This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is to list the “Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity.” The books I chose were books that featured characters from different racial, religious, cultural backgrounds or sexual orientations. The characters were accepted (for the most part) for their differences, and the reasons they may have bad problems with others had less to do with their differences and more to do with their personality flaws. For this reason I didn’t chose books like 12 Years a Slave or The Diary of Anne Frank. While these books offered up diversity, the diversity wasn’t celebrated, but denigrated. I also didn’t chose Harry Potter. This choice was due to the fact that, though diverse, the diversity was treated as a character trait, and the diverse characters’ ethnicity, religion, etc. didn’t inform their choices. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
1.) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller’s retelling of Homer’s The Illiad is a familiar story. Paris steals Helen of Sparta away from her husband and makes her a princess of Troy, thus starting the Trojan War. Achilles, the greatest warrior ever is one of the men who travels to Troy to fight. How this version differs is that Achilles favorite, Patroclus, is his lover. While the Greeks Achilles fight with may not approve of their relationship, it is accepted because of who Achilles is, and his refusal to deny his feelings. Their relationship is shown to be loving, healthy, and respectful. Making them a couple to root for, and hope that somehow the well-known ending will miraculously change.
The Lunar Chronicles is set in many different places, but the first story, Cinder, is set in Asia. Asian culture permeates the story. From the foods the characters eat, to the way they live. Even the prince is Asian. I loved how the main love interest for this re-imagined Cinderella wasn’t Caucasian. I haven’t read many books with Asian characters, that didn’t focus mainly on how different their culture was from Western civilization, but instead show those differences as being accepted.
I really loved how this series had characters of different ethnicities working and living beside one another, helping to save the world. What I loved even more? That many of the characters were related in one way or another due to their godly parentage. While the possibility that Hispanic, African-American, or Asian-American kids could have a “Caucasian” parent was addressed in the series, it wasn’t seen as a negative. The kids always welcomed a new brother or sister to Camp Half-blood, and even appreciated the diversity of their grouping.
4.) The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J. R. Ward
This paranormal romance series is filled with action, vampires, and steamy love scenes. What it’s also filled with is a cast of diverse characters from different backgrounds, races (in appearance at least), and sexual orientation. While these traits can cause problems for the characters from time to time, their diversity is largely accepted. None of the characters are sterotyped, and any drama that they find themselves in mostly has to do with turf wars.
Set in the Old West, The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole has Native Americans, African-Americans, as well as characters who follow different religions. As Caleb rides west, he meets various Native tribes. Some are hostile, but others are friendly. Readers glimpse at the individual cultures and lifestyles of these groups and how they differe from each other, as well as the whites traveling along the Oregon Trail. Caleb also meets an freed slave in his travels. This character wasn’t seen as a victim (which he had been), but was a strong man Caleb could befriend and learn much from.
The Walking Dead comics (and television show) features an array of people from all walks of life. While the differences in race, sexual orientation, etc aren’t really focused on in a social issue manner (hello, zombies!), they are used to inform their character’s actions. A character growing up in the inner-city will act differently from someone who used to live in the suburbs, for instance. The manner of speech, the way they dress, and their life experiences shape the characters. Their differences are celebrated in how the other characters accept one another and use the varied backgrounds as an asset to aid their survival.
This series is full of people of different races. Sure they’re usually trying to kill one another, but that has to do with the twisted political system in place, than any racial tension. In a lot of novels, the “other” characters get relegated to the sidelines. A background character brought in to cause problems, offer comic relief, or just because the author was told to throw one in. This series weaves these characters into the story, giving many of them important roles. While you do see some division, this is thanks to the District system.
We meet many different people in this series, and while some are from different racial/ethnic backgrounds, the divisions among the characters has to do with their affiliations (Shadowhunter, Vampire, Werewolf, etc.). Each of these groups is filled with diversity. Men and women working together as equals. People from diverse backgrounds leaving that behind to form a united cultural group. There are even gay characters. These characters are just as diverse as the other characters, and even though their sexual orientation may cause them problems, it’s not the main focus of the book. Everyone’s differences are treated respectfully, and make the characters multi-dimensional.
You can say what you want about The Twilight Saga, but you can’t claim it isn’t diverse. Set in Washington, the series incorporated a lot of Native American culture, beliefs, and practices. It’s done in a manner that puts it on equal footing as any other culture represented. When Jacob or one of the elders tells a story, the message is well received, and considered to be of worth. The way Jacob and the people on the reservation live is different from Bella, and yet those differences are an addition to the story.
This one may seem a bit controversial, but what the hell! Author Kathryn Stockett details what life was like for black maids that worked for white families in the South during the Civil Rights movement. While this book (and film) do detail racial tension, the story also depicts how different the women in the story live. True, being white and privileged gets ridiculed a lot, but Stockett also shows how difficult it can be for one of the white female characters to fit in due to her socio-economic background. The main character in the story is a young white woman from the upper class. She’s noticed the injustice that permeates the way African-Americans are treated, and her friendships with the help she interviews for a northern newspaper show how people can get along and find common ground despite their differences.