06 April 2018

8 April Novels to Diversify Your Reading

I’ve often talked about the difficulty of defining what it means to diversify your reading. Some people look for books written by people of color, and others are searching for stories featuring non-Christian/Catholic or non-white characters. I consider books in translation as diverse reading because they expand my perspective beyond the English-speaking world. You may be looking for novels that include LBGTQ+ themes or focus on medical issues or another less common topic. The 8 books in this week’s roundup will diversify your reading list on one of these levels. (Book descriptions taken from the publishers’ summaries.)

Adult Reading

The Magnificent Esme Wells by Adrienne SharpThe Magnificent Esme Wells by Adrienne Sharp (Harper; April 10). Genre: historical fiction; diversity themes: Jewish
Esme Silver has always taken care of her charming ne’er do well father, Ike Silver, a small-time crook with dreams of making it big with Bugsy Siegel. Devoted to her daddy, Esme is often his “date” at the racetrack. . . . In awe of her mother, Dina Wells, Esme is more than happy to be the foil that gets the beautiful Dina into meetings and screen tests with some of Hollywood’s greats. When Ike gets an opportunity to move to Vegas . . . to help the man she knows as “Benny” open the Flamingo hotel, life takes an unexpected turn for Esme. A stunner like her mother, the young girl catches the attention of Nate Silver, one of the Strip’s most powerful men. Narrated by the twenty-year-old Esme, the story moves between pre-WWII Hollywood and post-war Las Vegas—a golden age when Jewish gangsters and movie moguls were often indistinguishable in looks and behavior.

Gateway to the Moon by Mary MorrisGateway to the Moon by Mary Morris (Nan A. Talese; April 10). Genre: historical fiction, family saga; diversity themes: Jewish, Latino (religious tolerance)
In 1492, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were expelled, and Columbus set sail for America. Luis de Torres, a Spanish Jew, accompanies Columbus as his interpreter. His journey is only the beginning of a long migration, across many generations. Over the centuries, de Torres’ descendants travel from Spain and Portugal to Mexico, finally settling in the hills of New Mexico. Five hundred years later, it is in these same hills that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, finds himself trying to understand the mystery that surrounds him and the town he grew up in. Entrada de la Luna is a place that holds a profound secret—one that its residents cannot even imagine.

Flying at Night by Rebecca L. BrownFlying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown (Berkley; April 10). Genre: literary fiction; diversity themes: autism
While she was growing up, Piper’s father, Lance “the Silver Eagle” Whitman, became a national hero piloting a plane through an emergency landing. But at home, he was a controlling and overbearing presence in her life, raining emotional and verbal abuse upon the entire family. It’s no surprise, then, that as an adult, Piper has poured all of her energy into creating a warm and loving home for her own family, while catering to her son Fred’s ever-growing idiosyncrasies. Then Lance has a heart attack, leaving him with a brain injury—and dependent upon Piper for his care—just before tests confirm Piper’s suspicions that Fred is on the autism spectrum.

Cave of Bones by Anne HillermanCave of Bones by Anne Hillerman (Harper; April 3). Genre: mystery; diversity themes: Native American
Hillerman brings together modern mystery, Navajo traditions, and the evocative landscape of the desert Southwest. When Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito arrives to speak at an outdoor character-building program for at-risk teens, she discovers chaos. Annie, a young participant on a solo experience due back hours before, has just returned and is traumatized. Gently questioning the girl, Bernie learns that Annie stumbled upon a human skeleton on her trek. . . . While Bernie searches for answers in her case, her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, juggles trouble closer to home. A vengeful man he sent to prison for domestic violence is back—and involved with Bernie’s sister Darleen. Their relationship creates a dilemma that puts Chee in uncomfortable emotional territory that challenges him as family man, a police officer, and as a one-time medicine man in training.

Family Reading

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (Sky Pony Press; April 3). Audience: YA; diversity themes: LBGTQ, Latino, plus size bodies
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy GilbertPicture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert (Disney Hyperion; April 10). Audience: YA; diversity themes: Asian American, LGBTQ+ (immigration)
Danny Cheng has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

Dread Nation by Justina IrelandDread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray, April 3). Audience YA; diversity themes: African American, Native American (race issues)
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Civil War–era America—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children to attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. . . . But that’s not a life Jane wants. . . . When families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-DannellyLove Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly (Random House BYR; April 3). Audience: MG; diversity themes: African American, author is a POC (race, class)
Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing—taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits. Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over. Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!


bermudaonion 4/6/18, 8:42 AM  

For me, reading diversely means reading about people and places that are unfamiliar to me and all of these books hit those marks.

Kay 4/6/18, 3:33 PM  

I love Anne Hillerman's series. Love it.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks 4/9/18, 4:44 PM  

Dread Nation is on my reading list. I hope it is good.

Daryl 4/11/18, 9:15 AM  

nice selection to choose from, thanks!

Les in Oregon 4/16/18, 12:18 AM  

Flying at Night sounds like one I'd enjoy. I don't think I've heard of this author before.

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