This is my sixth year highlighting favorite books that are diverse but not about diversity. I get a lot of raised eyebrows and questions about this peculiar genre.
Well, there are a lot of books out there that are diverse and about diversity — meaning that they are written by an author from a minority group and are specifically about that particular group’s unique life experiences.
For example, Jennine Capo Crucet’s “Make Your Home Among Strangers” is a devastating story about the trade-offs a first-generation college student makes when she leaves home for that “better life” all immigrant parents wish for their children.
Lizet’s experiences are universal to any first-in-their-family to attend college. But her Cuban-American identity struggle in the shadow of the circa-2000 Elián González drama makes for a story that has particular resonance for Latino readers.
This is fantastic — obviously, writers of color often pursue literature in order to tell their own stories.
Equally wonderful, however, is when an author gets to write for a very broad audience on a topic not specifically associated with his or her ethnicity.
As Puerto Rican novelist and founder of La Casita Grande Editores, a new publishing house specializing in Latino and Caribbean literature, Jonathan Marcantoni recently told me, “The biggest challenge in the Latino publishing scene is getting stories that go outside of immigration, identity and the American Dream narrative, which is what Latino authors are stuck in.
It’s almost an unspoken rule that if you tell a story, it has to include one of these things, and as a result there aren’t too many science fiction, crime or romance novels written by Latinos and other writers of color that stand on their own as genre works.”
This is why it’s so important to highlight when such authors and books do come along — they have stories to tell that are meant for everyone and aren’t anchored by the few topics that have been deemed authentic and acceptable for nonwhite authors.