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Real Life Friendship & Real Life Diversity | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading ChallengeI’ve had two of my best friends in my life since we were in Mrs. Grader’s kindergarten class — 25 years ago this year. Over the years, we were never consistantly inseparable (it’s difficult when you all go to different colleges and move to new cities) but for whatever cosmic reason, we take on the ebbs and flows of friendship in the best way we can. We may not have a lot of time together with no chorus to go to after school or dances to attend but we make the most of the free time we scrounge up.

It’s our differences that inspired me to write this post today. After reading at least 150 books a year in the last 3 years, I am confident when I say there are very rare fictional circumstances that mirror the town we lived in and the schools we attended. Sure, we all had two parents, one sibling, and grew up in the same town but I’m half Polish and half Spanish, Jen is Polish, and Nisha is Indian. Our high school prided itself on this diversity. It was a life lesson. It was a proposed subject for college essays. How did our high school environment prepare us for the future? We were lucky enough to be surrounded by different cultures and backgrounds, and not only that, we celebrated them with organized groups, presentations, and acceptance.

Estelle Friendship Dive Into Diversity

So I roped Nisha and Jen into answering some questions about our high school experience and our differences. They are such great sports, seriously. Here goes:

Looking back 10 YEARS (ahh), do you believe our high school was really a diverse environment and how has it helped you beyond that?

Nisha: I think as we got older, the schools did become more diverse. It was nice to be a part of this little melting pot. When I was younger, I didn’t realize it was okay to be different. The older I got and the more I saw, I realized that I didn’t have to be like everyone else. My family and culture was different and it worked. It helped prepare me for college. My little melting pot was nothing compared to that. Having experienced it earlier, it wasn’t as shocking or intimidating. It allowed me to just enjoy the experience and take it all in.

Jen: I def think our school was diverse. Our student body had the typical cheerleader types as well as academics including African American and a Latina. We had clubs for any type of group. I remember once going to Asian Studies Club with another friend. Diversity opens you up to the real world. Not everyone is going to look like you or have the same background and having experience with different people allows you be open to different views, open minded and more understanding of others. Less irrational fear and more acceptance.

Is there any situation you remember from grade school where you felt left out or the opposite, loud and proud, about your culture and sharing it with others?

Nisha: When you’re younger being any kind of different automatically makes you feel left out. It cannot be helped. All you want is acceptance at a young age. Grade school wasn’t as diverse so my idea of ‘normal’ was what I saw on TV. Shows like Full House and Step by Step were my normal. However, I didn’t look like them, my family didn’t do the same things as theirs and we didn’t even eat similar foods. When you tell someone you had rotli, shaak, dal bhaat for dinner and they look at you like you have three heads, you feel a bit intimidated. Unfortunately, this translated into being ashamed of my culture when I was younger.

Jen: I never felt left out. Once I wore my polish national outfit for Halloween at school and got a lot of compliments on it. Always thought it was cool that my parents grew up in another country. (Didn’t we do a project once on our cultural backgrounds? I seem to remember laminating placemats that had something to do with Poland. ha.)

I don’t see a lot of friendships like us in media (books, TV, etc.) Am I wrong? Are there any I’m missing? Why do you think there’s a lack of diverse friendships in this place?

Nisha: I don’t think you’re wrong which is unfortunate. I think it’s hard to find these kinds of relationships because people haven’t experienced it. It’s hard to write about something you don’t know or have dealt with. People generally stick to what they know when it comes to befriending people. They don’t allow themselves to go out and explore the options.

Jen: It seems to be more obvious with male relationships. Thinking of The Big Bang Theory that has an Indian and Jewish guy in the same mix. New Girl is pretty diverse. Jess and Ceecee are white girl and Indian girl and the guys include a Jewish guy and two African Americans. I guess Glee tries to be diverse but it always seems like a struggle to teach something before it turns to an actual friendship.

We Scream Ice Scream Rather Be Reading BlogSo what can we take from this? Not to pat any of us on the back, but we are all pretty open-minded people. We’ve all been interested in each other’s lives from the mundane to the most personal. We recognize people as people. Then I asked Nisha if she could remember any recent books with diverse characters in them? She was tired, so I’ll give her a break, but not one came to mind.

I guess it’s time that shocks me the most. In third grade, our teacher was very enthusiastic and focused on having her students understand each other. We hosted an international fair every year, city-wide, and we planned many events in school during the year. From a very early age, we were taught to be curious and accepting. That was almost 20 years ago, and still, I don’t see enough of these environments or relationships in the books I’m reading.

That being said, I can recommend three books that reflected my high school experience truthfully so far. Fingers crossed this list expands as the years go on.

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise | How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr | Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Diverse Friendships from Rather Be Reading Blog

Now it’s your turn! Are your friendships well-represented in what you are reading? What would you like to see?

Be sure to check out Rebecca’s first post for DID — Taking the Good with the Bad!


It’s the first official month of Dive Into Diversity so don’t forget to check in with you diverse posts below. Rebecca, Magan, and I cannot wait to read them and check out your blogs! If you haven’t had a chance to join the DID reading challenge, feel free to visit the intro post and use #DiversityDive on Twitter & Instagram!

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May 29, 2015 - 8:00 am

Phone a (Meant to Be) Friend | Pub Date: Beer & Book - […] known since kindergarten. (In fact, she’s no stranger to the blog. She helped out for this Dive Into Diversity Q&A from earlier in the […]

February 7, 2015 - 1:58 pm

Crystal - I am excited that there are so many people interested in diversifying their reading and encouraging more diversity in the publishing world. Thanks for hosting this great reading challenge!

January 26, 2015 - 9:09 am

Ann - I’ve been reading books that reflect diversity in spirituality for the past three weeks. Many of the ideas resonated with me, and I hope to be able to live a life as full and diverse as reflected in what I’ve read.

Having two daughters who were adopted from China makes me acutely aware of cultural diversity; and the importance of introducing and accepting a variety of beliefs and practices into our lives.

January 23, 2015 - 4:13 pm

Alexa S. - I loved reading this post, E! And your friends are totally good sports. It’s great to see that, for all of you, you easily embrace PEOPLE (as opposed to limiting yourselves because they’re “different”). Even though when I was in high school, I was mostly surrounded by fellow Filipinos, I’d like to think we were encouraged to be open-minded with all the different cultural projects (nationwide and worldwide) that we were givn to do. YAY FOR DIVERSITY!

January 21, 2015 - 12:00 am

Real Life Diversity (Or a Lack Thereof) | The Reading Shelf - […] This post was written for the first month of the Dive Into Diversity challenge – check out Estelle’s own post and other links! […]

January 13, 2015 - 8:11 pm

Brianna - I’m Jewish, but I don’t think my friendships are so diverse now that I’m an adult. My two closest friends are also Jewish and we have similar backgrounds. I tend to gravitate toward other Jewish people and I’m very strong in my faith. I do think we need more books with diverse characters, though, because the generation of kids growing up now probably don’t have friendships like you have. I know my former camp kids certainly don’t. They go to private Jewish schools and Jewish summer camp. That’s their bubble.

January 13, 2015 - 7:50 pm

Cassie (Happy Book Lovers) - You are wonderful 🙂 I loved this post so much, and I love the focus on friendship. I grew up in the Midwest, and there was not a ton of diversity in my schools (any of them) at all. In fact, it was a big deal when a few black students showed up in our high school. But everyone was so friendly and embracing. It was like all the kids finally were so excited to accept the diversity, and our area just hadn’t seen it yet. My brother became good friends with one of the kids his age, and to this day still goes to visit him even though they go to different colleges. I think that’s the cool thing about young people and kids, too. They’re genuine, and they don’t care about backgrounds or social status or anything like that. They just have friendships. I’m so excited to be in a city with so many different people now! I’m loving it!

January 13, 2015 - 11:23 am

Nisha - I love it! You did such a great job! 🙂

January 13, 2015 - 8:29 am

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - Also, I forget to mention in my tiredness: I love that you interviewed your friends and we got the hear from them! So great.

January 13, 2015 - 8:28 am

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - I LOVE this post. I’m half Portuguese and my childhood friend is half Russian/half Italian and looking back at all the books I’ve read, I can’t remember seeing a friendship like ours represented. Until you mentioned it though, I didn’t notice the hole there was. It’s like, you become accustomed to it? I hope your list grows, too!

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