Weekend Reads #51: What Does It Mean to Read Diversely?

Weekend Reads is a weekly discussion on a variety of topics. At the end of the post, I’ll include what I plan to read on the weekend.

This weekend’s question:

What does the term “diverse” mean to you? And what does it mean to read diversely?

I recently visited Read Diverse Books and read Naz’s post on what the term ‘diverse’ means and how he thinks the term should be used. It got me thinking; actually, I spent the whole day thinking about his post because I realized that though I use the term ‘diverse’ and even ‘diversity,’ I hardly think about what the term means or how it’s used today.

As cultures develop, language alters to fit those changes. Words lose their meanings or gain new ones and new words are created. I’m speaking from a Western point of view here because that’s where I’m based and am familiar with, but I think we can all agree that these couple years, decades, are times of major change in our vocabulary. We see evidence of this every day in articles professing the end of certain cultures, the loss of languages, and the pollution of vocabulary with the influx of shortened words and acronyms used in texting. (brb, I need some tea.)

Just the other day, I read an article announcing the death of the period/full stop because it’s not often used in daily correspondences such as texting and email. And because of texting, such punctuation signs like the period and exclamation sign, carry new meanings because people use them to convey emotion in their texts. It’s used as a substitute for our voice inflection and other things that are absent in our soundless texts.

The meanings of words have also changed. The ones that readily come to mind are data, media, and memo: ‘data’ is the plural form of ‘datum’ but we use it even when referring to one piece of information; ‘media’ is the plural form of ‘medium’ (“the means of doing something”) but ‘media’ today also refers to mass communication outlets (TV, newspapers, radio, internet) as a collective, the institutions and the people representing those institutions; and ‘memo’ is the shortened form of ‘memorandum’ — no one wants to say that long-ass multi-syllabled word.

But back to the term ‘diverse’. What does it mean to me, especially in regards to books? ‘Diverse’ means “a variety,” but I think with the movement to read more diverse books, readers sometimes forget what the word means. ‘Diverse’ and ‘diversity’ have become color-coated words. Words used only to refer to people of color and other marginalized people. To me, it’s become similar to the word ‘exotic’, which is used to refer to “an other,” persons who are different from the “accepted norm”. What I’m trying to say is that it seems that these words are only used to refer to situations where people of color and other marginalized people are present in communities that are considered common or the usual, i.e. White and straight. We don’t often consider the reverse.

My family is not racially, or even ethnically, diverse, but recently someone started dating a White person and now I guess we are opening up to become a more diverse family. For half of my life, I grew up in a community that was not diverse and attended a school where 99% of students were Black. There was only 1 White student at my primary school. To me now, that 1% doesn’t make the school diverse but shows that it was opening up to being diverse. The lack of diversity in the communities I lived in back then made the younger me view the average White person from a regular community in the US or UK as exotic because they were different and had odd accents and different hair and colored eyes (how do you see the world with those blue eyes? Do you see they differently from my brown ones?).

I give those examples to show that diversity can be presented in a variety of ways depending on the perspective. It seems to me that most books written today mostly focus on persons of color being included in a mainstream community or a community where they are, or would usually, be seen as an other, where their racial or ethnic differences are highlighted. I hardly see the reverse of this, where the “average person” (usually meaning White and straight) is placed in a community where they are a minority and how they navigate being “the other”. To me, that would also be a diverse read.

To read more diversely is to allow the voices of marginalized people to be heard. The movement was created to counter the saturation of one type of voice in books and other media we consume. It’s a movement that needed to happen. ‘Diverse’ means variety, and I interpret the phrase “read diverse books” as “don’t limit yourself. Read widely. Open up to the limitless experiences, cultures, emotions, etc., expressed and discussed in books.” That means reading books by people of other backgrounds that are different from mine. And to me, that difference isn’t always racial or ethnic.

Well, I’m done talking. If you’ve made it this far, I hope I didn’t confuse you along the way.

What I’m reading this weekend:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I’m… I’m not gelling with this book. It’s not that I don’t like it. I love it, actually, and Kalanithi’s quest to find life’s meaning is something I’m very interested in. I find it a bit unusual that he decided to do so by working in medicine because many people think the best way is through the humanities, but his way makes a lot of sense. He was right there at the border between life and death. So yes, this books packs in a lot and it’s written well and I love it but I feel like I’m reading it at the wrong time. It’s like my spirit isn’t in sync with it or not synced how I’d like it to be.

You ever read a book and while reading you feel as if every bit of you is devoted to reading that book? Like your entire self is thrown into the story or facts or whatever? That’s how I want to feel and I don’t. I don’t think it was a good idea to read this after something so gruesome as Song of Kali. I should have cleansed my palate first. But I will complete it and I’ll reread it in a couple months or so. I think I’ll gain more from when it when I reread.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

This is the selected book for the Diverse SFF Book Club. They are reading it June 15 – July 15. Can I complete it by July 15? I certainly can. Will I be able to? I’m not sure because work is busy; but if the story hooks me, I should complete it way before then. I’m horrible at keeping up with group things, in life and online, so I’m trying hard here to keep up.

What are you reading this weekend?
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16 thoughts on “Weekend Reads #51: What Does It Mean to Read Diversely?

  1. Pingback: Diversebookbloggers Feature: Zezee with Books – brown books | green tea

  2. I always try to read diverse books. One day I read classics and the other day non- fiction. The only genre that I cannot convince myself to is sci-fi 🙂 Also, I read books written by authors from different cultures. When I visit new places I am really interested in work of local writers. It is a great way to understand how things work in different parts of the world.

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  3. I have always thought of my reading as being diversified because I can read anything apart from fantasy though I plan to do so sometime this year. I like the idea of reading books representing different cultures, It is always interesting to learn more about other people. As for Kalanithi’s book, I had read so many wonderful reviews about it but I also sort of struggled with the book. I had so many highs and lows with it but it was worth it in the end. I hope you will have the same experience should you stick with it to the end. Great post 🙂

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    • Yea, there’s so much we learn when we read about someone who’s background is very different from what we’re used to.
      I sure plan to stick with Kalanithi.

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  4. “I give those examples to show that diversity can be presented in a variety of ways depending on the perspective. It seems to me that most books written today mostly focus on persons of color being included in a mainstream community or a community where they are, or would usually, be seen as an other, where their racial or ethnic differences are highlighted. I hardly see the reverse of this, where the “average person” (usually meaning White and straight) is placed in a community where they are a minority and how they navigate being “the other”. To me, that would also be a diverse read.”

    I love this. And I would love to read something like this. What an interesting way of looking at the question, and I thank you for writing such a thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m guilty of sticking to mainly sci-fi and fantasy, especially YA fantasy. Other than that, I mostly read memoirs/autobiographies. It’s not that I dislike other genres…it’s more that when I think of which book to read next, it is almost always in my usual genre.

    Lately, I’ve been trying to read books that are different from my usual genres or put a different spin on my usual genres. For example, instead of reading a typical YA dystopia maybe I’ll read a dystopia with an LGBTQ love interest (although for honesty’s sake, when I chose the book I’m referencing with this example, I hadn’t realized it had LGBTQ themes). In any case, it’s a fun way to learn about other forms of expression or other ways of living, even if it’s fictional.

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    • That’s true of reading different genres, you open up to the different ways a story can be told and the various things people tend to focus on. The books I tend to read are fantasy but I’m attracted to anything that has a good story and is written well.

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  6. Pingback: The Diverse Books Tag

  7. I like to try and read as much variety as I can. Whether that means in the now “typical” way – reading about characters and authors of different ethnicity to me, but also in genre. Actually, much more with genre. With characters, I don’t actually focus on the difference in ethnicity/culture/relationship preference etc all that much, because to me every character is another person I’m reading the story of. I love trying new genres of books though. I used to read fantasy…and that’s pretty much it. This year, I’ve found myself reading fantasy, historical fiction, classics, contemporary, horror, even a non-fiction book (which I’ve never been able to finish one). It feels so satisfying to read diverse genres, and also makes reading much more interesting, because the stories are never similar 🙂

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  8. For me, diverse means reading a wide range of material, from Shakespeare and Chaucer, to Stephen King and David Nichols. It also means reading material from different cultures, e.g translations such as Midnight’s Children and War and Peace. Diversity might also be found across genres. I’m not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi but I’ve read such genres to know that I dislike them.

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