We are now going into our fifth month of Diversify the Verse and I’m now just getting into talking about it on the blog because I’m terrible. Some of the material is recycled from our Instagram, but I wanted to also talk about my perspective and experiences on reading diversely. I know diversity in literature is also a very sensitive topic so if you have differing opinions, I encourage you to engage in a conversation with me if you’re inclined, but please be kind.
What is Diversify the Verse?
Diversify the Verse is a book club created by me and Alex (@TheBooksBuzz) based on both Instagram and YouTube. Each month we read a diverse book, so a book with diverse characters (POC, disabilities, mental illness, LGBTQIA+, etc.), or a book written by an author who would identify as diverse, or an own voices book. On Instagram we give book recommendations for whatever diverse theme our book fits into all month. Then at the end of the month we host a live show on YouTube and discuss!
This whole idea came about because Alex and I are both booktubers and we were inspired by the Booksplosion book club run by Christine, Jesse, and Kat on YouTube and the idea of doing a live stream discussion about our monthly book. We wanted to do something different from them and we are both such huge advocates for diverse books, so we thought we’d combine the two and out came Diversify the Verse.
There are so many different kinds of books out there because there are so many different kinds of people. We hope that through this book group, we can inspire readers to pick up a book they wouldn’t normally lean to and learn something new whether it’s about their own culture/background or someone else’s.
Why should we read diverse books?
Diversity in books, movies, tv, and everything, just embracing diversity in life, is really important to me. As an Asian-American growing up, it was always really tough to find books with characters who look like me or were relatable to me, and characters who aren’t the best friend, supporting role, stereotype.
I feel like we sometimes don’t really notice it or we don’t think much of it, which is why I think so important that we are doing this because I think that really needs to change. When I read, I feel myself transform into the characters and when we read diverse books, I definitely feel like we get some insight into what it feels like to experience what someone else is.
Also when we read diverse books we are embracing everyone and we are embracing the things that make us different, but also the things that make us unique and special. We are spreading love, which the world needs more of.
I also feel like the lack of diversity in books sometimes holds people back from discovering the magic of reading. It really is hard to be motivated to read a book where none of the characters are relatable to you. So through our book club I hope that we can help the stories we don’t hear about as as often be heard, and help people discover new stories, and encourage these types stories to be told.
What books have we read so far?
February: All American Boys by Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely (Live Show)
April: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, Illustrated by Brendan Shusterman (Live Show)
May: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh (Live Show)
How did I get into reading diverse books?
I’d gotten the chance to go to meet Jenny Han at a book event this spring and she said something that resonated so much with me. She said, “My aim with these books was to really create a girl who is an all-American girl. There are a lot of different ways to be an all American girl and it isn’t just to look one way. You rarely see girls of color who are in a romantic story where the whole point isn’t about them being Asian or…usually when you see an Asian character it’s about suffering or a struggle dealing with identity and for this I really did not want that to be the point because I think that it’s important to have that representation and to have stories that star all kinds of girls. You really could just be having a romantic story and that’s it.”
To be honest, before I read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I kind of avoided diverse books. And to be even more honest, I knew To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before existed and I’ve picked it up and read the synopsis numerous times, but I never read it until last year when I was 19. As an Asian-American, I didn’t want to read diverse books because the ones I had to read in the past and the ones I’ve seen never really represented who I am as a normal girl who just lives an ordinary life. I didn’t want to have to confront issues of race in books because when you have to confront that all the time in real life, it’s enough.
In Lara Jean I found myself. I’m a girl who love to stay at home and bake and read and knit. I hate driving. I do well in school. I love to put my hair in a braid. She’s just a normal girl like me and it meant the world to read about a character like that.
I’ve just been talking about people of color in books, specifically POC with Asian heritage, but reading Jenny’s books really encouraged me to give other diverse books in all categories a chance and even the books that do discuss identity and struggles. And it turns out I love them all!
I feel like now there’s more pressure to read diversely and if you don’t read diversely or support diverse books you’re this or that, but I will never judge anyone for not reading diverse books, that is unless you are against diversity then I’ll judge you. I strongly encourage everyone to read diverse books because they are so many amazing stories out there and it’s so important that we read diversely, but I won’t judge you if you do not feel comfortable reading them yet because that is exactly how I felt and how I still feel sometimes. There are still some books diverse books out there that I won’t read yet, some day I will, but right now I just do not feel like I’m ready to read them yet and that is completely okay. I do hope that one day you will begin to read diversely because it will change your world and it will change the world we are living in too!
So that’s kind of all I have for now. I hope you’ll join us for Diversify the Verse. If you have any questions, I’ll gladly answer. Also let me know some of your favorite diverse books! I’m always searching for more to add to my TBR!