Tag Archives: faith

Book Discussion: Devoted

Devoted

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Summary

Rachel Walker is devoted to God and her family. She knows that the only way into Heaven is to follow the words of Pastor Garrett at the Calvary Christian Church. She’s a dutiful daughter, taking care of her numerous younger siblings and dressing modestly to help her brothers and father avoid sin. And she knows her life’s path: One day, she will get married (to a man of her father’s choosing) and be a devoted mother and wife.

And yet, Rachel knows there is a world beyond her insulated Texas church community. And when her insatiable curiosity for the outside gets her in trouble with her father, Rachel must decide if she is brave enough to leave the world she’s always known.

Note: The community and culture in Devoted are based on the Quiverfull movement, a Christian patriarchy movement, perhaps made most famous by 19 Kids and Counting on TLC. The show was recently removed from television due to allegations (and eventually, admissions) of hidden sexual abuse.

Devoted

heartRomance Score: Good Effort

This story had a light romance, which was perfect for the context. Rachel comes from a community where she is taught that she is subservient to her father and that it was her job to keep men from lusting after her, so she has a pretty interesting view of men. The gentle romance was sweet background plot and did not distract from Rachel’s growth and self-discovery.

Feminist Score: Between Good Effort and A+ SuccessRosie

This book tactfully discusses the challenges facing women leaving a controlling situation. I liked that while Rachel has her own views, and takes time to figure out how feminism and religion fit into her own life. This could have easily been a story of teen rebellion, but instead is a thought-provoking story about finding yourself.

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Diversity Score: You’re Trying

This book tackled many incredible challenges in the modern Quiverfull movement, but I was a little disappointed that all the characters were white and straight. I would have liked to see Rachel meet someone of color (or gay) who challenges the views of the church.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

Despite my qualms with the lack of diversity, I loved this book. Rachel is a powerful character, and despite her views from her upbringing, you quickly grow to love her. In fact, I wanted to give her a hug every few pages (just like Simon). I’m particularly intrigued by the Quiverful movement, and this provided one narrative for the lives of women born into the Christian patriarchy movement.


Favorite Character

Rachel. Her bravery (and the bravery of real women who have left controlling religions) is incredibly admirable, and I want to know what happens to her after this story ends. Perhaps a sequel?

Favorite Line

“My older brothers and father are seated in their usual spots, but instead of holding his Bible in his hand like he usually does, my dad is holding something else.

My copy of A Wrinkle in Time.

How stupid I’ve been. How careless.

I left it on the counter amid rolls of paper towels and school books and dirty dishes and a dozen other pieces of evidence that I’ve been struggling with my job of running the household as I should.

But the book is the worst piece of evidence. The most damning thing. Because it proves not only that I am not a young woman of God, but that I’ve been distracted by something my father is sure to believe is sinister. And he’s come to believe that my soul is in danger.”

Rachel’s love of knowledge and books is what gets her in trouble in the first place, and I love that A Wrinkle in Time is the book that her father thinks will lead her to sin.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes – especially if you are interested in cult-like religions. Devoted pulls you in from the first line and you’ll be left with a new perspective on religion, feminism, and owning your decisions. I highly recommend it.

Fun Author Fact

According to an interview, Jennifer first got interested in writing about the Quiverfull movement after watching 19 Kids and Counting. After reading the perspectives of real women in the Quiverfull movement, she couldn’t quite see the show the same way again. (Note: I have the same love-hate relationship with the Duggars).

Read Listen to This Next

If you like podcasts, check out The Debrief Society This podcast is hosted by four women in the process of leaving the LDS Church. They discuss the painful process of removing yourself from an organization that was your entire life and belief system. While it is important to remember that many people have wonderful experiences in their conservative religions, this podcast is a fascinating look into one perspective on the Mormon Church.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer auth

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Book Chat: I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn

Summary

The story switches between the present and the past, following older sister, Sohane, as she unravels her feelings around her younger sister, Djelila. As Sohane battles with guilt, grief, and anger, we learn that while she was growing more religiously observant, her sister was spending time partying with her non-observant, non-Muslim friends. And the neighborhood jerks took notice – they began harassing Djelilia for her “misbehaving” and Sohane sort of agreed with them…until they took their attacks too far.

Favorite Character

None of the characters really jumped off the page. Most of the time, they felt flat and, while I thought the tension between guilt and righteousness in Sohane’s narration was great, I really wish the book had alternating chapters between Djelila and Sohane because neither felt fully developed.

Favorite Line

This was written very, very sparsely. It was not the style that either of us generally read and no lines really stood out.

Fun Author Fact

Amelie Sarn is also a comic book writer.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I am not sure. It might be the translation, but if felt very stiff and lacked development. I wanted to know more about the characters and get more deeply embedded in their lives, but the lack of description created a kind of barrier. In some ways, this felt like a very long-form journalism piece rather than a book. I still found Sohane and Djelila’s story interesting, there just wasn’t enough to it.

Read These Next

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina for another perspective on bullying or This Side of Home by Renee Watson for another story about sisters struggling to understand the slow cracks in their relationship.

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Chat: Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Summary

Naila is dealing with life in the US under the watchful eye of her Pakistani-immigrant parents. It’s not an easy life and, when Written in the StarsNaila  breaks their rules, her parents react to the extreme. Naila’s parents pack the family up and they return to Pakistan to reconnect the family with their roots and to visit relatives. But, the trip takes a serious turn when Naila finally realizes that her parents have an ulterior motive for the trip – they’re finding Naila a husband and they won’t take no for an answer. When she resists, Naila’s life is taken out of her own hands. She ends up a wife, cut off from friends and the life she knew, and her only escape is the slim chance that her secret Florida boyfriend can find her.

Trigger warning: family/domestic violence, sexual assault, forced marriage

*This book is about a girl in a very difficult, awful situation and thus the top two scores are lower than it would seem the Awesome Factor warrants. Naila does what she can to fight, but there’s only so much she can do to succeed.

Favorite Character

It’s hard to really LOVE any of these characters because of either limited time with them or, you know, they’re being awful. But, Naila’s cousin, Selma, is a sweet, supportive character, even if she keeps secrets she shouldn’t. Saif is also sweet, but a little flat since we don’t actually see much of him.

Favorite Line

Life is full of sadness. It’s part of being a woman. Our lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never factored in.” I don’t agree with this in actual life, but totally understand how Naila would come to this conclusion after everything she’s been through.

Fun Author Fact

Aisha has contracted for another book, due out in 2017! And, she’s the VP of Strategy for the We Need Diverse Books nonprofit, too!

Is this worth a book hangover?

This is a seriously tough book – I read it in one sitting, but it was hard and I had red, swollen eyes by the end. I think it’s an important book and I think the characters and story are compelling, but I think reading it in shorter pieces would have broken the intensity a bit.

Read These Next

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh captures a marriage entered into willingly but with an equally difficult story behind it or Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar for another Pakistan story about facing difficult decisions about life, family, and responsibility.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Discussion: Bumped

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Summary

In a dystopian future where a majority of adults are infertile, pregnancy is a prized act left to the teens. The most genetically attractive teenagers are wooed by fertility agencies and infertile couples, often earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as payment for a genetically superior child. The country is birth-obsessed; suddenly, pregnant teenage girls are America’s best chance of survival.

Enter identical twins Melody and Harmony. Separated at birth, their lives could not be more different. Melody was adopted by professors who spent thousands of dollars and countless hours perfecting her – she is now one of the hottest sought-after birth mothers. Harmony was adopted by a family in a small religious community, who reject the wordly idea of “pregging for profit.” When Harmony learns that she has a sister involved in the pregnancy business, she is determined to save her from her choices.

This fascinating novel highlights an interesting dichotomy in how we see birth, pregnancy, and religion.

heartRomance Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

Bumped is primarily a story about friendship and sisterhood, but the romance is pretty fun too. Both Melody and Harmony have romantic interests, one of which was kind of obvious and the other refreshingly surprising. I’m excited to read the next installation of the Bumped series to see how the romance develops.

FRosieeminist Score: Good Effort  

In Bumped, we find ourselves in a future where some teenagers are giving birth for profit, and some rejecting the notion completely. While you can’t quite compare this to the so-called “Mommy Wars”, there is definitely some interesting implications of this in the new world. It really makes you consider how feminism, religion, and pregnancy could manifest itself in the not-so-distant future.

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Diversity Score: Between You’re Trying and Good Effort

On one hand, this book isn’t particularly diverse. That being said, this future world is creepy in part because of the lack of diversity and the premium paid for European-princess looks.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

This book really surprised me. The premise is really interesting, and while it was definitely written for teenagers, it was very thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to reading Thumped next.


Favorite Character

Harmony. You have to love a girl with her attitude, determination.

Favorite Line

“A condom” I shriek, my voice echoing around the room.

Zen clamps his hand over my mouth, “Are you trying to get me arrested”.

.. Because there’s nothing worse than preventing teen pregnancy, right?

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. This is a fantastic, quick read that leaves you thinking about the future of our society. I highly recommend it.  

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Megan McCafferty lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where Bumped takes place. As a fellow Jerseyan, I’d only ask that she include Wawa in her next book.

Read This Next
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodBumped reminded me of a teenage version of the classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.

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Book Discussion: Beneath My Mother’s Feet

Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar

Summary3124412

After her brother leaves the family and her father is injured at work, Nazia finds a lot of the responsibility to care for her family falls on her shoulders. Her mother does what she believes is necessary to support her three children, pulling Nazia from school and becoming a maid for several women in the city’s rich neighborhood. As things with her father deteriorate, Nazia must navigate friendships, social barriers, and the line between right and wrong to decide what kind of life she will make for herself – while continuing to honor her beliefs.

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Romance Score – Not A Bit

Nazia has long known she is destined to marry her cousin. The wedding becomes imperative once the family’s situation worsens, but her mother’s decisions put the pairing in jeopardy. Nazia’s feelings toward her future husband are ambivalent at best and, once she meets him, even less positive. It is not the idea of an arranged marriage, but the economic and family pressure coupled with the lack of interest Nazia has toward her betrothed that drop the score.

RosieFeminist Score – A+ Success

Without spoilers, I can say that Nazia makes decisions about her life for herself, choosing the path that will make her happy and, ultimately, probably will enable her to help her family even more. Her mother is also a pretty awesome figure, doing what she believes is right for her children even when it means suffering indignities and abuse from her employers/life. This book highlights the various situations of women in Pakistan without making it an “oh, look at the poor foreign women” story (more on this below). There is some cruelty rained down from the wealthy mistresses, but because Nazia is such a strong, self-respecting character I’m saying it balances out (and that this is more classist behavior than woman-on-woman, although ignoring classism is definitely a big part of the problem with some current feminist movements). This book does fall a bit into the “all men are bad, let’s hate them all” category, but if you remember that this is ONE story of multitude then I can get over it.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score – Good Effort

I’m in two minds about this score – on one hand, it could go to A+ Success because it’s set in Pakistan, has only Pakistani characters who are (mostly?) Muslim and for most of the US audience this would be a huge check in the diversity box. BUT, for Pakistani-Americans or Pakistanis, this would be a book about their culture, families, and homeland with little diversity. Even so, there are wide ranges of economic classes, education level, and employment types in the book, so other types of diversity are on full display if we discount nationality and religion. Plus, since we’re reading in the US, I’m grading based on that and I’m so excited to see a book about Muslims in another country just going about their lives like everyone else – though, it does feel like the author may have a bit of a n ax to grind about women’s treatment in Pakistan.

wow iconAwesome Score – Good Effort

I really liked reading Nazia’s story- I admired her efforts to see the best in people and to do what she can to ease her family’s and friends’ pain. She is strong and resourceful and stubborn, all things I like in my characters. I loved that the book was about a mother and daughter butting heads but still able to show and share their love for each other. Also, I truly felt like this was about Pakistan, with small details capturing every day life while not alienating the (non-Pakistani) reader. It’s a little light on depth and not super original, but I liked Nazia’s spunk enough to give it a higher score. The story is pretty negative towards men and I do worry that it repeats a lot of tropes/stereotypes about life in a Muslim country, but I think that it is also an honest portrayal of what life can be like. I think, if it’s coupled with another Pakistani story that’s completely different, that would go a long way to ameliorating the “one story” problem.


Favorite Character

Maleeha – Nazia’s best friend never gives up hope and is the kind of person we should all be lucky to have in life – she’s willing to tell you the difficult truths, keep your secrets, and rescue you for a day at the beach when you really need it. I liked that we had this image of girls supporting each other through thick and thin (and the contrast with Nazia’s other friend).

Note: I could have gone with Sherzad because he kept his spirits up and was so positive, but since we don’t know what happens to him in the end I couldn’t let myself choose him.

Favorite Line

Fun Author Fact

Her characters will get into her mind and take over, making it hard to concentrate and even sleep (!) until the story is fully developed and ready for writing!

Is this worth a book hangover?

I think you can get your sleep with this one. It’s an interesting story but it doesn’t pull you in like some others. I would also recommend this for younger YA rather than YA/NA readers. I do think it’s important to remember that this is ONE story about ONE girl’s life in Pakistan. Not every girl will have the same life – even Maleeha, a girl from Nazia’s neighborhood and economic class would have a totally different story.

Read this Next

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (reviewing soon!) or Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth.

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Book Chat: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Summary Sammy and Andy are running away from their lives. Sammy has just suffered a terrible loss and Andy is chasing freedom. One is Chinese-American and the other is a black slave. 22501055They leave their frontier town to join the other pioneers going West, but traveling the Oregon Trail alone isn’t easy – especially as a girl and wanted criminal. So they dress up as boys and make their way, but just a few days into their escape, they meet up with three young men who might be willing to take the novice travelers under their wings – for a price. As the small group travels across the Plains, their friendship grows and their relationships with the boys deepen. But, as all Gen Xers (and some Millenials) know, the Oregon Trail is a road full of obstacles – fording the river can kill oxen, dysentery and cholera lurk in every stream and camp, and supplies can be hard to come by. This is an adventure story with two strong, dedicated friends at the center. Favorite Character Andy – she’s honest, caring, and has some of the best one-liners regarding young man behavior! I appreciated her dedication to her family and her determination to hold on to hope for as long as possible.

Favorite Line “She might be right, but it still fails to cheer me. I don’t understand the constant need to prove one’s manhood, as if it is always on the verge of slipping away. We never need to prove our womanhood.” Captures the essence of a lot of relationships in this book! There are a lot of other great quotes that capture Sammy’s background as a Chinese-American and it’s hard to pick just one, but the above captures the girls’ difficulties as they journey.

Fun Author Fact She wrote her first book (in childhood) on a typewriter!

Is this worth a book hangover? I feel like this book is a great summer read – especially for a road trip! It’s a quick, light adventure story with good, strong characters and the addition of Sammy and Andy’s personal backgrounds help make it more than just another Western. Also, take a look at that BEAUTIFUL cover!

Read These Next The Girl of Fire and Thorns is another journey book – with magic. Any of the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce would also be a great choice as they feature awesome ladies journeying and making connections with people they meet.

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Adventure, Historical, podcast, Romance

Book Chat: The Way We Bared Our Souls


The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn

Summary

Lo recently started dealing with severe pain and symptoms that are probably MS. She tries to ignore the symptoms until she https://i2.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1404960375l/22529157.jpgmeets a mysterious Native dude that offers to do a ritual with her and 4 other people to “remove her burdens.” Immediately, Lo latches on to this mysterious, magical solution and rounds up 4 acquaintances to participate with her. Thomas is a Liberian ex-child soldier, Ellen is a drug addict, Kaya has a medical condition that prevents her from feeling pain, and Kit is depressed and dealing with his girlfriend’s sudden death. The ritual happens and the teens find their pains/burdens switched. We then get to watch as they spend a week dealing with new burdens and “healing.” Except…not everyone finds relief.

NOTE:

This is probably the most difficult podcast we’ve done so far. We don’t normally go into each category for podcast reviews, but this book needs it. Also, I have a feeling we (I) made a couple of missteps in our discussions of the Native characters – we’re (I’m) learning and, in the review, you’ll find a couple of corrections. Also, with more distance from the book, my opinion has shifted more strongly to one end of the spectrum, so be sure to read the full review.


heartRomance Score:  Sort of Trying, but closer to Not a Bit

You sort of want to cheer for Lo and Thomas because she defies her friends to admit her feelings about him, except that it kind of feels like she’s into him only because he’s mysterious and has a story. It feels sort of like a fetish-crush.

RosieFeminism Score: You’re Trying

This score is solely because of Lo’s aunt living her life however she wanted. But, she’s a side character and Lo is the one that uses her friends, lies to them, and steps on old acquaintances to get what she wants.

diversity people circle icon Diversity Score: Not a Bit

For a book with a Liberian and a Native American in the core group of characters, you would think this should get a winning score. NO. A thousand times no. It doesn’t feel like the author did much research or, if she did, it was cursory and probably did not actually involve materials from ex-child soldiers or current day Natives. In the podcast, I talk positively about the fact that the genocidal history of settler-Native relations forms a core part of Kaya’s story. I appreciated this only because this part of history is so often swept under the rug. With more thought (and conversation with a very helpful, bright lady), I realized this isn’t the kind of narrative we should be applauding. And, the book doesn’t even handle it well. It could easily have been mentioned as a true part of the story, but focusing solely on this does a disservice and actual harm to any Native readers of this book. Instead of giving us a well-rounded, fresh representation of a contemporary Native teenager, we’re given another rehash of violence against Natives. Is there no other narrative (besides colonial-era befriending) for Natives in books? I do appreciate the acknowledgement of this part of history, but I think it could have informed Kaya’s character and experience in the book without being explicit – just like books about contemporary Jewish teens implicitly acknowledge the Holocaust without ever having to mention it (or, we hope they do!).
wow iconAwesome Factor: Not a Bit

This was difficult for us. We don’t want to poop on anyone’s hard work, but when you don’t actually do the work and give readers damaging representations then we feel okay pointing it out.

Favorite Character

None. Lo is too selfish and we don’t get enough information about the other characters to actually like them.

Favorite Line

“In bed that night I touched my body. I wondered if I could still feel true pleasure. Or true happiness, because without knowing the opposite sensation, I was no longer sure. The positive and negative felt like two sides of a coin, and lacking one or the other, I was broke, penniless, with nothing left to wish on.”

Because we needed a reminder about poorly done representation to appreciate the fantastic ones we’ve been reading.

Fact

We recommend you check out this review from American Indian’s in Children’s Literature. The reviewer, Debbie Reese, is way more qualified than we are to talk about the severe issues with this book.

Is this worth a book hangover?

No, we cannot in good conscience recommend this. I have a terrible habit of reacting to negativity with defense even if I agree with the criticisms, and you can hear that in the podcast. I mention that I would suggest this as a book only within a critical discussion of the problems, but I take it back. Anisha was right – don’t read this.

Read These Instead

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac or The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Post Author: Jess

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Getting Personal: Why Jess & Anisha Read Diverse Books

As our last post points out, there are many reasons related to society, culture, and representation for supporting diverseIMG_2083
books. These are important overarching reasons to read diverse literature, and we believe in all of them.

But, like most readers, we also have our personal reasons. As avid readers, we both lived in a world of books before we ever knew or cared about the larger implications of what we read. Even after we started The Bookmark, our views have been adjusting. We started by reviewing mainstream literature, and quickly realized that our passions are more closely linked to supporting diverse literature. Why? Check out our reasons below.

Jess and I come from very different backgrounds, so our reasons for supporting diverse literature are different. Here are just four of them:

Anisha’s Reasons – A perspective from a brown American girl

  1. Being American does not mean being white.

When I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain my family and background. I could say “I’m Indian” – but that didn’t really cover it. I didn’t feel Indian – I was born in the US, spoke only English, and had only visited India twice (less than some of my friends had been on vacation to Europe). I had a very “Western” childhood, with sleepovers, make-up, and dating. But I didn’t feel like my experience was normal, and the only way I could explain it was to say “I’m basically white”.  I didn’t think the American experience was anything but the white one. I was having a white childhood, in an Indian girl’s body.

You can chalk that up to immaturity, but I think it’s more systemic than that. None of the movies or books I read represented my experience. Mainstream literature tell us that “normal” girls are white, rich, and thin (even when they think they’re fat). And while I wasn’t actively seeking out diverse literature or movies,  I should not have had to. Mainstream books should reflect the experiences of all of their readers, and show us that being “American” can mean a lot of different experiences.

 

  1. One “diverse” book should not have to be the magic bullet

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier was the first diverse book I read. The book is fantastic – well crafted, great story plot, and with an Indian-American girl trying to find her identity in high school. In many ways, it was perfect.

Except – and this took me a long time to admit – it wasn’t my Indian-American story.  And as the only Indian-American book I could find at the time, I felt it was the only story I was “allowed” to relate to, and the fact that I could not made me realize that only having one story for thousands of Desi girls was wrong.. Just as Sarah Dessen can’t write for every white girl, Tanuja Desai Hidier can’t write for every Indian-American girl.  I, and every Indian girl, should have hundreds of narrators of Indian origin to choose from. And then I can find my own story from these girls.

Note: Jessica Pryde wrote an excellent piece about this topic at Book Riot. I highly encourage you to check it out.

  

Jess’s Reasons – A perspective from the cultural hegemony or a white, cis, hetero girl  

  1. Books are doors into other’s lives

Books are a way to dip into the lives of other people, experience a life different from my own, and internalize a little piece of what it would be like to be someone else. Sometimes that means I’m a dragon-flying space colonist jumping through time, other times it means I’m a princess trying to fight a strategic political marriage. A few weeks ago, it meant that I was a high school student working through the gentrification and racial shift in the neighborhood I grew up in. Diverse books are important to me because they provide more chances to expand the types of experiences I’m able to have within my one, single life. When we read books, we become the characters and that makes it just a tiny bit easier to understand what kind of experiences, thoughts, and dreams the people around us have. Diverse books are an integral part to expanding the kinds of people readers are able to become.

  1. Our stories reflect our individual truths.

But, diverse books should not exist to help the majority population “feel what it’s like to be someone different.” Since I grew up as a white kid in the US I could usually find someone that looked like me in books. True, she might end up the girl that needs saving most of the time, but at least most of the stories and characters were easy for me to relate to. Those girls still looked and felt like me. I care about supporting diverse books because I think everyone should have the same chance I did and do. Every reader should have the same joy of finding a story that speaks to their soul and that features characters and stories that look like them and lead lives like theirs. Often diverse books are called “window books” because they let the majority (white, cis, hetero, able, nominally Christian) population peek into what those “other” lives are like. But, I think that’s wrong. These books aren’t and shouldn’t be (only) about that. They are about individual truths; there are millions of different people and stories and each and every one stands on its own terms.

What are YOUR reasons for supporting diverse books? Are you part of the “norm”? What has mainstream literature gotten wrong about you? Leave a comment or tweet at us @Bookmark_Place.

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Why We NEED Diverse Books

The reasons society needs diverse books have been laid out many times in the past few months by better sources than us. While not repeating all of those voices, we still want to lay out why diverse books are important and why we focus on diverse, inclusive books on our blog and in our podcasts.

Firstly – and most importantly – mainstream books currently don’t reflect readers. Diverse, inclusive books are sorely lacking. The fact that a gigantic portion of the reading population cannot find books that tell stories about characters like them is a huge problem. Books about white, cis, hetero, able, nominally Christian (WCHAC) people (often male) are still the most populous stories. We know that the WCHAC story isn’t the one most young readers are living, as evidenced by a recent study that majority of students in the United States this year will be minorities. We support diverse books because writers, stories, and characters should reflect readers.

Secondly, diverse books have to fight for publishing, placement, and recognition. There is a lot of statistical proof about this, so we’re not going to rehash the data. The fact that books with diverse themes, characters, stories, and authors have to fight for attention – or even to be published – makes it that much harder for readers to find themselves in books. And future writers from diverse backgrounds struggle to find the role models who may inspire them to push on with their writing. It also means that WCHAC readers are less likely to stumble upon a story about lives and characters different from them.

Thirdly, representation in books matters. Since so few books about diverse characters and stories are published, the stories available for non-WHCAC readers are limited. Historically, if non WHCAC characters were in stories, they were often distorted stereotypes or flat characters that were, at best, difficult to relate to and, at worst, hurtful and damaging. As diverse, inclusive books grow in number and availability, readers will be able to find more stories they can relate to and WHCAC readers will be introduced to different ways of living. Also, as diverse stories multiply, readers are able to find multiple narratives which means books are more inclusive overall. Rather than a single story that is supposed to appease them for all their young adult reading years, they will find many stories to reflect the various paths someone like them may follow (check out our coming post for more about this).

Fourthly, diverse books should be just “books.” While we are using this blog to focus on diverse and inclusive stories, characters, and authors, we don’t have it in our tagline and it’s not emphasized in the about section. As noted at Book Riot, calling a book “diverse” sets it apart and places it in the “other” category. This makes it possible for readers from WHCAC backgrounds to ignore them as “not for me” books. But, ignoring such stories and making them other limits and narrows the perspectives and experiences we interact with – limiting and narrowing our minds. We read and review the books featured on our site because they are well-written, engaging stories with interesting characters – and that should be enough.

As always, we’re not experts and we’re still learning. For more in depth research and sources dedicated to speaking about these topics, we recommend:

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Disability in Kid Lit

Diversify YA

Diversity in YA

Gay YA

We Need Diverse Books campaign

Writing with Color

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, Historical

Book Discussion – Like No Other

Like No Other by Una LaMarchelike no other

Summary

Jaxon and Devorah grew up in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, but may as well have lived on two different planets. Jaxon comes from a tight-knit black family, attends the local public school, and crushes on the cute Indian girl from homeroom. Devorah is from a Hasidic Jew from the Chabad-Lubavitch sect. She lives in a world dictated by rules, but also surrounded by close friends and family. This unlikely pair meet in an elevator on the night of a hurricane, and their romance quickly takes off. But how can teenagers from very different worlds both respect their own values and be together?

Like No Other

heartRomance Score: You’re Trying

I had a hard time with the premise of this story. I know it was necessary for the characters to meet in some unlikely way, but it was hard for me to suspend my belief about their romance. That being said, I liked their friendship a lot.

RosieFeminist Score: Good Effort

loved Devorah – her voice, her internal struggle, and her decisions. It’s important to remember that feminism means making your own choices, even if those are not the choices others (readers) would have made. I want to be friends with someone as caring, thoughtful, and brave as Devorah.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Good Effort 

Both characters were multi-faceted and very, very real. I was blown away by the truth of the dialogue. One line, in particular, kept me up at night: “Some people don’t notice anything but an almost-six-foot-tall black man. After Trayvon Martin got shot in Florida, Mom wouldn’t let me wear a hoodie for six months.”  My only concern is the portrayal of Devorah’s family. I understand that Hasidic Jews are very strict, but I think there were some stereotypes introduced – including the idea that they will resort to violence to protect their traditions.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

Overall, the story was interesting and I loved all of the internal dialogue. We need more stories with unique voices, and this certainly is one of them.


Favorite Character

Devorah – Her internal struggle between her family and her outside life was really interesting. I really liked that she wasn’t just a rebel – she made rational choices about what she wanted with her life in her particular circumstances.

Favorite Line

“Chabad-Lubavitch is one Hasidic sect” I say. “There are many”. And then – because I can’t resist – I add, “What, we all look the same to you?”

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. The plot is fast-moving and the dialogue compelling. Definitely check this book out. 

Fun Author Fact

Una LaMarche’s blog has an awesome name: The Sassy Curmudgeon

Read this next:

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, High School, Romance