The FOLD 2016 #DiverseBooks Reading Challenge


So the end of August is rather late to begin a reading challenge for the year, but when I saw this tweet from book blogger Buried in Print, I couldn’t resist. Earlier in the year, The FOLD Festival of Literary Diversity posted a 2016 challenge to read more diverse books. I’m a huge fan of The FOLD and the work they’ve done to promote literary diversity in Canada (see: “4 Reasons Canada Needs The FOLD“). So I’m a bit late to the party, but count me on-board with this challenge!

The FOLD’s 2016 Reading List

  1. A book you’ve had for more than a year.
  2. A book outside of your ‘favourite genre’.
  3. A book you buy at an indie bookstore.
  4. A book by a person of a faith (different from your own).
  5. A book by an Aboriginal author.
  6. A book by a Canadian LGBTQ author.
  7. A book by a Canadian person of colour.
  8. A book by a FOLD 2016 author.

In recognition of the organization that posted this list in the first place, I’d like to start with…

#8 A book by a FOLD 2016 author

I came home from The FOLD with three pretty amazing books:

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz

A hilarious memoir about growing up Muslim in Canada, Nawaz’s book caught my eye with the back blurb about her father saying that the Quran says it’s okay to eat at McDonald’s, but only if you order the McFish. It’s silly and irreverent, but also profoundly honest about the experience of straddling two cultures. Nawaz also created the CBC sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, so heads up if you were a fan of the show.


You Only Live Twice by Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom

A beautifully written, evocative and humorous exploration of the idea of second lives: Joynt’s transition from female-to-male and Hoolboom’s near-death from AIDS in the 1990s. I bought this because of Joynt’s reading at The FOLD, an anecdote about his grandmother’s death that managed to be both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. The book alternates both authors’ perspectives, and while I personally preferred Joynt’s more straightforward narration to Hoolboom’s more abstract ruminations, I loved the interplay between both voices. At times, the writing felt almost like a dance, each writer sharing a piece of his story, then gracefully stepping back to let the other take centre stage. I also love the idea of major life changes such as transition and living with AIDS being the catalyst that begins a ‘second’ life, one that starts anew without negating the experiences of the ‘first’ life.

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

What can I say about this book other than that it is simply beautiful? The book tells two stories: the first is a re-imagining of a Hindu myth of Parvati, her husband Shiv and their son Ganesh. Shiv beheading Ganesh and replacing his head with that of an elephant are from the original myths, but Shraya tells it from Parvati’s perspective as a grieving mother and betrayed wife, and that just makes the story feel so visceral and immediate. I wasn’t familiar with this story from Hindu mythology, and likely Hindu readers will have a much deeper appreciation of the nuances of Shraya’s re-telling, but it’s a beautiful tale nonetheless, and I felt horrible for Parvati.

The second story is about a bisexual man who is trying to reconcile his identification as gay with his growing attraction to a woman. Both stories are aligned somehow, and I’m not sure exactly how, but Shraya’s writing interweaves both narratives beautifully so the book feels like a single story with multiple threads. Shraya’s writing style is a bit beyond my comfort zone, as I usually prefer more straightforward narratives, but I’m so glad I read this. The writing and the illustrations just work beautifully together, and I feel like there is still so much more to it to unpack.

Next Up…

#7 A book by a Canadian person of colour.

This is the perfect incentive to finish Lawrence Hill’s The Illegalwhich a friend lent me a few weeks ago.

#6 A book by a Canadian LGBTQ author.

I picked up a signed copy of Lake on the Mountain by Jeffrey Round at my last trip to Indigo, and again, this is the perfect incentive to move it up my TBR pile!


Thanks to The FOLD for this awesome idea and to Buried in Print for calling it to my attention!

6 thoughts on “The FOLD 2016 #DiverseBooks Reading Challenge

  1. I’m ridiculously excited that you’re joining in. And I’m going to copy your idea of heading with their awesome logo for my second post next week: thank you for the inspiration to present it in such a classy way! I’ve read two of these (Nawaz and Shraya) and share your thoughts on them; the others are new or on my TBR, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about them as you read on! Enjoy all the good words ahead!

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