This post is for the Twitter hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks, blog tag by Laura Wise of Laura+the Voices. When I saw the hashtag the first thing that came to mind is a sci-fi short story by Tanith Lee, a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. “Beauty” is featured in Lee’s short story collection Red As Blood. The story opens with a father and his three daughters, Lyra, described as dark-skinned, Joya, who has ebony skin, and Estar, who has green-brown hair. The descriptions of the family are sparse so the reader can fill in the details. I always imagined Estar had an unusual skin color that matched her hair. Lyra’s suitor is Asian. In this futuristic society, certain families are chosen by an alien race to send one of their children to live among the aliens. The father receives a rose, which means his family has been chosen. He first vows to fight the summons but Estar realizes that the green rose is meant for her and, deciding her sisters are more talented than she and have more to lose than she does…Joya is pregnant, Lyra has a lover…goes voluntarily to the alien. He covers himself completely at first to avoid frightening Estar, but when she asks to see him, she finds him more beautiful than humans. The concept of the multi-racial family and how it came to be fascinated me. I liked the fact that none of the women had the standard Caucasian fairy tale heroine appearance. And it was perfect when Estar fell even more in love with the alien after he revealed himself, although he was like no one she had ever seen before. He didn’t change his appearance to be conventionally attractive or even look human. And of course the fairy tale in a science fiction setting was brilliant. The story is certainly ahead of its time. The book Red As Blood was published in 1983.
A wonderful book that has been the subject of much controversy is the YA book Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. It’s the story of two teenaged girls who fall in love and the homophobia they endure. It’s a very sweet love story but doesn’t pull any punches when showing the hardships faced by gay teens. Annie On My Mind was ahead of its time too. It was published in 1982.
We were lucky to have a few diverse books and stories thirty-two years ago. It’s sad that we’re still lacking in books for people who want to read about characters like them or unusual characters like Estar and her lover.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks What book immediately springs to mind when you read that hashtag?