Friday, August 26, 2011

Reading Diverse Part II

Back in June, I blogged about reading diverse and challenged my blog readers to do the same. This reading diverse challenge had nothing to do with reading outside the genre in which you write but had everything to do with reading books whose characters differ from you. The reading challenge is found right here and my original post about the challenge is right here.

Although I've read middle grade books for this challenge (which is what I love and what I write), the books' main characters are not Caucasian, thus different than me. Diversity is important. I don't want everyone to be like me. I enjoy a world where ideas, people, strategies, skin colors, and yes - even politics - differ from mine. Diversity makes the world interesting.

The stories take place in diverse times and settings, as well as having diverse characters. So not only did I delve into characters who were diverse, I also traveled to diverse times and to all parts of the world.

By reading these books with diversified characters and times, I was reminded that while authors write in order to share fabulous stories with creative and interesting characters, they also write to share their experiences or make readers aware of the experiences of others. Authors write to share a story but also to teach - if we are willing to be taught.

The characters in these stories experience different things than I because they are, quite simply, different than I. And when I read these stories, I hopped into the skin of the characters.
  • In Breadcrumbs (I read an advance reading copy, it comes out in late Sept), Hazel is adopted (from what I gathered to be India) and although it's not a major part of the story, Anne Ursu did a superb job showing me what it would be like to not look like my parents.
  • In Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, Manjiro is shipwrecked too far off Japan's coast in 1841 and doesn't know if he can ever return home. When he sails to the U.S., he's the first Japanese person many Americans have ever seen, and I learned to give people chances.
  • In The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman, I was reminded how the English overtook the Native Americans - without much care or regard for these well-established and often peaceful societies. This part of American history has always torn my heart to pieces.
  • In Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, I experienced what it is like to have a form of Autism and how frustrating it can be when people don't understand how you think or act.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan showed me the callousness of misinformation. Many people during the Depression had nothing but still kicked down others simply because they looked different.
  • The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis showed me a culture where females didn't have the rights and privileges I take for granted every day of my life. Things have begun to change for Afghan girls and women, but if we don't look beyond our own cozy little lives, we won't know about the plight of others.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia taught about the times of the Black Panther movement. A different response than the Civil Rights Movement, but all the same, a reaction to how African Americans had been treated for hundreds of years because of their skin color.
  • In Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes I saw the difference of having money versus having no money and how that drastically affected people's response to Hurricane Katrina. The Ninth Ward was (and maybe still is) mostly African American.
  • Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon showed how an African American 'passing for white' was not accepted in either the Caucasian or African American societies of the past.
My summer of reading diverse entertained me with fantastic stories by gifted writers, but more importantly it taught me what it's like to be someone who isn't like me. And if the world steps into the shoes of others and looks around from that place for awhile, we all learn something.

2 comments:

  1. Oh my!!! I am so proud of you! You made it!
    I hope you win those fabulous books too, but in the end it's the experience that matters, right?

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  2. You know, I would so love to win that pile of books, but reading (and my writing too) is about experiencing things outside of myself. I love how words (and people) help me do that.

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