This is my final end-of-2014 wrap-up post, everyone! The next post will be a looking-ahead type of post in which I discuss my bookish goals for 2015, and after that I’ll be back to my regular programming.
Anyway. Today I’m recapping the diverse books I read last year! Diversity and representation are really important to me, so I thought I should tally up the diverse books I read and talk a little bit about them!
Figuring out how many I read was pretty easy, actually. Throughout 2014, I used Goodreads to categorize everything I read, including my diverse reads: They’re tagged as “diversity-in-literature.”
What counts as a diverse book, though? I decided to add books to my “diversity-in-literature” shelf if and only if they featured a diverse protagonist – or, if the book was narrated by several people, at least one diverse protagonist.
Let’s use the example of LGBTQ+ characters in literature, since I’m gay. I’m really, really not interested in seeing characters like me stand on the sidelines of someone else’s story. (Ooh, alliteration. Niiiiiice.) I’d much rather read about queer people as the heroes of their OWN stories. So by this logic, books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (gay friend), Lola and the Boy Next Door (gay dads), Fangirl (gay minor characters), and City of Bones (gay friend again) didn’t make it onto the list.
Anyway, here’s the full list of types of diversity I looked for:
- LGBTQ+ protagonists
- Protagonists who are not white
- Protagonists who follow a religion other than Christianity
- Disabled protagonists
So let’s get started! The following books are NOT listed in the order in which I read them – instead, they’re grouped by author, genre, subject matter, et cetera. In addition, I’ve provided short comments about my opinion of each book/series. Enjoy!
I FINALLY read Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series last year because the final installment was released in October! Although I struggled to get through the first few books, my efforts definitely paid off and I loved the middle/end of the series. The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, and The Blood of Olympus feature Latino, Native American, Chinese, black, and queer characters. I’m really proud of Riordan for realizing that his earlier series (Percy Jackson) was not all that diverse… and then doing something about it.
In January, I read two books by Randa Abdel-Fattah: Ten Things I Hate About Me and Does My Head Look Big In This?. Both books were about Muslim girls living in Australia. (Yay for YA novels not set in the USA!)
That winter, I also read the first three books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. They’re set in dystopian Beijing, and I’m so excited to read Fairest in just a few weeks and Winter this November!
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson was a nonfiction book told in verse, about the 1955 lynching of a African-American teen. I cried.
I read several of Gene Luen Yang’s books this year! He’s written and illustrated a bunch of graphic novels with Asian-American protagonists. In 2014, I read The Eternal Smile (co-written with Derek Kirk Kim), Boxers and Saints, Level Up, and The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew).
I also read Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim, which was about a trio of twenty-something Asian-American friends trying to navigate adulthood and life in general.
E. Lockhart’s Fly on the Wall was about an adorably geeky Korean-American girl who loves to draw superheroes. It’s also a modern version of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis!
Malinda Lo’s Ash was by FAR the best book I read in 2014! Love, love, LOVE that book. I already loved the fairy tale “Cinderella,” so… queer Cinderella? OH MY GOSH YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. This had beautiful writing, too.
I also LOVED Lo’s Adaptation and Inheritance – dystopian thrillers about aliens and bisexual characters and a love triangle that was actually written well. (And resolved perfectly. I won’t post spoilers, though, so you’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself!)
I read Geography Club by Brent Hartinger during summer vacation, and it was OK. Didn’t make me fangirl or anything, though. It’s about a school GSA.
I began reading David Levithan’s books this year, and read three of them. WHICH IS THREE MORE THAN I SHOULD HAVE READ. Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) all received two-star ratings from me. Honestly, I don’t know why I thought I’d like that last book, since I’m not a fan of either author. IT MADE ME CRINGE WITH ITS STEREOTYPES, PEOPLE. But I’m not sure whose sections made me cringe more.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio and El Deafo by Cece Bell were middle-grade books about kids with disabilities/other physical problems. They were cute and, well, diverse, but I can’t honestly say they made much of an impression on me.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie was AWESOME. Very sad, though. It’s a collection of short stories about life on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state.
Katie O’Neill’s Princess Princess was a very, very cute webcomic about how one princess rescues another from a tower… and then they fall in love. So much cuteness!
Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming was a beautiful autobiography told in verse. Highly recommended!
I read Amélie Sarn’s I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister not too long ago, and it would probably be a good idea for you to read now, in light of the Charlie Hebdo attack. (It’s about Islamophobia in France.)
Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks was… well, if I’m honest, it wasn’t that great. Did they think up the plot while they were high? Because it was really weird. Anyway. One of the narrators was Asian-American.
Una LaMarche’s Like No Other was a SUPERBLY-written novel about the love story between a black boy and an Orthodox Jewish girl. I don’t normally enjoy reading about romance, but THIS WAS SO ROMANTIC. And realistic, too. Their relationship wasn’t always perfect, which I appreciated. I think too many YA books gloss over that kind of thing.
Raina Telgemeier’s middle-grade graphic novel Drama was a cute story about two queer brothers and their friends.
Orange by Zhang Bin was about a Chinese teenager who tries to commit suicide. Very sad stuff.
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay was about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. I think maybe I should read the original version, too.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan was a graphic novel about an Asian family that immigrated to the United States and… fought monsters? Or something like that? IT DIDN’T HAVE VERY MANY WORDS SO IT WAS DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING.
Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers series was FANTASTIC. One of its protagonists was Latina, and pretty much everyone on the team was super queer. It was great. If you like Marvel superheroes, you need to try these books.
If you’re looking for LGBTQ+ children’s books, I recommend I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. It’s about a little girl who is transgender, and is loosely based on the life of one of its authors. (Who is still only about thirteen, I think? Wow. I wish I’d been published at that age!)
And last but definitely not least, The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff was a beautifully illustrated graphic novel set in China. Oh my god, the watercolor pictures were amazing! And the story was, too – it’s about a girl who is wanted dead and alive.
All in all, I read forty-five diverse books in 2014, which is a decent amount. I read 203 total, which means that approximately twenty-two percent of the books I read last year featured diverse protagonists. Not bad!
I would like to increase that figure, however. My 2015 Goodreads reading challenge goal is, once again, one hundred books – so I’d like to read at least fifty diverse books this year. That way, if I only manage to read one hundred(ish) books in 2015 (which is totally possible, because I’ll be attending college full-time in the fall), at least half of those books will be diverse.
And if I end up reading more than one hundred books, then, well… I’ll just try to adjust the number of diverse books accordingly.
I have one more thing to say, and then I’ll wrap up this post: I need some recommendations. Not for LGBTQ+ books, though, because I can handle that on my own – my to-read list for those books is huge!
Anyway, I would love recommendations for books with:
- African-American protagonists
- Latino protagonists
- Protagonists who are some sort of minority in their country (for example, Chinese-Candians – I read a lot of books about people of different races living in the USA, but absolutely none about, say, non-white people in the UK)
- Disabled protagonists
- Jewish protagonists (especially if it’s not a Holocaust story – my brother and I studied WWII for an entire YEAR a few years ago, and this included reading a bunch of books, so I’m looking for books with Jewish characters in the modern world, please)
- GRAPHIC NOVELS WITH DIVERSE PROTAGONISTS!
Your turn! Tell me: What diverse books did you read last year? (And which were your favorites?) Which ones would you like to tackle this year?