Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity

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.

the miseducation of cameron postI 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 ashlist 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

inheritanceTHIS 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?the house of the scorpion

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…

hurt go happyThis 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 a step from heavenretaining 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 STORYI 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 like no otherDevorah’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.scarlet

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!

the house of hadesAlso, 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, ms marvel no normalher 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.

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, LGBTQ+, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity

  1. GREAT RECS ❤ Ash is sitting on my pile ready to go and I cannot WAIT to read it. Some of the others I haven't heard of, but they should totally be getting more attention by the sound of it. YA still definitely needs to be more racially diverse.

  2. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. Omg why haven’t I looked up The Miseducation of Cameron Post in my library?? iT’S THERE AND OMG, ENGIE, I’M GONNA RESERVE IT AND READ IT SOON. *flails* I see you talking about that one so much but for some weird reason I hadn’t googled it yet. OH OH and I also reserved A Step From Heaven. And I want Love Like No Other soooo bad but my library doesn’t have it yet. xD HEHE. So basically *adds all these books to TBR*

  3. This was such an awesome list, Engie. I’ve read the lunar chronicles and Ash and several others and I need to get around to everything else on this list. Hmm, you might like Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton? It’s a really underated book, but so good, about a girl (who’s straight, sadly) who’s mother has aids and she has to deal with a whole lot of crap and she’s brilliant, and I just like it a lot, okay. And Brown Girl in the Ring doesn’t have queer characters (at least, they’re not the focus) but it’s about caribbean culture with a teenage mother in post apocalyptic canda (gosh, what a mouthful) Anyway, thanks for the list!

  4. SpunFromInk says:

    If my TBR wasn’t already full of amazing books already, it certainly is now! I really needed the kick in the butt to go get her library card renewed, so thank you so much! I was also just super happy to see Ms. Marvel on here. I have the Marvel Unlimited app, and every time I see they’ve released a new one (It’s a six-month wait between their actual posting and release for MU readers) I get all giddy and read it as soon as humanly possible. Thanks for taking the time to share all of these and your thoughts on them!

  5. YES TO DIVERSITY! And yes to the Heroes of Olympus series! Like you, this week’s TTT is a topic close to my heart, that’s why I was so thrilled when I learnt about it. And I’m glad so many others seem to be taking closer inspections on what they read because of this prompt. Fantastic selection! Among these, I really want to pick up Ms. Marvel soon.

  6. Mo says:

    Just off the top of my head, two books about black girls that I’ve really liked are Mare’s War (about a black WAC in WWII) and Lies We Tell Ourselves (integration era interracial lesbians).

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