In recent days, the literary world has been rocked by controversy. At its heart, the controversy involves a book that is, on the one hand, a commercially successful book, currently, 400+ on the waiting list and counting in our library system alone, but one that has also been heavily criticized by writers, librarians, readers, and others as being culturally inauthentic and insensitive, propagating harmful stereotypes, and lifting scenes and images from other works by writers from the community that this book is ostensibly about. However, over the course of the last couple of weeks, the conversation has grown beyond simply one title and one author (and one media superstar) and now encompasses the entire publishing industry, including its marketing practices—which some critics condemn as practically preordaining what books end up being commercial bestsellers—and its acknowledged lack of diversity. It also speaks to bigger questions about personal identity, authorship, and cultural appropriation.
This is not the first time these issues come up when talking books. The We Need Diverse Books movement and #OwnVoices movement may have started with children’s and young adult books, but the current controversy shows that these issues are alive and well in the world of books for adults.
As a reaction to this state of affairs, librarians across the country are assembling lists of titles to read in place of or in addition to (or while you wait for your name to move up the holds list). Here, then, is a list of some fabulous titles that deal with border communities and experiences that many readers may not be aware of. All these titles are available via the Los Angeles Public Library, whether in print or digital format.