I’ve Got A Favor To Ask Of You All + Thoughts On Diversity In YA

One of my resolutions this year was to read more diversely — meaning to read more books by authors of color and/or also featuring characters of color as well as LGBT books. I’ve never been particularly conscious of what I am picking up — like I don’t pick or dismiss a book based on anything like that — but I want to be more conscious because unfortunately these books don’t always get as much attention as they deserve.

It’s hard, for me at least, to tell whether or not the publishers influence what is popular and the trends or if we, as readers, do. Either way, right now there is a lack of diversity and that needs to change. I was looking at my ARC shelf of what’s coming out this spring and summer and honestly? Not much diversity there. (I did just read & LOVE Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before). When I see what is really being pushed and promoted each season, there are only ever a few books by authors of color or featuring characters of color and maybe a handful more LGBT characters. I’ve never really consciously thought about it until recently. I’m 100% certain that the only people reading are not white people or straight people. I’m pretty sure it’s not that there isn’t anyone out there writing diverse characters. So why the lack of diversity? As a reader, I don’t want to JUST read about characters that are like me. I mean, yes, of course I DO want to see myself and relate but that is not the ONLY thing I want to read about. I love learning about lives I will never live, experiences I will never have, cultures I don’t know anything about.

As one of my favorite authors, Trish Doller, said last night on Twitter, “We need diverse books because everyone should see themselves reflected in the pages of books.” And that’s the thing…as a straight white female..I have tons of books to choose from where I will see myself reflected.  Some people don’t have the luxury to easily find themselves the reflected in books when they go to the bookstore. I could play eeny meeny miney mo at the bookstore in the YA section and I’d have a good chance of landing upon someone that looks like me. It’s not that I think readers of every color can’t relate to a main character of a different race or orientation — quite the opposite — but I do feel as though every reader should feel they are being spoken for..and that they HAVE the option of a good selection of books where they are reflected.

Recently, an event (BookCon) that is concurrent to the Book Expo, that I’m going to (I talked about that here), has been called out for their lack of diversity on their panels. Read: all white males. I’m not going to elaborate on that too much but you can read more about it here. The book world has been talking quite a lot about it and rightly so — especially in light of the kind of avoidance Book Con has been doing regarding the subject. There’s been a great Twitter hashtag going on (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) that I highly recommend checking out. Lots of great thoughts!

And here’s the thing, I’m not saying STOP READING WHITE AUTHORS AND MALES and what not. No way! Dear God no! And I’m not saying, “Shame on you if you don’t read more diversely.” I know that I personally pick up books based on what they are about — not who they are written by or what kinds of characters they feature. I will read anything if I’m interested in it and my interests are VERY wide. But I’m at a place right now where I’m really thinking about whether we as readers choose what the publishers put out there/promote/make trends or if they are the ones telling us what to read. And to be honest? I don’t want to just be following what is being pushed at me especially if it’s not what readers want or if it caters to only certain people. So, as a reader, I want to be more conscious especially in light of something like the BookCon debacle, because it’s just a reflection of a greater problem, and this has made me only want to succeed in this resolution even more.

So, here’s where you come in! There’s been an abundance of lists that have cropped up for people looking for books with more diversity and YAY! But I love coming to you guys for recommendations because you know my tastes and I trust your recommendations so I can find something that is a good fit for me! So I would love if you could leave me recommendations for books featuring characters of color (I do read quite a few LGBT books and have many on my shelves so I don’t need quite so many recs) or by authors that are persons of color that you’ve really enjoyed/think i would like! I would also love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    Dropping my recs here for POINTE by Brandy Colbert, IF YOU COULD BE MINE by Sara Farizan, DANTE AND ARISTOTLE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz! The latter two are also LGBTQ, which I know you’re not specifically looking for, but they’re two I’ve really enjoyed.

    • I love when you rec me things! I feel like we have pretty similar tastes!! All of these are on the TBR so YAY. Will be making these priority!

    • I second Dante and Aristotle… it wasn’t my cuppa but other people have loved it and it has won many awards.
      I also liked The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this same topic for a while. Even though I’m white I would like to read books that feature a more diverse set of characters. I really love The Number One Ladie’s Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. The series takes place in Botswana and it’s a lot of fun. Also, The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch features a main char who is half black and half white. That’s quite interesting.

  3. I enjoyed your post and I agree with your opinion. As a black girl that has natural hair (dread locks to be specifics) I don’t even kid myself into thinking I might find a person who looks like me in the genre that I’ve been reading which is mostly ya and paranormal. But it’s a tricky topic. I’ve loved to read for 10 plus years now, and my mother turned me on to it. Naturally it was black authors. Terry McMillan, Walter Moseley, Eric Jerome Dickey. But I realized these were all old people so I turned to younger authors. I read every “gangsta” book available in 2005. But it got tired quickly and started to all sound the same which is pretty much how I ended up in ya. Where I’ve seen like 2 african american authors. Can’t remember them right now though. In ya itself, there is zero diversity. The most diverse I think one can get is the rare brown hair instead of blonde. They rarely even have money problems. On to my suggestions, (sorry it was sort of lengthy) “The Coldest Winter Ever” by Sister souljah, a “gangsta” book about drug dealings but amazingly written. “Sold” by Patrick McCormick. “The Turkish Lover” by Esmeralda Santiago. All very different books that aren’t in that ya genre.

    • This makes me so frustrated FOR you…especially when I literally could go “eeny meenie miney mo” and there’s a good chance I’d land on a book where I’d myself reflected. I hope that the publishers see how badly people (of ALL races) are wanting more diverse YA and take that into consideration!

      I feel this way about LGBT books a lot of the times that so often it’s an “issue-y” book (coming out, bullying, etc) which those NEED to be there but I would love to just see a story where the MC simply just IS gay and the story is about other things in their life. Do you feel that way about the diversity in YA? Like it’s rarely there but when it is they are “gangsta” or maybe issue-y type books (if they even ARE the mc which I feel like so often they will add a diverse side character)? I’m just curious because obviously I haven’t read much out there. Like, for me as a reader, I just want to read a story where the main character is just black or Chinese or Iranian and they just ARE. And obviously I DO want to read about the struggles with race and cultural differences and all because I can’t even comprehend that as a white women and I want to better understand. But I want there to be BOTH kinds of stories ya know? I hope that came across how I meant it!

      Thank you so much for your recs + sharing your perspective! I so appreciate it!

  4. The first book that pops up in my mind is ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman, which I absolutely adored. Features characters of color. It’s a bit dystopian, I’d say. I really liked the series and I definitely highly recommend it. Not sure whether you have read it or not though!

    • I have not read it or even heard of it so thank you!! 🙂

      Also, thank you for your comments lately…I’ve been really enjoying/appreciating them!

  5. I love this line: “I love learning about lives I will never live, experiences I will never have, cultures I don’t know anything about.” I think this is me most of the time when I read books. I never had a normal high school or community or whatnot, and I love reading about all the things I never experienced.
    I’m not sure I know a lot of diverse books though. As mentioned above, Noughts and Crosses by Calorie Blackman. Maybe Falling from the Sky by Nikki Godwin. It’s LGBT and one of the main characters is Amerindian. David Levithan writes a lot of LGBT.

    • Thank you for your recs! I LOOOOVE David Levithan’s books. SO MUCH.

      I think that is what I truly love about reading — I get to experience SO much and I feel like it makes me a better human honestly. I love learning and experiencing!

  6. Well, it’s not YA, but it does hit both author of color and character of color: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. I read it when I was teaching a multi-literature course at a high school one semester. Not only did I love it, but the students loved it too. We had some amazing discussions regarding the book. Seriously, you’ll have a hard time putting it down! 🙂

  7. Sandy S. says:

    I have read some great books lately and a few come to mind Whistling Past the Graveyard, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (a banned book but a favorite of many), The Red Sheet, and The Lions of Little Rock (middle school/ya).

  8. I know another commenter mentioned this series, but Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is what I would recommend. I read her series when I was a lot younger and think I would truly appreciate it now, as opposed to back then when some things may have passed straight over my head. It’s kind of dystopian, although dystopian way before the hype surrounding said genre. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend as the entire series makes for an interesting read.

    • This one is getting a lot of love! Definitely checking this one out! And I really love reading dystopian books that were out before it got trendy so this seems like a good fit for me! Thank you for your input!!

  9. Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe is a good option. I know you said you’re not looking for LGBT recs as much as characters of colour, but the two main characters here are Mexican-American,which I haven’t come across before in a YA book so I think that’s pretty diverse. One of the characters does have issues with his roots as he feels he’s not a ‘true’ Mexican so in that respect I’d have to recommend it.

    • I got this one out from the library last month but suck at time management so I had to take it back!! This one is high on my list so thank you for further convincing me! Sounds like a great read and I’m so happy this one has gotten so much love!

  10. I still somewhat new to your blog but here is some books I read: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN, DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS by Randa Abdel-Fattah and SNIP SNIP REVENGE by Medeia Sharif.

  11. I was just going to tweet at you so I didn’t have to open my laptop (hate blog commenting on phone) but then decided that would be too many tweets and you probably wanted all the recs in one place. 🙂

    I did mention Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunter series on Twitter. A Coalition of Lions is the book the Ethiopian parts begins with. (I skipped the first book in the series, The Winter Prince, because it creeped me out.)

    Others: Endangered and Threatened both by Eliot Schrefer (Contemporary YA), Mare’s War by Tanita Davis (or anything else she’s written-Historical YA), The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (Contemporary YA), American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Graphic Novel, also Boxers & Saints), Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier (paranormal YA but not your typical paranormal), House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier (YA/Adult crossover Fantasy), Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow (YA Fantasy-great female friendship story in this too)

    I’m really looking forward to reading Pointe by Brandy Colbert as soon as I can get my hands on it. I’ve heard great things. And I can’t wait for Elizabeth Wein’s new one, Black Dove, White Raven, but that one doesn’t come out until next February. 🙁

    • You are a recommending machine! Oh my goodness I LOVE YOU! THANKS! <3

      I really, really appreciate you taking the time to type these all out for me!!

  12. I second Sherman Alexie, and Also suggest Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

  13. I second the rec for IF YOU COULD BE MINE because I found the insight into life in Iran soooo fascinating. SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE was a really good read and while the MC is not a POC, she is blind. I think that all variations of physical capabilities should also be included when speaking about diversity. Kids with physical limitations or handicaps should also see themselves reflected in books. On that same vein, OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper is a good one, as well. Great idea for a post – I’m getting some good recs!

    • I definitely agree with you! I think sometimes my brain always go to race when I think diversity for some reason but you are ABSOLUTELY right and now I have even more books to seek out! Thank you so much for your recs + thoughts, Kate!

  14. Great blog post! It really is an important thing and I can relate with a lot of what you said. (White female and all that)

    Now I hope I don’t recommend anything you’ve already read, but I’m just thinking of books off the top of my head here.

    The Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson is a great book about a dystopian version of Brazil, Legend by Marie Lu is another great dystopian book. In other genres, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is a book I really love, and Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac is a great book about Navajo Marines in World War II.

    Hope this could help!

  15. – Any of Malinda Lo’s books.
    – Graceling series by Kristin Cashore (specifically FIRE).
    – Legend series by Marie Lu.
    – UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan.

    Julie Kagawa is an author of color, and her writing kicks ass.

    I recently bought POINTE by Brandy Colbert but I haven’t read it yet, I keep hearing amazing things about it.

    • Oh and The Curse Worker series by Holly Black!

    • Thank you for these recs!! The only one I’ve read is Legend so I’ll def be checking all of these out. I’ve been wanting to read Pointe. Gotta get my hands on it!

  16. Good points here! I don’t really look to diversify my reading because I just read what I want, regardless of how a character looks. Now, I may stay away from some topics (namely LGBT) not because they don’t interest me or because I don’t want to learn more, but because it may not interest me. Maybe it’s narrow-minded, but there are several topics I stay away from due to disinterest. Besides the point though. I know someone up there mentioned Whistling Past the Graveyard – I second this rec! It’s not something I would have EVER picked up (Southern racism is one of those topics I like to avoid like the plague) but I absolutely loved it. This may be out there, but Girl of Fire and Thorns, to me, was diverse (I felt like the characters had a Middle Eastern background). If you like Julie Kagawa and/or vampires, her Blood of Eden series features an Asian MC (who is awesome btw). Good luck and kudos to you for wanting to diversify your reading!

    • Exactly! I’m the same way. I just read based on if I’m interested in the story and, like you, there are certain things I just may NOT be interested in. I don’t think it’s narrow minded!

      Thank you for the recs — really interested in Whistling Past the Graveyard!

  17. The first books that popped into my mind are pretty old…The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. When trying to think of any current books that fit these requirements I came up kind of empty. I wonder if there really is a void in publishing right now or if I’m just not seeing those books (as I follow mostly straight, female bloggers who may tend to gravitate toward the same.) Thought-provoking convo! I’ll be following this post to get some ideas for myself!

    • I feel like I read The House of Mango Street in school back in the day! Maybe time for a reread now that I’m older and hopefully wiser! Thanks for the recs!

      It’s so hard to tell what the issue is with it all! Does it come from the publishers? Is it that most readers don’t want these things? And I definitely do think personally what you said about maybe it’s also WHO we follow who is covering these books? That could definitely be some of us not seeing the coverage.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  18. Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix is a wonderful fantasy novel you might want to check out. Also, Kashmira Sheth has some great books set in India. Her historical fiction novel Keeping Corner was amazing.

    • I read Silver Phoenix a while ago and I agree..very good book!! Haven’t heard of Kashmira Sheth so will be checking her books out! THanks!!

  19. I just read “I See London” by Chanel Cleeton which features MC who are Lebanese and French. It’s set at an international college much like Anna & the French Kiss, although I enjoyed it much more than that book. I recommend it and would love to know what you think of it.

    I’m looking to get into LGBT books as well. Any recommendations?

    • Ooh thank you for this rec! This seems very much like a book I would like (also bc I LOOOOVED Anna so my ears perked up for sure haha).

      Here are some that I’d recommend:

      Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (this book made me WEEP. It’s just brilliant and well written and OMG).
      Far From You by Tess Sharpe (could not put this down!)
      The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi (I liked this one but didn’t LOVE because of something at the end and how it was handled but many people LOVED it + I would be really interested to hear what you think!)
      Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green (hilar!)
      What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson (underrated!)

      I haven’t read these but they are high on my priority list: The Miseducation of Cameron Post & Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble,

      • Thank you so much for the recommendations! I’ve added a few to my wishlist! 🙂 Let me know how you like “I See London.” I truly think it’s better than Anna & the French Kiss! 🙂

  20. I recommend Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuhen

  21. When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds, AA Contemp read which was not stereotypical and there’s family feels involved.

  22. Putting Make Up on the Fat Boy by Bill Wright; ANYTHING written by Octavia Butler, seriously her writing is phenomenal; NW by Zadie Smith; Coe Booth’s books and more of course, but those are the ones that pop out to me most readily.

  23. I SO agree with this post. I love reading books about people of other cultures/races because I always seem to learn something from them. Since I am also a straight white female, I often feel out of tune with other cultures’ traditions, but living through book characters helps me overcome that. 🙂

    One multicultural novel I recently finished and ADORED is A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman, which takes place in India and is told in gorgeous verse. Some that are on my Goodreads to-read list but not on yours (yes, I checked) are The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson and The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

  24. I know that this is a particular problem in YA. One of my reading resolutions was reading more diversely as well and I’ve been successful so far but all of the diverse books I’ve been reading have been adult novels. I’ve really struggled to find YA diversity (in terms of race and ethnicity more so than sexuality as you also pointed out). With that in mind my recommendations can only be adult novels – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, and Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. I think all three of these books could appeal to YA readers. My single YA recommendation is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. I’ll definitely be checking out more of the YA recommendations from the comments!

  25. I admit I’m bad about not having much diversity in what I read. I grab books based on if the story appeals to me, and a lot of times I end up with white female MCs. You’ve actually read most of what I want to mention here. But I don’t see a review for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. The MC and her sisters are half Korean and I loved how Jenny incorporated some of that culture into their lives. That book would be right up your alley! But I feel like maybe I’ve seen you tweet about it, so maybe you’ve read it already. 🙂 Also, not sure this one counts as a POC MC, due to Karou having an unclear background, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone is set in Prague and the culture is very present. I don’t see that on your review page, and it’s maybe more fantasy than you usually read but worth a try!

  26. Where to start? For LGBT, read Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily danforth. I second Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. Lisa Yee is another great one, and Malinda Lo as mentioned. For adult, I’m a huge fan of Ruth Ozeki, especially A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING.

  27. Great Post! I have recently become more conscious of diversity (or lack thereof) in my book selections. No recommendations, but I’m following your comments! I have a few on my TBR list that I wrote about here – http://guninactone.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/reading-outside-the-box/. Noughts and Crosses, If I Ever Get Out of Here, and Gilded.

  28. I like books about hyphenated Americans – authors like Oscar Hijuelos, Cristina Garcia, Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri. I like the topics of adjusting to the US, immigrant parents, cultural differences.

  29. If You Come Softly by Jaqueline Woodsen. I have read this a couple times and it is amazing. Pretty short read. She is a woman of color who has diverse characters. Great post, BTW!

  30. I love this post and all the similar discussions I’ve been seeing lately. In terms of recommendations, I took a course in Library Science school two years ago called Youth Lit for a Diverse Society that allowed me to read a few books that might be what you are asking for:

    A Step From Heaven by An Na (Korean American)
    Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (cerebral palsy)
    Rules by Cynthia Lord (autism)
    Does My Head Look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Islamic culture)
    Luna by Julie Anne Peter (LGBTQA)
    Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (multi-cultural)
    Jericho series by Sharon M. Draper (multi-cultural)
    The Agency series by Y.S. Lee (Asian culture in Victorian-era London)
    Monster by Walter Dean Myers (African-American)

    Happy reading!

  31. I definitely agree with your opinion! It is kind of concerning that the majority of popular books lack diversity. It’s great that you putting a concious effort into picking up books with colour!

    I have a couple of recommendations. Some of these look more into different social groups and classes, which fits into diversity for me.
    Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
    You Against Me by Jenny Downham
    Burn Mark by Laura Powell
    Willow Tree and Olive by Irini Savvides

  32. 1) The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (about a group of young Japanese ‘picture brides’ who sailed to America in the early 1900s to become the wives of men they had never met and knew only by their photographs)
    2) When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka (about the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II)
    3) The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistani author)
    4) The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi (Indian author; book is about an Afghan woman immigrant in Denmark)

  33. Loving all of these recommendations! *beefs up to-read list* Thanks for linking to my column. 🙂

  34. Try out Malinda Lo (if you haven’t already)! I read her Cinderella re-telling Ash and loved it!

  35. Hey, love your blog! I’ve been reading it for… a few months now, I think. Since fall? But I’ve been too shy to comment before. 😛 NO MORE!

    So, recommendations. I actually have a whole shelf on Goodreads for “diversity-in-literature” because it’s important to me too, so let me check.

    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
    A Step from Heaven by An Na
    Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
    Boxers (and Saints – this is a duology) by Gene Luen Yang
    Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
    Ash by Malinda Lo (this is also LGBTQ+ and YAY FOR QUEER FEMALE CHARACTERS – it’s disappointing to see queer representation be mostly gay guys, then a little bit of lesbians, and then bi/pan/trans/etc peeps get like 1% of those books)
    Um… also, Lo’s book’s “Huntress,” (sequel to Ash) “Adaptation,” and “Inheritance” (these last two are another duology) have Asian characters (who are also LGBTQ+). But I haven’t read them yet. They’re supposed to be good, though.

    Aaaaaand Middle-Eastern books!
    Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
    Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
    Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
    Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

    And I know you were looking for more ethnically diverse books rather than LGBTQ+ books, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth was AMAZING.

  36. Oh oh! I forgot! Under Asian/Asian-American recs, I meant to list Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen. It’s an immigrant’s memoir based around food, and how American and Vietnamese food are very different and just FOOD. This book was so well-written and then I was very hungry.

  37. I agree that there should be more diverse books out there, or maybe it’s my fault since I’m probably not looking enough? … but yeah, I’ve been reading young adult books since I was in 7th grade (I’m now in 12th grade) and the majority of the books I’ve read have white or mexican protagonists. I’m Filipino and it would be really awesome if I got to read a Filipino protagonist in a young adult book. Great post!

  38. Alexis Andrade says:

    OK! so I really appreciate this post. Diversity among YA is not as common as I would like. But thankfully I found this tumblr blog that I think you would like
    It’s called diversityinya
    check it out!(:

  39. So I know that you primarily read YA/Adult, but I just thought I would throw out One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia– it’s historical fiction that represents a different side to the Civil Rights Movement, and while it is MG fiction the narration and style of writing is just refreshing and lovely.

    Also, if you haven’t read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, I’d definitely add that to your list!


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