March 18, 2015

We Need Diverse Books

Have you ever thought about the characters and places in the books you've read? Have you ever considered how many characters are white, how many settings are American or British, how many casts lack diversity beyond that token black character or token gay guy?

I'll admit, I've never thought about it excessively. I have noted that there seems to be a standard description for most YA heroines (particularly contemporary ones) and a standard look for most YA love interests. I don't see myself overthinking my book choices in the future, but I am making more of an effort to read books by diverse authors and/or with diverse characters and settings. One of the cool things about books is how much you can learn. That's why I appreciate historical fiction so much.

But the need for diverse books is about more than learning about those different from us; it's about everyone finding a character they can relate to. Now, of course it's most important to relate to their personalities. But if you know a character has had similar life experiences to you based on their appearance or where they come from or where they live, then that can make all the difference.

I'll let the We Need Diverse Books organization speak for itself on its website found here. The purpose of this post is to share an informative speech I gave a few weeks ago in my communications class. I chose We Need Diverse books so my audience could learn about an important topic. I'm including my speech below, as well as the list of books on the hand-out I mention in the speech. I hope you enjoy. :)

Diverse YA Books
Written by diverse authors and/or about diverse characters

Already Released
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Waterfire Saga series by Jennifer Donnelly
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
At Somerton trilogy by Leila Rasheed
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond 
This Side of Home by Renée Watson
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Fire Wish by Amber Lough
The Selection series by Kiera Cass
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (technically it doesn't release until Tuesday, but that's close enough)
The Memory Key by Liana Liu

Will Release in 2015
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Endangered by Lamar Giles
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
Joyride by Anna Banks
Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
See No Color by Shannon Gibney

I'd love to get a good discussion going! Have you read any of these diverse books? Do you make a conscious effort to read diversely?


  1. I love this post. I fully agree with you here. One of the things that made me really love the Lunar Chronicles was in fact the diversity of the characters. Another book that I love and which has diverse characters is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

  2. This is a very good list! I would also like to include the upcoming 'None of the Above' I.W. Gregorio, a story about a intersex girl who discovers the truth about herself when she is 18. It's my current read. I hope that a lot of teens get their hands on it. I think it would educate the next generation about a very special group of people. Maybe also teach them a bit about making more conscious decisions about how they treat others.

  3. Great speech! "Literature is a place to find someone like us and learn about someone different." SO TRUE. And the industry does have a long way to go. But I love the list you have here!

    I admit, one of the things I was most interested in when I set out to write a book was having a diverse cast of characters. It's what drew me to research piracy--ships were marvelously diverse, you had captains of all genders and types. I love historical fiction too--the best part about history (to me) is that when you really dive into it, you get beyond the White/Eurocentric focus and realize that diverse people were living and working and having adventures all through time. We just have to dig a little more to find their stories because they've been ignored or hidden for so long by the mainstream.

    Anyway, again, great speech :)

  4. Not only do I LOVE your post and list, but YAY for your speech! Your speech is great and you did so well.

  5. I'll have to come back and listen to your speech later when I can turn on the audio, but I think this is a good discussion to be having. I think it's great that the campaign is encouraging the writing and trying of more reading options; but I have mixed feelings about the implications of some of what the campaign says and does.

    I won't give you the whole rundown (because no one has time for that ;) ), but one point that's really been sticking in my mind is the focus on "POC" as a diverse qualifier. I'm afraid it invites a fixation on race and/or skin color (which veers into murky territory for me of defining and/or separating/categorizing people according to their skin color), and it doesn't necessarily equate with a "diverse" experience per other determining factors (e.g., socio-economic status, culture, religion, politics, geographic location, etc.) I'm not saying having characters with light or dark skin is a bad thing, but the practice of defining a story as "worth" promoting or not according to the color of a character's skin, potentially with no other contributors, worries me. The resulting implications and the accompanying devaluing is, I think, counter to the campaign's stated goals.

  6. We really do need diverse characters! My mom is always like when are you going to read a book with an asian or african american girl as the protagonist. She also says where's black Katniss or a deaf main character.


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