Multicultural diversity is one of the reasons why Australia is such a great country. Harmony Day is a celebration of our cultural diversity and belonging. Celebrated on 21 March, this occasion has been celebrated since 1999 and more than 70 000 events are held in workplaces, community groups, schools, childcare centres, churches and religious organisations as well as Government Departments. Given how culturally diverse Read3r’z Re-Vu is, this is one celebration we could not miss!!!
The theme colour for Harmony Day is orange as it represents social communication and meaningful conversations – the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect.
Some Facts as found from the organisers of Harmony Day
-Australia’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and it is the heart of who we are.
-Approx. 49% of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was.
-Australians identify with over 300 ancestries
-85% of Australians agree multiculturalism is good for Australia and more than 70 indigenous languages are spoken in Australia.
As part of this special occasion, this specific blog post is celebrating the books that relate to, promote or represent cultural diversity. The following are books as recommended by Read3r’z Re-Vu and our friends in the wider literacy community.
Read3r’z Re-Vu Committee
NJ recommends Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim
“A heart-rending story set in real-life dystopian history of China’s cultural revolution. A story of friendship, hope, and freedom… I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Freedom Swimmer, I was attracted to this book initially because there weren’t many books written in English on the cultural revolution in China. During the revolution period of 1962-1976 people living in China had to use ration tickets in exchange for food, clothing and furniture. This was a period where family members turned against each other, teachers and business owners publically whipped and shamed for being “exploitative”, and young students recruited to the Red Guard to spread the words of Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao). Mao Zedong’s words and ideology brainwashed and manipulated a generation of young men and women, putting them through unimaginable suffering, separating them from their families and “re-educating” their ideals; in short, robbing people of their freedom to choose and think for themselves.”
Meredith recommends Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
“Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah. I can’t believe that I just finished a book that took me on emotional roller coaster ride. It’s been well over a decade since that has happened. The tears are still coming. Throughout Autoboyography I was crying my eyes out, squealing with joy, felt like my heart is braking in two and slowly mending again…”
Crystal recommends Who’s Afraid? By Maria Lewis
“This Urban fantasy brings out a mix of Maori Culture and the supernatural. The protagonist is Tommi Grayson, a young Scottish woman living an ordinary life, who stumbles violently into her birthright as the world’s most powerful werewolf. Werewolves are one of my many favourite mythical creatures so it’s no wonder this book captivated me like it did. I couldn’t help but be amazed at how the author managed to blend in street art, music and the colourful parts of everyday life so effortlessly. Tommi isn’t your typical everyday woman & neither is her name, this book takes you on such a journey and I truly enjoyed how Tommi came across as such a feminine character and yet so powerfully adaptable. She has some sass about her but not the overwhelming kind which is why I found her to be such a loveable character & her hair being blue had me pausing while I resisted the urge to go out and buy some blue hair dye. Definitely a book for the girls with lots of shirtless male scenes and blushing moments.”
Read3r’z Re-Vu is a network of readers and host sessions once a month. A time where we take a couple of hours out of our busy schedules to get together and talk all things books!! Rather than a book, a theme is assigned to each session so we can endorse wide reading. It is a reason why our TBR has sky rocketed over the years. Within our network we have made many friends with other readers, bookish entrepreneurs, authors and bloggers who catch up with us at our sessions and are based around Australia!!! Here are some recommendations from the bloggers in our network of readers…
Tien of Tien’s Blurb recommends Laurinda by Alice Pung
“I loved Laurinda as it tells the story of Lucy Lam, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who won a scholarship at a prestigious school for girls. It was absolutely intense as Lucy literally straddled East and West and had to basically adopt a double identity. Hiding the worst of each world from the other. On top of all of this, she has to navigate this new school in which she tried to cruise unnoticed but then discovered its sinister side. The author herself, Alice Pung, is a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants so those aspects of the book felt truly authentic to me. I also felt that the struggle between reconciling East and West to be very honest in this book and is something all us, immigrants, refugees, all had to struggle with on a day to day basis. I’d highly recommend this read to all and I am looking forward to its adaptation!!!”
Lyn of Storyline recommends the PsyChangeling series by Nailini Singh
‘This series is set in 2080 has the most wonderful descriptions of her characters diverse genetics and an ongoing warning of the dangers posed by those that seek ‘racial purity'”
And for the kids… Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
“Every day all over Australia, children are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same or speak the same language, but inside, they are just like you. This story weaves its way across cultures and generations, celebrating the bond that unites us all.”
Both Verushka of Edit Everything and Sarah of The Adventures of Sacakat both recommend When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.
“Seeing an Indian Girl on a cover, someone I could possibly identify with – yes, even though this is YA, it still means something to see myself (at that age) reflected on the cover of a book. Rishi might give me some reservatons but the cover and the book that revolves around an Indian girl, who is trying to forge her own path, is something I identified with.”
“This book game me a warm and fuzzy overload (and I mean that’s a good thing). There are bits of humour sprinkled throughout this awkwardly adorable love story about juggling parental expectations and following your dreams. I loved the positive examples of arranged marriage portrayed in the story. Everything about this book was a breath of fresh air to me.”
Creators of The YA Room, Melbourne Sarah and Alex both recommend When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah and Between Us by Clare Atkins
“We chose ‘When Michael Met Mina’ by Randa Abdel-Fattah and ‘Between Us’ by Clare Atkins because they are both such sensational novels that are set in Australia and they’re equal parts gripping and realistic. It’s s interesting and so necessary to read #LoveOzYA novels with a diverse range of characters, especially protagonists who are minorities. These two novels absolutely blew us away and we need more books like this – books about Australia and for Australian Teens that show what is going on in our own country. We cant recommend these two novels enough!!”
-Sarah and Alex
Vlogger Maisie whose booktube channel can be found on Sleepy Wired Studios recommends Pilate’s Wife by Antoinette May and Emma Vol. 1 (Manga)
Pilate’s Wife: “I really enjoyed this book, story about a daughter of privilege in the most powerful empire the world has ever known, Claudia has a unique and disturbing “gift”: her dreams have an uncanny way of coming true. As a rebellious child seated beside the tyrannical Roman Emperor Tiberius, she first spies the powerful gladiator who will ultimately be her one true passion. Yet it is the ambitious magistrate Pontius Pilate who intrigues the impressionable young woman she becomes, and Claudia finds her way into his arms by means of a mysterious ancient magic. Pilate is her grand destiny, leading her to Judaea and plunging her into a seething cauldron of open rebellion. But following her friend Miriam of Magdala’s confession of her ecstatic love for a charismatic religious radical, Claudia
begins to experience terrifying visions—horrific premonitions of war, injustice, untold devastation and damnation and the crucifixion of a divine martyr whom she must do everything in her power to save”
Emma Vol 1. (Manga): “This volume had a great introduction and the art is very cute as well. I also loved the character interactions. In Victorian England, a young girl named Emma is rescued from a life of destitution and raised to become a proper British maid. When she meets William, the eldest son of a wealthy family, their love seems destined. But in this world, even matters of the heart are ruled by class distinctions.”
Kelly of Diva Booknerd recommends Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.
“This is a narrative that will resonate with Australian readers. A young part Indigenous boy is ostracised by the community of Corrigan, a predominately white town in the nineteen sixties. Jasper Jones is a harbinger of disorder, culpable for crime and leading their youth astray, his white father is an alcoholic who has abandoned his sixteen tear old son. Charlie is a Caucasian young man sharing experience, the town of Corrigan is fuelled by racial tension and exclusion during the Vietnam war era, experienced by Charlie’s best friend Jeffrey Lu and his family, having migrated by Vietnam. Rural Australia prejudice and bigotry is confronting, although Charlie’s white narrative tends to obscure the explicit nature for the adolescent audience. Indigenous Australians are often excluded from our discussions surrounding diversity in fiction and characters like Jasper Jones only further highlight the atrocities of colonisation and the continuing racism faced by our Indigenous population.”
Jessica, Emily & Amber aka The Book Bratz recommend American Panda by Gloria Chao
“The book we chose is American Panda by Gloria Chao! You get exposed to a lot of culture in this book. We learned a lot about Taiwanese/Chinese culture, marriage practices, and language in this book, and it was really refreshing to be exposed to something like that — because we think reading diversely and expanding your cultural knowledge and experience is something that should be important for everyone — and as Gloria Chao says in her author’s note, hopefully there will be more Chinese writers and storytellers coming forth in the future!”
Deanna of Deanna’s World recommends The Last King by Katee Robert.
Ultra wealthy and super powerful, the King family is like royalty in Texas. But who will keep the throne? (The Kings, Book 1)
“I liked the diversity in this book because the heroine was Indian and the author was not shy about talking about her heritage even giving her a obviously Indian name like Samara. Both her parents had very traditionally Indian names as well and she called her mother “amma” which I think is Indian for “mum”. You don’t see many Indian characters in books, so I was glad to see it in this one.”
Finally.. my own thoughts and recommendations…
I was born and raised in Australia. My mother is Indonesian from the Island of West Java which makes her Sundanese and my father is Australian of Irish ancestry. Growing up in a multicultural household can be challenging as one may feel trapped between two cultures but in all honesty, it is an amazing experience of having the best of both worlds. Having the ability to speak both languages (Indonesian with bits and pieces of the Sunda dialect and English) and getting in touch with both cultures is a wondrous experience a lot of us in Australia do take for granted. As an avid reader, one of my favourite themes is fantasy fiction, especially fantasy fiction stories that are inspired by culture – some may call it alternate history, some call it speculative fiction – I just call it awesome. There are a lot of books I have read over the years but just have a few recommendations here.
The first one I want to recommend is Snow, Fire, Sword by Sophie Masson. This was the first book I ever came across in my reading life that is derived from Indonesian culture and explores myths and legends that were told in my own family in West Java!!! This is a story that follows a perilous journey of a Kris (small dagger) apprentice and a Kampung (village) girl as they race against time to discover the heart of an ancient secret: the truth about Snow, Fire and Sword. Set on the backdrop of mythological Indonesia, the referencing to Indonesian culture, food, landscape – even language is so accurate, you can just imagine the fan-girling going on in my house as I was reading this book!!! A very special book as it was a book I was able to share with my Mum, we were forever talking about this book, going back to it and reading extracts that referenced legends.. This is definitely a collectable for me.
Throughout the blog, you would have seen quite a few recommendations. Most recently I read the final showdown of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton. This trilogy is inspired by the Arabian nights tales which are my absolute favourite – stories of the desert – a story with djinn.. swords.. sand.. amazing trilogy really worth investing in!!!
Taking it to contemporary YA now, there are a few books that have resonated with me: I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan, Hate is such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub, and When Michael Met Mina by Randa-Abdel Fattah just to name a few that explore the struggle of cultural identity and our sense of belonging. One that resonated with me that explored Indigenous Australia was Nona and Me by Clare Atkins.
I would like to thank everyone who took part in this post, for being involved in Harmony Day – Read3r’z Re-Vu style and for your amazing recommendations and links to your fantastic blogs. Having beautiful people like you as part of the Read3r’z Re-Vu network makes it such an incredible experience!!!
Wishing you all a wonderful and happy Harmony Day!!
A day to celebrate culture and bringing everyone together..
For more information on Harmony Day, visit: http://www.harmony.gov.au/
Harmony Day special blog post compiled by Annie (Founder of Read3r’z Re-Vu)