Cultural Diversity in Fiction

It is said that fiction increase/improves empathy. How can reading books from diverse cultures and lifestyles help increase our cultural competence, as well as tweens?

There is an interesting article on the topic of cultural diversity in fiction written by Colleen Mondor, Kids of Color and the New American Whitewashing.  Mondor talks about the covers of book having white model featured on them even though the main character is a different race.  In particular she brings up the book Liar by Justine Larbalestier. I didn’t even know that publishers had done this although I had noticed that many covers looked the same featuring a young white female.  Mondor has brought up a very interesting point.  She also talks about her conversation with authors in her quest to see why this was happening.  She got varying answers, such as the publishers didn’t give me any control over my cover to I fought really hard and now I am having trouble selling a second book.  Publishers seemed to be trying to sale to a certain market or trying to make the safe choice.  To me the issue is about portraying the book in an honest light for instance in Liar, the main character is African American so the cover should represent that.  The greatest thing and most powerful thing about fiction is that it allows its reader to completely emerge themselves into the world of the main character and through them experience a new perspective.   In this way someone can experience a completely  different culture which to me  is very exciting.

Here are two excellent books I just finished reading that allowed me to to experience a new perspective:

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis:

This book takes place in the height of the Great Depression it even includes a look in to the famous Hoover Vills.  It

also features the great music culture of Jazz.

Bud makes sure no one calls him Buddy just like his mom told him.  His mother is gone and his life is less then

peachy so he takes his ever attached suite case and him and his friend set off for greener pastures.  Lets just say that

the road was full of bumps.   He mother left him one clue about her past and who his dad might be some flyers with

the name  Herman E. Calloway and various band names.  So after the latest bump in the road he sets of to find

Calloway.  Does Bud make it ? Does he find a somewhere to belong?

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
262 pgs
age 12 and up

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza youth was spent in Mexico apart of the privileged class in the 1930s,  that is until a series of horrible events foreshadowed by blood drawn with the prick of a rose thorn.  The first event : the death of Esperanza’s father on the eve of her birthday.  From there things get worse forcing her and her mother to travel to America with her servants who have set up jobs and shelter for all of them.  Privileged no longer the transition proves difficult for Esperanza but things don’t get any easier in America.  Will Esperanza be able to rise above the obstetrical set before her, one of which being her class prejudices?

This book talks about the repatriation that occurred during the 1930s.  Mexican farm workers that were causing problems by starting strikes were rounded up and sent back to Mexico in some causes Mexican Americans that were legal citizens were sent to Mexico even though they had never been there before.

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