Malaysian activist Nicole Fong shares her list of must-read books that celebrates diversity

Malaysian activist Nicole Fong shares her list of must-read books that celebrates diversity

Exclusively inclusive

Text: Brent Taalur Ramsey

As readers, books help us discover the stories of other cultures, other nations, other worlds. But, so often bookshelves feature a white-washed list of authors, and characters entirely lacking in diversity

The term "diversity" can often be rather vague; in literature, we're talking about representation, with themes that cover gender, race, culture, sexuality and class, among others. And these stories have never been more important to help us self-learn, reflect on what privileges we may have, and celebrate the diversity of humanity.

This month, we've asked Malaysian activist Nicole Fong, an ardent voice for climate justice and LGBTQ+ rights, to share her must-read books that celebrate diversity. After all, the world is a diverse place—let's all applaud that with books that do it justice.


The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

"This short story holds a special place in my heart because it is equal parts magical and devastating. It left me in tears and in shock at how powerful a short story could be. It speaks about cultural identity and acceptance as an immigrant or being 'the Other' in America. Children of immigrants who struggle with the pressure to assimilate into the majority culture would really connect with this story of wanting to fit into the dominant culture while still preserving your own cultural identity. Please do check out his other short stories as they are equally as powerful and important narratives from an East Asian perspective in the sci-fi, fantasy, and historical literature world that is typically dominated by white voices. You can also listen to LeVar Burton narrate it really beautifully on his podcast here."

SHOP: The Book Depository


Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

"This book has challenged me to assess how I perpetuate ableism and evaluate the inclusivity and accessibility of my activism, such as the physical spaces we organise in, and also the unhealthy, burnout ways we operate in. She writes about the history of the disability justice movement, the importance of accessibility from a sick, disabled, queer, femme, Black, indigenous, people of colour, point of view, how to honour and celebrate femme emotional labour, and deconstructs the survivor-industrial complex of having to present their trauma a certain way to be palatable. Her words validated me by affirming all the unpaid, unnecessary emotional labour I hold, and care work I do as a femme in the relationships in my life, work, and activism. This book makes me want to incorporate a disability justice framework to my activism that centres sick and disabled people of colour, queer and trans disabled folks of colour."

SHOP: The Book Depository


The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

"This is a really easy and impactful book on the body positivity movement and how it relates to social justice, oppression and radical self-love. It is well-researched with analysis and perspectives from a Black, fat point of view, that often gets left out in the mainstream discourse about the role capitalism, racism, and transphobia plays in promoting body shame. It also has accessible toolkits for everyone to use to evaluate their relationship with their body and how the messaging and external factors affect how we think and feel about our body. I would recommend this be paired with bell hooks's All About Love to get a holistic foundation on the power of radical self-love as the foundation of our social justice movements."

SHOP: The Book Depository


This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

"You'll either love or hate this book because it's a mix of poetry, time travel, queer love, and sci-fi all in one book. It's a really fun book because it's written in a series of exchanges of letters between the two protagonists who are destined (or doomed) to fall in love with each other in this intricate future where there is a war between these two main factions. There are words and lines in this book that will stay with you and make you want to fall in love with the words itself. The poetic rage of the book fits in so well with how they present queer love between women which is genuinely quite difficult to find in sci-fi or fantasy. For me, this book pushes the heteronormative boundaries that usually dominate the sci-fi world by showing the endless possibilities of what happens when you combine sci-fi and poetry."

SHOP: The Book Depository


Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge

"If you have been trying to read more books to start or expand your anti-racist discourse because of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, please make this one of the ones you read. It documents in a really accessible way the history and impact of British colonialism on British Black lives. It speaks very boldly to colonial amnesia and pervasive, silent racism that white people perpetuate unknowingly and really forces its readers to reflect on their role in it, whether you are the perpetrator or on the receiving end of this. It also shares an audacious way forward of how we can all make a difference through our actions and how we can be in solidarity with Black lives. This is the kind of thought-provoking, eye-opening and insightful book that I wish was taught in our history and civic education classes."

SHOP: The Book Depository


The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla Varaidzo, Chimene Suleyman, Vera Chok, Daniel York Loh, Himesh Patel, Nish Kumar, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Wei Ming Kam, Darren Chetty, Kieran Yates, Coco Khan, Inua Ellams, Sabrina Mahfouz, Riz Ahmed, Sarah Sahim, Salena Godden, Miss L., Bim Adewunmi, Vinay Patel, Musa Okwonga

"This book really opened my eyes to the power of sharing our stories and voices in reclaiming problematic and typically painful narratives. It is a series of 21 short stories by Black, Asian and minority ethnic voices in the UK that explores what it means to be an immigrant or the 'Other' in a country that doesn't want or accept you no matter how long you have been in the country. I personally felt very connected to these stories where these authors are just sharing their own unique personal stories of how they processed being given the 'Oh, but you're the good kind of immigrant' label. This should be essential reading for everyone to better understand what it's like living as an immigrant, especially during these times of growing anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments."

SHOP: The Book Depository


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