It’s always a good idea to add diverse books to your TBR pile. Reading #ownvoices books about diverse experiences and cultures enriches, educates, and empowers your own life. We highly recommend these seven books—from fiction to nonfiction, they offer powerful perspectives on culture, community, current events, and history.
Nikesh Shukla is a writer and editor who has written two novels, numerous short stories and co-wrote a film. Chimene Suleyman is a writer, journalist, and poet. Together, Shukla and Suleyman are the editors of The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America. In this collection, 26 diverse immigrant voices write on American culture and what it means to be an immigrant. They reflect a vibrant range of voices, experiences, languages, and cultures, all struggling to define who they are and where they're from in a country that is growing more and more aggressive towards immigrants each day.
Harriet A. Washington writes books about history, culture, health, and their effect on Black people in America. Her books include Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, and Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness. Her most recent title is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind.
In A Terrible Thing to Waste, Washington looks at the disparities between race, class, and wealth, and how environmental pollution adversely affects communities of color at a staggering rate. She re-examines old notions of IQ as it pertains to race, suggesting that IQ is a flawed metric and that environmental racism that encapsulates nutrition, health, and quality of living is affecting communities of color disproportionately–and she offers up possible solutions to these problems.
Chigozie Obioma is the award-winning Nigerian author of The Fisherman, and a new novel, An Orchestra of Minorities. In his debut, The Fishermen, four brothers skip school and go fishing, only to encounter a strange man who convinces the oldest brother that it is his destiny to be killed by one of his siblings, setting off a fateful chain of events in the brothers' lives. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and an NAACP Image Award, in addition to being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Obioma's newest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, is narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit. It follows Chinonso and Ndali, two young people who fall in love after Chinonso finds Ndali on the verge of jumping off a bridge and convinces her not to take the leap. But when Ndali's family rejects the union because Chinonso is poor and uneducated, Chinonso risks everything to get his education, only to be further alienated from his hopes and dreams, and his home. This is a moving novel spanning countries, a modern twist on Homer's Odyssey.
Bridgett M. Davis is a creative writing professor, author of two novels and a memoir, and writer and director of an award-winning film. Her previous novels include Shifting through Neutral and Into the Go-Slow, which is a novel about a young black woman from Detroit in 1986 who goes on a transformative journey to Nigeria to find answers about her sister's tragic death there four years earlier.
Davis's newest book is a memoir called The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers. It's about her mother and her remarkable career, which began in 1958 when she borrowed $100 to begin a Numbers racket in her own living room. This was the start of a living that allowed her to provide for her children, emphasizing the importance of education and hard work with her motto, "Dying is easy. Living takes guts." It's an incredible memoir and homage to her hard-working and resourceful mother who made a successful living out of a technically illegal trade.
JM Holmes is a new writer whose debut, How Are Your Going to Save Yourself, is a provocative and thoughtful collection of interconnected stories about a decade in the lives of four best friends. Gio narrates these stories as he and his friends Dub, Rolls, and Rye come of age in Rhode Island and must find a way to strike out on their own while confronting their fraught pasts, and the heavy legacies of being Black men in America. This debut novel received wide acclaim and a starred review from Kirkus.
Lucy Tan's debut novel What We Were Promised looks at a Chinese-born couple who went to America and made their fortunes, and then returned to Shanghai, and to a country greatly changed since they last lived in it. Wei and Lina, along with their daughter, are now incredibly wealthy and living a life of luxury in a fancy Shanghai apartment building, but they're far from content. When an ivory bracelet goes missing and a prodigal son returns home, the unhappiness and regret that each feels comes bubbling forth as they are forced to confront their pasts and their expectations for the future.
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Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor for Book Riot.