Guest Post: Reading Outside Your Identity and Why it Really Matters by @Natasha_Lane1 #guestpost #diversebooks #discussion #tuesdayblogs #diversity

Reading outside our own identity… A topic that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers but is so important nonetheless! Here’s what Natasha has to say about it.

Some of you saw this title and immediately clicked. Others saw this blog title, rolled their eyes and prepared for the usual.

Well, before you knock this post off as another rant about needing more characters of color (actually we need more authors, too) and the necessity of diversity, give me a minute and let me explain some things to you. Maybe it’ll change your mind about the own voices movement or get you to read an author who looks/believes differently than you.

Okay, to kick things off, I need to let you know I have an issue with the word identity.

Too often in America, when we talk about identity or diversity we limit our thinking to only race, specifically black and white. There are several historical and social reasons behind this thinking but that’s too much for one post.

The truth is identity is not one facet of a person. Identity isn’t just race. It’s gender, sexuality, religion, skin color, nationality, and more. For some people, identity starts at a smaller level than the aspects I’ve listed previously.

I was born and raised in Baltimore and though it isn’t going to affect me the same way as my gender or race does, for me it is a very significant part of who I am.

Basically, Shrek had it right from the beginning.

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So, what does this all mean?

Reading outside your identity doesn’t necessarily mean reading about a character of a different race, though I don’t really see the problem with that and you should definitely do that, as well.

It means reading about a character who may come from a different income bracket, a character who is a different gender or religion (we need a ton more of these) or a different sexual orientation than you.

But wait, there’s more…

Despite what some may think, reading outside your identity isn’t just for white people either.

More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve come across angry readers who are white and “tired of the diversity” being pushed down their throats. Of course, I’m outside of this demographic but, personally, I’ve never taken it that way.

When I read diverse books or about the importance of diversity in literature I think it speaks to all of us.


Because no one can identify as everything.

Yes, in America whites are in a unique position because they’re the majority, the standard.

Let’s be real. If an author doesn’t give too much detail about a character’s physical appearance, most people picture the character as white. I can admit I’ve done this, especially in my younger days when almost all the books I read were devoid of characters of color.

That said, obviously, the own voices movement and sayings like “read more diverse books” are going to play a special tune for the standard.


But spreading your wings can be good for anyone. I was reminded of this while reading “When Dimple Met Rishi” by Sandhya Menon.

If you’re not familiar with the title, you must have been living under a rock for the last six months but no worries, I’ve been doing some strength training, so your rock should be easy work.

Okay, so to sum it up the story centers around two American characters who are of Indian descent: Dimple and Rishi. While Dimple is opinionated and rebellious, Rishi is more reserved and believes in following his parents’ traditions to the letter. Of course, their parents attempt to set them up for marriage and let’s just say things do not go as planned, for the parents or Dimple and Rishi.

While reading this text, several thoughts came to mind:

Now, before all the fans prepare to kidnap me and tie me to train tracks, hear a girl out. As I said in the post on my own site, WDMR isn’t for me the same way Beyonce’s “Formation” isn’t for other groups of people.

Yes, anyone can enjoy “Formation”, anyone can bop their head or shake what their mother gave them to it. It can be appreciated by all but it was written in salute of the black community, specifically black women and WMDR does the same thing.

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It was written for young Indian teens stuck in a limbo of being American while their parents are Indian. It was written for young Indian youth who’ve never seen people who look like them as the leads in any western media, despite growing up in a western country. And though I still enjoyed it and learned from it, no, it’s not for me. Yes, it was written for them.

Does that make sense? I hope I’m doing a good job of explaining this because I know it can be a sensitive topic.

I think what this book did for me that was most significant was remind me (it’s funny how we can so easily forget these things) that race in America is more than black and white.

However, like I said above, reading outside your identity doesn’t have to stop at race. Two other great books which I highly recommend are “Birds of Paradise” and “Life Without A Recipe” by Diana Abu-Jaber.

The author is of American (German and Irish ancestry) and Jordanian descent, giving her writing a unique cross-cultural flair. Because of her Jordanian roots, discussions of Islam (religion in general really) and characters who follow the religion do appear in her writing. Not only am I simply impressed by her storytelling but her work had allowed me to step into the shoes of someone of a different faith and see the world from their perspective. Most importantly, by having Muslim characters in her work, they have been humanized to her readers, particularly if these readers—whether they were aware of it or not—held some hate in their hearts.

Because in so many ways characters are real people.

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Still, I haven’t answered the question. Why does reading outside your identity matter?

Well, for several reasons actually but we’ve somewhat discussed those above such as humanizing marginalized communities and opening your eyes to more than the stereotype.

However, I think digesting material outside of your identity is so important because it’s what takes you from being an ally to a friend.

Natasha Lane

So, let’s hear it? How do you feel about this?







8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Reading Outside Your Identity and Why it Really Matters by @Natasha_Lane1 #guestpost #diversebooks #discussion #tuesdayblogs #diversity

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: “7 Badass Female Protagonists in Sci-Fi Written by Women” by Savannah Cordova #GuestPost #SciFi #Books – Reads & Reels

  2. Thank you for the shoutout, Tasha! And thank you for this great post– it’s really insightful and right on about identity and storytelling. This gets right at the heart of what writing (and reading) can do for us as a community and a country.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I was in fifth grade…and had read every book of fairy tales in the school…Mr. Woods, the school librarian said, “You will always have your favorite books and authors, but if you don’t at least try to read something different, you’ll never grow and learn anything about the world around you. Everything can’t be learned in a classroom.”

    I hear those words everytime I’m in a bookstore, library, or browsing online, and they have served me well. 😊

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You make some really great points! And this is a tough topic so kudos for taking it on 🙂

    I am trying to think of books I have read that are diverse. Only two come to mind right away. First is “First and Only Destiny” which I hated but that had nothing to do with the identity of the characters and everything to do with a bunch of other stuff. The second I am reading right now is “Geekerella” and I am in love with the main male character. Oh I have also read “Fangirl” which has some guy on guy stuff in it so that could be considered diverse in a different way.

    I tend to read fantasy books which include a lot of diversity (tho often with fictional beings like elves) but I don’t really think those qualify for what you are talking about because you don’t learn about different people in real life. I also read a lot of historical fiction ish books (like about pirates and vikings) so that doesn’t really count either. I should probably read more diverse books but those don’t usually interest me, and not because of the identity of the characters but because the books are usually more serious and I like other types of books. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. natashalanewrites

      Hi, there!

      Fantasy books do tend to promote more racial diversity with races like elves, dwarves, and etc. I’ve read some fantasy novels where the fictional races likes elves or dwarves represent blacks, Latinos, or etc. Sometimes authors make it very obvious, other times not so much. If you’d like to read a epic fantasy novel with a lead character of color, I’d recommend “The Waking Land.”

      The main character and her mother are pretty much the only characters of color I remember. However, the author does reference the mother’s homeland where the majority of the population is of a darker complexion. I will say that this story is a hefty one and has moments where it drags on some. Still, there are several authors of color who write fantasy that you could check out including Imani Josey, L. Penelope, and Pintip Dunn (haven’t read any of them personally, just met them at events before and they were nice).

      To address your last point, I 100% agree. Personally, I don’t mind reading the heavy stuff sometimes but everyone needs a break, right? I think the reason diverse books often tackle heavy issues is because they speak to a reality that the author or a certain demographic experiences. I think a book that addresses several issues but is still a relatively light read is “Elanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. She touches on poverty, bullying, masculinity, and racial identity. Yet, at it’s core it’s a teen love story.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I hope my response is suitable.

      If you’d like, I can send you a copy of my sci-fi short “Plugged In.” My current novel “The Pariah Child & the Ever-Giving Stone” is also on pre-order discount for .99 cents on Amazon if you’d like to check that out.

      Just let me know and I’ll send you my email, so you can get the story.

      Happy Tuesday and thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

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