Diverse Reads: Mid-Year Check-in 2018

Six months into 2018, I am well on track to meet my reading goal: making sure one third of all books I read this year represent diverse perspectives. For the sake of definitions, that means books that feature religious, racial, differently-abled, gender, or sexual-orientation minorities as major, multi-faceted characters and/or were were written by authors of color. So far, I’ve read 35 books,17 of which (49%! ) meet my diversity criteria. Here are some of my favorites:

[Please note, each book’s title contains and affiliate link to that novel’s listing on Indiebound. If you make a purchase through that link, a portion of the proceeds will support Chapters and Charms.]

Covers of 5 of the books featured

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – Authored by the COO of We Need Diverse Books, The Belles was the talk of book twitter preceding its debut in February, and I must say, it lived up to the hype! Exquisite imagery dances off every page, immersing us in the world of Orléans, where a gifted few have the ability to magically alter the dull, gray appearances of their countrymen into something vivid and beautiful. The Belles control beauty. But who controls the Belles? Read my full review.

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Cordova – This is the sequel to Labyrinth Lost, which I included in my 2017 diverse books roundup. After Lula’s sister Alex banished the whole family to the underworld and had to rescue them in Book 1, a traumatized Lula tries to salvage her semblance of normality, including her love life, but somehow she just makes everything a thousand times worse. She accidentally infests the five boroughs with casimuertos, zombie-like creatures that eat hearts instead of brains and are usually raised by a grieving lover. Read my full review.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi – In this Nigeria-inspired fantasy world, the population is divided into the non-magical ruling class and the oppressed diviners, descendants of magi who have lost their access to magic, but still posses the white hair and magical Yoruba language of their forebears. Adventurous Zélie may have found a way to bring magic back, but she will have to go through loyal Prince Inan to do it. The author’s note makes clear that although this work is set abroad, the sorrow, pain, and loss the characters struggle with were inspired by police brutality and racism here in America.

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty – A YA/New Adult fantasy novel that takes place in the Middle East, in a distinctly Muslim setting, depicting with magic and wonder a region too often viewed with suspicion and contempt here in the U.S. I love this book for its epic world-building; Chakraborty takes the concept of djinn (a.k.a. genies), and explodes it into a complex society with its own history, prejudices, and machinations. Read my full review.

Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1) by Justina Ireland – Midway through the Civil War, fallen soldiers began rising up as ravenous undead and have since been spreading the plague throughout the country. Years later, we find Jane McKeene attending Miss Preston’s School of Combat. Jane is a headstrong young woman who tends to act first and worry about the consequences later. This serves her well when she’s fighting off zombies as the black and Native American denizens of America have been conscripted to do, but gets her into a lot of trouble at all other times. Luckily, only troublemakers are likely to unearth Survivalist plots, fight the status quo, and come out of zombie horde attacks unscathed.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire – This is the sequel to another book I described in my 2017 diverse books post, although I believe this one can stand alone. In fact, if you read Every Heart a Doorway first, you will know how this one ends, as this is an origin story of the twins Jack and Jill and the magical world they traveled to through an old trunk in their attic. In the Moors, liberated from parental pressure, Jack is free to pursue scientific knowledge and date a local village girl, while her sister is pampered by a vampire lord. But although they finally have space and can choose their own interests, the tension between the sisters soars to new heights.

The Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao – Move over, Middle Earth and Westeros—make way for Feng Lu, the epic East Asian-inspired fantasy kingdom of Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. In this first installment of the Rise of the Empress series, beautiful Xifeng chases her destiny through the Great Forest and into the halls of the imperial palace, with all its schemes and machinations, ready to do what it takes to come out on top. The reader soon learns that this may not be the story of a hero, after all, but rather the origin of a villain. Read my full review.

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu – Another epic on the scale of Game of Thrones, you’ll definitely need to make use of the map and list of characters at the front of this tale of the land of Dara. Dara is an archipelago, with nations spread across multiple islands, inspired by East Asian and Pacific cultures. Kings and emperors rise and fall as we trace battles, grudges, and heroics over the course of years. Liu calls his technologically advanced, bamboo-and-feather aesthetic silkpunk, a play on steampunk, and expertly entwines the genres of sci-fi and period drama.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – An arranged marriage is the last thing Dimple Shah wants. Like many second-generation Americans, Dimple sometimes has trouble seeing eye to eye with her Indian-born parents and marriage is an issue on which she certainly won’t budge. That’s why her parents don’t tell her that sending her to coding camp is really an excuse to introduce her to the son of a family friend. When Dimple finds out, she’s furious. But she also can’t help being intrigued by handsome, earnest Rishi Patel. Read my full review.

Covers of 4 of the books featured

I also had the opportunity to volunteer at a #WeNeedDiverseBooks event, which felt like an awesome way to give back to the movement that inspired my reading goal. I hope I can go to more of their events in the future!

Do you have any book recommendations to help me keep it up through December? Shout ‘em out in the comments!

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