It’s time for another post about books I read in 2015! Today, I’m talking about all the diverse books I read last year. Diversity in literature is really important to me and I make an effort to seek out books with diverse protagonists.
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.
Here are the types of diverse characters I looked for:
- LGBTQ+ protagonists
- Protagonists who are people of color
- Protagonists who follow a religion other than Christianity
- Disabled protagonists
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. Additionally, I’ve included my thoughts about each book/series!
P.S. You can find a list of the diverse books I read in 2014 here, if you’re interested.
Lonely Planet’s Guide to Pride: 20 Cities and Their Celebrations was disappointing – it billed itself as inclusive of everyone in the LGBTQ+ acronym, but ended up being only about gay guys – but it did remind me that I need to read more LGBTQ+ nonfiction!
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka was a STUNNING comic book with a lesbian protagonist. (So if someone says, “What’s Batwoman without Batman?” you can tell them that they have no idea what they’re talking about. The more you know…) Definitely one of my FAVORITE reads from 2015. I can’t wait to read the rest of the story – I borrowed the next two volumes from the library the other day!
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy and Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson is set at a bizarre Girl Scout camp and has five main characters, several of whom are queer. I wish I’d had this when I was younger!
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery and Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe is probably better suited to older readers, because it’s a bit gory and there are some sexually explicit scenes. Anyway… out of the four main characters, one is African-American and one is a queer woman!
…I’m noticing a trend here and it’s called “I read a ton of graphic novels and comics about queer women in 2015.” YAY YAY YAY. Others include Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – the best book I read this year – and Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash, which I related to SO SO MUCH. Both of those books are graphic novel memoirs of queer women!
I read The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian classic, this fall and absolutely ADORED it. (It was recently adapted into the movie Carol, which was equally good – you should check out both!)
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman was an adorable, gloriously COLORFUL picture book about Pride! Another LGBTQ+ for younger readers was George by Alex Gino – it’s about a young trans girl. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio was a bit average, but I was happy to find a book with an intersex protagonist, because I’d never read one before!
My opinion of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli puts me solidly in the minority here – it was definitely the worst diverse book I read last year. 2015 was definitely the year I realized that I’m just not into YA contemporaries about bland gay guys… and unfortunately, there are a LOT of those in LGBTQ+ literature. I don’t know why I keep reading those books when I already know I’m not going to rate them highly.
Fairest by Marissa Meyer has characters who are people of color! I loved this novella.
Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero by Travis Beacham has an African-American man and a Japanese girl for its protagonists! This was a fun graphic novel prequel to one of my favorite sci fi films.
I read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros for my Intro to Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies class, and we ended up discussing the author’s work in my City of Lit class, too. (She studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.) It’s a great, short book with a Chicana protagonist!
I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson for Intro to GWSS, as well. It’s a nonfiction book about a lawyer who fights to get innocent people off of death row. Stevenson is black, and so are many of his clients – their race often plays a major role in their trials.
All five volumes of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan have loads of diversity in terms of both race and sexual orientation. It reminded me of both Game of Thrones and Star Wars, so I would recommend it to fans of either. I’d also recommend it to people who enjoyed Rat Queens!
Diverse Energies by Tobias Bucknell et al was a great collection of dystopian short stories with diverse protagonists! Lots of diversity in terms of race and sexual orientation here. (ALSO: MALINDA LO WROTE A STORY FOR THIS BOOK. OMG.)
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was a short but brilliant look at feminism through the eyes of a Nigerian feminist. I think it’s SO important to learn about the feminist history and ideas of other nations!
I thoroughly enjoyed all three volumes of Princeless by Jeremy Whitley – yay for black and Asian princesses! I’m glad it was frequently that the (black) protagonist and her sisters were beautiful, because that’s not something I see very often. (Also, I loved that none of the members of royalty were white… WHY is whiteness the norm in high fantasy stories?!)
Aaaaand I’ve saved the best for last! I read three volumes of Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson this year, and they were ALL amazing… but volume two was definitely my favorite. Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel is a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenage girl who admires Captain Marvel and becomes a superhero!
All in all, I read thirty-one diverse books in 2015! That’s not bad. That means 31% of all the books I read last year featured diverse protagonists. In 2014, that number was 22%… but then again, I read far fewer books this year.
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?
P.S. Please leave recommendations for your favorite diverse books in the comments section below… I’m interested in all facets of diversity, but I’m especially looking for some good books with disabled protagonists and protagonists who follow a religion other than Christianity!