Bias in boosting diverse titles? // The complexities of being an advocate for diverse books

In case you’re new here… Hi! I love boosting and advocating for diverse books!!

They’re important, they reflect our beautifully diverse world, and they tell stories which FINALLY focus on having marginalized people be the forefront just as much as the typical, allocishet white characters.

And personally, I believe everyone should be an advocate for diverse books! If you’re NOT a supporter of diverse books, I highly recommend you take a step back and reevaluate your values and how you see the world because… yikes.

(Also, here’s your reminder that diverse books are not a trend, or a genre, or anything of that sort! They are HERE TO STAY and they deserve to be present across ALL genres (and audiences, though that’s another beast).

However, what I wanted to look at is WHAT KIND of diverse books are getting talked about! Because “diverse” is a very large umbrella term!! That encompasses: POC, Native, LGBTQ+, mental illness, disabled, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities… and within each of those, there are SO MANY different populations.

What I feel like often happens, is that certain “types”, for lack of a better word, of diverse books get more attention than others. People out here reading one popular coming out story of a gay white boy* and think that’s supporting LGBTQIA+ books, or even diverse books as a whole? Sure that’s great if you’re starting out, but your support should include so much more.

Reading books with bi, pan, trans, non-binary, asexual/aromantic characters! Including queer POC! Queer & disabled! Queer with mental illness! All the intersectional identities!

And that’s only talking about one portion of diverse books!

*I love Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Love, Simon with ALL MY HEART, it means so much to me, but that is NOT the epitome of LGBTQ+ books and that’s that 🤷🏽‍♀️

It just seems like, sometimes thatdiverse books about disabled characters, or books about mental illness are not talked about as often as books with POC or LGBTQ+ rep. I know that’s a hard claim to make, especially since a lot of our perception of what books are being talked about depends on who we’re following, and I do follow people who DO talk about disabled and mentally ill characters (thank you!!), maybe I just don’t follow enough of those people?

YET THAT’S THE THING. There are so many diverse books advocates out here and I love that and appreciate all of you guys so much, but I don’t think there should only be a handful of people who do talk about those minorities! Of course, if you aren’t part of those minorities, do not speak over them, but boosting books with good rep for all minorities is a good thing!! That is SUPPORT. Linking to discussions about those minorities is a good thing!! Etc. BE AN ALLY.

I just feel like books with disabled characters or mentally ill characters just need to be boosted as much as we boost books with POC or queer characters, you know? They’re just as important and it’s unfair to leave the boosting and support of those books only on the shoulders of those who are also disabled or mentally ill. We should be doing it as a community.

I feel like that’s also where bias sort of comes in. Bias is everywhere when it comes to books; as readers, our own experiences and identities just inevitably cause us to have biases, even when we try to stay as unbiased as possible? For me, as someone who identifies as a queer, Muslim POC, I recognize that I particularly look for LGBTQ+, POC and/or Muslim rep in books as well. That doesn’t mean I ignore all other types of diverse books, but just that I pay more attention to these ones?

But I should, and want to do better!

I want to support ALL diverse books. It’s totally valid to value the diverse books that represent your identities, but I think to put the effort in to boost all different types of diverse titles is equally important–what’s not part of your identity is 100% a part of someone else’s, and that’s just as important to respect and support.

And this goes for people who aren’t marginalized as well! We should all do our best to support ALL diverse books. ❤️

Also, in honour of Autism Acceptance Month / Autism Pride Month, I also wanted to remind y’all to support autistics!! This should be all year-round, but especially this month it means a lot to boost the voices of autistic readers/bloggers/people. 💕 It shouldn’t be all on them to talk about the many issues that autistics face, and we should do our part.

Writing this post really made me reflect on how I should be doing better in terms of advocating for all diverse books, and how certain minorities may get overlooked due to personal biases and general popularity in the community? But maybe I’m just imagining everything and this is just a me problem, which is totally fair lmao. I’m working on it!

We can’t be responsible to hold ALL the diverse books ever on our shoulders as individuals all alone, but if we all try our best to lift as many different diverse voices and books as we can together, then hopefully one day we’ll get to a point where diverse books are found everywhere, equally, and ALL diverse books get the attention they deserve.

I know this was a heavier, dense post, but I hope that all made sense? (Seriously what are words) There are just SO MANY stories out there and I just think it’s such a disservice to them to focus on some, and not all diverse books, especially in this time of publishing! This is not a criticism, only a reflection on myself and diverse books! I totally understand how hype allows certain books to become more popular and hyped over others, and that’s fair! But that shouldn’t mean we can’t promote other books just as much.

What are your thoughts?? I don’t mean to exclude anyone in this discussion! If you’re an advocate for diverse books, do you think certain books get more recognition than others? Are there any underrated diverse books you recommend? Am I imagining everything?

I hope you have a lovely Friday!! I’m going to go eat now and read some diverse books lol I’m hungry

(Hungry for the food or the diverse books we may never know)

(Both.)

YA books featuring autistic characters that I’ve read & want to read!

April, is, as you may have heard, Autism Awareness Month!

(Better yet, Autism ACCEPTANCE Month)

Now, the idea in itself should be boosted as autism deserves awareness–and more than that, all-around ACCEPTANCE but I did want to mention to not support the organization behind this, Autism Speaks as it is INCREDIBLY harmful and does NOT actually speak for autistic people. This organization actually does the opposite of supporting autism, and uses its funding to look for a “cure” for autism, among spreading other problematic messages. For more details, there are a ton of articles online and you can check out this one as well!

Now.

I have read shamefully very few books with autistic characters! So to change that, I’ve compiled a list of books with autism rep for both me and anyone else out there who may have been looking for some to read!

I tried to focus on books that are either #ownvoices for the autism rep, or if they aren’t, have positive reviews from #ownvoices readers (aside from the ones I’ve already read). There are already too many harmful messages being perpetuated about autism and I really don’t want to boost books that contribute to that!

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: This is SUCH AN AMAZING BOOK. I will scream about it to everyone, it is so incredibly diverse and fun and adorable aksakjkajk. One of the main POVs, Taylor, is autistic and has anxiety! It is also ownvoices for the autism rep, anxiety rep, and bi rep!! AMAZING ❤

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik: #ownvoices review // I really enjoyed this one! This isn’t ownvoices though. The author does have an autistic child I believe and it’s clear she put a lot of effort into writing good rep!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: One of the narrators and main characters, Zofia has many signs of ASD, but I believe due to the time setting where they wouldn’t necessarily have a label for ASD, it isn’t explicitly stated. I love her! (Not ownvoices) (*I’m still reading this book, but shh.)

The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare: Not #ownvoices, but one of the key characters, Ty Blackthorn, is autistic and I’ve heard from many autistic readers that it was very positive representation! I adore Ty so much, and this series is also sooooooo good.

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum: PLEASE READ THIS #ownvoices review // This is listed here solely because I’ve read this book; I don’t actually recommend it whatsoever for autistic rep, as there are several problematic scenes and messages!

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews: This is #ownvoices & the main character’s older brother is autistic!! This releases tomorrow, April 4th and I AM SO EXCITED! I haven’t found any #ownvoices reviews for this one since it’s… you know, not released yet but I trust the rep in this one! 💕

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis: #ownvoices autistic main character (who is also biracial; part-Dutch, part-Surinamese Black), plus “a prominent bisexual trans Black girl, as well as lesbian, Muslim, and Jewish characters” (from the author) AHHH this sounds absolutely amazing!!

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas: #ownvoices review / another #ownvoices review // This is on the younger side of YA in terms of the main character’s age but I’ve heard lovely things about this one! Plus, it’s ownvoices rep! 🙂

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed: I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK ASKLSKLSK –> ft. Grace, a fat narrator, Rosina a Latinx queer narrator, and Erin with Asperger’s (now known as autism spectrum disorder) and anxiety!! Plus FEMINISM, and discussion (+TW) about rape, sexual assault . I KNOW I WILL LOVE THIS.

This is not ownvoices for the autism rep!! I do highly recommend reading this author’s interview to know more about her inspiration behind this book. **If you know of any #ownvoices reviews for this book, please let me know!! I have not found any!!**

When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger: #ownvoices review / another #ownvoices review // Not #ownvoices autism rep, but I’ve heard such good things about this one! This falls in the more upper YA end, too which is nice!

Also: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is also said to have #ownvoices autism rep! However, this isn’t YA; it’s an Adult contemporary romance so please don’t be misled on my account! 🙈 I know this list is covering YA books, but I had to include this as this is #ownvoices!! And I NEED to read it omg.

So I have a lot of reading to do!! SO much of my diverse reading has been occupied by books ft. POC, or LGBTQ+ rep which is great, but as an advocate for diverse books, I want to advocate for ALL diverse books, and that includes disabled characters!

I really did want to show a variety of opinions from #ownvoices readers, and I tried my best here but it was so incredibly difficult to find ownvoices reviews, so PLEASE:

If there are any ownvoices reviews you know of and want to boost, or if you’re an #ownvoices reader yourself, PLEASE don’t hesitate to send me a link to your review if you have one because I really do want to showcase ownvoices reviewers!

If there are any more books with autistic characters that any of you recommend, please let me know!! Especially books BY autistic authors!! I need more (good) neuro-diverse books on my TBR!! Also, if you’ve read any of these books, what were your thoughts?!

Is there a lack of romance tropes with marginalized protagonists? // We need more diverse books!!

Romance tropes, to the say the least, are slightly* very overdone.

(I mean… That’s why they’re called tropes??)

There’s the love triangle (cringe), forbidden romance, hate-to-love, friends-to-lovers… all the good stuff that you swoon over in books!

And as entertaining as those are, I feel like there’s also the issue of people being tired of these tropes? That, as much as there are books where we really enjoy these tropes, people don’t always want them as much. *cough* Love triangles *cough*

We might say it’s because they’re all the same, they’re overdone, and unoriginal or unrealistic and sure, I get that! I’ve even said it myself.

Yet as easy it is to write off love triangles or forbidden romance as being “dead” or “overdone”, SO MANY YA books containing those tropes feature the same kind of characters; allo cishet, able-bodied, white protagonists, and THAT’s my issue, more than how much tropes appear in books.

Which is what this post is all about!! I’m focusing on the appearance of queer POC protagonists in particular, but this absolutely applies to any marginalized population as well.

*VERY, in case you couldn’t detect the sarcasm ahaha

FIRST – THE TROPES.


In case you needed a little reminder of your favouritetropes!!

  • Love triangles: Usually featuring one girl and two guys who are in love with her! Extra Stereotypical Points if one guy is super sweet and caring and the other is the broody bad-boy (If you haven’t read one of these YOU ARE LYING)
  • Friends-to-lovers: Um what else do I say here… but often very cute! Though what I often dislike is when it’s like “they’ve been friends for years” and so when the book start the character is like already in love with their love interest even though we’ve hardly seen any reason WHY or any development?? like off I understand how people who’ve been friends forever can fall in love, that’s super cute but in a book it so often feels like lazy writing??
  • Insta-love: STAY AWAY STAY AWAY STAY AWAY
  • Hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers: The angst! The tension! The best!
  • Forbidden romance: Similar to the star-crossed lovers, but not necessarily the same? But you know the drill, there’s always something that’s preventing this couple from getting together! But it can be sooooo good
  • Star-crossed lovers: (too much) angst!! Passionate kissing scenes and Romeo & Juliet number 3546 😅
  • Best friend’s brother (lmao): hm ok 🤔😅 Haven’t read as many of these? Not super interested in it either tbh
  • The ‘innocent’ girl and the ‘bad’ boy: welp what a classic am I right??
  • The nerdy boy and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: I just find Manic Pixie Dream Girls (super weird/quirky/super exotic or unfamiliar to the nerdy boy) very bland? I think in attempting to BE ‘different’ from other girls they all become the same oops
  • Soulmates: Usually becomes the same as insta-love but hey, maybe that’s the cynic in me?? (Says me, while being a huge romantic)
  • Fake boyfriend/girlfriend: THE CUTEST I LOVE

*Subjective

Because although when we think of these tropes there are tons of books that come to mind, there is still a LARGE lack of marginalized people being represented in those same tropes we claim as being dead or unoriginal. Let me ask you: how many books have you come across with a love triangle featuring a POC, or a disabled, or marginalized character versus one with your typical white, allocishet Katniss-Gale-Peeta? I’m not saying they don’t exist, but the gap in numbers is quite large, I bet.

I’m not trying to attack books or anyone who reads and enjoys books with your “typical” types of characters (there are tons I love to death myself!), but as an advocate for diverse books and as a POC myself, this is something I’ve noticed and I wanted to speak about, from my own experience!

To be frank, it’s not that hard to answer this question in my mind. It’s a big fat YES. Now, I’m not in any way trying to diminish all the books out there who DO feature tropes with marginalized protagonists!! But I’m trying to say there should be MORE.

All my life, I’ve grown up seeing straight and white as the default. When I used to imagine writing my own books, I imagined the main characters as white because it never occurred to me that there could ever be books with characters who looked like me? And that reality is incredibly depressing.

Now, having found mainstream books that feature characters like me, or of other non-white identities, is so empowering and wonderful and I just don’t want it to stop where it is. When it comes to romance tropes, there is just SO MUCH POTENTIAL for all that could be done for diverse books! Yes, these tropes are common. Yes, we’ve seen them many times before. But not with everyone. And I want this so badly, you have no idea!! Love triangle featuring Asian characters? SIGN ME UP. A queer hate-to-love romance? MINE. Disabled characters becoming friends-to-lovers? YES PLEASE.

Literally take any trope and I will be overjoyed because marginalized identities are so often removed from the narrative concerning tropes. When we say they’re overdone, it almost never applies to minorities and almost solely refers to the “typical” YA character. And that’s an issue!

Take love triangles, for example. Hugely overdone, super common, yada yada yada. Off the top of your head can probably list a ton (Hunger Games, TMI, TID, The Selection, Red Queen…) but how many feature marginalized characters?

………..

Exactly.

I want to step into a bookstore and see more books like When Dimple Met Rishi or My So-Called Bollywood Life. I want to see books like The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali. Books like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Books like Let’s Talk About Love. Books like Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. I want to see love triangles, forbidden romances, fake dating, hate-to love with brown characters, black characters, disabled characters, Asian characters, queer & POC characters! I want to see stories with intersectional representation.

The world is just made of so many more different, amazing people other than straight white kids, and it’s doing everyone such a huge disservice not to represent that in our selection of books.

(And I limited this post to simply romance tropes because of Valentine’s Day, but this applies to every trope out there! I want to see brown girls or boys as the Chosen One, queer protagonists the secret heir to the kingdom, see disabled characters part of a prophecy to save the world.)

I WANT IT ALL. And I’m not sorry for that.

Are tropes over?? What are your thoughts? What are some of your favourite romances featuring marginalized characters?! Let’s spread some diverse books love! 💕

(also hi here’s your belated reminder for Valentine’s Day that being single is OKAY and you don’t have to be in love or in a relationship to be happy because you only need books you are an amazing individual who will reach success and great things with or without being in love!! okay bye I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!!)

12 2019 Books By Asian Authors I want to read this year // #YARC Sign-Up + Update post!

2019 is SO FULL with books by Asian authors and I. AM. HERE FOR IT.

I’m Asian, and I love reading diverse books by diverse authors so a reading challenge which promotes doing just that with books by Asian authors? YES PLEASE. This year-long challenge is hosted by 4 lovely bloggers; Shealea, CW, Vicky, and Lily! They are all such amazing bloggers and wonderful people, and I’m so happy they created this challenge. It’s such an incredible idea!! The goal is to read as many books by Asian authors as possible (which I was going to do anyway haha).

I don’t usually lean towards reading challenges because I have an issue with TBRs where I just can’t ever really stick to them? I love making lists, so I make a list of the books I want to read and suddenly I’m reading…. anything other than those books. (WHY) I think I just have an issue with reading that feels “required” in any manner, because it sort of puts pressure on me…. BUT I DIGRESS.

On that line of thought, I decided I’m going to aim for the Indian cobra goal (11-20 books)! I was going to go for the Philippine tarsier (1-10) to put as little pressure as possible, but looking at my TBR (and what I’ve already been reading), I think 11-20 should be attainable throughout the year! Or so I hope! 🙈

I have A LOT of books by Asian authors I still need/want to read (both backlist and upcoming titles), so I’ve decided to list 10 2019 books which I’m really excited for! I do have other backlist titles I want to read as well, but inevitably some are going to be replaced by other books not on the list because my brain does not always cooperate with TBRs hahaha.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Jan 29th): I actually just finished this a few days ago! I’m hoping to have a review up near the end of the month, because I LOVED IT and I want everyone to read it 💕 It features a gay Muslim Bangladeshi-American main character who is sent to Bangladesh after her parents catch her with her girlfriend–and although the writing wasn’t my favourite, the story was so impactful and means SO MUCH to me. ❤️

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Feb 5th): I’ve heard nothing but the most INCREDIBLE things, there’s OCD rep and it’s set in Malaysia?! MY KIND OF BOOK. I don’t normally pick up historical fiction, but I have a feeling I’m going to love this one ahh.

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhatena (Feb 26th): An Indian main character in a New girl/Bad boy trope??? YES PLEASE.

Ruse by Cindy Pon (March 12th): I really liked Want when I read it last year!! So excited for the sequel, though I don’t remember a ton from Want hahahah oops I’m a goldfish okay

Descendent of the Crane by Joan He (April 2nd): I mean, I haven’t read or watched Game of Thrones lmao, but I heard Chinese-inspired Game of Thrones and I’M PSYCHED omggg 😭😍

Love From A to Z by S.K Ali (May 7th): AHHH a Muslim main character?! I will never stop being excited for these books, BLESS 🙌 The love interest also has multiple sclerosis, and I am so excited to read this contemporary love story ahh.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (May 14th): Ahh I really liked When Dimple Met Rishi! Dimple was kind of annoying, but Rishi was adorable. I have a feeling I’m really going to love reading Ashish and Sweetie’s story ahh!! ❤ (Also Sandhya Menon’s books have the cutest covers and the girls are so pretty!!)

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (May 14th): GOSH THIS COVER IS GORGEOUS also an epic fantasy in a world inspired by ancient Arabia? *grabby hands* Seriously, this book sounds so amazing and I neeeeeeeeed it

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (June 11th): Um just LOOK at that pure, wholesome, f/f rom com bliss cover???? CAN I JUST 😭😍

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (June 25th): “Fresh and addictive fantasy romance set in modern day Seoul” –> MY. KINDA. BOOK.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (July 26th): LOOK AT THAT GORGEOUS ASIAN COVER ahhhhhh I am so happy!! And so excited!!

This Time Will be Different by Misha Sugiura (June 4th): Contemporary featuring a Japanese-American lead! Me love. ❤

Hahaha can you tell I got lazier with why I’m excited as the list went down?? BUT I’M EXCITED FOR ALL THEM OKAY I PROMISE. Also can I just squeal about how there are so many books here with Asian representation on the covers??!?!?! Years ago I would’ve never imagined to see people of colour like me, or other marginalized groups on the cover of mainstream YA novels. And here we are now!! 😭💕 IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY AAHHH.

I wasn’t going to add these to this post because I didn’t want it to be freakishly long, but these are some backlist titles I hope to read as well!!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns // Empress of All Seasons // Smoke in the Sun // The Astonishing Color of After // Under a Painted Sky // Written in the Stars // Shadow of the Fox // A Torch Against the Night & A Reaper at the Gates // The Way You Make Me Feel // Mariam Sharma Hits the Road // Not Your Sidekick

I’m going be updating the books I read across the year under this section!

Are you participating in the #YARC reading challenge? What books are you planning to read? Are any of you excited for these books? (YOU SHOULD BE!) Am I the only one who sucks at keeping up with TBRs? Talk to meeee 💕🙈