Challenges, Discussion, Memes

What I Learned From Participating in Diverse Books Tag


Yesterday, I published a review of Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra. I requested it from the library a few weeks ago, after participating in the Diverse Books Tag meme, started by Naz at Read Diverse Books. I was excited to participate, and pretty confident that I could find books I’d read for each category. After all, I make a deliberate effort to read diversely, and my tastes are pretty eclectic. As I read Naz’s original post, I was already making my own list in my head. I was even thinking about doing two posts, one of books I’d already read, and one for books on my TBR pile, as I got excited about sharing all the many great books I know about. Pride, as they say, goes before a fall. And I fell smack into a continent-sized hole in my reading history.

I couldn’t find a single book in my blog archives that was set in Latin America. I had a couple books about Latin American characters, or by Latin American authors, but none that took place there. But surely I had one on my embarrassingly large TBR pile that would fit the bill? I found books set in China, Cambodia, and Japan. India, Pakistan, and Lebanon were all represented. Ditto Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Definitely no shortage of books set in Canada, the United States, or Europe. But not one set anywhere in Latin America. Honestly, even Latin American authors were poorly represented. I have more books set in fictional places than I have books set in Latin America.

So I dived into the bookish Internet, and got sucked down the rabbit hole of research. I perused book lists on Goodreads, and took advantage of the ability to search books by setting on NoveList (look for this tool on your library’s databases page). I love magic realism, but I set out to look beyond the obvious options, like Gabriel Garcia Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges. So I started searching Best of Latin American literature lists from recent years, looking for more contemporary writers. My interest was piqued by César Aira’s How I Became a Nun, published in 1993, about a child who is perceived as a boy, but feels like a girl. But not ready to stop there, I kept browsing, getting drawn into lists about door-stopping historical fiction, and the popularity of child narrators in Latin American fiction. I specialized in English Romantic literature at school, and so I was particularly fascinated to read about how Romanticism came to Latin America just as many countries were gaining independence. I wanted to fill the gap I had found not just with one particular book that fit the bill, but with a wider knowledge about what I had been missing. In the end, I requested Ways of Going Home from the library, but that was really only part of the point.

In the blogging world, we tend to regard memes as fun posts, useful for taking a break from more time or labour intensive posts, like reviews. They are great for connecting with other bloggers, and discovering new ones that share your interests. This one also happened to be educational, exposing a blind spot I was completely unaware of. It was a good reminder that being a diverse reader isn’t something you are, it’s something you do, and keep doing. And apparently I needed to be reminded.

Who are your favourite Latin American authors? Please recommend some books to help me continue exploring Latin American literature! I’d be particularly interested in recommendations for books by Latin American women.

Fiction, Memes

Diverse Books Tag

The-DiverseBooks-Tag Naz over at Read Diverse Books has been doing killer work with his #DiverseBookBloggers tag. Check it out for great conversations about diversity in the book blogging community, and find lots of great new people to follow! Now he has also started a meme to get bloggers to promote their diverse reads, or challenge themselves to add books that fit certain criteria to their TBR. I’ll let Naz explain:

The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I will task you to find a book that fits a specific criteria and you will have to show us a book you have read or want to read.

If you can’t think of a book that fits the specific category, then I encourage you to go look for one. A quick Google search will provide you with many books that will fit the bill. (Also, Goodreads lists are your friends.) Find one you are genuinely interested in reading and move on to the next category.

Everyone can do this tag, even people who don’t own or haven’t read any books that fit the descriptions below. So there’s no excuse! The purpose of the tag is to promote the kinds of books that may not get a lot of attention in the book blogging community.”

In most cases I had a ton of books to choose from. When in doubt, I tried to err on the side of #ownvoices authors and their books. But as you will see, I also found a gap in my reading the size of a continent. If I’ve already read the book, you can click the title for a link to the full review.


Find a book starring a lesbian character

Cover image for Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Leila Azadi is a lesbian, but she has done a pretty good job of keeping this fact a secret from her friends and classmates at Armstead Academy. Everyone thinks her best friend Greg is her boyfriend, and this allows her to fly under the radar. If only Greg didn’t want to actually be her boyfriend, everything would be perfect. But with the arrival of Saskia, a beautiful and sophisticated student from Europe, Leila finds herself with a crush on a classmate for the first time. he harder she falls for wild and independent Saskia, the more difficult it is to keep her secret, not just from her classmates and teachers, but from her traditional Iranian parents, and her perfect older sister, Nahal. Confused by Saskia’s mixed signals, Leila begins to reach out to friends and family, but as the truth starts to spread, Leila finds herself losing control of her coming out process.

Find a book with a Muslim protagonist

Cover image for Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Seventeen-year-old Naila is the model daughter of two very traditional Pakistani immigrants in Florida. She makes perfect grades in school, and has been accepted to a selective six-year medical program for university. She doesn’t complain about not being able to attend soccer games, or birthday parties, or even her senior prom. But Naila has a secret; for the last year she has been dating Saif, a fellow Pakistani-American from a family that has been shunned by the community because his parents allowed their daughter to marry an American. When Naila’s parents inevitably discover her relationship, they decide a month in Pakistan will help her reconnect with her roots and forget about Saif. But it eventually becomes clear that her parents have another purpose for the trip; they are looking for a husband for Naila, and they want her to be married immediately, regardless of her wishes.

Find a book set in Latin America

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra Well, I think we just found a big gap in my reading. While I could find books on my blog with Latin American characters, I couldn’t find one actually set in Latin America. So then I dug through my embarrassingly large pile of unread books. I found a couple titles by Latin American authors, but again, none set there. Ditto my Kindle. As far as my bookshelves are concerned, Latin America is a giant gaping hole. I wracked my brain to think of books I read before I blogged, and came up with State of Wonder by Anne Patchett and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even finish that last one because the audiobook expired before could get through the whole thing.  So I have requested a copy of Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra from the library. It is set in Chile, and includes an author-narrator, which is what grabbed my interest.

Find a book about a person with a disability

Cover image for El Deafo by Cece Bell El Deafo by CeCe Bell

When four-year-old Cece suddenly becomes violently ill, she wakes up in the hospital unable to hear, and has to be outfitted with a hearing aid. The next year she starts kindergarten at a special school for deaf kids where she learns lip reading. But when first grade rolls around, it is time for Cece to go to her neighbourhood school, where she will be the only deaf student. Trying to fit in at a new school is challenging enough, but Cece also has to wear the phonic ear, a large, two-part hearing aid that allows her to hear her teacher so that she doesn’t have to lip read all the time. Cece desperately wants to be taken for normal, but the phonic ear constantly draws attention to her deafness, and makes friendship complicated. Trying to make sense of her difference, Cece conjures up the character of El Deafo, who turns her disability into a superpower. Then Cece’s dream becomes a reality when her classmates realize that Cece can hear their teacher wherever she is in the school thanks to the microphone component of the phonic ear.

Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a POC protagonist

Cover image for Binti Nnedi Okorafor Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Sixteen-year-old Binti is Himba, from the indigenous peoples of northern Namibia. She is a brilliant mathematician and master harmonizer, destined to take over her father’s astrolabe shop thanks to her masterful manipulation of math current, and her ability to tree. But Binti has been accepted to Oomza University, the top school in the entire Milky Way galaxy. Only five percent of the population is human, and no Himba as ever gone. Binti is prepared to defy tradition, destroy her prospects of marriage, and venture out on her own for the first time in order to fulfill her dream of attending. But the trip to Oomza Uni is dangerous, taking the spaceship within the territory of the Meduse, ancient enemies of the Khoush people of Earth.

Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa

Cover image for Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

After fifteen years in the United States training to become a psychiatrist, the nameless narrator returns home to Lagos, Nigeria to visit his relatives and reconnect with the city where he grew up. Resisting his family’s efforts to shelter and protect him as if he was truly a foreigner rather than a returnee, he ventures out on foot and by public transportation to commune with the place he once called home and debates about one day calling home again. Teju Cole’s narrator seeks the Lagos he remembers from his youth, and has longed for in moments of homesickness, amidst the corruption that has taken deep root in his absence. Though he has heard about it, there is nothing quite like seeing the change for himself.

Find a book written by an Aboriginal or American Indian author

Cover image for Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Sixteen-year-old Franklin Starlight has spent his life on a farm in British Columbia’s remote interior with the old man, who raised him and taught him to hunt and fish, and get by in the backwoods. He has never known his mother, and his father Eldon is an alcoholic who left him with the old man when he was a baby. His father has only ever hurt and disappointed him, but when he receives word that Eldon is dying and wants him to visit, duty still compels him to answer the call. In a tiny, mouldering mill town, he finds his father wracked by liver failure. His dying wish is to be buried on a ridge a three day ride from anywhere, and Frank is the only person who can get him there. Frank has never been able to rely on Eldon for anything, but now it is Eldon who must count on his estranged son in his final days.

Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.)

the-heros-walk The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Sripathi Rao and his family live in the once-grand Big House, on Brahmin Street in the seaside Indian town of Toturpuram. His mother Ammayya, his wife Nirmala, and his unmarried sister Putti all reside under his roof, along with his unemployed adult son, Arun. Absent, but never spoken of, is his daughter, Maya, who went away to school in North America, and then defied her family by breaking off her traditional engagement to marry a white man. It has been nine years since Maya’s exile, but still her father stubbornly refuses to take her calls or allow her to visit. But everything changes when a phone call from Canada brings the news that Maya and her husband are dead, leaving their daughter Nandana orphaned. With no other family in Canada to care for her, Sripathi must fly to Vancouver and bring her home to Toturpuram, unaware of how much one small girl, stricken mute by grief, will disrupt the status quo at Big House.

Find a book with a biracial protagonist

Cover image for Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Orphaned as teenagers, Beena and Sadhana lose their mother just when they need her most. Their mother has no living relatives, and they are largely estranged from their father’s Indian family, who disapproved of his marriage to a white woman. Nevertheless, their uncle, who they have previously known mostly as the proprietor of the bakery formerly run by their father, becomes their guardian. He proves to be an awkward surrogate parent, a first generation immigrant stymied by the strangeness of his mixed race, Canadian-born nieces. As the girls vent their grief and push back against their uncle’s traditional views about gender roles, they make choices that will have irrevocable consequences for the rest of their lives.

Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues

Cover image for George by Alex Gino George by Alex Gino

George loves Charlotte’s Web, so when her school decides to put it on as a play, George immediately knows that she wants to play the part of the wise and beneficent Charlotte. And maybe if she can play Charlotte on stage, everyone—from her mother to her teachers to her friends—will finally be able to understand that George is a girl, not a boy. But her teacher refuses to let George try out for the part because she says she can’t give the role of Charlotte to a boy. So George and her best friend Kelly come up with a plan to help everyone finally see George for who she really is.


If you think this sounds like fun, or want to find the gaps in your own reading history, consider yourself tagged!


Waiting on Wednesday: The First Midnight Spell

the-first-midnight-spellBack in March, I reviewed Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, and blogged about my theories for Steadfast, which is due out in March 2014. But in the interim, Claudia will be releasing a Spellcaster novella, The First Midnight Spell, which is a  prequel to the series. Those who have read Spellcaster will be interested to get a bit more background on Elizabeth Cooper. I think that will do nicely to tide me over until Steadfast arrives in March!

If you haven’t read Spellcaster yet, there is still time to get caught up before The First Midnight Spell is released on November 5, or you could start with the prequel and go from there. Spellcaster is the story of Nadia, a witch in training who loses her mentor just as she moves to a new town where magic seems to have gone wrong.

waiting-on-wednesdayWaiting on Wednesday is a bookish meme hosted by the folks over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. What are you waiting for?


May Saturday Swap

SaturdaySwap2The Saturday Swap is a monthly meme hosted by Ruby’s Reads to help bloggers exchange books. You can find my limited wishlists on my Goodreads Want to Read Shelf and my To Be Read Pinterest board. Feel free to make me an offer of a title not listed there; I am mainly interested in speculative fiction, young adult, literary fiction and historical fiction. Here are the ARCs I have available to trade: