Reading diverse books: why representation matters

Such books can give unique insight into the lives of those different from you

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Books can act as windows, giving you a peek into the lives of others, or as mirrors which allow you to see a reflection of yourself.

Every year, the world becomes more diverse. People of all races, religions, cultures and identities come together to make the world a better — and more beautiful — place for everyone. 

As someone who grew up in small-town Minnesota, I was rarely exposed to people who were different from me. I ended up learning about other races, religions, cultures, gender identities and sexualities through reading.

Reading about diverse people taught me a lot about what people less privileged than me go through on a daily basis. I felt like Jasmine from the movie “Aladdin” singing the song “A Whole New World.” 

This past year, I have been trying to expand my reading library to include more books with characters of color and characters who are part of the LGBT+ community. I’ve also been on the lookout for books written by #OwnVoices, or minority authors who write about their experiences as members of those minority groups.

Throughout this process I’ve realized there aren’t nearly as many diverse books as I once thought, which was a huge disappointment to me.

Representation and reading books with representation for children and young adults is really important for a multitude of reasons.

Having more diverse books is especially important for people who are a part of minority groups because it helps them feel accepted.

According to We Need Diverse Books, these books act as “mirrors” which allow minority groups to see a reflection of themselves in books and become a form of self-affirmation. 

These books also act as “windows” for people who are not a part of these groups. Books allow people to look inside other cultures, races, etc. which can help to change opinions about these groups since you are putting yourself in their shoes.

Diverse books, especially those written by #OwnVoices, can also provide a look into current events surrounding minority groups. 

A great example of this is the book and movie “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. This story is about police brutality and the unjust murders of black people within the U.S. It is a very powerful and moving story while also discussing a current issue.

Some other great diverse book recommendations I have are:

  • “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi. This book is a young adult fantasy following a black protagonist and is based on African mythology. If you like magic, adventure and action, this is a great book to read.

 

  • “Love, Hate, & Other Filters” by Samira Ahmed. This book is about a Muslim-Indian girl living in the Midwest as she tries to navigate through the expectations of her family and her dream of being a normal American girl.

 

  • “Red, White, & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston. This book is one of my favorite reads of 2020. The story is a gay romance between the Prince of Wales and the son of the president of the United States.

Reading diverse books is important for everyone to do. It gives you the opportunity to see what people different from you go through. Also, it helps minority groups in the U.S. feel accepted within society.

Next time you think of picking up a book, try one with diverse characters. You might learn something incredible.

Smith can be reached at [email protected]