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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.
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.
With short fast-moving chapters this is a piercing and riveting political thriller. Sitting within a time period of just over two weeks, former aid worker Ursula finds herself in deep water when she becomes Minister for the Interior in Iceland. Author Lilja Sigurdardottir and translator Quentin Bates team up again after the successful and fiercely intense Reykjavik Noir trilogy which I absolutely adored. The writing here is just as smart and powerful with dirty politics and corruption leading the charge and an otherwordly feel slinking around in the background. A number of characters are introduced, from Ursula who takes a high-profile role in government, to driver and bodyguard Gunnar, and cleaner Stella. A picture slows builds with a teetering edge of tension remaining in place throughout. I hovered on the edge of knowing and understanding, my focus sharp and waiting for what was to come. In summary, Betrayal is an edge-of-your-seat political thriller just brimming over with attitude.
Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel. Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. This review is provided by bookgroup.info.Fans of WHITE TEETH may be a bit disappointed with Zadie Smith’s latest novel. ON BEAUTY is not such a rollicking good read as her first book but what it lacks in pace it makes up for in characterisation and depth. The novel lays out its credentials from the first sentence: ‘One may as well begin with Jerome’s emails to his father.’ and goes on to draw much of its narrative from the plot of E M Forster’s HOWARD’S END. Smith’s story revolves, as does Forster’s, around two families who, although from a similar strata of society, have opposing political and moral viewpoints. Set mainly at Wellington, a fictitious Ivy League university, ON BEAUTY explores the rivalry between two art-historians: Howard Belsey – English, inclusive, liberal– and the ultra conservative, Christian, Monty Kipps. Despite being African American, Kipps refers to ‘the coloured man’ and wages a campaign on the campus against affirmative action. Inevitably, the two families get involved and the ensuing tensions provide great potential for high drama as well as comic situations. Some episodes are very funny indeed. Zadie Smith is very good at human relationships, family dynamics specifically, and some of her scenes are painfully convincing. By referring to Howard’s End, the author creates parallels and counterpoints between Edwardian England and the US east coast of the early twenty first century. Although, whereas Forster’s novel ends with the symbolic death of Leonard Blast under a pile of books, Howard’s ‘end’ in ON BEAUTY is not only a hugely optimistic redemption of his character but an affirmation of the value of love and beauty.This homage to Forster does beg comparison with someone who was a master of economy in his writing. In just a few spare subtle sentences he could illustrate the British class system in all its iniquity and complexity and it makes Smith seem a bit clunky and heavy-handed by contrast. That said, ON BEAUTY is a very accomplished novel, a good read and provides plenty to consider about love, fidelity, identity and the nature of beauty.The Lovereading view...Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. Set on both sides of the Atlantic, award-winning Zadie Smith's third novel, On Beauty, is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
International in scope and sweeping in history, Yvette Cooper’s She Speaks compendium gives voice to a dazzlingly diversity of powerful speeches selected on the basis of them being delivered by “women who believe in using words to build a better world, and persuading others to join them as they do so.” The introduction is both inspirational and edifying, with Cooper surveying the hostile landscape women have traversed - and still traverse - while making their voices heard, integrated with personal insights from her career as a Labour MP, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State.Throughout it’s a joy to the savour the words and wisdom of dozens of seminal female figures, from Boudica’s stirring two thousand year-old polemic against violations of women, to Diane Abbott’s powerful 2019 House of Commons speech on the brutally unjust Windrush scandal. Other British women with political pedigree include the fabulously fierce Barbara Castle (her speech here is an exquisite example of sharp, scathing, socialist-minded oratory), Jo Cox, with her poignant maiden speech as an MP, Yvette Cooper herself, and former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. While it might seem out of place for Cooper to re-amplify the Iron Lady’s inflammatory “ideological assault on the public sector” by including her “the lady’s not for turning” speech, she frames the decision by referring to Thatcher’s mould-breaking persona and indestructible self-belief. Thatcher’s inclusion is also testament to the gracious spirit that runs through the anthology. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on modernising the Conservative party is also included.Beyond Britain we hear from Audre Lorde, Benazir Bhutto and Michelle Obama; from razor-witted US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and young education campaigner Malala Yousafzai. I was especially stirred by the 1851 speech of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned activist whose work saw her campaign against slavery and champion women’s rights, and whose words sang for the oppressed. The last words are given to Greta Thunberg because “no one speaks about the future with more clarity or urgency than Greta Thunberg”.“She Speaks, I must listen”, Cooper writes in her introduction and this finely-curated anthology will certainly inspire readers of all ages to pay close attention to the women’s words it shares.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2002. Pi’s family is moving their zoo when the boat sinks and 16-year old Pi is left afloat in a lifeboat with four animals that includes a tiger. Up to that point the book is slow to get into but persevere for this unique work is stunning. It’s brutal, hopeful, humorous, philosophical, almost implausible and yet strangely believable. A tale that will remain with you for a very long time and deserves another read. Comparison: Mark Haddon (The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger). The Life of Pi is now a major motion picture from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee and opens in the UK on 20 December 2012.
Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself. Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A fun and gripping first in a new series of Scandi-noir - unusually written by a British writer who grew up here but now lives in Sweden. Our heroine - Tuva Moodyson - has also recently moved there, she grew up in rural Sweden but left for the bright lights of London and has returned to near home because her mother hasn't got long to live. Not wanting to give up her career as a journalist she's moved a few hours away from 'home' to work at a local paper. It's pretty sleepy till the entire community is sent reeling when a body is found in the forest during hunting season, shot but with it's eyes removed, no accident and a chilling copy of a spate of murders from twenty years before. Tuva goes on the hunt for the story of her career almost risking everything to find the killer. Adding to the drama is the fact that Tuva is deaf and her ability to both operate without her hearing aids in complete silence when she wants to, and the danger she faces from her hearing aids failing, both up the ante significantly. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
With a sense of menace that fairly snaps at your heels, this is a truly fabulous read. You could step straight into Red Snow quite happily, but I recommend that you begin with the first in the series, Dark Pines. Here, reporter Tuva Moodyson tracks down a killer just as a blizzard hits the small Swedish town of Gavrik. Tuva is absolutely fabulous, she is a fast talking and thinking, no-nonsense lead, and her thoughts stride across the page. The town of Gavrik just has so much atmosphere, it scowls, simmers and plots in the background, actually, not so much in the background, it sits alongside Tuva as a main character. Will Dean writes so beautifully you can feel the black Grimberg liquorice scented energy of the place. In my mind, my thoughts, my feelings, I was there! The dark, twisty and somewhat quirky plot kept me on constant alert from start to finish. Red Snow is edgy, intricate, and right up there for me, this is Scandi-noir with brass knobs on! Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
Edgy, gutsy, and so so readable, gosh how I love this series. Black River is the third book after Will Dean’s hugely successful debut Dark Pines and follow up Red Snow. Reporter Tuva Moodyson is back, full of spiky attitude and fortitude, which she will need in bucketfuls after her best friend Tammy goes missing. Tuva just has to be on my list of favourite characters, she yells out to me to join her when I see her book waiting! This is Scandi-noir with a twist, the twist comes with essence of wild and remote and heaps of unusual characters. Will Dean’s descriptions plunged me into Gavrik at Midsommar, adding a somewhat fevered dimension to the plot. The occasional little explanations for those of us who don’t live in Sweden were really helpful. Black River is a dream of a read for me, assured and bold it certainly kept me on my toes, and went straight onto my list for Liz Robinson picks of the month. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
Oh my, I have quite fallen in love with this absolutely glorious and spellbinding tale. A wonderful infusion of themes means ‘Attend’ quite rightly, refuses to be labelled. Set in Deptford, London the streets, houses, and locations are as eloquently described and important as the characters. Skirting the violent criminal underbelly of the town and exploring the struggle of addiction, the story hovers within touching distance of an unseen mysterious power that planted itself in my mind and continued to lurk and explore my thoughts and feelings. The enigmatic and almost otherworldly Deborah sits centre stage, acting as a magnet, weaving Sam and Anne into her story. ‘Attend’ has a deliciously dark fairytale quality that sits alongside the heartfelt realism of life quite beautifully. This is West Camel’s debut, his writing is alluring and sang out to me, I simply can't wait to see what comes next. I recommend Attend with every fibre of my being, it has must-read stamped all over it.
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”.
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.