Books with Diversity

12/18/2016: Just a note, most of the books here are NOT Own Voices books! (i.e.: diverse books written by an author of the same race/gender/disability, etc. as the character/s in the book.) I’ll be making another recommendations post with own voices books, hopefully by next year once I manage to read more of them!

So in the light of the shocking US elections, I got myself thinking: have I read any YA books with diversity recently?

Wait, what?

Okay, okay, hear me out here. I am a strong believer of books being able to teach us empathy and understanding, and opening our eyes to the wider world out there. When people say, “take a chill pill, it’s just fiction, don’t get mad” I get even madder, and then say in response, “No, it’s not just fiction!” Because readers become exposed to ideas within books, and what they read has the potential to influence their reality.

Thus, the connection to the US elections and that hateful man that won it. In a society that still bans diverse books, maybe it isn’t shocking as it initially seems. But there’s at least a small light at the end of the tunnel, as illustrated by this tweet:

It’s good to see that the younger generation can see hatred and discrimination when they’re exposed to it, and want to do something to change it. And I think that’s why it’s all the more important now to write and read diverse books, and to do it in a way that’s uplifting towards the minorities in said book. We have to continue in that direction so that the younger generations, and the generations after, will no longer have to live in a society that hates them for what they are. Because while we’re struck hard with the reality that hatred and discrimination is still all-too-true within the older population, we’re also carried onwards by the hope that the old guard is a dying breed, and that the younger ones will build a more loving, open-minded, and accepting society.

So we must keep that understanding, inclusive society alive. That’s why it’s all the more important that we, and I myself, must read more books with diversity in them, and to share them with fellow readers.

Today I vowed to read more books with diversity and feature them on my blog. I’m not sure how much that will help, but I want to help in any way that I can. Hatred coming from close-minded people doesn’t just affect the US; it happens everywhere in the world, and while I can’t eliminate hatred on my own, I will do what I can, in the best way I could.

But while I go through my TBR list and push the diverse books to the top of the pile, here are a few of them that I’ve already read. I loved them and I hope you’ll give them a chance too!

The Lunar Chronicles Series: POCs in Main Cast

Books with Diversity - the Lunar Chronicles
Image from thelunarchronicles.com.

Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Books in the Series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter (plus like a thousand novellas)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Why I recommend this series: Okay, I’ll admit; Cinder (and Scarlet, to an extent) had a lot of hits and a lot of misses for me. Marissa Meyer’s vision of Asia, I felt, was just some customs and traditions all smushed together without really taking into consideration the complexities of each tradition. I had a lot of questions: Where is the halal food? Why is her name Japanese, and her sister’s Chinese? Where are the different temples of the numerous religions in Asia? What language are they speaking? Do they speak other languages aside from the “main language”, which seems to be English I guess? It was just a weird and unrealistic future Asia, like she stripped away everything that makes each Asian culture unique.

But the books get way better as the series progress. I absolutely adored Scarlet and her future France made a whole lot more sense. And Cress! Cress is my favorite book so far (I haven’t read Winter yet but I have the book and will soon) and she is just the most adorable girl ever. I appreciate that Marissa Meyer chose the Cinder and Scarlet to originate from the same countries their stories originated from. I love the fact that the cast is diverse and that each of them have their own quirks, fears, and insecurities, but are lovable all the same.

I’m so excited to read Winter. Winter is African-American and I think that was a pretty good spin to the story of Snow White! (I also really want Levana to get what’s coming to her LMAO so I can’t wait to read that part too.)

All in all, the women in this series have so much agency, and the fact that it’s a story that spans across the entire world (and beyond) means there’s no lack of a diverse cast to be seen here.

Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus: ADHD, Dyslexics in Main Cast

Books with Diversity - Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Image from Rickriordanbooklist.com

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Books in the Series: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titans Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian (plus thousands of side stories etc.)
Author: Rick Riordan
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Why I recommend this series: Oh man oh man where do I start? Aside from the PJO series teaching me everything I know about mythology, this series is all about a boy and his friends with ADHD and dyslexia, treated in a way that’s really positive yet not overlooking the problems that Dyslexic and ADHD children have with regards to school and in society in general. I am so grateful for Rick Riordan and how he puts ADHD/Dyslexia into light, and how he’s created characters for dyslexic and ADHD children to relate to. A book that tells them, “Hey look, you can be something. You can be heroes, too.” There aren’t enough books tackling this, I believe, and to have this series that’s also extremely popular? I can’t sing this man enough praises.

Percy Jackson is a lovable goof. Annabeth Chase is a strong, intelligent girl. The other cast of characters are all unique and it’s easy to find someone to relate to. I love how he writes the children in his books, how they’re brave and heroic despite their very real fears and insecurities. And the best part? These books are hilarious. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Heroes of Olympus: ADHD/Dyslexic, LGBTQIA, POCs in Main Cast

Books with Diversity - Heroes of Olympus
Image from lowplex.com.

Series: Heroes of Olympus
Books in the Series: The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, The Blood of Olympus (plus the Demigod Diaries–just one extra book for a change lol)
Author: Rick Riordan
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Why I recommend this series: Because I will not-even-lowkey promote anything Rick Riordan’s written, clearly. This time, Heroes of Olympus tackles Roman mythology alongside Greek mythology, in probably the most creative, entertaining way possible.

I actually like this series more than The Percy Jackson series (although it’s acceptable to just lump them together because Percy and many other PJO characters return in this one). I think one of my minor complaints in the PJO series is that the main cast is kind of white, so Rick Riordan really stepped up his game here. His main characters include a Hispanic, a Native American, an African-American (from the 1920’s–don’t worry it’ll make sense when you read the series), a Chinese Canadian, and an LGBT character. How’s that for diversity, huh?

This series is actually darker than the first one, with characters with darker pasts and issues such as PTSD tackled. Still, the signature humor in the PJO series is still very much alive here, and you’re sure to never look at gods, goddesses, and mythology in quite the same way again.

If you don’t think the series and Rick Riordan is awesome enough already, here’s a quote from Rickriordan.com:

One of the most important reasons I became a teacher was to advocate for marginalized children — those who are bullied or misunderstood, those who feel lost and alone. As a middle school student myself, I certainly felt that anguish. As a middle school teacher, it was critical to me that all my students saw my classroom as a safe, supportive environment where they could be honored for who they were and express themselves without fear.

I’ve taken the same approach with my writing. It’s essential to me that young readers find a variety of relatable, positive role models in my books. Every child can be a hero. No child should be shamed or shunned for being different.

Ah, Good Guy Rick. There should be more teachers and people like you in the world.

Enter Title Here: POCs in Main Cast

Books with Diversity - Enter Title HereTitle: Enter Title Here
Author: Rahul Kanakia
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Why I recommend this book: Reshma Kapoor is ruthless. She’s an anti-hero in every sense, and holy crap what a trainwreck she becomes in her quest to get into Stanford, stepping over everyone on her way to success and being remorseless and downright cruel. And yet this book is so addictive to read.

But other than bringing into life a quite unique YA heroine–er, anti-hero, Rahul Kanakia also succeeds in delving into Indian culture and beliefs and how it influences Reshma’s character, even if not in the way her parents expect or want.

If you want a longer, more detailed review of Enter Title Here, you can check out my guest post over at She Would Read!

Six of Crows: POCs, Disabled, LGBTQIA in Main Cast

Books with Diversity - Six of Crows Duology
Image from grishaverse.com

Series: Six of Crows
Books in the Series: Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Why I recommend this series: Because I can’t shut up about it. Seriously, Six of Crows is one of my favorite books I read this year. With POC, disabled, and LGBT characters, I think this book’s got it all covered. What I like more about how she’s written diversity is that it’s just part of who the characters are, and one of the many nuances that defines them overall. I absolutely loved every single character she created, all of them flawed and complex and identifiable. You can read my full review of Six of Crows here!

I haven’t read Crooked Kingdom yet, but I’m participating in a read-along with some people on Instagram this month so expect a review for that up soon, too! I just seriously love this series and I hope more people read it and fall in love with her rich, beautiful world and characters.

Do you think we need more diverse books, and why? Are there any YA books with diversity you would like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

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