5 History Books With Diverse Perspectives

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There are a lot of interesting history books that have been published or are upcoming. It can be tricky to decide what to read when there are so many good options! Like many other book lovers, I buy new books even though I already have to-be-read books on my shelf. Luckily, Book Riot contributors have written about this topic, like strategies for reading books that you already own. If you’re willing to keep adding books to your list though, check out the following five books exploring history from diverse perspectives that don’t follow the dominant narratives that leave so many communities out.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

There’s a common narrative that the Americas were underdeveloped before Christopher Columbus arrived and “discovered” them and that the Indigenous communities somehow needed to be saved by the Europeans that arrived.

This book discusses the Americas before Columbus, and the developments of Indigenous communities. According to the book description, the author explores their feats of engineering, science, and landscaping, among others. It helps to show that the harmful narrative isn’t true.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

You might’ve already heard of, or watched, the Hidden Figures movie starring actors Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer. Well, that film is based on this book.

The story centers the lives and work of African American women who worked for NASA during the space race and beyond – all while dealing with so much discrimination. Known as “human computers,” their calculations were crucial for different space missions. They deserve credit and recognition for all of their contributions. Hidden Figures has helped to make that happen.

You can check out more about these incredible Black female mathematicians on NASA’s website: From Hidden to Modern Figures.

México’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and Afro-Mexican Women by B. Christine Arce

Think you know everything there is to know about Mexican women? Think again.

Often there tends to be a specific image of the Mexican woman – something that happens in other Latin American countries too. This image can, and does, marginalize many people.

Notably, this book explores the art legacy of Soldaderas (women who fought in the Mexican Revolution) and Afro-Mexican women. Including their stories paints a more expansive picture of women’s contributions and what it means to be Mexican.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

This book centers the perspective of Indigenous people marginalized and mistreated for centuries – including by the U.S. government. It won an American Book Award in 2015.

As part of the ReVisioning History series by Beacon Press, it examines history through the lens of the featured community. My reading goal is to work my way through the series and read all of the books. A few are already on my bookshelf in addition to this one, such as An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz and A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski.

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton

African American trans narratives, which have been overlooked by many, are the focus of this book. The timeline is from the mid 1800s to the late 2010s.

It examines the relationship between race and “the construction of and representation of transgender subjects;” how gender was conceptualized with ties to slavery and racialized gender; and much more.

Black on Both Sides has won numerous awards, including an American Library Association Stonewall Honor in 2018; a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction 2018; and the John Boswell Prize from the American Historical Association 2018.