We DID It! | Dive Into Diversity Farewell

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

I’m typing this by the light of my Christmas tree, while listening to the Peanut gang serenade me and I still can’t believe we’ve already reached the final post for the Dive Into Diversity challenge. This will officially be the first and last challenge I host on Rather Be Reading blog, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner-in-crime during the whole process. It was so nice to be both laid-back and creative in everything we were writing. If you took part in this challenge in any capacity or read through these posts, I hope you’ve become a little bit more aware of the characters you are reading about and who has been writing them. Maybe you just added a brand new book to your reading list. Either way, it’s been a pleasure to share these posts with you.

For the final hoorah, Rebecca and I interviewed each other! Here are her awesome answers to my burning questions…

Estelle: Let’s start from the beginning. You were nice enough to approach us about co-hosting the challenge with you. Why was hosting this important to you? What’s been the best part?

Rebecca: I was very inspired by the kickstarter for We Need Diverse Books. I loved what the movement was about and what they wanted to achieve. To be honest, diversity in books wasn’t something I’d thought about much before, but after that, I wanted more of it and I wanted to see change. It wasn’t long after I got the idea to hold the challenge and the rest is history. Hosting a challenge hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s been rewarding. I think the best part of it has been learning, along with everyone else. Becoming more aware and listening and having people take it all in with you.

Estelle: I’m going to copy your second question to me! What was your favorite post you put together for this project?

Rebecca: Wow – looking back, there are quite a few I’m proud of. Taking the Good With the Bad because I put so much effort and love into writing it. It was my first ever post for the challenge and I wanted to get it right.

I also LOVED the How Diverse Are Your Shelves? Experiments – so much fun to put together!

Estelle: Personally, I felt a lot of frustration with this challenge sometimes because I wondered what we were really doing to reach people outside of the super blogger sphere. Do you agree? What do you think is the best way for the general reader to become aware of the campaign?

Rebecca: I totally get your frustration. I also feel this way about OzYA and trying to reach people outside of the blogging community. Super tricky. I think the best way to reach the general reader is bookshops and libraries. Local bookish places who have the ability and means to hold events, create displays and start conversations. We might not have reached the masses, but I believe we created diverse conversations in the book community and I’m happy with that.

Estelle: Who are some bloggers, authors, or websites that you go-to for great articles on diversity and where the future of publishing should go?

Rebecca: There are some great people on Twitter talking about diversity: Malinda Lo (@malindalo) and Dahlia Adler (@MissDahlElama) are two authors of many I see talking a lot about diversity in my feed frequently. Other sites to follow for diverse recs, reviews and great articles:

Estelle: What’s your biggest takeaway from the challenge and the diversity campaign in 2015?

Rebecca: It was a pretty laid-back challenge, but it was more work and stress that I initially thought it would be. But it’s not to say I didn’t enjoy hosting it. Diversity is now a common, talkative subject in the book community and there’s definitely been change since a year ago. But there’s still a way to go in terms of publishing and the future of the book industry. Like I said above, there’s talk and change happening in the book/publishing community, but I feel like it hasn’t yet reached the outer community, which I feel will really help things along. So here’s hoping the message continue to spread and we start to see more change the coming year.

As for how the challenge affected me as a reader, it’s impacted my reading over the year with half of what I read a diverse title. But the fact I’m most happy and pleased about and generally makes me smile wide is the fact that my favourite books of the year are all diverse. Not because they’re diverse, but because they are all freaking amazing books in their own right. Heartfelt, special, thoughtful, impacting. I talked about my favourites last week, which you can check out here.

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Don’t forget to check out my chat with Rebecca @ Reading Wishes. Another big thanks to her for asking Magan and I to join her reading challenge party, and all of those who contributed to posts or wrote your own. xoxo

Here’s to a fabulous end of the year, and a new one filled with compassion, new reading adventures, and more representation for all.

Dive Into Diversity Family Series: Stepfamilies

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

We’re continuing to delve into what exactly diversity is and I’ve really decided to hone in on family. Not everyone has a traditional family. The APA says that 40-50% of marriages will end in divorce. My mom’s first marriage did. It was just my mom and I for a little while until my dad (what I call my stepdad because I have never met, nor do I ever want to meet, my bio dad) unexpectedly popped into our lives. They married just before my second birthday. Four and six years later, my half-brother and half-sister were born.

I have blonde hair, blue eyes, lots of freckles, and fair skin. I’m curvy and have stocky legs. My brother and sister have my dad’s gorgeous olive skin tone, brown eyes, brown hair, and they inherited his chicken legs, too. I can only guess at what features I might have inherited from my bio dad’s genes. While this hasn’t ever bothered me, it’s caused some bumps along the way for us. (i.e. My school superintendent finding out about my bio dad my senior year in high school and publishing my name as the school valedictorian with his last name though it’s never been my given name. Oh, small town hate and politics.)

Magan's-Family-in-Alaska

This is my crazy family! From l-to-r: Dad, Dustyn (husband), Justin (brother), Mom, Ashley (sister), and Jacob (Ashley’s boyfriend). They were throwing snowballs at me in Alaska where we celebrated my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary together.

Our nuclear, “traditional” families have evolved and changed so much. Through my upcoming Dive Into Diversity posts, I’ll be exploring books with these family types: stepparents/step-siblings, single-parent families, same-sex parents, and adoptive/foster families. To be quite honest with you, I don’t want the typical family. We’ve been foster parents; we hope to again do that. I want to adopt. I want a fluid family that is ever-changing and growing and giving people a place to call home. My closest friends are my family. In a nutshell: adios traditionalism.

Let’s take a peek at some of the recommendations I’ve corralled for you (with the help of a few twitter recommendations some of you sent to me). These are focused on stepfamilies; 15% of people under the age of 18 are living in a remarried family.

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Wild Cards. Derek’s dad marries a younger woman after his mom passes away from cancer. His dad is in the army, frequently gone, so that leaves him in the care of his stepmom. She relocates them to Chicago to be closer to his family. He and his stepmom’s sister, Ashtyn, who are the same age have a crazy attraction. It’s complicated, but Wild Cards is a great example of a complex family unit. (Ashtyn’s dad is a single-parent, too.)

Even in Paradise. Charlotte’s dad remarried and she has two stepbrothers. For many reasons, Julia’s family is attractive to Charlotte. She loves their closeness and how protective they are of one another. Charlotte comes to love and appreciate her own family more as the illusion of perfectionism fades for Julia’s family. I really felt like this was a solid example of envying what we don’t have.

Open Road Summer. Reagan’s out on tour with Dee for the majority of ORS, but we get the sense that things aren’t so peachy with her stepmom and dad when she’s home. Things are downright tense, and I admire Lord for tackling this because truthfully, not everything is perfect all because two people fell in love.

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Ink is Thicker Than Water. Woo! Spalding created an incredibly awesome blended family in this novel. Kellie has a bio mom, stepdad, adopted older sister, and a younger half-brother. (Kellie’s bio dad is also still involved, too.) This book is a great example of a complex family structure, but also a really great one because we see boundaries and exploration to understand adoption. I loved it!

Eleanor and Park. Let’s contrast a great non-traditional family with one that just broke my heart, Eleanor’s. Her stepdad is one of the nastiest creatures I’ve met in my reading. And her mom was spineless. But you know what? This is the truth for some and I’m so glad Rainbow wrote this. So glad.

Geek Girl. This book falls on the younger side of my reading, but it also seemed to explore the earlier days of Harriet’s stepmom being part of the family. I don’t recall how long it’s been since Harriet’s dad remarried, but I loved getting to see her develop such a strong affection for her stepmom and no longer seeing her as an outsider.

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Recommendations from Twitter:

The Wrong Side of Right. — Jess, Gone With the Words: “Stepmothers get a bad rep, so it was refreshing to see the beautiful relationship that blossoms between Kate and her stepmom, as well as her half-siblings. Her father was a different story, but really touching in the end.”

Being Friends With Boys. — Estelle: “Lonely with her older sister away at college, we get a chance to see Char grow closer with her stepsisters. I loved that we didn’t get the usual evil dynamics here. They are all so different but there isn’t any hate between them.”

A Midsummer’s Nightmare. – Amber, YA Indulgences: “A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger is a great family dynamic story involving an almost “stepfamily”. Throughout the story, the main character Whitley is thrust into this new suburban town the summer after graduating. It’s in this new town where she discovers her father is engaged. To a woman she’s never met. Whitley then has to deal with her soon to be stepmother and step-siblings. The family dynamics in this are spot on showing that family doesn’t have to be blood related and not all blood related family members are perfect.”

Along for the Ride. — Lauren Morrill, author

One Plus One. — Kelly, Belle of the Literati: “Regardless of blood relations, deep love, understanding, and acceptance can occur between step parents and children. Sometimes the best kind of family is the one you choose or are ‘forced’ into and OPO shows the lengths we go to for our family, blood related or not. It’s beautiful. And selfless and unassuming and poetic. Yet this book also shows how blood relations can mean nothing and how family is a choice based on love and acceptance…acceptance most of all :)”

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Which stepfamily/step-sibling books would you recommend?
Share the book love and I’ll update the post with a comprehensive list!

Don’t forget to link up your Dive Into Diversity April posts below.
Any diversity post you write, add it so we can check it out and spread the love.
Use our special hashtag, #DiversityDive, to keep up with what’s happening!

Check out Rebecca’s April discussion post, too!

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

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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!