When we hear the word diversity, we often think of race, which is certainly an element of diversity, but it is only a part. I included racially diverse characters such as the Native Americans in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I’m in Charge of Celebrations. Esperanza Rising and Marisol MacDonald Doesn’t Match both feature Hispanic narrators. Grandfather’s Journey portrays Japanese characters. Yo! Yes? and Uptown have African American main characters. However, I do not believe diversity should be limited to ethnicity. Anything that makes a character feel different or apart from others can make them diverse. For example, Divergent portrays characters who are different. Something in their genes makes them diverge from the norm and they are therefore seen as a threat because they cannot be controlled in the same ways as the rest of society. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is narrated by a boy with Autism. His developmental disorder makes him act and think outside the norm. Finally, the narrator of The Perks of Being a Wallflower has suffered a mental breakdown and is dealing with depression and suppressed memories and emotions that lead him to disengage from life. These characters, though vastly different in many ways, are all outsiders for reasons beyond their control.
Diversity can be promoted and celebrated in the library by maintaining a collection that includes diverse characters, whose differences are caused by numerous elements that make them who they are. Having a shelf of African American or Latino books does not make a library diverse. The shelves throughout the library should contain the stories of characters from a vast array of backgrounds, obstacles faced, experiences, social classes and ethnicities. Books featuring characters with varying traits that make them diverse in different ways, should be included in the main collection, features in displays and read in book clubs for maximum exposure and chances of matching the right book to the right reader, so students can find themselves or learn about others in the stories they read.