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Our Diversity genre celebrates a wide range of inclusive narratives. It's about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. As a team, we read widely and make sure that we offer intersectional representation in our book recommendations.
Compiled by YA author and broadcaster Juno Dawson, this inspiring anthology of illustrated short stories by LGBTQ+ writers shines a light on a kaleidoscopic array of experiences through an equally kaleidoscopic breadth of genres, themes and styles. From Chinese lesbian fairytale The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So, to Simon James Green’s hilarious, heart-warming Penguins (who would’ve thought a pair of penguins could steal a person’s coming out thunder?!), this is a powerfully diverse collection. Alongside more established names, among them authors David Levithan and Jess Vallance, and illustrator David Roberts, special mention must go to the four new voices whose stories grace these pages – be sure to seek out what Karen Lawler, Michael Lee Richardson, Cynthia So and Kay Staples do next. These are stories of struggle and trouble, passion and promise, with much wit, warmth, wisdom and support shared along the way. And so it seems fitting to leave the last loud, proud, celebratory words to Dan from David Levithan’s queer youth choir story: “You hold your ground. You sing out loud and proud in defiance of all the people who want you to be quiet”.
Readers less interested in speculating about who Jack the Ripper was in favour of learning more about the women murdered in London’s East End have had little reason to clear shelf space – until now. Finally, a decade on from Neal Shelden’s book, which skims the surface of victims’ stories, Hallie Rubenhold offers a deep-dive into their lives. Divided chronologically in terms of their deaths in 1888, parts covering ‘Polly’, ‘Annie’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Kate’ contain four chapters each; the fifth, ‘Mary Jane’, contains two and is relatively weak. Illustrations are uninspired. Notwithstanding the lack of archival material leading Rubenhold to interchange between telling specific stories of the “canonical” five and a general social history of the Victorian period, meticulous research undergirds captivating portraits akin to those featured in her histories of Georgian women. Shelden is the only Ripperologist widely cited by a historian who arguably pays insufficient acknowledgement to researchers who have revealed much of the known information on these vulnerable women. This is not to say they have nothing to learn, however, unless they know of Polly’s husband’s infidelity, Annie’s treatment in a sanatorium for alcoholism or are versed in Liz’s upbringing in Sweden. Rubenhold’s thesis that three of the five slept – not solicited – on the streets is as intriguing as her tendency to fill gaps in the source material with speculation is irksome, yet no serious Ripperologist can ignore The Five. More significantly, the book’s indictment of past and present misogyny will help ensure such discrimination has no future. Lee Ruddin
Written by the founder of Everyday Sexism, and based on real-life experiences, double-standard “slut shaming” and sexual degradation are here exposed with vital urgency, and interwoven with the gripping story of a medieval woman whose abuse at the hands of a misogynistic society has present-day parallels. Fifteen-year-old Anna and her mum have moved hundreds of miles so she can escape the sexist bullying she was subjected to at her last school. But as Anna tries to make a fresh start, her past rears its head and continues to haunt her. While suffering torrents of abuse from her peers, Anna immerses herself in a history project that draws her into the tragic life of Maggie, an unmarried young woman from the 17th century. In juxtaposing Maggie and Anna’s experiences, the author lays bare an unbroken thread of misogyny from the Middle Ages to today’s culture of “revenge porn” and sexual shaming. Centuries on from scold’s bridles and burnings at the stake, women are still blamed and punished for the brutal behaviour of men. But Anna finds strength in her friendships with Alisha, Cat and Robin, and her connection with Maggie makes this a potent page-turner that will speak to a generation. As the author states in her afterword, “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and you deserve to feel better”. Or, in Anna’s words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you burned. And we’re not putting up with it any more.”
Clued-up creative activists Chelsea and Jasmine attend a New York school that’s proud of its progressive approach, with classes and clubs called things like Science for Social Justice and Poets for Peace and Justice. But, while forward-thinking liberalism is supposed to lie at the heart of their school’s ethos, Jasmine and Chelsea are infuriated by its evident neglect of women’s rights: “It feels like everyone outside Amsterdam Heights is taking it seriously, but here, it’s like we think the work is done… But it’s not”. When Chelsea’s drama teacher tries to coax her to develop a stereotypical “sassy and angry” black female character, she’s inspired to set up the Write Like a Girl club with a punch-packing feminist blog that sets off a whole lot of buzz in the school community. Alongside attempts to silence the girls’ powerful voices and direct action, Jasmine faces painful personal loss, but they remain strong, firmly fixed on changing the status quo “from the inside out”. Insightful on gender inequity, and the intersection of gender and race, this comes highly recommended for fans of Angie Thomas. Chelsea and Jasmine’s story is a smart and awe-inspiring call to action, a vital novel with the power to empower a generation of young women, much like co-author Renée Watson’s previous book, Piecing Me Together.
Until recently, Julia hadn't had sex in three years. But now: a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis; a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art; and she's wondering whether trimming her pubes makes her a bad feminist. Julia's about to learn that she's been looking for love - and satisfaction - in all the wrong places.... Frank, filthy and very, very funny, In at the Deep End is a brilliant debut from a major new talent. #ImInAtTheDeepEnd
A wonderfully provocative and emotionally beautiful read, where for one family, whether or not destiny exists becomes incredibly significant. We see snapshots in time, of compelling and expressive moments for Mukesh, Neha, Rakesh and Ba. Set in different time frames, and not told sequentially, we begin to see how events from the past create our future, yet is it destiny or free will that shape our movements, our decisions? Nikesh Shukla writes with a wonderfully light touch, yet he hits with hammer hard intensity. I laughed, I cried, I wondered at people’s propensity to hate, to fear, for violence. Each family member is so clearly and individually expressed, I particularly enjoyed getting to know Raks through the eyes of others, it actually made me feel more of a connection with him, for him. Poignant and stimulating, The One Who Wrote Destiny has an immense subtlety, the words dance across the page, before rising up from an unexpected direction to challenge thoughts and feelings - highly recommended.
Under-your-skin powerful novel about a talented young black woman who refuses to be silenced. Bri is a smart hip-hop writer from rough, tough Garden Heights, the same housing project that provided the setting for Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Hate U Give. Her underground rap legend dad was murdered twelve years ago, leading to her (now clean) mom seeking solace in drugs. Bri’s dad’s legacy means she has a hell of a lot of baggage when she performs at a big open mic event. While she chokes the first round after being goaded by her opponent in a scene that will have you desperately urging her on, Bri’s powerful lyrics and performance mark her out as something special. But as her hip-hop reputation is on the rise, so other aspects of her life take a downturn. There’s serious money trouble at home, and at school she’s unjustly suspended, the latter of which leads to her writing the track that further rockets her reputation, “On the Come Up”. But this brings further struggle. There’s the racism of black women being labeled “aggressive” for merely expressing their views. There’s a painful falling out with “tight since womb days” friend Malik. And there’s a cruel conflict between self-preservation (shutting up and putting up to avoid being wrongly locked up, or worse) in a racist society, and the heightened need to speak out precisely because of this situation. Impeccably plotted, with a multiple storylines woven to a pulse-pounding conclusion, this is an astoundingly affecting novel that shines a light on the struggles of young black women, and celebrates freedom of speech and making noise about who you are, as seen through unforgettable Bri, a 100% authentic character whom readers will root for, cry for, yell out loud for, and grin for joy with.
An eye-opening novel that feels like a blistering, witty, understanding-of-self travel diary, and an insight into 19 year old Erin’s soul. Erin travels around the top of the globe to Alaska, as she wants to burst the image of the rugged male explorer. I saw the synopsis for The Word For Woman is Wilderness and just had to read it as I’ve been to Alaska, and read various books set there, including Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, based on the true story of a traveler who died while trying to live off the land. Erin has read the same books, feels the same pull by the wilderness, and she has been written so beautifully by Abi Andrews that she slipped into a state of reality in my mind. I adored travelling with Erin, she took me to familiar and sometimes entirely unexpected places. It took me a little while to settle in and feel the words, the pace, the tone. I was surprised by her observations, so pithy, so huge, so spot on, it feels at times as though her thoughts have been bottled, shaken, and then explode out of her. The Word for Woman is Wilderness is a beautifully surprising, clever, startling novel and I adored it.
A Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough.
Prepare yourself, this is a slicing, clever, wonderfully captivating tale ready to twist thoughts, to skewer feelings. Thomas falls in love with Darling, his 16-year-old daughter Lola is horrified, each woman is determined not to lose Thomas. The intriguing prologue immediately hooked my attention, my eyebrows raised, my eyes opened wide, my mind gasped. We hear from both Darling and Lola, each so different, so vibrantly alive with conviction. Darling’s voice is rich and full of flavour, I could close my eyes and still hear her, while Lola is sharp with a head full of thoughts, brittle, yet flaming, fiery. I found myself reading faster, wanting to gobble up the pages, yet was determined not to miss a single word. By the time awareness started to prickle my consciousness, by the time understanding crashed in around me, I was on a non-stop collision course with the end. Darling is a powerful read, a vibrant, punchy, thoughtful wow of a read, and I loved it.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 Rich in drama, and suffused in the spirituality and atmosphere of the author’s native Northern Punjab, Jasbinder Bilan’s debut is a delightful, hope-bathed treat for 9+ year-olds. With money tight, Asha’s father has gone to the big city to work in a factory, having promised to send money home, and to return to their village in the Himalayan foothills for Diwali. But when the money stops arriving and her mum runs into trouble with a lender, Asha makes a big, brave decision: she will cross the world’s highest mountains to find her father. Accompanied by best friend Jeevan, and with the magical, protective presence of her nanijee – her grandmother’s spirit bird – Asha sets out on a truly transformative journey of a lifetime. Along the way, the friends encounter dangerous beasts of the animal and human kind, but they never give up hope, with Asha’s infectious sense of justice, self-belief and spirituality keeping them firmly fixed on their goal. This is perfect for fans of the Himalayas-set Running on the Roof of the World and the adventure stories of Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell.
From the Northern Writer's Award Winner comes. . . REMEMBERED LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE 2019 It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. The last place Spring wants to be is in the rundown, coloured section of a hospital surrounded by the groans of sick people and the ghost of her dead sister. But as her son Edward lays dying, she has no other choice. There're whispers that Edward drove a streetcar into a shop window. Some people think it was an accident, others claim that it was his fault, the police are certain that he was part of a darker agenda. Is he guilty? Can they find the truth? All Spring knows is that time is running out. She has to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that governed her life, she will do everything she can to lead him home.
Our mission is to share book love and encourage reading for pleasure by offering the tools, advice and information needed to help our members and browsers find their next favourite book. Part of that mission includes promoting diversity through the authors, characters and books that we feature on the website.
Much like our Debut category has a variety of books from first-time authors, our Diverse Voices genre will highlight a wide range of Inclusive narratives.