Let’s Talk Bookish: What is the meaning of diverse books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @Eternity Books  & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we get to discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts! I’ve listed the upcoming topics in brief at the end of my post, but check out these pages for more information on October 2020 prompts & a list of past prompts!

Now without further ado… This week’s topic asks us about:

what is the meaning of diverse books?

Examples: We talk a lot about diverse books and reads, but what really makes a book diverse? Are books written by authors or about characters from Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Ukraine, Hungary, etc) considered diverse? Would you consider a book set in Spain about a Spanish main character diverse? Why or why not? Does diverse mean characters or authors from South America, Asia, and Africa, or from different religious, sexual, ability, etc backgrounds only?

This is a great question and very relevant topic as more readers continue to look for diverse books, and as more diverse books also get published. I’ve been trying to consciously diversify my reads for a while now and 2020 has been my most successful year doing that! I’m a little intimidated about answering this week’s prompt because I think there are quite a few layers to the topic, and I don’t feel comfortable going too in-depth as I’m not that “knowledgeable” about it. But this post is about sharing my thoughts, so I will do that and hopefully I make some sense and don’t come off as (too) uniformed or ridiculous!

defining diversity

Diversity (noun)
: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : VARIETY
especially : the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.

: an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities

Diversity as defined by Merriam-Webster


When I think about diverse books, I immediately think of stories with characters who are marginalized, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQ+. Or are written by authors of colour or LGBTQ+. I also count books that have representation for different religions, ethnicities, mental health, disability, and chronic illness (among other topics) as diverse too. However, I only classify books as diverse when:

  • The main characters are BIPOC/LGBTQ+. I don’t consider it diverse when you have one or a few side characters that fall into these ‘categories’ but are barely represented. But I don’t consider stories written by authors of colour or LGBTQ+ authors as diverse if the story focuses on mainstream “straight and white” characters.
  • Same as above, the rep should concern or be focused on the main character(s) and is not used or identified as a minor sub-plot or anything like that.

is there a line and where do we draw it?

This prompt included a few guiding questions that really made me think whether I would classify certain reads as diverse. For example, if I read a book about Eastern Europe, is that considered diverse? I think if it’s set there and the story is about a straight white character, then no, I wouldn’t. But what if it’s about religion or ethnicity—would I consider it diverse then? I think I probably would because it includes people from different backgrounds. What about a book set in Spain with a Spanish cast—is that diverse? It made me think about a book I read earlier this year called Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova. It’s set during the Spanish inquisition period but in an alternate reality, and I considered it diverse because Cordova is AOC and the characters, including the MC, were diverse.

As I write this I realise that perhaps how I consider books diverse is pretty simplistic? But ultimately, I do think it’s subjective because I don’t believe diversity can be so neatly packaged into a box where it means exactly the same thing for everybody. There are many factors to consider, including our individual backgrounds and experiences, and it also depends on the book/author too.

Is it enough to consider a book diverse if it teaches you about different people, cultures, etc.? Is it enough to consider it diverse if it broadens your world view?

Sorry, I know I haven’t really answered anything in this post and it’s mostly just a bunch of brain blah and word vom that I’m not even sure makes any sense–but it has definitely got me thinking!

Now I’m really curious to know what you think. What makes a book diverse in your opinion? Do you think it’s a strict definition or do you think it’s subjective? I’m keen to know your thoughts if you’d like to share them with me!

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: What is the meaning of diverse books?

  1. This is a harder topic, but so interesting to consider! I think I would agree with all your points, except maybe if the diverse side characters play a more impactful role in the book. Do they change or have influence on the main character’s growth throughout the book? Then I might consider it diverse, as well. 🤷‍♀️ Something to ponder! 😍


  2. “The main characters are BIPOC/LGBTQ+. I don’t consider it diverse when you have one or a few side characters that fall into these ‘categories’ but are barely represented. ” This is interesting, do disabled protagonists count as diverse in your POV? Would a book count if the main love interest were BIPOC?

    I liked Incendiary as an example as I recently read it and thought that it was fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do count disabled protagonists as diverse too. I think I wrote out what else I consider diverse in the following sentence in my post.
      I think I would consider a book diverse if the main love interest is BIPOC. I also just read your post and I do agree that sometimes it is enough for the characters to be diverse without having the story be about diverse experiences. But it does make me question if only having diverse characters in a book automatically classifies it as a diverse book though… What if they’re barely or badly represented? But then I guess that goes to another level of thinking about diversity. It’s definitely complicated 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such an interesting topic! I agree with you that the concept of a diverse book is pretty subjective. I personally think that a diverse book involves characters or subject matter that I don’t encounter in my own life on a daily basis. So I’d consider books with LGBTQ+, by authors of color, or books that have representation of different religions, ethnicities, or mental health to be diverse. But, like you said, this feels like something that has a lot of layers that would take a lot to be unpacked, so I feel like I don’t have a really complex view of diverse books since I haven’t read as many diverse books.


  4. I totally agree that the concept of diverse is subjective. It’s a complex concept and an important theme to discuss. Mostly, I consider a book to be diverse when it’s written by a BIPOC/LGBTQ+/Non-Binary author or when it has LGBTQ+/different religions/mental health/ BIPOC POVs. I think if a book has a diverse cast of characters (with POVs), I tend to consider it diverse but I don’t know if I’m not over oversimplifying what really means to be diverse.


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