“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my
― Albert Camus
In light of recent events, I thought it would be interesting to think back on and feature some of my favorite books that celebrate diversity in all forms. This is not a political blog, yet I feel the need to emphasize that in a world that wants to move forward both in action and in thought, it is utterly imperative to embrace and try to understand people who may be different from ourselves, whether that be in religion, skin color, background, sexual orientation, etc. Sometimes books are a good way to start this journey, and it certainly has been true for me in some cases when I was unfamiliar with the experience of people with vastly different stories from my own. Some of the books I have chosen are not necessarily easy reads, because they challenge how we think and how we should, perhaps, adjust our thinking in ways that are not always simple. At times, it is easy to go on as we always have, certain in our openness, our lack of prejudice and conviction in our tolerance, but this is a complicated world, and we are constantly bombarded with news and comments and criticisms (usually and often unhelpfully online) that we have to shift and challenge our own thinking.
I will hop off my high horse now, and simply give you my little list. I have chosen mostly fiction books, because that is what I read the most, and I sometimes find a difficult truth to be more palatable and digestible if presented in a story. The list started as six books, but I couldn't help adding and adding to it, and now we have eleven and I know I will think of more I wish I had included! Let me know if you have recommendations!
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - One of my favorites of this years o far. A thoughtful and creative account that traces the history of two woman born in Ghana. Find my review here.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - A book about race, violence, identity and friendship. You can find my review here.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan - This is a clever, thoughtful story of two boys with the same name and very different problems.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio - This book may be geared towards younger readers, but it can teach anyone the lesson not to judge a person by their appearance.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman - Among the first graphic novels I read, but impossible to put down, it tells the story of a family during, before and after the Second World War.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts - It offers a shocking, illuminating, unputdownable account of life in Mumbai as told by a man seeking refuge there.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - A graphic novel in two parts, telling the story of Marjane living in Iran as she experiences the Islamic Revolution. Find my review here.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - This is a highly imaginative, heart-breaking account of a boy dealing with grief.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- Despite the fairly telling title, this short book is worth reading for Adichie's typical wit and thoughtfulness. Feminism doesn't mean hostility or bra burning. All of this author's books (like Half A Yellow Sun and Americanah) are worth reading for entertainment and insight galore.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - A moving novel about a boy in Kabul in the 70s and the consequences of an action that sends him down a path for redemption as an adult.
March by John Lewis - Another series of graphic novels by the respected congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis. It tells his story in the fight for equal rights. In many ways, it feels shockingly relevant even today, and is absolutely worth the read. Find my review here.