Top Ten Tuesday: Diversity


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.

117742721.The Dreamblood Duology- N. K. Jemisin

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.



Filed under Book Talk

6 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Diversity

  1. Hines is pretty well-known for writing good female protagonists, so if you enjoyed the Magic Ex Libris series and haven’t checked out his Princesses series that’s definitely a good suggestion.

    I’m… going to start off my list of recommendations by noting out that I try to write diversely myself, but self-promotion makes me uncomfortable and is generally frowned upon anyway, so that’s all I’ll say on my work unless specifically asked to elaborate. ^_^;; I hope that’s okay! I’ve also compiled a list of (presumed) asexual characters in fiction that you might find interesting last year.

    As for recommendations… A good general starting point might be the All Our Worlds database, which at the time of my comment has 931 books listed. I find the whole list fascinating to look through, but it’s also possible to browse by tag or keyword.

    M.C.A. Hogarth is probably the first author to spring to mind for me. (Disclaimer: I am an unabashed Hogarth fangirl.) Most all of her books are diverse in some way or another. Based on the list of books you’ve mentioned, I’m going to suggest “Earthrise” in particular. It’s the first in a trilogy (and free), and a bit similar in tone to Ancillary Justice. There’s more space adventure to Hogarth’s work than to Leckie’s, but the quiet focus on people, culture and relationship dynamics are similar.

    Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension is… the kind of book the gatekeepers you mentioned really really hate because it acknowledges that diversity is intersectional. It’s space opera and a lot of fun. (Or, at least, I thought it was a lot of fun.) The protagonist is also disabled, which I’d like to note since you specifically asked for examples of those.

    Sarah Diemer generally writes YA, but she’s got some work that she’s selling as adult under the penname Elora Bishop as well. They’re adorable and lovely lesbian romances. Her Benevolence books are also pagan fiction.

    Elizabeth Bear has a tendency to write diverse characters. Dust features a genderneutral character prominently and, if I recall, the upcoming Karen Memory has made quite a splash with bloggers and reviewers.

    Amanda Downum features a transgender character in The Bone Palace. I’ve heard a lot of good about Nao Hopkinson, though I’ve yet to read anything longer than short stories. (I enjoyed those, though!)

    Nicola Griffith tends to write diversely as well. I’ve only read her Slow River (which is an excellent, slow, near future/dystopian thriller type story) and she’s recently garnered a lot of praise for Hild.

    Guy Gavriel Kay tends to write a diverse cast in his novels, though his two latest, Under Heaven and River of Stars are based on ancient China. I can’t recall which dynasties off the top of my head, though, sorry.

    If you like for things to be/lean towards horror, Caitlín R. Kiernan might be an interesting author to look up as well. I find her works to be quite challenging to read a lot of the time, though. Her prose is gorgeous and lush (to me), but it’s also often quite dense and it rewards you for taking your time with it.

    And I think that’s probably enough rambling from me for now? You can see whether there’s anything useful in the list. These are just some of the authors whose work I know enough about to feel like I could give you more information than just their name and the titles on. I hope there’s something you’ll enjoy in them! ^_^

    • hlmorris85

      Boy, you’re keeping me busy 🙂
      I *almost* put Hild on this list, but I consider it more firmly Historical than speculative so I passed. I need to read more of Griffith though.
      Thanks for the recs. Especially the list of asexual characters!

      • Hopefully in a good way! I tried to stick to the more adult fantasy and science fiction as well or I might’ve had more trouble sticking to a few.

        Kay’s books are generally chunksters and tend to be pretty light on the speculative elements, by the by. Based on what I’ve heard about Hild, I’d venture a guess that they’re comparable approaches, except that Kay’s work is undeniably low fantasy rather than historical.

        Me too. I really liked Slow River when I’d read it, but I somehow haven’t been able to get any of the rest on my TBR pile. :/

        You’re welcome. ^_^ May they be useful and fun!

  2. I’m so happy to see The Magic Ex Libris series on your list – I really should have thought of adding it!

    Check out my TTT and my leg of the Forsworn Blog Tour.

  3. I haven’t read any of these! I’ve been meaning to read Patricia Briggs books for a while now but I haven’t even heard of the rest of these authors. So many diverse books… so little time… Great list!

  4. This is such a good take on the theme this week.I don’t know any of these books so I have lots of exploring to do. My TTT

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