Book Blog: Stories with diversity are important

In a topsy-turvy world where a man who has blacklisted the American Muslim, Latino, and Black communities has become president of the most powerful nation on Earth, it’s a good time to escape into the world of fiction.

When we consume stories, we can be transported to different places and cultures, stepping into the shoes of people who have vastly different worldviews and experiences from our own. And in stepping into another person’s shoes, we learn to better understand and empathize with others overall. So in a society that has so much more learning to do than we realized, it’s so important to read and listen to stories from all over the world, from different periods in time, and especially from little-heard voices.

Escape to another part of the world, and into another person’s life, with these lighthearted story picks in a variety of mediums, all focusing on the lives of people of colour because hey, even oppressed racial minorities can laugh too.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Oscar is a sweet, romantic overweight nerd from New Jersey who hopes to find love and become the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately, the fukú—an ancient curse that has haunted his family for generations—just might prevent him from ever accomplishing these things.

Junot Díaz’s first novel, a Pulitzer-winning debut, documents an intergenerational saga that spans from the 1950s dictator-ruled Dominican Republic to the early 2000s in New Jersey. But English class descriptions aside, the characters in this novel are so endearing and compellingly human. Reading this book, I felt so much empathy for Oscar as he encountered one heartbreak after another. The novel weaves through three different narratives—Oscar’s, his sister Lola’s, and his mother Belicia’s—and you learn more about the intricacies of life in one family’s part of the Hispanic immigrant experience. Díaz weaves Dominican folklore and history with great humour throughout the book. So escape the upcoming cold to the Dominican Republic with The Brief Wondrous Life!

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

If you want to transport into a totally different continent and totally different economic lifestyle, read Kwan’s uproariously funny series Crazy Rich Asians. You’ll step into the life of Rachel Chu, an American-born Chinese woman who spends the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nicholas Young, who, as a shock to her, turns out to be the son of one of Asia’s most prominent billionaire families. Rachel’s summer becomes a lavish, over-the-top comedy of scandal, gossip, and good food as she treads carefully around Asia’s elite.

This novel is pure escapist fun, like watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or The Bachelor with an Asian twist. It’s amusing to read and fantasize about what upper-class lives are like, especially those halfway across the world. Fluffy chick-flick plot aside, Crazy Rich Asians really dove into the cultures of China and Singapore, even highlighting with humour the socioeconomic tensions between upper-and middle-class people in Asia. Kwan’s novel, as outrageous as it seems, will take you to the lavish mansions of old-money and new-money Asian culture; it will have you at their meals and in their homes; most of all, it will have you laughing out loud at how ridiculous rich people can be.

Hamilton: An American Musical Soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda

What if the origins of American history were revised so the founding fathers weren’t actually all white men but rather people of colour? What if George Washington hosted a rap battle to determine how the American government’s financial system would be established? What if some of today’s biggest musical talents were the ones to tell the story of the United States’ beginnings?

Escape to find out the answers to these what-ifs by listening to the upcoming Hamilton Mixtape, produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Questlove from The Roots. The mixtape was inspired by the smash-hit Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical, a musical notable for deliberately casting people of colour as the main characters—the founding figures of America.

But regardless of the musical, you can still enjoy the mixtape because the musicians who collaborated with Miranda to create it are pretty dope—Sia, Usher, Wiz Khalifa, and John Legend are just a few to name. And the tracks are a mixture of original songs inspired by the musical, covers, and remixes, so you don’t have to have heard the actual Hamilton soundtrack to enjoy the mixtape. The songs centre around themes extremely relevant to today’s society—ambition, legacy, and the immigrant experience. You can check out four tracks from the mixtape on Spotify and iTunes. The mixtape in its entirety will be dropping Dec. 2.