I know when someone talks about diversity, the first things that come to my mind are race, gender and religion. If I am honest the thoughts that immediately pop up are even pretty narrow within those broad categories. White or black. Boy or Girl. Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. At my high school, we were required to read books about apartheid in South Africa (Cry the Beloved Country definitely opened up my world view), books by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as the Diary of Anne Frank, and other Holocaust narratives. Those have stayed with me as what diverse books are.
I was so glad last semester when I took a class on young adult literature where the required reading list included books from a wealth of diverse categories beyond these ones in my mind. Diversity of subject can come through in so many characters and settings. When you get beyond black and white, there is even more diversity and difference. We read books about American Indians, Christian conservatives, rural boys, urban girls, conservative Muslims in Australia, and kids who are transitioning from one gender to another, among the many books we read. We covered poverty and wealth, isolation and inclusion, and other differences that be reflected in many schools and districts.
In addition to these characters with very different outward lives, we also read a collection of books with students who are neurologically different. Mockingbird and Marcelo in the Real World are two of the books we read about youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These books were illuminating for members of my class who knew little about this disorder, and comforting for those who have seen it up close. This is a personal interest of mine and I have since found that in recent years there is a wealth of literature focused on, or even just inclusive of, characters with ASD. Al Capone Does My Shirts, Rain Reign, The London Eye Mystery and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are just a few that have crossed my radar screen and that show all the many sides of this disorder. Along these same lines, El Deafo and Out of My Mind are two recent books that have characters with disabilities that too often are not discussed.