Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
Voices of Diversity is another excellent example of multicultural literature by Vanessa Caraveo!
Caraveo was the author of Valiance, an OCA grand-prize winner and one of the best fiction books we've ever read. Valiance is a tough act to follow, but Voices of Diversity does so admirably and valiantly, taking some of the same concepts and applying them to poetry as opposed to prose.
Voices of Diversity is beautiful, deep, and involving.
One of the best things about this book is the consistent and effective use of polyphony, providing multiple voices and perspectives. What's incredible about all of this is that, despite it reading more like a collection of poems written by different, diverse contributors, this book is actually written by Caraveo herself. That's a talent and a skill!
In literature, you always want to be able to distinguish the author's voice and intent from the characters and their stories. Although many of these characters are not named, their narrative voices are distinct from one another, so you can always tell them apart. The other thing that's welcomed is that the author does this without resorting to stereotypes such as using slang or broken English. Everything is handled very respectfully.
The poem titled “The Stranger Next Door” is the perfect poem to start off this book as it touches on some key issues including how our differences and the fear of the unknown incite irrational discomfort and tension. This poem features two voices: 1. That of the new neighbor, Jane, who lives as an “alien” and a foreigner in a strange new neighborhood 2. That of the unnamed narrator who is apprehensive and cautious about Jane while also being curious about her. This poem really hits home that friendships and bonds can form when we set our differences aside and acknowledge what we have in common as human beings rather than what sets us apart. We later revisit friendship in the poems “I Found a Friend” and “Just Me.”
In “Just Me,” both the narrator and the unnamed boy are apparently immigrants, although one insists on wearing boots while the other finds it unique (although a bit odd). It's quite an interesting dynamic, and it's extra cute when the narrator decides to put aside what makes them different and instead focus on the fact that both their parents are from out of the country.
“I Know” is another poem that stood out to us as it effectively employed repetition and anaphora, the continued use of a word or phrase for beat and effect. This poem also seems to imply that the human heart knows right from wrong and that human beings—deep down inside—know that they are one race and one kind. That's a very powerful message to send out into a splintered and fractured world divided by race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, political lines, and ideology.
Another poem that takes the concept of anaphora but uses it differently is “Make a Move” which uses the phrases “make a move now” almost like a chorus. Similarly, the poem “Choices” uses the competing lines “You decided to...” and “I decided to...” in a very dynamic way to emphasize contrast.
Similarly, “The Voice of Acceptance” repeats the phrase “Hold my hands” for rhythm and emphasis.
“Seasons and Times” reminded us a lot of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds and Pete Seeger, itself inspired by the book of Ecclesiastes.
“A Melody in My Heart,” “A Call from a Thousand Miles,” “Let There Be No Divide,” and “Esmeralda” employ a clever technique of shifting different verses to opposite sides of the page, further accommodating polyphony and differences in thinking. “Esmeralda” in particular seems to emphasize that being different can be beautiful, unique, and exotic.
“A Much Awaited Change” is a very interestingly-structured poem that punches home several ideas, perhaps the most important of which is that human beings share the same rain, the same water, and the same sunlight, yet they insist on segregating and separating. There's also a strong implication near the end of this poem that education and continued learning can cull ignorance and bring people together. Unity is a concept that rings throughout this book, particularly in “A Cloth of Many Colors” which views humanity as different parts of the same fabric.
We found the poem “A Call from a Thousand Miles” to be particularly emotional and touching considering that some of us are American immigrants who were separated from our families with the hope and dream of a better life. It's one of the most difficult and scary things one can experience.
“Beauty in Its Best Form” was definitely the poem that stood out the most to us and that we remembered even after several rereadings. No, it's not necessarily the best poem in the book, but it seems to be the one that shares the most diverse and varying perspectives on things like race, religion, language, and nationality. This poem takes at least four unnamed characters with very diverse backgrounds that seem completely contrary to one another. However, again, the book emphasizes embracing differences and, in effect, helping the country to grow and prosper.
This pairs well with “The Beauty in Our Differences” which also employs quatrains, one of the poet's favorite types of stanzas also seen in “Home Away From Home, “Broken Protocol,” and several others.
“Where I Belong” might be the most special and unique of all the poems in this book as it's cleverly formatted in the shape of a star, all the while discussing the starry night sky we all share on Earth.
The later parts of the book celebrate many of the great heroes of diversity including Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Justice Sotomayor, Martin Luther King Jr., Sally Ride, Gandhi, and many others who stepped outside the norm to do the right thing, blaze a new trail, and/or to break a glass ceiling.
This poetry book is powerful and beautiful.
You can check it out on Amazon!