A Reader’s Guide to Diversity

A post on Linke In by our colleague Coach Monique, in December 2019, spoke about productive entrepreneurs reading at least 50 books a year. I knew I read a little more than that so I decided to keep track between December 7th 2019 and 2020. I was amazed that it was actually 159. To quote Stephen King’s novella Rat, I have always been a “voracious, omnivorous reader”. What does this have to do with diversity or diversely owned businesses? For me, it means learning from others by how they share their experiences.

Keeping track meant a spreadsheet I’ll share that lists the date finished, the book title, the author, and my take away on each. The first thing that struck me was the diversity of authors, genres, and stories. I read for the stories … gosh, I hope there are stories in whatever comes after this! I just want to understand, if not everything, at least as much as I can.

So, the diversity of authors first. The list contains multicultural points of view: African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern, Indian, Pakistani, British, Scots, on and on. Understanding something about another’s experience can be often found in the stories and literature of their culture. Whitehead’s Nickel Boys is an excellent example; I learned from this exploration of his concern in trying to reconcile racial progress from his grandparents’ (aka the 1960s) time to present-day pre-COVID 2019. Something I’ve often thought about as I heard the stories about who my mother was allowed to associate with, versus who I was and who my children have as friends and loved ones. Or the thought-provoking story of the Israeli vs. Palestinian conflict as told in bits and pieces by real people who lost loved ones. Stevenson’s Just Mercy goes way beyond the movie, detailing his Equal Justice foundation’s fight to bring justice to the community of wrongly convicted blacks in the South. I don’t pretend to be fully cognizant of all issues, but the more I read from other perspectives the more I understand and empathize with their concerns.

Then there are the parallels. I read Barry’s The Great Influenza. My dad was named for his uncle who survived WWI in France only to be felled by the flu in 1918. It seems as though history is repeating itself. The diseases, the fear, the research, and hopefully, the ultimate creation of a vaccine for the 2020 flu. But it also touches on the justified concerns of the African American community related to being used like white mice in testing drugs or harvesting cells for research. See The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot if you want to know more about the HeLa cells used in research around the world.

On the other hand, there are a number of rom-coms (romance/comedy novels) on the list. Entrepreneurs need escapism, too! So, I got to experience this genre on multiple continents within a variety of cultures.

There are also the non-fictional titles that specifically address racism, gender identity, immigration, and outsider syndrome. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist; Girl, Woman, Other by Evaristo; or Doshi’s Small Days and Nights. Each has something to teach those willing to listen.

If learning to understand each other is a life long journey, a few books and stories can help along the way.