Hello, everyone! Welcome to the first ever Diversity Spotlight post!
Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by yours truly, and its aim is to shed light on diverse literature. Every week, you come up with one book in each of three different categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and one that has not yet been released. You can check out the announcement post for more information.
P.S. if you decide to participate (yay!), please feel free to use the graphics in this post. No credit is required!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | PoC Protagonists, M/M pairing
“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
Ari & Dante is a wonderful tale of two friends. Our protagonists are both Mexican-Americans whose relationships with each other bloom from friendship into something much stronger. I am not going to sit here and exclaim that I know much about Latinx culture, but from what I have observed from experience and, let’s say TV, I have a strong feeling that family is prioritized a lot in Latinx culture. And that becomes obvious in this novel as adults and family play a huge role in our characters’ lives. It was a wonderful look into a culture I was not familiar with at the time, yet something I felt a part of. In my culture, family is considered the most important thing: South Asian families are very close-knit. I always feel a disconnect in books where parents are absent or simply indifferent; seeing reflections of my own culture in Ari & Dante was wonderful.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed | PoC protagonist, set in a foreign country
“Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.”
As a Pakistani myself, I can relate to cultural constraints – but not from my parents. Arranged marriage is a common practice in Pakistan, and I know it’s often looked down upon in Western societies, but I have always held the belief that if both the boy and the girl are willing to have an arranged marriage, there is no harm. My parents did not engage in an arranged marriage, and they do not expect me to do so, but I have friends and family who feel pressured by their families and societal structure to have an arranged marriage, even though they do not want to. I have never read a YA book that has a Pakistani protagonist, so I’m very excited to read this. I am sure Aisha Saeed did the complicated themes and the complex state of the country justice.
Into White by Randi Pink | PoC Protagonist
“When a black teenager prays to be white and her wish comes true, her journey of self-discovery takes shocking–and often hilarious–twists and turns in this debut that people are sure to talk about. LaToya Williams lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. She’s so low on the social ladder that even the other black kids disrespect her. Only her older brother, Alex, believes in her. At least, until a higher power answers her only prayer–to be “anything but black.” And voila! She wakes up with blond hair, blue eyes, and lily white skin. And then the real fun begins…”
When I first heard about this book, I was a little apprehensive. This could go so wrong or so right- I don’t think there can be an in-between. But with recent emphasis being put on exploring the meaning, responsibilities and consequences of privilege, I definitely think this story will be one worth reading. I’m sure Randi Pink will explore the topic with honesty; and in this moment where we are having important conversations, it is crucial that we listen to people writing with honesty. Into White has great reviews from people who have obtained ARCs, and it’s definitely a book I am on the lookout for.