Today I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for their weekly feature, Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s prompt is “ten books that celebrate diversity,” so… how could I not link up?! DIVERSE CHARACTERS ARE SO IMPORTANT TO ME.
I love reading diverse books, and I love writing them! I love reviewing diverse stories and promoing up-and-coming diverse authors and… basically just raising awareness about diverse stories? Some of my favorite websites include Diversity in YA and We Need Diverse Books. Aaaaand… let’s be honest, I criticize a lot of books for their lack of diversity or for sloppily written diversity, too: I’m all about improving literature (as well as movies and TV) by including characters from a variety of minority groups.
So, yeah. I’M SUPER EXCITED TO WRITE THIS POST AHHHH OMG. Enjoy!
1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
This one comes first because it’s my favorite book EVER! This novel follows Cam through her teenage years, as she slowly discovers and accepts her attraction to girls – and is eventually sent away to conversion therapy in an attempt to “cure” her of being a lesbian.
My awesome friend Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t said that if he “had to make a list of top ten books everyone should read, no matter who they are or where they live, this book would be number one. Because the world would be a much better place if that happened.” YES YES I SO AGREE. I think reading this book would help people to understand one another better, and to be kinder to each other.
2. Ash by Malinda Lo
THIS BOOK IS SO CUTE. Queer readers like myself just… don’t get very many adorable stories? Or queer female characters who have happy endings? And there is a huge shortage of LGBTQ+ books that belong to a genre other than contemporary. So this queer retelling of “Cinderella” – my favorite fairy tale! – means SO much to me.
3. Adaptation and Inheritance
OMG THIS IS THE BEST YA DYSTOPIAN SERIES EVER. It’s about aliens and government conspiracies… and the protagonist, Reese, is bisexual! There is a love triangle between Reese, her Chinese-American childhood friend David, and her new friend Amber. (And oh my gosh, the resolution of that love triangle… THAT WAS BRILLIANT AND CREATIVE.)
Plus, the book explores the concept of
gender! I always think it’s silly when some fictional alien race that is otherwise vastly different from us has the exact same ideas about gender. Like, there are cultures and animal species on our own planet that have more than two genders, so why aren’t sci fi authors more creative when it comes to portraying gender?
4. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
This is a YA dystopian novel set in Opium, a country that used to be Mexico. It’s about a LOT of things – cloning, disease, aging, longevity, family, identity, friendship, greed, drugs, slavery, and more. OH MY GOD IT’S SOOOOO GOOD AND I LOVE IT. The descriptions are just so vivid. And Matteo is one of my favorite male protagonists ever!
5. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby
UGH I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK. It’s not very well known, but it deserves to be read by, like, everyone. Thirteen-year-old Joey is
deaf, but her mother refuses to let her learn sign language because she wants her to blend in. So Joey leads a pretty lonely life – at least until she meets a nearby biologist, Charlie, and Sukari, an orphaned chimpanzee that he rescued. And Charlie is teaching Sukari sign language…
This is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read about a disabled character. The chapter headings are even labeled with pictures of Joey’s hands making the signs for each number! Also, the plot twist about how Joey lost her hearing – she wasn’t born deaf, you see – was stunning. I DID NOT EXPECT THAT.
This story is about animal rights, too! OH THE FEELS. By the second half of the story I was SOBBING. I’m fairly certain that Hurt Go Happy is middle grade, but it’s written just as masterfully as the best YA and adult books I have read.
6. A Step From Heaven by An Na
This is a tiny, tiny book, but its few pages contain AMAZINGNESS. A Step From Heaven tells the story of Young Ju and her family as they immigrate from Korea to California. Young Ju struggles to fit in while retaining her Korean identity, and must deal with an alcoholic, increasingly abusive father as well.
I think this book does an excellent job of showing how confusing another culture can be – I can’t imagine moving halfway across the world to a place where few people speak my language! Oh, and speaking of language… the novel follows Young Ju from age four until her senior year of high school. As she grows and changes, so does the language: The sentence structure and vocabulary become more complex. IT’S AMAZING. I am in awe of An Na’s skill!
7. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
A black boy and an Orthodox Jewish girl who live on opposite sides of the same street in Brooklyn have never met… until now. OH WOW I LOVED THIS STORY. I haven’t seen many people talking about it IRL or in the book-blogosphere, and that’s a shame, because it’s SO good. I loved learning about Devorah’s life and all the pressures/restrictions that were placed upon her. (I need to read more stories with Jewish protagonists!) Jaxon was fascinating, too: He’s tired of people assuming he’s a criminal, not a sweet, bookish nerd who loves playing with his little sisters.
Basically this book is just REALLY AWESOME. And it’s one of the few heterosexual love stories that held my interest from beginning to end… I mean, most “forbidden love” stories with straight couples are just so unrealistic, right? But there were ACTUAL THINGIES like race and religion that made people frown upon Jaxon and Devorah’s relationship.
8. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
This series – a collection of fairy tale retellings – is partially set in dystopian Beijing! And in this story, Snow White is black! The fourth and final book hasn’t been published yet, but it will focus on her and I’m really curious to see how it depicts her. I just think that’s a very important message to send, right? That the most beautiful girl in the whole world isn’t white, for a change.
Also, one of the main characters has a disability! Cinder almost died in an accident when she was a little girl, and as a result she has a BUNCH of prosthetics. I loved how Marissa Meyer didn’t gloss over this topic, either – one of the main plots in the first book centers on Cinder’s efforts to earn enough money to buy a new prosthesis for her foot, because she’s grown out of the old one.
9. The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
SO MANY DIVERSE CHARACTERS HERE. And so many types of diversity, too! All of the demigods have ADHD, and there’s a ton of racial diversity as well. And two queer characters!
Also, I love that all this diversity is a direct response to critiques of Riordan’s earlier Percy Jackson series. People said that although the series had some diversity, it definitely needed way more, so he wrote the Heroes of Olympus series and the Kane Chronicles, both of which are crammed full of diverse characters. I love that he actually listened to his readers, and didn’t throw a hissy fit about the criticism: I wish more authors (and as-yet-unpublished writers) would emulate Rick Riordan’s approach to adding diversity.
10. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
I read this a few weeks ago and LOVED it! Kamala Khan is a Muslim teenager and the daughter of Pakistani immigrants… and she’s obsessed with superheroes. When a science experiment gone wrong gives her superpowers, she follows in the footsteps of her
heroine, Captain Marvel, and SAVES THE DAY. I loved her attitude, her sense of humor, her struggle to balance her religion and her parents’ expectations with her new life as a superhero. That scene where she creates a modest costume? I LOVED IT. (Also, I loved the scene where she calls bacon “infidel meat”… Kamala, YOU CRACK ME UP. NEVER STOP BEING AWESOME.)
Tell me about your favorite diverse books! Ooh, and leave your recommendations in the comments below, if you’d like: I’m always happy to find more books with diverse characters! In particular, I’m looking for books about queer girls, and especially those who experience intersectional diversity. (In other words, they belong to more than one minority group – for example, Aisling from Ash is Asian and bisexual.)
Honestly, I just want more books about ANY diverse female characters. I haven’t read very many books about girls with disabilities or girls who belong to a religion other than Christianity, or girls who are black or Latina or Asian or Native American or Arab. (Et cetera!) Diverse male characters are nice too, but… I don’t know, I have a soft spot for diverse female characters. ALL THE DIVERSE LADIES OMG.