06 September 2019

6 Books to Diversify Your September Reading List

I've defined my idea of diverse books many times on this blog. My definition may not meet your standards. That's okay. No matter how you define diversity in your reading (authors of color, LGBTQ+ themes, books in translation, #OwnVoices, women authors), I encourage you to find books that fit that definition. I have a broad and somewhat unique approach.

Here are six books, publishing this month, that fit my idea of diversity in some way.

review of Slay by Brittney MorrisSlay by Brittney Morris (Simon Pulse, Sept. 24): This is billed as Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give. Teenage Kiera Johnson, one of the very few black students at her high school, is a math whiz and avid gamer, who has developed an extremely popular role-playing game with black activist features. The game is a sort of safe haven for black gamers until a game-related real-life murder brings SLAY to the attention of the world at large. This thriller involves themes of racism, exclusion, and trying to fit in mixed with gaming action and off-line violence and bullying. This timely novel is an #OwnVoices book that explores important contemporary issues. The novel is an Indie Next pick. (Audience: young adult)

reivew of Crossed-Out Notebook by Nicolás Giacobone, trans. by Megan McDowell Crossed-Out Notebook by Nicolás Giacobone, trans. by Megan McDowell (Scribner, Sept. 24): This is an insider commentary on the world of script writers. Set in Argentina, a screenwriter is being held captive in the basement of a famous Latin American movie director. Although Pablo has already turned out a couple of scripts, the director, who takes all the writing credit, is now demanding a "world-changing screenplay" worthy of the biggest Hollywood stars. Pablo, however, is suffering a bit of writer's block--perhaps as a result of being threatened at gun point? The novel consists of his nightly musings, a kind of diary that he deletes every morning. His inner thoughts are countered by the more immediate questions: Can he escape to freedom? Will he write the script? Is someone going to get hurt. A kind of psychological thriller along the lines of Misery by an Oscar-winning screenplay writer. (#OwnVoices; audience: adult)

Review of Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina GappahOut of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah (Scribner; Sept. 10): This is story of what happened after the famous Dr. Livingstone died. History tells us that David Livinstone's body and belongings were transported across Africa and returned to England in 1873, but those accounts are told from a white man's point of view. In this moving and important novel, Livingstone's (female) cook and a converted freed (male) slave each contribute to the story of how Africans loyal to the doctor carried his corpse 1500 miles across the continent so he wouldn't be lost and forgotten. As the journey progresses, the members of the party begin question Livingstone's character and intentions and readers get a look at Africa in all its vastness and diversity. The novel has earned starred reviews. (#OwnVoices; audience: adult)

Review of The Shadow King by Maaza MengisteThe Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Norton, Sept. 24). This is a very different World War II story, set in Ethiopia as it prepares for and fights Mussolini's invasion. When the war is just a possibility, Hirut is a maid in the house of one of Haile Selassie's army officers. After Italian soldiers arrive, Hirut, her mistress, and other women do their part to defend their homeland, whether acting as nurses, spies, guards, or advisers. Hirut is more involved than others, helping devise a scheme to boost Ethiopian morale and find a way to survive the occupation. An important story of a little-known aspect of the war told from a non-Western woman's point of view that is universal in its themes of what it means to be a civilian woman in a battle-torn world. The author has garnered much praise. (#OwnVoices; audience: adult)

Review of Night Boat to Tangier by Keven BarryNight Boat to Tangier by Keven Barry (Doubleday, Sept. 17): Set in the Spanish port city Algeciras, two middle-aged Irish drug smugglers wait for the ferry from Morocco looking for a girl. As Maurice and Charlie settle in at the terminal hoping to cross paths with Maurice's estranged daughter, they talk with others in the waiting room; observe the local dogs; and--above all-reminisce about their pasts. This is a story of crime, marriages, violence, and a sometimes rocky partnership told in the easy, sometimes profane, banter of long-time friends. There is a bit of a mystery as to why Dilly disappeared and why she may be on the ferry to (or perhaps from) Tangier on that very night. A sometimes dark, sometimes funny contemporary story by an award-winning Irish author  (audience: adult)

review of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza MouliteDear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (Inkyard, Sept. 3): This is the story of a first-generation Haitian American who is sent from Miami to her parents' homeland after messing up just months before high school graduation. Alaine's story is told through a mix of media (letters, texts, email, school report) as she completes the assignment that will get her reinstated in school. Under the watchful care of one of her aunts, Alaine learns more about her family's history, her own heritage, and what life is like for people who don't have the privileges or comforts America and her professional parents have given her. A cute guy, family drama, and Haitian culture give this coming-of-age story oomph and the epistolary style makes it fun to read. (#OwnVoices; audience: young adult)

Note: I would add Dominicana and Red at the Bone to this list as well. For more on those novels, see my what to look for at BookExpo 2019 post. I thought I should mention the books again so you can look for them at your local bookstore and library.


rhapsodyinbooks 9/6/19, 6:52 AM  

These all look so good. And of course you make a great point that different people consider different constituencies as "diverse."

bermudaonion 9/6/19, 8:28 AM  

They all appeal to me!

Tina 9/6/19, 10:13 AM  

The Kevin Barry book has my interest. I agree with Rhapsody, everyone has different definitions.

Jackie McGuinness 9/7/19, 8:42 AM  

Kevin Barry (name makes me smile and think of the Irish rebel song) I am waitlisted for tickets to hear him speak about his new book on Set 23 here in Toronto.

Did you read his other books> City of Bohane was fantastic.

Daryl 9/8/19, 3:40 PM  

several of these are going on my TBR list .. thanks!

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