Are you guys gearing up for 24 hours of epicness, glory, bookternet, and books? Perusing the bookish web for reading options, making trips to the library and your favorite book-buying outlets, gearing up for mini-challenges, stocking up on food, adding the #readathon column to your tweetdeck, and every other fun pre-readathon ritual? Sweet!
First off, I’d like to give a shout out to Andi and Heather, who are the champions behind this biannual event. This readathon grows with every round, and as great as it is to have more and more people join each time, these two tirelessly spend so much time organizing, promoting, putting together challenges, prizes, and cheerleaders–all to honour their dear friend and give us a wonderful 24 hours of being wrapped up in a blanket of bookish fun. So thank you, Andi and Heather, for putting your heart and soul into keeping this event up and running. You are amazing.
Diversity and inclusion in publishing have been talked about a lot recently. If you’re in any part of the bookish internet stratosphere, you’ve at least picked up rumblings of groups such as We Need Diverse Books, Diversity in YA, DiverseBookBloggers, etc.- that focus on promoting own voices and authors of color, LGBTQIA+, differently abled, etc. Or as I like to call them, the non-cishet/white/able dudebro authors. There are plenty of people more eloquent than I am that are constantly educating people on the importance of being able to find yourself in a story, so I’ll leave that part to them. Meanwhile, I know so many dear friends and fellow readathon participants who would like to diversify their reading, so I thought I’d share some short and/or fast paced, unputdown-able (yes that’s a word) books that expose us to a wide variety of experiences and boost authors belonging to one or more marginalized groups. I haven’t read them all but they are definitely on my TBR.
The Ballad Of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is a take on H. P. Lovecraft’s uber racist The Horror At Red Hook. If you haven’t read the original and don’t want to, Tor.com did us all a favor and gave us a detailed commentary on all of its problems, which allows us to skip ahead to LaValle’s elegant response of a novella. The book follows Charles Thomas Tester, a young black man in 1920’s New York City, living with his father and hustling to make ends meet. He’s a mediocre guitar player, a terrible singer, and uses his guitar case to make his “deliveries.” One of these jobs results in his introduction to Suydam, who has a serious case of white savior complex. He exposes Tom to an occult experience where he is exposed to several hidden realities and possibilities. In the second half of the book, the perspective shifts to Malone (Lovecraft’s original protagonist), who is an NYPD detective that has been keeping tabs on Tester and Suydam and the horrors that ensue.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is the winner of The Hugo Award for Best Novella this year, and rightfully so. It tells the story of Binti, whose natural aptitude for technology gives her an opportunity to attend a prestigious university on the planet Oomza where she will be the sole human representative of the Himba people. However, it also means she will lose her place in her family as they are rooted to land and do not travel. She embarks upon her journey to another planet and on her way her ship is attacked by the Meduse, a species that terrorizes space and has long been fighting against Oomza University. Will she make it there alive? Read and find out.
Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is another one-sitting read. It revolves around 16-year old Simon who is gay but not yet out, has a dorky family and a great group of friends, and a humongous crush on his anonymous penpal. Shit hits the fan for Simon when a fellow schoolmate screenshots one of his emails and uses it to blackmail Simon; in order for his sexual identity to remain a secret, Simon must talk his blackmailer up to one of his best friends. Simon is now struggling with his growing feelings for his email pal, without ditching his family and friends, and controlling the narrative of his coming out. Don’t dismiss this as a painful closeted gay boy story, it’s actually got a ton of fluff, email flirtations, dorky-parents-who-think-they’re-cool, loving siblings, extremely loyal and supportive friends and teachers, and several moments that will melt even the most crotchety of hearts.
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology by Hope Nicholson is a collection of science fiction short stories written by and about LGBTQIA+ and two-spirit Native people. There’s a wide variety of identities and stories in here, and the overarching theme is love; different kinds of love- romantic, familial, self. A lot of stories leave you feeling hopeful. It also comes with some excellent introductions and background for people who are not very familiar with the cultural ins-and-outs of Native people.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett the most hyped and most anticipated novel of October 2016, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. I finished reading it a few days ago and I’m so tempted to go back and read it again because it is just. so. GOOD. Set in a black church community in Southern California, it revolves around three people: Nadia, who’s recently lost her mother and is grieving; Luke, a former football star; and Aubrey, a god-fearing girl living with her sister. At seventeen, Nadia gets pregnant. It’s Luke’s baby, and she decides to get an abortion. She keeps the secret from everyone, including her Aubrey, her best friend. She and Luke break up and she moves to Michigan for school. The years go by, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey, now adults, are still haunted by their individual choices made all those years ago, and caught in a complicated love triangle, with each of them constantly wondering if they should have made a different choicer back then. It is a story of possibilities, and the author gives it to us with lyrical writing and fleshed-out characters. This is a stunning debut that you won’t be able to put down.
George by Alex Gino is a middle grade novel that is perfect for your kids to understand the meaning of transgender. This book is so important. George has a secret. A secret so big she can’t even share it with her best friend Kelly. She also really wants to audition for Charlotte in their class production of Charlotte’s Web, but her teacher says only girls can audition for the part, and everybody thinks George is a boy. It is a beautiful coming out story for a little trans girl, and one of the best examples of why children need such books. Very sweet and affirming.
Be My Fantasy and Stay My Fantasy (The Fantasy Series) by Alisha Rai. Seriously, if you’ve heard me recommend this only a thousand times so far, I’m not even sorry. I love naughty romance stories, and Alisha Rai checks all the boxes with this one. Elizabeth Harding is the polished daughter of a politician by day, and patron of a pleasure club by night. Luca Santos is an ambitious fellow with a wicked imagination who yearns for Elizabeth but doesn’t think she can handle anything that’s not demure. What happens when he finds out her secret? Can Elizabeth stay away from this irresistible man who is always ready to fulfill her fantasies? Only one way to find out.
Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction by S. Andrea Allen and L. Cherelle that I’d only just heard of, but c’mon, lesbian short fiction? No way I’m not reading this. According to Goodreads, it is a “collection of short stories that embraces the fullness of Black lesbian experiences. The contributors operate under the assumption that “lesbian” is not a dirty word, and have written stories that amplify the diversity of Black lesbian lives.” Halle-friggin-lujah, sign me up. Intersectionality is my favourite aspect of the conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion, especially because my own identity falls in that bracket. This is true for a lot of us, we don’t identify one-dimensionally, and therefore would like to be represented in more than one way. The reviews sound promising, and if any of you have already read it, let me know!
These are just a few of the plethora of own voices books out there. I urge you to seek more of them out and talk about them to your friends, your kids, your families, and your fellow booknerds. If you’ve had the privilege to see yourself represented in a book or many, then you know how vital that experience is, and know that there’s so many people out there who have to dig deep to find them. Meanwhile, if you have any other diverse readathon recommendations, share them using the official hashtag #readathon, or drop them in the comments below.
I can’t wait to see everyone’s diverse picks! Have a happy, cozy, and book-filled Readathon!
Thanks SO much to Janani from The Shrinkette! Go visit her blog!