That said, I'm participating in a reading challenge in 2015. The Dive Into Diversity Challenge is hosted by the awesome Magan and Estelle at Rather Be Reading and is inspired by the also awesome We Need Diverse Books campaign.
Unlike some of the other challenges out there, this one is relatively lax- all you have to do is read at least one diverse book a month. A lot of characters who don't fit the mythical norm (white, straight, middle-class, abled, etc.) don't get as much attention in media, including YA books but the We Need Diverse Books campaign (and, by extension, this challenge) seeks to change that.
What is all this diversity talk about? I'll let one of my favorite organizations, the Harry Potter Alliance, explain why representation is not just cool, but really necessary (I added the bold for emphasis):
"1. It gives people a stronger sense of self and affirmation of identity.
2. It gives children somebody to relate to and look up to.
3. It expands people’s assumptions of their capabilities (assumptions that are often relayed to them through constant negative media portrayal).
4. It provides a more realistic look at the world’s population.
5. It fights the idea that straight/white/male = normal and everything else is “other” (think about your local bookstore: there’s probably a section for African American Fiction, Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and Women’s Fiction, and while these can be positive spaces for marginalized groups to find books that include them and portray their issues with honesty and authenticity, it’s important to discuss the reasons why they have to have separate sections, and why they’re not already included in general literature and fiction)."
I was privileged enough to grow up with access to a great library at my synagogue, and reading about other Jewish kids really helped me find my own faith and appreciate my culture. Every kid of every race, religion, social class, etc. should have that chance.
After all, we can only benefit from diversity. The more stories are told, the more we as readers can better understand and empathize with people who may not share our background. Growing up and reading YA books about characters who grappled with their sexuality or gender (like Ask the Passengers or Luna) is a large part of why I'm a feminist today. Books like Libba Bray's Beauty Queens (one of the most diverse books out there) was honestly a huge factor in my decision to double major in Women's & Gender Studies and Government.
I'm going to start a tab with a bunch of my favorite diverse reads and I'd love your recommendations! Fantasy and realistic fiction are my favorite, but I also love a really great sci-fi, or a thriller...let's be real, I'll read anything.
Anyway, Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a great year, full of great (and diverse) books.