Usually when I finish reading a book, I’ll go to Goodreads to review it, and then compare my thoughts with those of other readers. Invariably, it seems a book will receive at least one one-star review (lowest) and at least one five-star (highest). It’s odd that the same book can draw such variant reactions from readers, but not uncommon. We each bring our personal baggage, background, preferences, etc., to the books we read, and this affects our overall opinion of the material.
Recently I read Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse, and rated it five stars. I love this memoir written by a man who experienced a dysfunctional upbringing and to this day still suffers the consequences, despite his successful career as a novelist. Why did I rate this book so highly? I certainly didn’t suffer a dysfunctional childhood like he did, but I’m able to relate to his feelings of being the outcast in school (I was the only Mexican-American child in my classes, first through third grades), and being the kid who gets bullied (as I was in junior high). To a degree, I can also identify with the cultural identity crisis he experiences (he is Mexican-American also).
There is a movement, We Need Diverse Books, that I first heard about on Twitter. Its purpose is to address the lack of diversity in children’s books. The group’s definition of diversity encompasses people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious differences. Of course it’s crucial to have more books to which children of diverse groups can relate. We all can more readily relate to stories that appeal to our interests, our ways of thinking, our experiences. For example, it stands to reason that people of color would more easily relate to a story about people of their same ethnicity and culture. I grew up in a time where people of my ethnicity were rarely seen on TV or in movies, and never written about. As an adult, most of the novels I read focus on the lives of white people. I read as much fiction as I can get my hands on that is written by Latinos, but there isn’t enough available. We definitely need diverse books for children, and we need them for adults too.