Armchair BEA Day 4: Beyond the Borders

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Today’s Prompt

It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going! 

YA that Taught Me about Other Cultures

Culture Collage

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Spirited by Nancy Hold
  • Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok

I tend to read a lot of fantasy, so I may not run across books that bring me to other cultures within our own world as often as I could.

These four books, however, did, and the two in the middle are actually right up my alley: fairy tale retellings!  Spirited is a reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast” set during the French and Indian war, where the British protagonist falls in love with a Mohican–and with his culture.  Heather Tomlinson’s version of Toads and Diamonds sets the originally French fairy tale in India.

The Chosen is not technically marketed as YA, but it features teenage protagonists and I think would appeal to YA fans.  Chaim Potok, in this book and others, taught me more about Judaism than I had previously learned anywhere else.

Life of Pi, being a modern classic and  having recently been made into a movie, probably needs no explanation.

YA Featuring Diversity

Diversity Collage


For this category, I tried to pick books that incorporate diversity naturally, books that include characters of different races, genders, ages, or sexual orientations simply because that is how many societies are built, not because they are trying to put forward some particular message about diversity.  I also wanted to pick books that were truly diverse and had a mix of characters of all types–main characters, minor characters, and characters that just walk by in the background–and not books that featured a diverse protagonist and stopped there.  The best things about these books, though: they are all great stories.


21 thoughts on “Armchair BEA Day 4: Beyond the Borders

  1. Lianne @ says:

    I’ve been meaning to re-read Life of Pi; like, I understood it the first time, but I think some of the nuances were lost on me then so it would be curious to see how the book fares in a re-read 🙂

    Great post! It’s always wonderful to explore different cultures and diversity in the books we read 🙂


  2. hazelleevaughn says:

    Wow, you have some really great book recommendations here! I’ve read Life of Pi, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the Lunar Chronicles, and Lola and the Boy Next Door. All great books! I haven’t heard of the others you mentioned though, so I’ll definitely have to check them out! Thanks for sharing! =)


    • Briana says:

      It’s one of those books that’s marketed as different age groups. I bought my copy in the teen section of Borders years ago, but I think you can also find it in the adult section. 😉


    • Briana says:

      I always like when authors set fairy tale retellings in historical periods instead of in random fantasy lands, so Spirited was a very fun book for me.


  3. Jessica @ Rabid Reads says:

    Well, of your four YA selections, I’ve read and loved three of them, so I will definitely have to check out Proxy as well 😉

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads


  4. lissthomas3152 says:

    I enjoyed your post. I looked at a few other BEA book pics and the books mentioned were more biographies or stories of a particular person of another culture and their struggles. I consider diversity to be different races and backgrounds thrown together into a mainstream genre. Like you mentioned Fantasy. The book I remember reading was Otherland by Tad Williams. The lead protag is a female black woman from South Africa. There is a boy with progeria that has his story line and so on. I thought it was really well rounded as far as types of characters portrayed.


    • Briana says:

      I agree! I think diversity is a mix of people of different backgrounds. If a book were, say, set in Japan and featured practically only Japanese characters…that’s not diversity. It’s just a book featuring non-white people. And I think our definition needs to be broader.

      I love fantasy, so I’ll definitely have to check out Otherland!

      Thanks for visiting!


  5. Kristen H. (@bookgoil) says:

    The Lunar Chronicles really highlights diversity in a more futuristic way. I love that series. I loved Toad and Diamonds as well, such a great fairy tale. I’d suggest Ash by Malinda Lo – which is a retelling of Cinderella with some LGBT themes. Great post!


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