Last year Rick Riordan announced that he was starting a new imprint to highlight diverse authors and diverse stories. His mythology based stories have made him famous. So far he has tackled Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology but he often gets asked about exploring other culture’s mythologies as well. Being a while male, he has wisely said that he was not the right person the write about Mayan or Indian mythology however it did spark him to start his own imprint so marginalized authors can write about their own cultures. It was just announced the first three titles under Rick’s new imprint. Yoon Ha Lee, Roshani Chokshi and Jennifer Cervantes will author the first books. Yoon Ha Lee’s book Dragon Pearl will take on stories from Korean Mythology. Roshani Chokshi’s series, Aru Shah and the End of Time, is based off of Indian Mythology and Jennifer Cervantes’s book Storm Runner will have inspiration from Mayan Mythology. All three sound interesting and will be published in 2018. Adding all three to my to-read list.
EDIT: Rick went to his Tumblr page to give more details on his Imprint, his role and involvement with the books and more information on the authors and more indepth synopsis of Dragon Pearl, Aru Shar and the End of Time, and Storm Runner. I highly recommend checking out if nothing else for a tiny glimpse into the publishing world.
So question for you. As you know, here at Stacks are trying to broaden our horizons by seeking out stories, narratives and authors from diverse voices. Last year we created our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge and we had mixed results. I think we both only completed half of the challenge. This year we decided to split up our challenge and focus on different aspects of the our original Challenge. Kate is leading our Diverse Authors Challenge and I’m spearheading our Diverse Narrators Challenge. So far this year I have read 10 books and I have read some diverse narrators from Essun in The Fifth Season,Ms. Marvel and Frangie and Rainey from Silver Stars. I’m starting to read King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, who has described her main character, Mare as a mix race (white/Latinx). I’m looking at my challenge and wondering about characters like Mare and Essun. They are both described as olive or dark skinned respectively. They are not the traditional white heroines that we have come to identify in fantasy and well fiction in general but they do not reside in our world. They live in a fantasy worlds that the authors created on their own. In the case of Mare though, she lives in a world that came out of the ruins of the US after years of wars and natural disasters. Technically, Norta is the US but hundreds of the years in the future. So can we count them in our challenge? Is it cheating? Or is it okay since they represent people and cultures in our world. They may not be African American or Latina in the sense that we define them but they represent that narrative. Women of Color can look to these characters and others like them and see themselves in them and isn’t that in the spirit of our challenge? So dear readers out there, how do you define diversity in our reading? Are strict in definition or if a character is define as “dark skinned” or “olive skinned” or anything but “fair skinned” as a diverse characters?
Let’s discuss this, sound off in the comments below.
You don’t need to be a girl, Muslim or a superhero to identify with Kamala Khan. She’s your typical teenage girl living in the world of social media and SAT’s. She wants to fit in with the kids at school but also please her family. She wants to be her own person and not be defined by her gender, race or religion. She wants to make a difference and help people and when she is given that chance she jumps right in. Kamala lives in Jersey City, NJ and loves the Avengers. She even writes fan-fiction about them, which I would really love to read. Are those anywhere online? Like all parents, her parents want the best of her and to them that means that she follows her Islamic teachings and listen to her parents. Kamala is a girl fof both worlds, she is a Muslim but also an American teenager. She wants to go to parties and do normal teenage things. One night she sneaks out of her house to go to a party when a mysterious fog rolls in. Soon Kamala is having a vision of Captain Marvel and she finds out that she has morphed into Carol Danvers old identity of Ms. Marvel. A not so nice girl from the party is in trouble she saves here. When the brother of his best friend, Bruno, gets into some big trouble Kamala uses her new powers to help. Bruno is also a genius and just so happened to developed a new compound that makes her clothes stretch when she does. To say that Kamala is likable would be an understatement. When she gains her powers she doesn’t shy away from them but embraces them. Just like her heroes, she doesn’t hesitate to help those in need. Even when of those is the girl that just made fun of her earlier in the evening. I’ve already bought the other volumes in this series. I can’t wait to read them.
So far I’ve read 13 out of 30. As I don’t like failing at things I set out for myself, I have thought about rearranging the things that I’ve read this year on the list so that I can use things that aren’t currently on the list so that I can satisfy categories I haven’t gotten yet. Like, if I moved Shonda Rhimes to “read a book by a woman of color” then I could put Caitlin Moran in at “read a book by a woman”. But, I read Shonda Rhimes book first, so it is staying where it is. The good news for me is that I have another six categories already picked out. The even better news is that I’m part way through two of those books. However, there’s still a lot of work that has to be done in 2016 and, I have to tell you, folks. I’m not feeling sanguine about meeting the challenge this year.
With only 2 months left of the year I thought I would take a look at my chanllenge and to see how I’m doing. Not good. Of the 54 books I have read only 13 fall into any of our reading challenge requirements. I realize this is my fault is that I haven’t done a very good job of pushing myself to branch out from norm. The Sub-challenge I’m doing the best is the genre one and the The Sub-challenge that I’m doing the worse is the Author challenge. It turns out I read a lot of women authors, a lot of white woman authors. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I’m missing out on some really great books.
So I have 8 weeks left to read as many diverse books as I can. I’m in the middle of book 14 because Hammer of Thor has a Trans Character and I have 15 and 16 already picked out so at least I’ll be halfway done. I’ve got a lot of reading to do.
I am working on putting up a page that will contain links to books and authors that can serve as suggestions for anyone looking to diversify their reading stacks this year. I was just going through my BookBub emails from the weekend and I googled all of the authors of books that interested me and noticed that they were not all that diverse. So, I went to check what my preferences were set to. There are categories that are just LGBT and African-American interest. I just changed my settings today, so hopefully this will bring a little diversity to the subjects and authors in my daily emails.
It does, however, raise a really obvious question: If LGBT and African-American interest are separate categories, then who is served by all of the other categories (which are subject based and not demographic based)? This is why diverse reading challenges are important. Books with African-American characters aren’t only of interest to African-Americans and until readers start demanding diversity in the genres they read, this kind of categorizing won’t change.
(That being said, since African-American and LGBT voices aren’t well represented in broader categories, I think this kind of categorization is needed and important.)
Beth and I have done a lot of talking about the kinds of things that reading can do for a person. It really is a magical thing. It can transport you to different worlds. It can imagine new history. It can see potential futures. Studies have even shown that reading literary fiction can help you relate better to other people. So, with this in mind, we’ve put together our first reading challenge. Inspired by #weneedmorediversebooks, we’ve come up with a challenge to make us think about who we are reading and what we are reading about. Our challenge has three sub-challenges: one related to characters, one related to authors, and one related to books themselves. Each sub-challenge is only ten books long, so you can do any of the sub-challenges without changing how you read for the whole year. As a reader, you can tackle the whole challenge or one or more of the sub-challenges.
I will be maintaining a page here on this blog full of possible books to fulfill the challenge that I find in my reading travels. Of course, any suggestions will be helpfully added to the list. Part of what makes diversifying your reading difficult is that you don’t always know something is diverse going in. We are going to endeavor to make that easy by keeping a separate page of suggestions.
Since this challenge is only 30 books, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of diversity in literature and in life, but we hope that this list and the books that are read because of it will create interesting and thoughtful discussions. We hope that you will consider taking the challenge and reading along with us in 2016!