Have you taken the Read in Color pledge? Now you’re ready to read and share books that amplify diverse voices!
Everyone can take part in the Read in Color program. That’s why this list of suggested books—recommended by Little Free Library’s Diverse Books Advisory Group and others—includes options for young readers, middle and YA readers, and adults. Our recommended reading lists are far from exhaustive, but they offer a starting point for exploring different perspectives. We welcome your suggestions for diverse books, and we look forward to adding more books and categories in the future.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Young Readers)
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All Are Welcome
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman (44 pp, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018). Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be. Ages 4 – 8.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky (32 pp, Kokila, 2020). With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society. Ages 2 – 3.
I Am Human
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (32 pp, Harry N. Abrams, 2018). I Am Human affirms that we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves. When we find common ground, we can feel connected to the great world around us and mindfully strive to be our best selves. Ages 4 – 8.
I Promise by LeBron James, illustrated by Nina Mata (40 pp, Harper Collins, 2020). Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close. I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today. Ages 4 – 8.
IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All
IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi; illustrations by Ashley Seil Smith (56 pp, Dottir Press, 2019). The brainchild of three women-of-color sociologists, IntersectionAllies is a smooth, gleeful entry into intersectional feminism. The nine interconnected characters proudly describe themselves and their backgrounds, involving topics that range from a physical disability to language brokering, offering an opportunity to take pride in a personal story and connect to collective struggle for justice. Ages 6 – 12.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López (32 pp, Philomel Books, 2019). Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Ages 4 – 8.
Last Stop on Market Street
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (32 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015). Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Ages 3 – 5.
Love by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Loren Long (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018). In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age. Ages 4 – 8.
Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Brown, illustrated byTheodore Taylor III (22 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2018). Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. Baby – 3.
Your Name Is a Song
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (40 pp, The Innovation Press, 2020). Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Ages 5 – 10.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Middle Readers)
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All American Boys
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (336 pp, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017). A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter. There were witnesses. Soon the beating is all over the news. In this novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension. Ages 12 and up.
Fresh Ink by Lamar Giles (224 pp, Ember, 2019). Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. This collection addresses topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty and ranges in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. Ages 12 – 17.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (192 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives. Ages 10 – 13.
I Was Their American Dream
I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (160 pp, Clarkson Potter, 2019). Malaka Gharib’s triumphant graphic memoir brings to life her teenage antics and illuminates earnest questions about identity and culture, while providing thoughtful insight into the lives of modern immigrants and the generation of millennial children they raised. Malaka’s story is a heartfelt tribute to the American immigrants who have invested their future in the promise of the American dream. Ages 12 and up.
Not Your All-American Girl
Not Your All-American Girl by Wendy Wan-Long and Madelyn Rosenberg (256 pp, Scholastic Press, 2020). Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together, including the sixth grade school play. But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA? Ages 8 – 12.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (320 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020). The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. Ages 12 and up.
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (160 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020). As long as racist ideas persist, families will continue to have the difficult and necessary conversations with their young ones on the subject. In this inspiring collection, literary all-stars such engage young people in frank conversations about race, identity, and self-esteem. Ages 10 – 16.
This Book Is Anti-Racist
This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (160 pp, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020). Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation. Ages 11 – 15.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (96 pp, Yearling, 2019). What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice to young activists. Featuring poems, letters, personal essays, and art, this anthology empowers the nation’s youth to listen, learn, and build a better tomorrow. Ages 8 – 12.
Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice
Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, et al. (224 pp, Ember, 2019). Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice is a collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists. Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out. Ages 12 – 17.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Adult Readers)
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A Good Time for the Truth
A Good Time for the Truth by Sun Yung Shin (240 pp, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019). In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships.
How to Be an Antiracist
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (624 pp, Random House, 2020). Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities.
Just Us by Claudia Rankine (352 pp, Graywolf Press, 2020). As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.
Me and White Supremacy
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad (256 pp, Sourcebooks, 2020). This eye-opening book challenges you to do the essential work of unpacking your biases, and helps white people take action and dismantle the privilege within themselves so that you can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
So You Want to Talk about Race
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (272 pp, Seal Press, 2019). In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
Stamped from the Beginning
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi (608 pp, Bold Type Books, 2017). The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (368 pp, Liveright, 2018). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation, with undisguised racial zoning, public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities, and more.
The New Jim Crow
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (352 pp, The New Press, 2020). Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. It has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (192 pp, Beacon Press, 2018). Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (464 pp, Basic Books, 2017). Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides
African American (Young Readers)
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All Because You Matter
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (40 pp, Orchard Books, 2020). A lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will, from powerhouse rising star author Tami Charles and esteemed, award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier. Ages 4 – 8.
Brown Baby Lullaby
Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by A.G. Ford (32 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). From sunset to bedtime, two brown-skinned parents lovingly care for their beautiful brown baby: first, they play outside, then it is time for dinner and a bath, and finally a warm snuggle before bed. A perfect read-aloud for bedtime! Ages 2 – 6.
Crown by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (32 pp, Agate Bolden, 2017). The barbershop is where the magic happens. This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. Ages 3 – 8.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (32 pp, Kokila, 2019). Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her happy. Ages 4 – 8.
I Am Enough
I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (32 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2018). This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it. Ages 4 – 8.
I Am Every Good Thing
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (32 pp, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020). The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through—as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Ages 3 – 7.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (96 pp, Little, Brown Books, 2017). Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Ages 8 – 12.
Saturday by Oge Mora (40 pp, Little, Brown Books, 2019). In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong. Mom is nearing a meltdown…until her loving daughter reminds her that being together is the most important thing of all. Ages 4 – 8.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (48 pp, Simon & Schuster, 2019). Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. Ages 4 – 8.
Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO
Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Tamara Pizzoli, illustrated by Federico Fabiani (40 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019). Meet Tallulah. She’s the Tooth Fairy CEO. Tallulah knows practically everything about being a tooth fairy. How to collect teeth. Dispense money. Train other fairies. And it’s all in the Teeth Titans Incorporated Employee Manual. But when something happens that’s not covered in the manual, what’s a fairy to do? Ages 4 – 8.
Thank You, Omu!
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (40 pp, Little, Brown Books, 2018). Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself? This is a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew. Ages 4 – 8.
The Day You Begin
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López (32 pp, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes—and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. Ages 5 – 8.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison (48 pp, Little Bee Books, 2019). The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing that formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today. Ages 4 and up.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (40 pp, Versify, 2020). Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. Ages 6 – 9.
Welcome to the Party
Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union, illustrated by Ashley Evans (32 pp, HarperCollins, 2020). Inspired by the eagerly awaited birth of her daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union pens a festive and universal love letter from parents to little ones, perfect for welcoming a baby to the party of life! Ages 4 – 8.
African American (Middle/YA Readers)
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Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (544 pp, Henry Holt and Co., 2018). Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Ages 14 – 18.
Genesis Begins Again
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (384 pp, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2020). There are ninety-six reasons why thirteen-year-old Genesis dislikes herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Genesis is determined to fix her family, and she’s willing to try anything to do so…even if it means harming herself in the process. But when Genesis starts to find a thing or two she actually likes about herself, she discovers that changing her own attitude is the first step in helping change others. Ages 9 – 13.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (420 pp, Little, Brown Books, 2019). Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. This gripping and poignant story is about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death. Ages 10 and up.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (384 pp, Katherine Tegen Books, 2020). When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields? Award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that exposes horrific secrets hiding behind the limelight and embraces the power of a young woman’s voice. Ages 13 – 17.
Long Way Down
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (336 pp, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019). An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds’s electrifying novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. Ages 12 and up.
March: Book Three
March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (256 pp, Top Shelf Productions, 2016). Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. Ages 13 – 16.
New Kid by Jerry Craft (256 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2019). Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? Ages 8 – 12.
One Crazy Summer
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (240 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2011). In One Crazy Summer, eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. Ages 8 – 12.
Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes (336 pp, Wordsong, 2019). Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night – and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki’s notebooks were her most enduing companions. In this accessible and inspiring memoir that will resonate with young readers and adults alike, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards – ordinary and extraordinary – of her life. Ages 12 – 17.
Piecing Me Together
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (288 pp, Bloomsbury YA, 2018). Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider. She’s tired of being singled out as someone who needs help; she wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows. Acclaimed author Renee Watson offers a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her. Ages 12 – 17.
Punching the Air
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (400 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. This is a deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both. Ages 14 – 17.
The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (464 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2017). Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. Ages 14 – 17.
The Parker Inheritance
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (368 pp, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019). When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Ages 8 – 12.
The Sun Is Also a Star
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (384 pp, Delacorte Press, 2016). Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? Ages 12-17.
Say Her Name
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott (96 pp, Little, Brown Books, 2020). Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, these poems pay tribute to victims of police brutality as well as the activists insisting that Black Lives Matter. This provocative collection of forty-nine poems will move every reader to reflect, respond, and act. Ages 12 and up.
Turning Point by Paula Chase (384 pp, Greenwillow Books, 2020). Best friends Rasheeda and Monique are both good girls. For Sheeda, that means keeping her friends close and following her deeply religious and strict aunt’s every rule. For Mo, that means not making waves in the prestigious and mostly White ballet intensive she’s been accepted to. But what happens when Sheeda catches the eye of Mo’s older brother, and the invisible racial barriers to Mo’s success as a ballerina turn out to be not so invisible? Ages 8 – 12.
African American (Adult Readers)
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Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (176 pp, One World, 2015). In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it?
Born a Crime
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (304 pp, One World, 2019). Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine (160 pp, Graywolf Press, 2014). Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, and at home. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (320 pp, Vintage, 2017). Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Homie by Danez Smith (96 pp, Graywolf Press, 2020). Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is an exuberant new book.
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (192 pp, Convergent Books, 2018). In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (320 pp, Scribner, 2018). Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding, like his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison. This is an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle.
Such a Fun Age
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (320 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019). A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.
The Known World
The Known World by Edward P. Jones (388 pp, Amistad, 2006). Henry Townsend, a farmer, boot maker, and former slave, through the surprising twists and unforeseen turns of life in antebellum Virginia, becomes proprietor of his own plantation―as well his own slaves. When he dies, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation. An ambitious, courageous, luminously written masterwork, The Known World seamlessly weaves the lives of the freed and the enslaved―and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
The Nickel Boys
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (224 pp, Anchor, 2020). When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.
The Vanishing Half
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (352 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations.
The Warmth of Other Suns
The Warmth of Other Suns by Elizabeth Wilkerson (640 pp, Vintage, 2011). From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
The Yellow House
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (400 pp, Grove Press, 2020). A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Giyasi (288 pp, Knopf, 2020). Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised.
When They Call You a Terrorist
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (288 pp, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2020). Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.
American Indian (Young Readers)
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Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, translation by Gordon Jourdain (32 pp, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018). Windy Girl is blessed with a vivid imagination. From Uncle she gathers stories of long-ago traditions, about dances and sharing and gratitude. Windy can tell such stories herself–about her dog, Itchy Boy, and the way he dances to request a treat and how he wriggles with joy in response to, well, just about everything. This playful story by Brenda Child is accompanied by a companion retelling in Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain and brought to life by Jonathan Thunder’s vibrant dreamscapes. Ages 3 – 7.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (48 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2019). Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal. Ages 3 – 6.
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (32 pp, Heartdrum, 2000). The cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe’s dress sing tink, tink, tink, tink… Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared over generations in her family and intertribal community. She hopes to dance at the next powwow. But with the day quickly approaching, she has a problem—how will her dress sing if it has no jingles? Ages 4 – 8.
Johnny’s Pheasant by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett (32 pp, University of Minnesota Press, 2019). “Pull over, Grandma! Hurry!” Johnny says. Grandma does, and Johnny runs to show her what he spotted near the ditch: a sleeping pheasant. What Grandma sees is a small feathery hump. This encounter takes a surprising turn in this sweetly serious and funny story of a Native American boy and his grandma. Ages 3 – 8.
My Heart Fills with Happiness
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett (24 pp, Orca Book Publishers, 2018). The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy. Ages 3 – 5.
Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story
Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story by Sebastian Robertson, illustrated by Adam Gustavson (40 pp, Henry Holt and Co., 2014). Canadian guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson is known mainly for his central role in the musical group the Band. But how did he become one of Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarists of all time? Written by his son, Sebastian, this is the story of a rock-and-roll legend’s journey through music, beginning when he was taught to play guitar at nine years old on a First Nation reserve. Ages 6 – 9.
The Forever Sky
The Forever Sky by Thomas Peacock, illustrated by Annette S. Lee (32 pp, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019). “Nooko’s spirit is there in the stars,” says Niigaanii to his younger brother, Bineshiinh, as they sprawl in a meadow, gazing skyward. Nooko was their grandmother, and they miss her. But Uncle helps them find comfort in the night sky, where all the stars have stories. Ages 3 – 7.
Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army
Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army by Art Coulson, illustrated by Nick Hardcastle (40 pp, Capstone Editions, 2018). In the autumn of 1912, the football team from Carlisle Indian Industrial School took the field at the U.S. Military Academy, home to the bigger, stronger, and better-equipped West Points Cadets. Sportswriters billed the game as a sort of rematch, pitting against each other the descendants of U.S. soldiers and American Indians who fought on the battlefield only 20 years earlier. But for lightning-fast Jim Thorpe and the other Carlisle players, that day’s game was about skill, strategy, and determination. Ages 6 – 10.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac (32 pp, Charlesbridge, 2018). The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah. Ages 3 – 7.
We Are Water Protectors
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (40 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2020). Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade. Ages 3 – 6.
American Indian (Middle Readers)
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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (272 pp, Beacon Press, 2019). Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity. Ages 12 and up.
Apple in the Middle
Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley (264 pp, North Dakota University, 2020). Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur for someone of white and Indian descent. Too bad the white world doesnt accept her either. And so begins her quirky habits to gain acceptance. Bouncing in the middle of two cultures, Apple meets her Indian relatives, shatters Indian stereotypes, and learns what it means to find her place in a world divided by color. Ages 13 and up.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (304 pp, Candlewick, 2020). Louise Wolf spends her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school— and first love. Ages 14 – 17.
I Can Make This Promise
I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day (272 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2019). All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers. Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic. In her debut middle grade novel—inspired by her family’s history—Christine Day tells the story of a girl who uncovers her family’s secrets—and finds her own Native American identity. Ages 8 – 12.
If I Ever Get Out of Here
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (368 pp, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him–people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. If George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home, will he still be his friend? Ages 12 and up.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III (176 pp, Amulet Books, 2015). Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy, though you wouldn’t guess it by his name. Over summer break, Jimmy embarks on a journey with his grandfather, who tells him the story of Crazy Horse. Expertly intertwining fiction and nonfiction, celebrated Brulé Lakota author Joseph Marshall III chronicles the many heroic deeds of Crazy Horse, especially his taking up arms against the U.S. government. Ages 10 – 14.
Indian No More
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell (223 pp, Tu Books, 2020). Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde Tribe’s reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. But when the federal government enacts a law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight. Ages 9 – 12.
Powwow Summer by Nahanni Shingoose (216 pp, Lorimer Children & Teens, 2020). River is teased about her Indigenous heritage as a young girl, and she struggles with her identity. The highlight of her summer is attending the annual powwow with her new friends. After the powwow, River drinks too much and posts photos online that anger people, and she has her right to identify as an Indigenous person called into question. Ages 13 – 18.
The Case of Windy Lake
The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson (160 pp, Second Story Press, 2019). Sam, Otter, Atim and Chickadee are four cousins growing up on the Windy Lake First Nation. When a visiting archeologist goes missing, the cousins decide to solve the mystery of his disappearance. In the midst of community conflict, family concerns and environmental protests, the four get busy following every lead. They’ll do what it takes to solve the case! Ages 9 – 12.
The Marrow Thieves
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (260 pp, DCB, 2017). Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. For now, survival means staying hidden—but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves. Ages 13 – 17.
American Indian (Adult Readers)
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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (312 pp, Beacon Press, 2015). Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott (256 pp, Melville House, 2020). The Mohawk phrase for depression can be roughly translated to “a mind spread out on the ground.” In this urgent and visceral work, Alicia Elliott explores how apt a description that is for the ongoing effects of personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas she and so many Native people have experienced.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s by Tiffany Midge (216 pp, Bison Books, 2019). Why is there no Native woman David Sedaris? Or Native Anne Lamott? Humor categories in publishing are packed with books by funny women and humorous sociocultural-political commentary—but no Native women. There are presumably more important concerns in Indian Country. More important than humor? Among the Diné/Navajo, a ceremony is held in honor of a baby’s first laugh. While the context is different, it nonetheless reminds us that laughter is precious, even sacred.
Even As We Breathe
Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (240 pp, Fireside Industries, 2020). Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville’s luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. But soon, Cowney’s refuge becomes a cage when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing and he finds himself accused of abduction and murder.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer (184 pp, Borealis Books, 2012). What have you always wanted to know about Indians? Do you think you should already know the answers—or suspect that your questions may be offensive? In matter-of-fact responses to over 120 questions, both thoughtful and outrageous, modern and historical, Ojibwe scholar and cultural preservationist Anton Treuer gives a frank, funny, and sometimes personal tour of what’s up with Indians, anyway.
Murder on the Red River
Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon (208 pp, Cinco Puntos Press, 2017). Cash and Sheriff Wheaton make for a strange partnership. So there they are, staring at the dead Indian lying in the field. Soon Cash was dreaming about the dead man’s cheap house on the Red Lake Reservation, mother and kids waiting. She has that kind of power. That’s the place to start looking. There’s a long and dangerous way to go to find the men who killed him.
The Round House
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (368 pp, Harper Perennial, 2013). One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.
There There by Tommy Orange (304 pp, Vintage, 2019). Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering bestselling novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.
When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Stories Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry
When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Stories Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry by Joy Harjo (496 pp, W.W. Norton & Company, 2020). This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets.
Where the Dead Sit Talking
Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson (288 pp, Soho Press, 2019). With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother’s years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary. But as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.
Asian/Pacific Islander (Young Readers)
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A Big Mooncake for Little Star
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (40 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018). Little Star loves the delicious Mooncake that she bakes with her mama. But she’s not supposed to eat any yet! What happens when she can’t resist a nibble? In this stunning picture book that shines as bright as the stars in the sky, Newbery Honor author Grace Lin creates a heartwarming original story that explains phases of the moon. Ages 4-8.
A Different Pond
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (32 pp, Capstone, 2017). A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event—a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son—and between cultures, old and new. Ages 6-8.
A Piece of Home
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (32 pp, Candlewick, 2016). When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close. Ages 5-8.
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua (40 pp, Alladin, 2019). Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keep coming out all wrong. Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…. Will Amy ever make the perfect bao? Ages 4-8.
Bilal Cooks Dal
Bilal Cooks Dal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed (40 pp, Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019). Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish—daal!—in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing. Ages 4-8.
Cora Cooks Pancit
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2014). Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish. Ages 5-7.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat (40 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018). When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens—with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. Ages 4-8.
Hot Pot Night!
Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen (40 pp, Charlesbridge, 2020). What’s for dinner? A Taiwanese American child brings his diverse neighbors together to make a tasty communal meal. Together, they cook up a steaming family dinner that celebrates community, cooperation, and culture. Includes a family recipe for hot pot! Ages 3-7.
The Most Beautiful Thing
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le (32 pp, Carolrhoda Books, 2020). Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia’s story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family’s early years in the United States. Ages 5-9.
The Name Jar
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (40 pp, Dragonfly Books, 2003). Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Ages 3-7.
Ohana Means Family
Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak (40 pp, Neal Porter Books, 2020). Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built. Acclaimed illustrator and animator Kenard Pak’s light-filled, dramatic illustrations pair exquisitely with Ilima Loomis’ text to celebrate Hawaiian land and culture. The backmatter includes a glossary of Hawaiian terms used, as well as an author’s note. Ages 4-8.
Asian/Pacific Islander (Middle/YA Readers)
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Butterfly Yellow by Thanhhà Lai (304 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country. Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her. Ages 13 and up.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan (272 pp, Square Fish, 2018). Cilla Lee-Jenkins is 50% Chinese, 50% Caucasian, and 100% destined for literary greatness! In this middle grade novel, she shares stories about a new sibling, being biracial, and her destiny as a future author extraordinaire. Ages 8-12.
Count Me In
Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj (192 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). An uplifting story, told through the alternating voices of two middle-schoolers, in which a community rallies to reject racism. Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens—the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Ages 10-12.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (448 pp, HarperTeen, 2020). The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago. This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy. Ages 13-17.
Stargazing by Jen Wang (224 pp, First Second, 2019). Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope. Ages 8-12.
The Astonishing Color of After
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (480 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019). Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Ages 12 and up.
They Called Us Enemy
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (208 pp, Top Shelf Productions, 2019). A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself — in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. Ages 12-17.
We Are Not Free
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (400 pp, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020). From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. Ages 12 and up.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (278 pp, HMH, 2019). In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. Ages 8-12.
You Bring the Distant Near
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (320 pp, Square Fish, 2019). This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture—for better or worse. From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity. Ages 12-18.
Asian/Pacific Islander (Adult Readers)
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America Is Not the Heart
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (432 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). How many lives fit in a lifetime? When Hero De Vera arrives in America—haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents—she’s already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn’t ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter—the first American-born daughter in the family—can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands. An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.
Girls Burn Brighter
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (416 pp, Flatiron Books, 2019). Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob (368 pp, One World, 2020). Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love. Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (368 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson. Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (224 pp, One World, 2020). Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (512 pp, Grand Central Publishing, 2017). In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant—and that her lover is married—she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
The Last Story of Mina Lee
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (384 pp, Park Row, 2020). Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.
The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang (312 pp, Coffee House Press, 2017). In the 70s and 80s, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to the United States, all in search of a new place to call home. Decades later, their experiences remain largely unknown. Kao Kalia Yang was driven to tell her own family’s story after her grandmother’s death. The Latehomecomer is a tribute to that grandmother, a remarkable woman whose spirit held her family together through their imprisonment in Laos, their narrow escape into Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, their immigration to St. Paul when Yang was only six years old, and their transition to life in America.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (336 pp, Mariner Books, 2019). Meet the Ganguli family, new arrivals from Calcutta, trying their best to become Americans even as they pine for home. The name they bestow on their firstborn, Gogol, betrays all the conflicts of honoring tradition in a new world—conflicts that will haunt Gogol on his own winding path through divided loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (384 pp, Grove Press, 2016). With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
Latinx (Young Readers)
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Alma and How She Got Her Name
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (32 pp, Candlewick, 2018). If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of the family members that inspired her name. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all—and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. Ages 4 – 8.
Carmela Full of Wishes
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018). When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood until they reach the laundromat, where Carmela finds a dandelion. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make… Ages 4 – 8.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (40 pp, Neal Porter Books, 2018). Yuyi Morales brought her hopes, her passion, her strength, and her stories with her, when she came to the United States in 1994 with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed. Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. Ages 4 – 8.
Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away
Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (32 pp, Candlewick, 2020). Evelyn Del Rey is Daniela’s best friend. They do everything together and even live in twin apartments across the street from each other: Daniela with her mami and hamster, and Evelyn with her mami, papi, and cat. But not after today—not after Evelyn moves away. Until then, the girls play amid the moving boxes…until it’s time to say goodbye. Ages 5 – 7.
Martí's Song for Freedom
Martí’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2017). A bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual freedom. Written in verse with excerpts from Martí’s seminal work, Versos sencillos. Ages 7 – 10.
Maybe Something Beautiful
Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López (40 pp, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016). What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big. Pick up a paintbrush and join the celebration! Ages 4 – 7.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña (40 pp, Kokila, 2019). When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there. Ages 4 – 8.
Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez (40 pp, Holiday House, 2019). he octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. “¡Tenga cuidado!” Ramsey shouts. “Be careful!” But it’s too late. The octopus traps Grandma! Ramsey uses both art and intellect to free his beloved abuela. Then the story takes a surprising twist. And it can be read two ways. Open the fold-out pages to find Ramsey telling a story to his family. Keep the pages folded, and Ramsey’s octopus adventure is real. Ages 4 – 8.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar (40 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy. Ages 4 – 8.
Where Are You From?
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendéz, illustrated by Jaime Kim (40 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). This resonant and award-winning picture book tells the story of one girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. A great conversation starter in the home or classroom—a book to share, in the spirit of I Am Enough by Grace Byers. Ages 4 – 8.
Latinx (Middle Readers)
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Clap When You Land
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (432 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2020). Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…. In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives. Ages 14 – 17.
Forest World by Margarita Engle (224 pp, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018). Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. Why would he want to visit a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh? Yet now that travel laws have changed and it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited, his mom thinks it’s time for some father-son bonding. This lively middle grade novel tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had. Ages 10 and up.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (368 pp, Ember, 2019). Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. This poignant and often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA novel is about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican American home. Ages 14 – 17.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (432 pp, Simon Pulse, 2020). It’s been three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.” Sia knows that her mom must be dead … but one fateful night in the desert, her world cracks wide open. This is an astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life. Ages 12 and up.
Stella Díaz Dreams Big
Stella Díaz Dreams Big by Angela Dominguez (208 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2021). Stella is happy as a clam in fourth grade. She’s the president of the Sea Musketeers conservation club, she starts taking swim lessons, and she joins a new art club at school. But as her schedule fills up, school gets harder, too. Suddenly the tides have turned, and she is way too busy! Stella will be in an ocean of trouble if she can’t keep her head above water. But with her trusty Sea Musketeers by her side, she hops to make her big dreams come true! Ages 6 – 9.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (272 pp, Puffin Books, 2018). For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. But this summer also includes Carmen, a poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex. Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia. Ages 10 and up.
The Poet X
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (384 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2020). Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. Ages 13 – 17.
They Call Me Güero
They Call Me Güero by David Bowles (122 pp, Cinco Puntos Press, 2018). In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd–reader, gamer, musician–who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails. But trusting in his family’s traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Ages 8 – 12.
Us, in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos
Us, in Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by LuLu Delacre (256 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). In this book, you will meet many young Latinos living in the United States, from a young girl whose day at her father’s burrito truck surprises her to two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more. Turn the pages to experience life through the eyes of these boys and girls whose families originally hail from many different countries; see their hardships and celebrate their victories. Ages 8 – 12.
With the Fire on High
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (400 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2019). Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free. Ages 13 and up.
Latinx (Adult Readers)
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Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (272 pp, Algonquin Books, 2020). Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including—maybe especially—members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?
Dominicana by Angie Cruz (336 pp, Flatiron Books, 2020). Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (320 pp, Anchor, 2019). Seven-year-old Chula lives a carefree life in her gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside her walls. When her mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. Petrona is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy.
In the Country We Love
In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero (272 pp, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017). Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just 14 years old on the day her parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Born in the US, Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family. In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country.
Lost Children Archive
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (401 pp, Vintage, 2019). A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home. Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father. A fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border–an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (320 pp, Del Rey, 2020). After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find and Noemí knows little about the region. An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets, set in a glamorous 1950s Mexico.
Sabrina & Corina: Stories
Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (240 pp, One World, 2020). Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.
Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral (96 pp, Yale University Press, 2012). Seamlessly braiding English and Spanish, Corral’s poems hurtle across literary and linguistic borders toward a lyricism that slows down experience. He employs a range of forms and phrasing, bringing the vivid particulars of his experiences as a Chicano and gay man to the page. Although Corral’s topics are decidedly sobering, contest judge Carl Phillips observes, “one of the more surprising possibilities offered in these poems is joy.”
Tell Me How It Ends
Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (128 pp, Coffee House Press, 2017). Appealing to the language of the United States’ fraught immigration policy, Luiselli exposes the cracks in this foundation. Herself an immigrant, she highlights the human cost of its brokenness, as well as the hope that it (rather than walls) might be rebuilt.
The House of Broken Angels
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea (336 pp, Back Bay Books, 2019). In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel’s half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life.
LGBTQ (Young Readers)
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Annie's Plaid Shirt
Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis (32 pp, Upswing Press, 2015). Annie loves her plaid shirt and wears it everywhere. But one day her mom tells Annie that she must wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding. Annie protests, but her mom insists and buys her a fancy new dress anyway. Annie is miserable. She feels weird in dresses. Why can’t her mom understand? Then Annie has an idea. But will her mom agree? Ages 3-8.
Call Me Max
Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Luciano Lozano (32 pp, Reycraft Books, 2019). When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets he know the name he wants to be called by—a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender. Ages 7-9.
I Am Perfectly Designed
I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown, with Jason “Rachel” Brown, illustrated by Anoosha Syed (40 pp, Henry Holt and Co, 2019). I Am Perfectly Designed is an exuberant celebration of loving who you are, exactly as you are, from Karamo Brown, the Culture Expert of Netflix’s hit series Queer Eye. In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other. Ages 4-8.
It Feels Good to Be Yourself
It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni (40 pp, Henry Holt and Co., 2019). Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between. This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity. Ages 4-8.
Love Makes a Family
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer (24 pp, Dial Books, 2018). Love is baking a special cake. Love is lending a helping hand. Love is reading one more book. In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed. Whether a child has two moms, two dads, one parent, or one of each, this simple preschool read-aloud demonstrates that what’s most important in each family’s life is the love the family members share. Ages 5 and up.
My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (32 pp, Kokila, 2020). A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal. Ages 4-8.
Pink Is for Boys
Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Eda Kaban (40 pp, Running Press Kids, 2018). Pink is for boys … and girls … and everyone! This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids—and their grown-ups—to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. Featuring a diverse group of relatable characters, Pink Is for Boys invites and encourages girls and boys to enjoy what they love to do, whether it’s racing cars and playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up. Ages 4-8.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno (48 pp, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018). In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable—and undertold—story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride. Ages 5-8.
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph (40 pp, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019). This powerful and timeless true story allows young readers to discover the rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—a movement that continues to this very day. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution is an essential and empowering civil rights story that every child deserves to hear. Ages 5-8.
When Aidan Became a Brother
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2019). When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience. Ages 4-7.
LGBTQ (Middle Readers)
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Better Nate Than Ever
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (304 pp, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. Ages 10 and up.
Bingo Love, Volume 1
Bingo Love, Volume 1 by Tee Franklin (88 pp, Image Comics, 2018). When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage. Ages 13-16.
Felix Ever After
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (368 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle…. But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. Ages 14 and up.
George by Alex Gino (224 pp, Scholastic, 2017). When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. Ages 8-12.
If I Was Your Girl
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (320 pp, Flatiron Books, 2018). Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love? Ages 13-18.
Juliet Takes a Breath
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (320 pp, Dial Books, 2019). Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer—what’s sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet’s coming out crashes and burns, she’s not sure her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan—sort of. In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out—to the world, to her family, to herself. Ages 14 and up.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (208 pp, Make Me a World, 2019). Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look? There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster—and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief. This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists? Ages 12 and up.
The Black Flamingo
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (416 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born. Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine. Ages 14 and up.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (320 pp, Penguin Books, 2020). Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both. Minneapolis, MN: Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner. Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future. Ages 14-17.
You Should See Me in a Crown
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (336 pp, Scholastic, 2020). Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay—Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down … until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams … or make them come true? Ages 12-18.
LGBTQ (Adult Readers)
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Fairest: A Memoir
Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan (320 pp, Viking, 2020). Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a “sun child” from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in America. Coping with the strain of parental neglect and the elusive promise of U.S. citizenship, Talusan found childhood comfort from her devoted grandmother, a grounding force as she was treated by others with special preference or public curiosity. As an immigrant to the United States, Talusan came to be perceived as white. An academic scholarship to Harvard provided access to elite circles of privilege but required Talusan to navigate through the complex spheres of race, class, sexuality, and her place within the gay community.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (288 pp, Mariner Books, 2018). How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.
How We Fight for Our Lives
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (224 pp, Simon & Schuster, 2020). Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu (288 pp, Soho Press, 2018). Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met. As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life?
Memorial by Bryan Washington (320 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson’s a Black day care teacher, and they’ve been together for a few years—good years—but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (256 pp, Penguin Press, 2019) On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (432 pp, Liveright, 2019). Nicole Dennis-Benn introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine for our times: the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica to follow Cicely, her oldest friend, to New York. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession and peppered with lilting patois, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to love whomever she chooses, bravely putting herself first. But to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a nanny, while back in Jamaica her daughter, Tru, ironically struggles to understand why she was left behind. Greeted with international critical acclaim from readers who, at last, saw themselves represented in Patsy, this astonishing novel fills a literary void with compassion, complexity and tenderness, offering up a vital portrait of the chasms between selfhood and motherhood, the American dream and reality.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (336 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community. Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.
Under the Rainbow
Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey (288 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone—or so they think. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr “the most homophobic town in the U.S.” and sends in a queer task force to live and work there for two years, no one is prepared for what will ensue. Still grieving the death of her son, Linda welcomes the newcomers, who know mercifully little about her past. Teenage Avery, furious at being uprooted from her life in L.A. and desperate to fit in at her new high school, fears it’s only a matter of time before her classmates discover her mom is the head of the task force. And Gabe, an avid hunter who has lived in Big Burr his whole life, suddenly feels as if he’s in the crosshairs. As tensions roil the town, cratering relationships and bringing difficult truths to light, both longtime residents and new arrivals must reconsider what it means to belong.
We Are Everywhere
We Are Everywhere by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown (368 pp, Ten Speed Press, 2019). Through the lenses of protest, power, and pride, We Are Everywhere is an essential and empowering introduction to the history of the fight for queer liberation. Combining exhaustively researched narrative with meticulously curated photographs, the book traces queer activism from its roots in late-nineteenth-century Europe—long before the pivotal Stonewall Riots of 1969—to the gender warriors leading the charge today. By challenging many of the assumptions that dominate mainstream LGBTQ+ history, We Are Everywhere shows readers how they can—and must—honor the queer past in order to shape our liberated future.
Muslim (Young Readers)
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Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon (32 pp, Tilbury House Publishers, 2015). Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom. Lailah solves her problem with help from the school librarian and her teacher and in doing so learns that she can make new friends who respect her beliefs. Ages 5-9.
Leila in Saffron
Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova (32 pp, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019). When Leila looks in the mirror, she doesn’t know if she likes what she sees. But when her grandmother tells her the saffron beads on her scarf suit her, she feels a tiny bit better. So, Leila spends the rest of their family dinner night on the lookout for other parts of her she does like. Follow Leila’s journey as she uses her senses of sight, smell, taste, touch to seek out the characteristics that make up her unique identity, and finds reasons to feel proud of herself, just as she is. Ages 4-8.
Like the Moon Loves the Sky
Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan, illustrated by Saffa Khan (40 pp, Chronicle Books, 2020). In this moving picture book, author Hena Khan shares her wishes for her children: “Inshallah you find wonder in birds as they fly. Inshallah you are loved, like the moon loves the sky.” With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent’s unconditional love. Ages 3-5.
Malala's Magic Pencil
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët (48 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017). As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true. Ages 4-8.
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly (96 pp, Picture Window Books, 2018). Meet Yasmin! Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers. Ages 5-8.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (40 pp, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). A young girl plays dress up with her mother’s headscarves, feeling her mother’s love with every one she tries on. Charming and vibrant illustrations showcase the beauty of the diverse and welcoming community in this portrait of a young Muslim American girl’s life. Ages 4-8.
Muslim Girls Rise
Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time by Saira Mir, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel (48 pp, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). Discover the true stories of nineteen unstoppable Muslim women of the twenty-first century who have risen above challenges, doubts, and sometimes outright hostility to blaze trails in a wide range of fields. Whether it was the culinary arts, fashion, sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism, these women never took “no” for an answer or allowed themselves to be silenced. Instead, they worked to rise above and not only achieve their dreams, but become influential leaders. Ages 6 and up.
The Proudest Blue
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly (40 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019). With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. Ages 4-8.
Under My Hijab
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2019). Grandma wears it clasped under her chin. Aunty pins hers up with a beautiful brooch. Jenna puts it under a sun hat when she hikes. Zara styles hers to match her outfit. As a young girl observes six very different women in her life who each wear the hijab in a unique way, she also dreams of the rich possibilities of her own future, and how she will express her own personality through her hijab. Written in sprightly rhyme and illustrated by a talented newcomer, Under My Hijab honors the diverse lives of contemporary Muslim women and girls, their love for each other, and their pride in their culture and faith. Ages 4-7.
What Color Is My Hijab?
What Color Is My Hijab? by Hudda Ibrahim, illustrated by Meenal Patel (30 pp, Beaver’s Pond Press, 2020). A children’s “learn your colors” book where a Muslim girl chooses what color hijab she’ll wear today! Ages 4-8.
Muslim (Middle Readers)
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A Very Large Expanse of Sea
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (336 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped. Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother. But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down. Ages 13-17.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (240 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). Twelve-year-old Amal’s dream of becoming a teacher one day is dashed in an instant when she accidentally insults a member of her Pakistani village’s ruling family. As punishment for her behavior, she is forced to leave her heartbroken family behind and go work at their estate. Amal summons her courage and begins navigating the complex rules of life as a servant, with all its attendant jealousies and pecking-order woes. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s increasing awareness of the deadly measures the Khan family will go to in order to stay in control. It’s clear that their hold over her village will never loosen as long as everyone is too afraid to challenge them—so if Amal is to have any chance of ensuring her loved ones’ safety and winning back her freedom, she must find a way to work with the other servants to make it happen. Ages 10-13.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (208 pp, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized. Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other. Ages 8-12.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (336 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay. Ages 12-17.
Internment by Samira Ahmed (400 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020). Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the camp’s Director and his guards. Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today. Ages 12 and up.
Once Upon an Eid
Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed (304 pp, Harry N. Abrams, 2020). Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. Ages 8-12.
Other Words for Home
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (352 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2019). Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is. Ages 8-12.
Saints and Misfits
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (336 pp, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). There are three kinds of people in my world: 1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose. 2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad. Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds. But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right? 3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories. Like the monster at my mosque. People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask. Ages 14 and up.
The Night Diary
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (288 pp, Puffin Books, 2019). It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future. Ages 8-12.
When Stars Are Scattered
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (264 pp, Dial Books, 2020). Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future … but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story. Ages 9-12.
Muslim (Adult Readers)
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A Map of Home
A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar (464 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2017). In this fresh, funny, and fearless debut novel, Randa Jarrar chronicles the coming-of-age of Nidali, one of the most unique and irrepressible narrators in contemporary fiction. Born in 1970s Boston to an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, the rebellious Nidali—whose name is a feminization of the word “struggle”—soon moves to a very different life in Kuwait. There the family leads a mildly eccentric middle-class existence until the Iraqi invasion drives them first to Egypt and then to Texas. This critically acclaimed debut novel is set to capture the hearts of everyone who has ever wondered what their own map of home might look like.
A Place for Us
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (377 pp, SJP for Hogarth, 2018). As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best? A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart.
A Woman Is No Man
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum (352 pp, Harper, 2019). In her debut novel Etaf Rum tells the story of three generations of Palestinian-American women struggling to express their individual desires within the confines of their Arab culture in the wake of shocking intimate violence in their community—a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (256 pp, Riverhead Books, 2018). In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through…. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, Exit West tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (368 pp, Little, Brown and Company, 2020). A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home. Ayad Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nation’s unhealed wounds wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one—least of all himself—in the process.
The Beauty of Your Face
The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah (312 pp, W. W. Norton & Company, 2020). A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter―radicalized by the online alt-right―attacks the school. As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.
The Complete Persepolis
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (341 pp, Pantheon, 2007). Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom—Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.
The Royal Abduls
The Royal Abduls by Ramiza Shamoun Koya (304 pp, Forest Avenue Press, 2020). Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s debut novel follows the lives of an evolutionary biologist and her ten-year-old nephew in post-9/11 Washington, D.C. Omar’s mother is white, his first-generation American father never walks to talk about India or what it means to be Muslim, and Omar struggles to find a cultural identity that fits. When Amina arrives from the West Coast for a hybrid zone lab job, Omar’s parents begin relying on her for childcare. Despite the demands of her male-dominated workplace and her preference for solitude, she becomes close to her nephew. As Amina’s hesitant romance with a Sikh cricket coach blossoms, Omar’s parents’ marriage fractures and leaves him vulnerable to finding answers in dangerous places.
The Thirty Names of Night
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (377 pp, SJP for Hogarth, 2018). Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria…. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.
We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders
We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance by Linda Sarsour (272 pp, 37 Ink, 2020). Linda Sarsour, co-organizer of the Women’s March, shares an “unforgettable memoir” (Booklist) about how growing up Palestinian Muslim American, feminist, and empowered moved her to become a globally recognized activist on behalf of marginalized communities across the country.
Diverse Books Advisory Group
- Carolyn Anderson, Birchbark Books
- Tameka Fryer Brown, The Brown Bookshelf
- Roxane Gay, Author and LFL Steward
- Sarah Kamya, Little Free Diverse Libraries and LFL Steward
- Sarah Rafael García, LibroMobile and LFL Steward
- Grace Lin, Author and LFL Steward
- Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children’s Literature
- Caroline Richmond, We Need Diverse Books
- Little Free Library Board: Anita Merina, NEA Read Across America, retired; Kenneth Kunz, Monmouth University; Marisa Creary, Heart of America Foundation