, you should start reading Thor, because it’s. Just. So. Good. Is there a comic store by you? I’ve got the luck to live about 20 mins away from two. One carries mostly Marvel (actually tbh they specialize in Marvel), and one carries mostly DC and indy line comics. They used to carry Lumberjanes (idk if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a series collab-ed on between several artists including gingerhaze on tumblr and it’s about a gang of girls kicking ass–people describe it as Gravity Falls-esque) but they don’t anymore 😦

        There’s actually going to be a Capt Marvel movie in the Phase 3 plan Marvel released, and I’m really hoping they do her justice. And yeah, same, but I can’t find anywhere to watch the first episode. I’m kinda wary of streaming sites–one that I used to use apparently broke through my firewall and cost $70 to fix.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Oh, they go up to issue #15 – I read a bunch of collections, I guess, with 5 issues per book.
      Yes, I’ve heard of Lumberjanes. 😛 I need to read it! I have no idea if I live near any comic book stores… so far, I’ve just been visiting the library whenever I’ve read all my graphic novels and stuff.

      OMG REALLY?! YAY!

      • I don’t because the collections are for whatever reason pretty hard to find at both stores? It’s kinda weird.
        Google is your friend yo. And okay Idk why but the feeling of going home with brand new comic issues in your bag is just like the greatest thing omfg.

        IKR.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Oh, OK. Hmmm.
      OK, I’ll just have to see what I find on Google. And if there isn’t anything locally, I’m only about an hour away from Chicago, and I’m SURE there’s big comic book stores there. 🙂
      (Only slightly related, but: Have you read/watched any Batman stuff? I’ve only just started reading, and have seen only The Dark Knight, but I really really love that universe so far. OMG.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      (Oh! Well, to each their own. I’ve been really into dark stories lately, so that’s probably why I like Batman stuff. Haven’t tried anything else from DC yet, though.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Oh, Harley and Poison Ivy are from DC?! I swear, I know hardly anything about comics. xD Anyway, I definitely want to start reading their stuff. (Any suggestions as to where to start?)

      • Not only from DC, they’re intertwined into the actual Batmanverse.
        Tbh, I’ve only got one issue with them in it (I usually go for Marvel stuff) but I’ve heard good things about “Harley and Ivy”? Sorry, I’m not too knowledgeable about DC. Marvel, though… (the Black Widow series man. 10/10.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Oh, that’s awesome!

      Do tell. What are some good Black Widow stories to start with?! ‘Cause I want to try her stuff too but I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START.

      • So there’s a current Widow series that’s around it’s 13th issue (I think?) and basically every one I’ve read so far (I’ve got up to 11) has Nat kicking ass and rejecting guys and just being awesome. Plus the art style is really really hella. It’s literally called Black Widow, so you can try just walking into any old comic store and asking if they carry it. They should, it’s a pretty popular series (at least, it is over here.)

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yay, I’ll have to look for it! 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Ranu says:

    I recently read Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and thought it was pretty good. Darcy, one of the protagonists, is a lesbian Indian whose Nanowrimo novel (a paranormal based on Hinduism) has been accepted for publishing. That’s pretty diverse. It’s the first book I’ve read featuring a queer protagonist.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Afterworlds was already on my to-read list, but thanks for the rec anyway! 🙂 It looks AWESOME – and I love to find books that are about more than one kind of diversity, too. SO MANY of the LGBTQ+ books I’ve read are about white people, to the point that it’s just ridiculous.

  3. I didn’t do too well with diversity this year … about ten percent of my reads featured a diverse protagonist. But I do want to increase that number and I see some great books to check out here. I love Abdel-Fattah’s cover and I’m interested in A Wreath for Emmett Till. I also LOVE the Fan Art cover – something about art + romance? 🙂

  4. That is a LOT of books. Great job! This year I’m not actively seeking out diverse books, because as part of a school project I’m doing a content analysis on YA books that feature diversity. And it kind of ruins the data if I TRY and read diverse YA (which I would normally do). But…there are ways around that. Namely that I will read Malinda Lo this year if it’s the last thing I do.

  5. Cait says:

    SO MUCH AWESOME THO. I really don’t read enough diverse books and it makes me sad. 😦 I wish diversity wasn’t a minority. I mean, honestly, aren’t we ALL a little diverse?? Or maybe that’s just how I think living in Australia since every second person is multi-cultural. (I’m even 1/4 Italian!)

    Ohh, I can give you bucket loads of books set in Australia. 😉 Trouble is…I don’t know if they’d even be available in the USA. Australia SUCKS for marketing. IT makes me so angry sometimes. *sighs*

    Oookay, but you asked for it. XD
    + Bird by Crystal Chan: it’s MG but the protagonist is American/Chinese/Jamaican. It’s a super sweet/sad book too.
    + Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: I wasn’t a huge fan, but the MC has cerebral palsy.
    + Dead Ends by Erin Lange: the secondary character has down syndrome
    + SIMON LEWIS WAS JEWISH. *chokes and shushes self* I knoooow, you’re not a fan of TMI, don’t worry. Just kidding! XD
    + There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake: I literally just finished reading this, the MC is deaf, but it’s the weirdest thriller of the world. Weird but addictive.
    + This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman/Meagen Spooner: MC is Chinese/American in space

    Okaaaaay I SEE YOU SIGHING. XD hehe. I’ll stop!

    BTW, definitely loved this post. Loads added to my tbr, thanks a lot. 😉

    • nevillegirl says:

      SO MUCH AWESOME INDEED.

      Well, you can certainly try, and then I’ll see if they’re available at my library! 🙂

      Thanks for all the recs! And I DID like TMI, Cait. 😛 I just didn’t LOVE it. But maybe my opinion will change after I’ve read more of the books?

      Thank you!

  6. Mawa Mahima says:

    Wow I haven’t assessed my reading like that! I think this year I’ll try it out… But for recommendations: EVERYTHING by Khaled Hosseini, Beloved by Toni Morrison…and She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick!

  7. Julia says:

    Ooh, you should read the Hereville books. They’re graphic novels about an Orthodox Jewish girl who fights trolls. They’re definitely aimed at late elementary/ early middle school readers, but they were fun.

  8. matttblack42 says:

    Now I feel bad for not reading that many books with diverse protagonists. Let’s see, this year I’ve read Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, Anansi Boys, and I think that’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a non-Holocaust story about a Jewish protagonist. Or any book about a latino protagonist, for that matter. 😦

    If you’re looking for more diverse books, though, I suggest you read Anansi Boys. About 90% of the cast is black, (and most of them are british!), or you could read American Gods, where the main character is at least partly Native American. Both by Neil Gaiman.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ooh, I love the first two books you listed. ❤

      Isn't Anansi Boys the sequel to American Gods, anyway? At least, that's what Goodreads says. I've been meaning to read both of them. They look really good!

      • matttblack42 says:

        Anansi Boys is more of a spin-off than a sequel. All they have in common is that 1) they both feature Gods, and 2) a minor character from AG is the main character’s dad from AB. Otherwise they’re completely different in tone, theme, writing, characters, etc.

        Though now that I think of it, you should probably try American Gods first. Judging from what I know of your previous taste in books, I think you’d like it more.

    • nevillegirl says:

      OK, got it. Will keep that in mind. 🙂

  9. orphu44 says:

    For Jewish protagonists (where it actually has more than a brief mention of ‘they’re Jewish, now let’s ignore that for the rest of the story’), there’s The Second Mango + associated books. And for Chinese-Canadian (I know it wasn’t specifically Chinese-Canadian that you wanted, but it was what I thought of when I saw your example), there are Marty Chan’s books, The Graffiti Ghoul and The Mystery of the Frozen Brains. There are probably a fair number of racial-minorities-in-Canada books I could think of, but Marty Chan was what first came to mind.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thanks! Both of those series sound awesome. 😀 And I’m always happy to find more books about diverse characters who don’t live in the US, because US-centric books get reallllly boring after a while.

  10. Pingback: Quarterly Rewind, Winter 2015 – Reading Slumps, “Agent Carter,” And An Assortment Of Beautiful Songs | Musings From Neville's Navel

  11. Pingback: Reading Diversely In 2015 | Musings From Neville's Navel

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