In light of recent commentary on the apparent “unrealistic” nature of diversity in books (yes, an actual recent criticism), I thought it would be a good time to do a brief tag celebrating diversity in books. Because, despite popular belief, diverse characters don’t have to have a reason to be diverse. Real diverse people don’t have a reason to be diverse— we just are. White cisheterosexual characters don’t need a reason to be cisgender, straight, or white. The issue, it seems, comes from assuming that straight, cis, and white is the default. But it’s not. There is no default human; thus, there is no default character. And I’m going to use this tag to recommend books that prove how beautiful (and real!) diversity can be. Please feel free to read any and all of these books.
- Name a book with a lesbian protagonist
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown. Joanna Gordon is out and proud. Even when she is asked to re-closet herself while her family readjusts to their new Southern town, Jo is never ashamed to be gay and only complies for a radio show. That is, until she falls in love.
- Name a book with a Muslim protagonist
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. Kamala Khan’s religion plays a huge part in her story and influences who she is as a character.
- Name a book set in Latin America
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. Taking place during the Trujillio dictatorship of the Dominican Republic, it follows three sisters who are assassinated for their role in a plot to overthrow Trujillo. I haven’t read it yet (though I’ve read other books that discuss Trujillo’s reign of terror), but I do know it’s based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters.
- Name a book with a disabled protagonist
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Kaz Brekker broke his leg when he was younger and it didn’t set right, so he’s walked with a cane and limp ever since. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Name a fantasy or sci-fi book with a protagonist of color
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. Hattori Mariko is Japanese, as is the entire cast of the book.
- Name a book set in (or about) a country in Africa
The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. I’ve only read some of the first book, but all the mythology used is Ancient Egyptian. I would imagine they spend some time in Egypt as well. Carter Kane is also half-black (as is his sister, though she is white-passing).
- Name a book written by an indigenous or native author
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich. Louise is part of the Ojibwe tribe and writes about the struggles of her tribe in multi-generational stories. This one is one of my favorites.
- Name a book set in South Asia
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi. Not only are Gauri and Vikram Indian (albeit from fictionalized countries), but there entire cast of characters is.
- Name a book with a biracial protagonist
Warcross by Marie Lu. Emika Chen is half-Chinese. Additionally, her love interest Hideo is Japanese (although he grew up in the UK, I don’t think he’s biracial).
- Name a book with a transgender protagonist or about transgender issues
The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare. Technically Diana is not the protagonist, but Lord of Shadows carefully details her backstory and how she came to realize and understand she was transgender. She knows if she were to come out, she’d face great prejudice from the Shadowhunters. But she does find acceptance in a faerie named Gwyn. I hope to see this further explored in Queen of Air and Darkness. (Also please recommend some good books with transgender protagonists because I am very clearly lacking in that department.)
Do you have any diverse book you’d like to recommend? How are they diverse? Tell me about them in the comments!