Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is there multiculturalism in YA Lit?

Well, of course there is. But are we making the most of this--and encouraging publishers to offer teens more variety--by reading and showcasing books written by and about nonwhite characters? For the most part, the answer is sadly no. Black-Eyed Susan has issued a challenge for those of us who enjoy YA lit: Add some color. Commit to reading and reviewing YA literature by and about characters of color. We want to be more than the McBook of the month. We want substantive inclusion.

From now until August 30th, how many multicultural books will you read and review on your blog?

I'm trying hard to take the pressure off myself for numbers of posts, so I'm not committing to a number, but I will commit to a 1:1 ratio of multicultural to monocultural books in my reviews for the month of August. Will you join me?

Susan has put together a great book list to get us started (and have I mentioned her giveaway? No??? Go see!). I haven't heard of a lot of these, and I resisted the urge to look them up before bolding the titles I've read/reviewed and putting a # next to the titles that are already on my list. Which of these have you read? Do you know of any titles that should be added to the list?

Susan’s Unofficial List of Great YA by or About Women of Color:

1. When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune by Lori A. Williams
2. Every Time A Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia
3. No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia
@4. Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
@5. If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
6. The House You Pass On The Way by Jacqueline Woodson
7. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
@8. From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson
9. Sold by Patricia McCormick
10. Heaven by An Na
11. The Parable of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
12. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
13. Persepolis by Majane Satrapi
@14. The Rock and The River by Kekla Magoon
15. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
16. Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
@17. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
@18. Down To The Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole
19. Don’t Get It Twisted by Paula Chase
20. Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson
@21. Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper
22. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake
@23. Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
24. Does My Head Look Big In This? By Randa Abdel-Fattah
25. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
26. Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
27. The Meaning of Conseulo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
@28. In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
29. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
30. First Part Last by Angela Johnson
31. Pemba’s Song by Marilyn Nelson
@32. Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
@33. M + O 4EVR by Tonya Hegamin
@34. Lucy The Giant by Sherri L. Smith
35. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
@36. Throwaway Piece by Jo Ann Hernandez
@37. White Bread Competition by Jo Ann Hernandez
38. Across A Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande
39. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
40. Ash by Malinda Lo


  1. Sadly I've only read three of these. Although I'm happy to say more of them are on my wanna read list on Goodreads! I will just move them up sooner. Where are Return To Sender by Alvarez, My Life as a Rhombus by Johnson, When the Black Girl Sings by Wright, Locomotion by Woodson, and Dope Sick by Dean Myers. I think they should be on the list too.

  2. I also recommend Bali Rai, a British YA author who captures the multicultural scene of London.

  3. Hi KB,

    I can add those. I tried to stick to those I've read and I wanted to leave room for additions. I didn't add Locomotion simply because I had multiple Woodson already and I stuck with books with female leads.

    In the near future, I'll put together a list of good titles with solid male leads. Magoon was my only exception with a male lead.

    I spent a good part of last year and this year trying to balance my reading with male leads.

    I want to read Return To Sender. We just got Black Girl Sings recently during our drive. Did I get your box? I apologize if I did and didn't thank you. My assistant processed our last donations.

    I had a death in the family and haven't been to the library.


  4. KB, I assumed some of those weren't on there because she was focusing on girls/women for the list--but several of the books you mentioned are in my pile!

    Thanks, Pussreboots, I love books set in contemporary London. Wonder if we can get them in the U.S.? I'm going to look.

  5. A 1:1 ratio is great. I loved Return to Sender.

  6. I think you would love this post:

  7. I was surprised that neither American Born Chinese or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian were on the list.

  8. Hi Literature Crazy,

    In the orginal post post,I wrote that the list features YA by or about women of color. I run a community library in an all-girl agency. I also stated the list wasn't extensive.

    May I ask which of these titles have you read? Can we talk about what's on the list? :-)

    I've read and enjoyed by American Born Chinese or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

    Hi Jodi,

    I've been following the series and I've commented as well. I'm a regular reader at Chasing Ray.

    If you'd like to see the inspiration for the list, check out this discussion: Can I Get A Review?: Color Me Brown.

  9. Literature Crazy,

    Stopped by your blog. I'm a huge Chris Crutcher fan, too. I've read and we have: Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes and Whale Talk on our shelves.

  10. I would recommend From Caucasia, With Love by Danzy Senna.

  11. Hi Donura,

    We have this is our library. I haven't read it yet. Is it YA or simply appropriate for YA?