It started a little over a year ago when I picked up Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi for the first time. I wasn’t looking for diverse reads then. I was just looking for a good read. I don’t even know how this book got into my hands, but I decided to go to the library and pick it up. Perhaps it was my subconscious telling me that I needed diverse books in my life. Perhaps it was the universe saying that this will change the fundamental ways I think about things.
The idea of having a family one day and then being completely separated by fate and by design shocked me. I found myself wanting to learn more about my own family and my own ancestry and see if there was ever a time when my family lineage broke apart. Was it left to some distant grandmother to recreate a family from scratch?
That’s what I got out of Homegoing and reading about the experience of another culture through the eyes of someone who’s looked into this for themselves and had the bravery to write a fictional novel about it; I honestly felt more woke than I ever did in my life. Homegoing basically changed everything that I knew about African American, about family, and about the triumph of the human spirit.
From that point on, I wanted to read more. Bring me more African American authors writing about their experience. Bring me more Asian authors writing about what life was like moving to an unknown world. Bring me more LGBTQ authors writing about coming out. I wanted to read more and understand more about the diversity around us and I felt like I found it in books.
Reading diverse novels filled a void I didn’t know I had. I wanted to read more cultures and more subcultures and more about the people that inhabit this world. It’s so easy to fall prey to the books that are easier to read and fun, but for me I wanted to push myself with knowledge. I didn’t want to be ignorant anymore and I found some understanding in fiction.
What I didn’t expect is that reading diverse novels would actually change the way I see, think, and live my life every single day. Suddenly, I found myself listening to conversations and interjecting with something that I’d read in a novel.
I would overhear conversations being African American and living below the poverty line and inserting the points brought up in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I would listen to folks chatting about choosing to be gay and think about books like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz Alire and how it’s not a choice.
Every conversation I heard led back to a book I read. My conversations would start with “I did read this book about…” trying to add my two cents in about a topic. I never saw myself as an expert in , but I felt that the fiction I was reading were relevant and poignant and g
I found myself looking for books only written by women and by people of color. I would search authors online to see what they were about and what they were trying to portray in their novels. I wanted the authentic experience of what it was like to fit in their shoes.
I only read stories that challenged the status quo. I wanted to read from the people who work hard to fight for their own civil liberties; stories from people who know how I feel about growing up in America and feeling different.
It had gotten to a point where I was so burnt out on diverse reads that I wanted to head back to the other side. However, it was too late for me and the side where you could read some random mystery didn’t feel as satisfying as knowing the experience of other people.
What got you was the interconnection between you and the story. When you’re reading any novel, you find ways to map what you experienced with the experiences of the book. Even if you can’t relate to being African American, or Asian, or struggling to find your gender identity, there is always something that draws you into the book. Be it love or family or human strife, the language speaks to you and gain a little more awareness.
It’s the human experience that you find there. And you find that you connect with that experience a little bit more even in the smallest iota of connection. And you wonder to yourself why other people can’t see what you see. You ask yourself why we all can’t get along because we’re all one in the same; we’re human.
I’m grateful for the books I’ve read and the people I meet. I’m happy that I read these books and seek out more books like it. It’s almost like traveling to another country; your perspective of the world changes because you’re experiencing a life outside of the one you own. There’s no turning back from this point. All I can do is move forward.