My Top Ten Diverse Reads

Hello!Top Ten TuesdayWith different ethnic groups found around the globe, there is no question that our world is rich with diversity. It both saddens and astounds me, then, that the children’s book industry hasn’t come to reflect that; as of 2014, less than twenty percent of the thousands of books published each year for young readers contained multicultural content – what’s up with that?

With this is mind, I squealed with delight when I read this week’s Top Ten Tuesday {hosted by The Broke and the Bookish} prompt: Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity or Diverse Characters. Before the book industry can change, I believe we need to promote the well-written diverse reads that already exist. The following ten novels are some of my favorites, and many of them have been recently published, making the task of grabbing your own copy all that much easier. Do you have any recommendations that fit the We Need Diverse Books campaign?

Lies We Tell OurselvesRobin Talley won me over with her debut when I read it last winter, and I’m now anxiously awaiting her next release this fall. Lies We Tell Ourselves is an impressive feat of writing, setting a LGBT romance in racist 1959 Virginia. Finding balance in presenting the issues of segregation and bullying and developing the characters of the novel, it earns my thumbs up! {review}

The Boy in the Black SuitThe Boy in the Black Suit was the first novel I read by Jason Reynolds, but I’m determined to make it one of many more. Like Lies We Tell Ourselves, Reynolds’ book has an African-American protagonist; here it is Matt, a teen grappling with his mother’s death and his father’s slow decline. Unlike the previous novel, however, The Boy in the Black Suit is set in modern-day Brooklyn, so it is sure to please any contemporary fan looking for diversity. {review}

To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeThis list wouldn’t be complete without a novel by Jenny Han! Known for her pitch-perfect romances and simple, yet superb, writing, Han has also brought diversity to YA shelves with her duology, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. Lara Jean’s Korean background is not a central plot point, but it doesn’t need to be. Han uses subtle descriptions of tasty Korean dishes and traditional customs to add, not to develop, Lara Jean as a character. Simply put, I’m a fan. {review}

Gracefully GraysonGracefully Grayson, Ami Polonsky’s middle grade debut, is one of the first books to come to mind when I’m recommending diverse novels. It has been a few months since I last read it, but Grayson’s transformation from a timid young boy to a confident girl is still fresh in my mind. Unfortunate as it may be, transgender characters are rare occurrences, so to come across one as well-developed as Grayson makes me one happy reader. {review}

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaI have said it before, but I will say it again: this year’s debut authors are an outstanding group of writers. Even better? I have seen countless examples of these new authors supporting and advocating for diverse books. Becky Albertalli, whose first publication, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, has received endless praise for its realistic portrayal of a gay teen, frequently shares resources for LGBTQ readers. More of the same please! {review}

Written in the StarsAisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars is another diverse debut to add to your bookshelf. Following high school graduate Naila and her fight against her strict Pakistani parents, the book forces its readers to recognize the privileges they may have and doesn’t hold back in displaying the harsh reality of arranged marriages. I have yet to review it, but I promise it is worth a read.

The Great Greene HeistDiversity in middle grade is overlooked more often than it should be, especially with releases like The Great Greene Heist available to read! I’m a sucker for any mystery or con novel, but Varian Johnson’s novel brings a varied group of characters {can we admire the non white-washed cover?!} and subtle, but effective, lines of humor and romance along with the thrill of a heist. I highly recommend it, even with my lack of a review.

Say What You WillIf early reviews of her next novel are any indication, Cammie McGovern has mastered the art of writing about disabled characters, many of which are never given the spotlight in the YA market. Say What You Will brings together Amy, a high school senior with cerebral palsy, and Matthew, her classmate who struggles with OCD, in a touching, if somewhat heart-breaking, story of romance. I read it last summer, but I continue to pass on the title to this day; it’s an incredibly well done novel, diverse characters or otherwise. {review}

None of the AboveI.W. Gregorio is one of the board members of the We Need Diverse Books team, so I’m not surprised that her debut, None of the Above, was so well-received this past spring! I hadn’t come across any intersex characters before Gregorio’s main character, Kristin, so for that alone, I happily recommend the novel. Fortunately, it also has an engaging plot and a relatable set of secondary characters to supplement its strong protagonist. {review}

Five Flavors of DumbFinally, it’s time I revisit Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb, a humorous, well-written story about a deaf teenager and her efforts to bring together the band members of “Dumb.” I can list the deaf characters I have encountered in my years of reading YA on one hand, and Piper is by far the most developed. It has flown under the radar since its 2010 release, but I encourage you to give John’s novel a try. {review}

Have a lovely Tuesday!
B

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21 thoughts on “My Top Ten Diverse Reads

  1. Great list! I’m especially interested in checking out Boy in the Black Suit & Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

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  2. I swear I’ve seen Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda on 80% of today’s lists. I must be missing out on something incredible. I recently brought a copy of Say What You Will and I plan to be getting to it as soon as possible. I feel like it’s going to be a heart wrenching romance and I CANT WAIT!

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  3. I really really want to get around to reading Lies We Tell Ourselves soon!! Books about that time in American history fascinate me, mostly because I cannot even fathom how the government (and citizens) mistreated thousands- millions- of people simply because of the color of their skin. To look at a human being and not see them as such- I just can’t even imagine it! It’s such a terrible aspect of our history, but it’s one that is really important to remember so we don’t repeat it again. Anyways, awesome list! :)

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    • Reading it made me ashamed of our country; it astounds me that those in authority once blatantly mistreated others because of their skin color! Talley writes about the time period with careful attention to detail, and she instantly earned my respect as an author. I hope you enjoy it! :)

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