Armchair BEA 2014 – Beyond the Borders

Design credit goes to Nina of Nina Reads

Design credit goes to Nina of Nina Reads

Today’s topic asked us to discuss books that transported us to a different world, taught us about a different culture, and/or helped us step into the shoes of someone different from us. In what ways did they impact us and what books would we recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, today’s post is about diversity in books, murr! =^.^=

Honestly, this is a challenging topic for us because we don’t often think about diversity when we read. Let’s face it, we’re cats. When it comes to feline diversity in books, it’s rather lacking. Instead we focus more on the character that makes up the character inside, rather than their race, sexual preference, religion, etc. In other words, who is the character when viewed from the inside? Is he/she a role model, a trouble maker, a dreamer? Are they caring, conceited, harsh? And so on. In fact, it wasn’t until we read the article, Diversity in Young Adult Literature, that we even started thinking about the concept at all. And again, if we are to be honest, reading the article had us asking the question: Why should it matter what race a character is?!

Anyways, diversity. In particular, diversity in the books that we’ve read.

Let’s start with books that have transported us to a different world. Literally, murr!

The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey tops this list. Not only was it the first fantasy series we ever read, it taught us to ride on the backs of dragons in a world called Pern. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series also makes this list as it takes us to a place called Westeros where dragons, white walkers, wargs, and more can be found. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy also make the list. We wouldn’t mind visiting Middle Earth, so long as there was catnip available. The Chronicles of Narnia are also included, along with many, many more. We could go on for days listing books that have taken us to different worlds, but we think you get the idea.

Books that taught us about a different culture.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson if the first book we have to mention. Set in North Korea, it’s an eye-opening read about some of what life was like in this country, and in some cases still is today. This is a historical fiction that we still talk about with friends, and it’s been almost three years since we read it! It really did leave a lasting impression. Memoris of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is another book we’d recommend. Set in Japan, we quite enjoyed learning about geishas and the politics during that time. Other books that we know of, but haven’t read yet include Life of Pi by Yann Martel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Frederic P. Miller.

Do you have a favorite book or books that deal with diversity? Share them with us in the comments below. We would definitely like to discover some new titles. =^.^=

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Posted on May 29, 2014, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I love GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and Memoirs of A Geisha was a great book. I loved Life of Pi and The Book Thief too, and my father has been telling me to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for quite a while now. It’s probably time I did. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the them too! =) Happy Armchair BEA!

  2. I had the same thought! Wouldn’t it be amazing/better if it didn’t matter which race or gender a character was? I find myself identifying with all kinds of characters. But then I do understand that as a white young woman, I have been represented a lot and that other women want to be able to see that as well! ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘The Book Thief’ are amazing!
    Great post 🙂
    Juli @ Universe in Words

    • With all books it really shouldn’t matter. Unless it is a driving plot device. Unfortunately though, when an author does write a book that deals with issues of a specific race, culture, what have you, it is often challenged or banned. Sherman Alexie’s The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a great example of a book that deals with race issues and has been met with controversy. And it’s a great book by a brilliant author. Okay, so it’s got swearing in it, eh we’ve read worse. Honestly not much bothers us. It would be nice if society stopped focusing so much on race, culture, religion, etc and start focusing on just living their life rather than the lives of others. Don’t even get us started on the girl who called out J.K. Rowling for her character Cho Chen. ~rolls eyes and lays ears back in disgust~

  3. I thought The Orphan Master’s Son was amazing. Just loved it. Thanks for sharing about these books.

  4. I’ve recently started wondering how much race matters in literature. Unless a character’s race somehow plays into the story, such as in Ari and Dante where the two boys struggle a bit with what it means to be Mexican, I often forget what race a character is. However, I think this might just mean that we need more books where the different experiences which sometimes come with being of different races are discussed, not that it isn’t important for us to have racial diverse characters in books. Nice, thought-provoking post!

    • We’re the same way in that we more often than not forget what race a character is. It isn’t that we don’t care, it’s just not that important to us when we read. As you said, if it is an integral part of the story, then we focus on it to see how everything develops, but otherwise it’s noted and promptly forgotten. We like to shape the characters in our own image as we read…to the point where they often don’t look like the author intended. =^.^=

  5. The Book Thief had me bawling, and I felt absolutely awful for what the characters had to endure. I think race does have an effect on the character and how we read. It helps to learn their culture and how the react to certain circumstances.

  6. Thank you for sharing the CNN article. It’s true, I rarely if ever think of diversity in YA, but with its ever growing popularity, it matters more than ever.

  7. I have never read The Dragon Rider’s of Pern… and that’s so weird because it would be something I would very much enjoy! Well, now I’m just gonna hafta huh? 🙂