The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC, neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.)
I can easily come up with a list of diverse characters or authors I love, but a list of books specifically embracing diversity is harder. I think YA in general does a fantastic job of celebrating diversity. Good on ya, YA. Other genres where diversity should be part and parcel of the game fail terribly. I’m thinking specifically of sci-fi/fantasy, communities which should be a haven for the weird and the lonely and the marginalized, genres open to a billion possibilities in creating new worlds and how they choose to reflect this one. Yet in recent years, it seems like some people in sci-fi/fantasy communities are becoming gatekeepers who still insist on only seeing the white, straight, male perspective as valid.
I don’t like those people.
So since I’ve called them out, I’m going to try to come up with ten adult sci-fi/fantasy books that do celebrate diversity. I haven’t read widely in longform speculative fiction for a few years (probably in part because of those gatekeepers), but I’m trying to get better-read. So any suggestions you have for me would be awesome as well.
There are a lot of reasons to love these books, but the reason I put it on this list is that there are barely any white characters at all. Not a pseudo-Medieval European in sight. And guess what, this white girl survived reading it. The sky did not fall. The real world is not default-white, and fantasy worlds don’t need to be, either.
2. Ancillary Justice– Ann Leckie
Leckie starts with a very simple premise–what if ‘she’ were the default pronoun instead of ‘he’–and uses it to immediately unbalance the reader. (I am old enough that I was taught in school that ‘he’ is the only pronoun to use in universal concepts. I’m telling you, that simple little tweak sort of blew my mind.) But way beyond that, Leckie’s universe is truly one of the weirdest I have read in a long time. It houses all kinds of cultures that aren’t just thin analogs of human societies.
3. The Craft Sequence- Max Gladstone
White male authors are not the enemy. I quite like a lot of them. And a lot of them do write diverse characters. Currently I’m really enjoying Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence books, which feature lots of people of color and of differing sexuality and gender identities. More importantly–perhaps most importantly–those people are featured on the covers, a space where even diverse books have often been whitewashed in the past.
4. The Mercy Thompson series- Patricia Briggs
From what I know of urban fantasy, I think it does fairly well at including diverse characters. Unfortunately I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy. But I like the Mercy Thompson books for how many different cultures and colors and sizes are included. Sometimes she can get a bit heavy-handed and lean on stereotypes, but for the most part this wide-ranging cast of characters is a good one.
5. The Nightrunner series- Lynn Flewelling
Oh hey look I made it five whole entries before I reverted back to Lynn Flewelling, my default fantasy recommendation. In all seriousness, though, guys, I love these books. They are not as diverse as some on this list, but what was important to me is that there are gay and bi characters and it’s just an accepted part of the world, most everyone is ok with it. There are certain bigoted characters who have problems with homosexuality, but for the most part it’s just a fact of life.
Also: matriarchy. Matriarchy matriarchy matriarchy. (if you say it three times, does a misogynist get heartburn or something?)
6. The Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines
It is so, so rare to read about a woman my size as anything other than the fat friend, the object of pity, or the comic relief. But in Lena Greenwood, Jim C. Hines has written a woman who is sexy and desired and strong and funny and not a size 2. Actually, for books with a male narrator I was pleasantly surprised with how many women–how many different types of women–have important roles. There are also people of color and some…unusual…romantic relationships.
So, as far as adult fiction goes…that is unfortunately all I’ve got. Fail.
Give me lots and lots of suggestions, guys! From the prompt here, I’m particularly intrigued about disabled and neurotypical characters, because I wracked my brain and yet could not think of a single example.