DBF 2017: June Sarpong’s Diversify

By Melissa Nyambayo

June Sarpong, author and broadcaster, took to Durham Book Festival last week to talk about her debut novel Diversify. In this empower­ing call to arms, Sarpong tackles the question of whether it is possible to live without prejudice. In each chapter, she puts the spotlight on groups who are often marginalised in our society, includ­ing women, those living with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.

In this empowering call to arms, Sarpong tackles the question of whether it is possible to live without prejudice

Drawing on new case studies and never-before-published research from Oxford University, Diver­sify is an empowering guide to navigating life in a new way. Alongside these inspiring stories, Sarpong gives just six exercises that we can all use as the first steps to beating social division and overcoming our personal prejudices.

Speaking at the event, Sarpong revealed that the idea for her book materialised when she was work­ing on a project in Las Vegas. She described that as a female person of colour, she believed that she had no prejudices. However, she realised this cer­tainly was not the case when felt uncomfortable and scared around a lighting technician she was work­ing with due to his many tattoos and the way he was dressed. Over time she consciously made an ef­fort to overcome her apprehension and struck up a friendship with him.

Sarpong described how in writing Diversify she wants everyone to be able to confront their ‘Other’, be it someone disabled or someone with a different sexual orientation, and help them overcome their prejudices. She spanned from the shocking revela­tions of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein to

Sarpong believes that now more than ever we need a society that can understand and work with each other

the tragic events at Grenfell Tower and stressed that this book is a wider call to arms. At a time when it appears that we are more divided than ever, she wants her book to foster the idea of togetherness and unity. Sarpong believes that now more than ever we need a society that can understand and work with each other.

Finishing the interview with a call for the people of Durham to get together and have dinner with a wide range of people from the local community, Sarpong wants us all to be a part of a social revolu­tion where we all recognise and act upon our preju­dices to create a fairer and more just society.

Image: Harper Collins

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