Diversireads began in 2014 with N, R, A, and K, four queer girls of colour who were unsatisfied with the general bent of the publishing industry’s discourse on diversity. It seemed unnuanced and insincere, particularly with popular blogs recommending novels whose diversity was unconvincing at best, and offensive and regressive at worst, so we took it upon ourselves to read and review “diverse media” and bring them to people’s attention.
While the mod makeup has changed somewhat over the years, our goal remains the same.
How do we define diversity?
Diversity in itself is a loaded term, because it implies compliance with the current hegemonic structure of a publishing industry that is built around whiteness, and heterosexuality and cis-ness, etc. “Diversity” in itself implies a normative (white, neurotypical, able-bodied, etc.) reader who must be exposed to “diverse narratives” in order to broaden the spectrum of their knowledge. This definition does not in any way serve readers belonging to marginalised communities, and the books that are produced under such a mindset are rarely meant for us. Instead, in general, we tend to evaluate books based on three premises:
- Is the representation well-done?
- Is the representation for the marginalised community in question or is it about the marginalised community?
- Does it reduce us to our marginality?
Of course, we’re also human and also fallible and our range of understanding is limited to our own experiences, so we do encourage other readers to correct us if we misjudge a novel’s quality of representation.
We also prefer the framework of decolonising, not diversifying.
Will you review X book?
We do our best to accommodate a wide range of interests, but reading is of course a highly personal experience, and we don’t have the time or the money to read books in which we have no interest. We can promise to consider reading certain books, but we can’t actually promise to read particular books because alas, we’re spending our own money on them.
At present, our books are largely bought out of pocket or as ARCs from Netgalley. I (Mod N) do also review ARCs I bring home from the office (I’m a publishing intern), but as of right now, we don’t have plans to review unsolicited ARCs or novels, simply because of the organizational difficulty, since we live on different continents with different books available, and with different levels of interest in different forms and genres of media. This is subject to change, but this is our current policy.
Reviews are published on a five-star scale, with five stars being an unreserved recommendation and one/zero stars being unequivocal, unreserved dislike. This scale is a reflection of our individual, personal tastes and opinions, and are not necessarily reflexive of our opinion as a group. Reviews are also tagged with the medium, genre, author, title, reviewer, and target audience of the media in question. We do our best to keep up with our Goodreads, but we do also keep personal Goodreads accounts, so it may lag a little behind our main site.
there is nothing really that can redeem the novel for us. this isn’t used very often as a rating, and tbh is generally reflexive of individual frustration with popular books that are lionised as being #diverse and #goodrepresentation when they are in actuality very harmful.
i can see what this novel is trying to accomplish––keyword trying––
often reserved for novels that perpetuate the same oppressive narratives they try to refute. we can recognise the value of an author attempting to tell a story that challenges mainstream narratives, but there are fundamental, structural issues at play within the novel that undermine its good intentions, and it does more harm than good.
i couldn’t connect with this novel on an emotional level––
sometimes it’s a “me” problem and not a “book” problem. we largely look for emotionally nuanced books that pack a punch, and when we can’t connect emotionally with a novel, it’s hard to review. so a two-star novel may be one that gets everything right, but was emotionally hollow. similarly, it may be possible that a two-star novel was beautifully written and emotionally resonant, but its problems outweigh its good qualities
i enjoyed this novel, but there are some problems i can’t overlook––
by and large we liked the novel and may even recommend it, but there were a few problems that might need to be brought up as part of the conversation about it, or there are simply certain things we didn’t quite engage with, whether it was style of writing, amount (and quality) of cheesiness, juvenile writing, etc. many of the problems in three star novels are less structural and foundational, and are more subjective.
i really loved this novel, but there are a few things that may be questionable––
there were a few issues, perhaps with this novel, but by and large they are less structural and do not adversely affect a novel’s emotional core, the strength of its characterisation, the tightness of its worldbuilding, or the quality of its writing.
i unreservedly recommend this novel––
emotionally, some novels may garner a five-star rating on our personal goodreads but not on this blog, but a five star rating on this blog means that, no matter the story, the characters, the worldbuilding, the writing, or the quality of representation, the nuance and complexity and empathy of the author’s approach completely blew us out of the water.
Because this blog is focused largely on reviewing novels that market themselves as diverse or being somehow representative, we try to strike a balance between our own personal likes and dislikes, and how honest we perceive the book’s representation to be. Ratings are generally a synthesis between the political aspect of publishing (i.e. conversations surrounding “diversity”) and a combination of plot, characterisation (agency, motivations, etc.), worldbuilding, and quality of writing.
With regards to representation, our understanding is of course limited to our experiences. With regards to the other elements of a story, reading is, as ever, a subjective and highly personal experience, so our measures of quality may not necessarily be the same as yours. We welcome open dialogue, agreement or disagreement, but we won’t be debating the value of diversity or the importance of stories told by, for, or about people whose stories have largely been decentred and erased from the popular imagination.