A Literary Scavenger Hunt

Thanks to Naz @ Read Diverse Books who started the Diverse Books Tag, I’ve had a lot of fun hunting up some good bookish treasures. Naz started this book tag with the purpose of getting people to search for, share, and recommend a wide variety of books. I gave mine a CanLit twist.

Canada is big, our population is widely diverse, and I feel strongly that our diversity as a country is reflected in our literature. So, let’s celebrate that.

There are a few here that I’ve read, a few that were on my tbr pile, and a few that I hadn’t heard of before I went digging. There were so many other books I wanted to put on this list, but I had to contain myself. If there are any that you want to mention or recommend, please do so in the comments!

(Snippets from the synopses are all from Goodreads.)

Find a book starring a lesbian character.

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(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki

“Allison Lee is seventeen and off to college in the fall. So far, she’s been in love once (total catastrophe) and on fire twice (also pretty bad). Both love and fire have left their scars.”

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Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald (my review)

Adult Onset is a powerful drama about motherhood, the dark undercurrents that break and hold families together, and the power and pressures of love.”

Find a book with a Muslim protagonist.

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Where the Air is Sweet by Tasneem Jamal

“An epic family saga that charts three generations of an Indian family in Uganda”

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Laughing All the Way To the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz

“Zarqa Nawaz has always straddled two cultures. She’s just as likely to be agonizing over which sparkly earrings will “pimp out” her hijab as to be flirting with the Walmart meat manager in a futile attempt to secure halal chicken the day before Eid.”

Find a book set in Latin America.

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Retribution by Carmen Rodriguez

Retribution spans over seventy years in the life of the Martinez family, from their daily existence before the 1973 military coup to the horror that ensued; their flight to Canada as political refugees, and back to Chile again as Sol joins the underground resistance movement to the dictatorship and looks for the remains of her disappeared husband.”

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Irma Voth by Miriam Toews (my review)

Irma Voth entangles love, longing and dark family secrets. The stifling, reclusive Mennonite life of nineteen-year-old Irma Voth – newly married and newly deserted… is irrevocably changed when a film crew moves in to make a movie about the community.”

Find a book about a person with a disability.

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Do You Think This Is Strange? by Aaron Cully Drake (my review)

“Freddy is having a rough year.
First, he is expelled from school for fighting. Now, at his new school, he is required to have regular conversations with a counselor—an awkward situation for anyone, really, but even more so for Freddy, who has autism.”

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Mine For Keeps by Jean Little

“Away at school, Sally Copeland has always dreamed of going home, but now that she’s there, she feels frightened and unsure of herself.Will her brother and sister accept her? Will she be able to do things for herself? And what will it be like to go to a regular school and be the only one with cerebral palsy?”

Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a PoC protagonist.

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Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

” With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother.
She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.”

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Half World by Hiromi Goto

“Melanie Tamaki is human—but her parents aren’t. They are from Half World, a Limbo between our world and the afterlife, and her father is still there. When her mother disappears, Melanie must follow her to Half World—and neither of them may return alive.”

Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa.

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The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji

“Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British.”

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Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb (my review)

“The first-person narrative alternates seamlessly between England (1981-91) and Ethiopia (1970-74), weaving a rich tapestry of one woman’s quest to maintain faith and love through revolution, upheaval and the alienation of life in exile.”

Find a book written by an Indigenous author.

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Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (my review)

” Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women’s experience, regardless of culture or race.”

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Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle

Celia’s Song relates one Nu: Chahlnuth family’s harrowing experiences over several generations, after the brutality, interference, and neglect resulting from contact with Europeans.”

Find a book set in South Asia.

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The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami (my review)

“Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero’s Walk traces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today’s India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system.”

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Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

“In FUNNY BOY we follow the life of the family through Arjie’s eyes, as he comes to terms both with his own homo-sexuality and with the racism of the society in which he lives. In the north of Sri Lanka there is a war going on between the army and the Tamil Tigers, and gradually it begins to encroach on the family’s comfortable life.”

Find a book with a biracial protagonist.

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Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz (my review)

“Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End.”

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All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor (my review)

All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and the afterlife, that shows how love can conquer any obstacle.”

Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues.

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For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu

“At birth, Peter had been given the Chinese name Juan Chaun, powerful king. The exalted only son in the middle of three daughters, Peter was the one who would finally embody his immigrant father’s ideal of power and masculinity. But Peter has different dreams: he is certain he is a girl.”

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A Safe Girl To Love by Casey Plett

“Eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love.”

What would you add to this list?

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44 thoughts on “A Literary Scavenger Hunt

  1. Sarah says:

    There are a good number of titles here I’ve never heard of that sound brilliant, so I’m book-marking the page for future plundering! 🙂

  2. Elle says:

    The progressive in me feels sad that the cynic in me feels this way, but: I always wonder what the point of these sorts of things are. I suppose it’s easier to read something if you know about it, and awareness-raising is great, but it’s also easier to feel as though one’s pushing back and being diverse when in fact one is only making lists. (Not a criticism of you! Just a thought about the motivation behind the creation of memes like this.)

    • Naomi says:

      In this case, the point for me was to search up some CanLit that fit the categories in the tag. And, I did it for fun. If my list leads to people discovering new books that they may not have heard of before, then even better! Also, I love Naz’s enthusiasm for his cause and wanted to support him. At the same time, I got to highlight some pretty great Canadian books. 🙂

      • Elle says:

        Oh, yes! There’s the CanLit element of things, too. I’d almost forgotten that that’s one of your major areas of focus. [embarrassed] And honestly, I do love making lists, too. They’re fun in and of themselves.

    • Read Diverse Books says:

      This list was born out of an earnest attempt to promote the works of marginalized voices. I am fully dedicated to this work 100%, my blog is dedicated to reading these works in fact. If I gave the impression that I just want people to make lists, then I apologize and should make my message clearer.

      • Elle says:

        No no, I was wrong! (And probably just in a bad mood that day.) I’m so sorry to have implied that you were just making lists. That’s something that I worry about in general in the literary community (like, a lot of newspapers can pay lip service to diverse reading without changing their reviewing policies, for example), but I should have read your work before commenting – if I had, I’d have realized that your project isn’t like that. 🙂

  3. susanosborne55 says:

    What an interesting exercise! I may well try this out on my own shelves. Very pleased to be reminded of both Sweetness in the Belly and The Hero’s Walk – two excellent books.

    • Naomi says:

      It was a lot of fun to search for the books! I’m kind of hoping someone will come up with another good one for me to try. 🙂

  4. The Cue Card says:

    Nice list Naomi. I don’t know many of these authors, but I should get to know them! Mine for Keeps looks sweet, and Retribution has a great cover too. How about Canadians with WWII sagas, or tales set in the Outback, or the founding period. Hmm. just throwing out ideas. I think you already have all the diversity options. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      I’d love for someone to make me up another list of criteria to see if I can find them all! Maybe not too soon, though, that one took up some time. 🙂

  5. Read Diverse Books says:

    Where The Air Is Sweet sounds great! “An epic family saga that charts three generations of an Indian family in Uganda”? Yes, please! I love family dramas.

    I still have yet to read Birdie, though I’m planning to do so this year! Bones & Bread was also a Canada Reads finalist, right? Gosh, so many great books! Thanks for doing the list, Naomi.
    I have also added Celia’s song because I need to make up for the lack of Indigenous writers in my blog very quickly and soon!

    • Naomi says:

      Yay, I’m glad you like my list! I’m quite happy with it myself, although there were times that I had too many and had to make hard decisions. But I had a lot of fun with it, and hope that people can go away with a few new books to try. 🙂

  6. BookerTalk says:

    I think I would have struggled to come up with a list as diverse as this one, your list will be a good reference for the future when I run out of my TBR ……

  7. Ioana @ booksreenchanted says:

    Naomi, this is amazing!!!! I love this twist on the Diverse Books Tag so much! And I am so glad you are filling this niche in the blogging world, because sadly, probably like too many Americans, I don’t know much about friendly wonderful neighbor to the North, and I certainly don’t read enough literature from there. I shamefully did not even realize Canada was such a diverse country – and I am so glad to now have this list. Bookmarking it to refer back to for building my TBR.

    • Naomi says:

      Your enthusiasm for my list has made my day! One of the reasons I wanted to add the CanLit twist was because I knew there might be a lot of people out there who might not fully realize the diversity of CanLit – one of the reasons I have come to love it so much. Let me know if you decide to read any of these!

  8. JacquiWine says:

    A wide-ranging selection of books, several of which are completely new to me. On the subject of diverse reading, have you read The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri? If not, I think it’s the type of book you would enjoy – it explores relationships, but the context is really interesting. All in all, it’s an excellent book, a real slow burner.

  9. kimbofo says:

    Such an interesting list, Naomi. There’s so many books on here I’ve never heard of. I’m especially intrigued by the indigenous titles you’ve flagged up. I will investigate further.

    • Naomi says:

      There were SO many books I could have used for that category. I pretty much just had to do close my eyes and choose two of them.
      I’m glad there’s lots of new stuff on here for you to consider. 🙂

  10. lailaarch says:

    Love your list and the CanLit twist. It’s really disappointing that we don’t get much publicity in America for Canadian authors, at least not in a major way – except for Atwood and Shields, it seems. I have learned so much from reading your blog. Laughing all the Way to the Mosque is already on my TBR and Where the Air is Sweet is going to be!

    • Naomi says:

      I always find it interesting to hear what CanLit is available in other countries. I wish there was more of it. But I will keep plugging along. Maybe the more you guys ask for it, the more there will be? *hopeful face*

  11. ebookclassics says:

    I really enjoyed your list and think it must have been a blast choosing Canadian novels for each theme. I feel bad that even though I have some of these books on my TBR, I haven’t read any of them! Although, at least I’m reading two diverse Canadian authors at the moment.

    • Naomi says:

      I’ve only read some of these, but making the list made me want to read the rest right away! I will have to be patient… 🙂
      What are you reading??

  12. yourdaughtersbookshelf says:

    What a fabulous list! I’ve added a ton of new books to my TBR, thanks to you. 😀 I love the CanLit angle too – I’m always on the lookout for Canadian authors. You Set Me on Fire looks amazing.

  13. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    All right, I usually avoid family sagas like the plague, but Where the Air Is Sweet sounds fascinating. I don’t get to read nearly enough fiction about diaspora communities in countries other than my own. You are a danger to my TBR list, madam!!

    • Naomi says:

      I’m hoping to eventually to read them all. Just like all the other books on all my other lists. I can do it, right?!
      Really, this is just a list for others to get ideas from, who might not have heard of any of these. Have you read any of them?

      • whatmeread says:

        I think we’re all making a lot of lists. But yes, that’s the main reason I look at other people’s lists. Actually, I don’t think I’ve heard of any of them, let alone read them. You always seem to be reading things I haven’t heard of. Maybe it’s your Can lit focus, although I swear I don’t discriminate against literature from Canada!

      • Naomi says:

        I’m always amazed myself that the border seems to make such a big difference in book awareness (is that a thing?).

  14. BuntyMcC says:

    Just finished The Hero’s Walk for my book club tonight. My favourite south Asian book remains Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things.” And, in honour of Aboriginal Day today in Canada, I’ve gone back to finish reading “The Inconvenient Indian” by Thomas King (whose The Back of the Turtle I much preferred.) What a great list and what interesting choices.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks! I have The God of Small Things, but haven’t read it yet. It’s good to know you liked it!
      I loved The Inconvenient Indian, but, admittedly, it’s the only Thomas King I have read to date, so I may have some treats in store. 🙂

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