#DAReadAThon is the brain child of Aentee from Read at Midnight, running from January 1-15, 2017. The moment it came across my twitter feed I knew this was something I had to participate in. In addition to reading more diverse books it will hopefully hold me accountable to my new years blogging resolutions.
I’m not a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I grew up with the series like any child of the 90s, saw all the movies in theaters, read the books on and off over the years, occasionally catch myself humming the theme song, and sing Double Trouble on creepy October nights. I love the Rowling’s worlbuilding, as a child and adult who wanted nothing more for magic to be real. But as stunning as the Harry Potter world is in its aesthetics and stories, it is completely lacking diversity, whether this be racial diversity beyond minor characters, disability or actual queer representation in the books. And don’t get me started in Ilvermony.
So what better way to honour the legacy of Harry Potter and the lessons it taught us as children than to transform them into our own vision for the world where we celebrate diverse people and stories in books.
All photos and book blurbs are from Goodreads or author websites. Everything is linked so you can go an add any book that interests you to your Goodread shelf or check out the author’s other work.
“A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.
Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.”
I love fantasy. I grew up reading practically nothing but fantasy. But even though fantasy offers us as readers and writers the possibility of things beyond our current world, there’s still a lack of queer and trans characters in the genre and an ugly conversation about the ‘appropriateness’ of having queer and trans people exist in fantasy worlds. So to the rescue we have City of Strife, a complicated political fantasy book that is the first in the City of Spires trilogy by Claudie Arseneault, due out February 22, 2017 and featuring an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Claudie was kind enough to send me a ebook ARC and I can’t wait to get started on it.
“The fifteen authors and nine artists in this volume bring us beautiful, speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. Teeming with space pirates, battle robots, interstellar travel and genetically engineered creatures, every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right, as thrilling and fascinating as it is worthy and important. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity. These are stories that refuse to go gently.”
I was first introduced to this book by Elizabeth from Books & Pieces who was reading it for DiverseAThon last September. And it sounded so excellent I needed to read it. I love short stories and sci-fi as well as diverse books so this sounded right up my alley. So I requested that my library buy it and they did! Disability is an issue that isn’t address that often in fiction, particularly SFF. There tends to be the tropes that magic and technology will eventually ‘solve’ disability and that it then no longer exists. And mental illness is rarely addressed as well, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure most SFF heros would have developed a mental illness such as PTSD on their harrowing travels.
“She of the Mountains is a beautifully rendered illustrated novel that weaves a passionate, contemporary love story with a re-imagining of Hindu mythology. Both narratives explore the complex ways that we are formed and transformed by love, and show how the process of learning to love and be loved by another can ultimately—and sometimes painfully—bring us back to our selves.“
She of the Mountains was a 2015 Lambda Literary Finality for Bisexual Fiction. I fell in love with Vivek Shraya’s work after reading her collection of poetry even this page is white and wanted to read more of her work. Part love story, part retelling of Hindu mythology, She of the Mountains looks to be a beautiful and moving read.
I feel that this one is kind of self-explanatory. I’ve read some of bell hook’s short articles for school but never actually picked up a book of hers. So this prompt is the perfect time to rectify that.
“A tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.”
This has been in my TBR so long I can’t even remember when I first came across it, so what better time to read it than now. Redemption in Indigo is a contemporary fairy tale that is inspired by a Senegalese folk tale. I’m a huge sucker for unique and interesting fantasy and have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings.
“Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he’s always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.
Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won’t risk her heart for him. As soon as she’s saved enough money from her cooking, she’ll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .”
This is kind of a confession of sorts, I love cowboy romances. Forget Regency England, western romances are my go-to, easy, comfort reads. I’ve never figured out why I like them so much, possibly because they remind me of the area I grew up in, but with men who aren’t sexist rednecks. I like them so much I’ll even read the ones that reference God despite that fact that I’m an atheist.
But these types of books are so, so, so white. And if there is a person of colour or an Indigenous person, they’re a secondary character who aids in getting the main white couple together. So I read these books, yell at them about the historical and contemporary whitewashing of the old and contemporary west, and then put them aside when I can’t handle them anymore.
So imagine my delight when I came across this book. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance novel, sizzling romantic tension, high stakes, social commentary and a diverse cast in a setting I love. Forbidden probably isn’t well known enough to technically count for this prompt since romance is a niche genre, but who cares since it’s on The Washington Post’s list of best 2016 romances, as well as NPR’s best books of 2016 list.
“The Price of Salt is story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose salvation arrives one day in the form of Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce. They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover.”
I am one of those people who eagerly makes loose plans to read the classics, then fails to do so. I’ve had The Price of Salt on my TBR for over a year now, having had it out from the library multiple times and then failing to get to it before I had to return it. No more, I say! And what better time to read this book than #DAReadAThon.
The Price of Salt is recommended by a lot of people, in different lists and blogs, as it’s considered a major twentieth-century American lesbian novel. But it was this long in-depth piece about the book at Autostraddle by Gabrielle Bellot that made me push The Price of Salt up my list and serious consider attempting to read it. Bellot writes “There is something so real in even the maddest moments here. And this is why I think this novel must endure: it does what the best such books do. It does not, like I saw a certain celebrated queer novel from 2015 do, attach a label to its back that says, essentially, ‘ACTIVIST BOOK HERE.’ It simply presents a narrative of people, one that may well leave salt in its readers’ eyes. And that is enough, and more than enough, sometimes.”
I love a good love story that is essentially about two people. As we continue to discuss diversity in literature, let us remember that diversity is not a trend and authors should not introduce diverse characters just for the sake of having them. Diversity is the everyday experience and lives of ordinary and extraordinary people, and I want to read about that. I want to read books about people like me, but also books about people different than me, struggling, falling in and out of love, celebrating, exploring the journey of being alive. It makes me a better reader, and a better, more rounded human being.