We are so sad we missed the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign last week. I was out of town speaking at the Mom 2.0 Summit, and Diana and I never got it together to contribute to the social media campaign. But hey, it’s never too late to express why we need diverse books, so this week instead of a Top Ten Tuesday, we want to honor books that celebrate diversity. Since our family is Colombian, these 10 books all prominently feature Latino teens in YA. #NotJustSidekicks!
Not so long ago, we wouldn’t even have been able to come up with 10 books to populate this particular list. That’s the truth. To illustrate that truth, here are two indisputable things about me: I love to read, and I have a really good long-term memory. It’s not photographic or anything, but I remember stuff. Well, I can’t recall reading ANY book with a Latino main character until 10th grade when I read “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros and the just-released “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent” by Julia Alvarez (I know I’m aging myself, but I don’t care).
So Diana and I are thrilled we can think of 10 books, but that doesn’t mean things are that much better. Obviously lack of diversity is still a huge problem. It’s an even bigger problem, actually, because statistically there are even more people of color in the United State than when we were growing up. There are even more Latina girls who are voracious readers but hardly ever see themselves represented as anything but the occasional sidekick, or maybe the wealthy white girl’s (poor but gorgeous) boyfriend’s sister. Well, those girls (including our half-Latina daughters) deserve to see themselves as something more valuable than the Spanglish-speaking girl who side-eyes the blond protagonist or the insignificant caramel-colored supporting character.
If you’re still with us, we’re offering a giveaway of one of the books below: all of you need to do is comment and let us know which of the books we’re highlighting you want to read! We’ll pick a random winner next Tuesday, so leave your comment by 11:59PM on Monday, May 12.
2. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz: I listened to the tale of two Mexican-American best friends who slowly and beautifully fall in love on my way home from YALLFest last year. I couldn’t believe how authentic and heartbreaking and life-changing a story it is, and I hope everyone has the chance to read it! -Sandie
3. “The Book of Broken Hearts” by Sarah Ockler: Jude Hernandez is Argentinian and Emilio Vargas is Puerto Rican. That’s not the problem though, the Hernandez sisters can’t stand the Vargas brothers because they have broken the hearts of some of the sisters so they have all sworn an oath to never get involved with a Vargas. I loved the glimpses of Argentinian and Puerto Rican food, the characters use of Spanish was authentic, and the romance was fantastic. – Diana
4. “Mexican WhiteBoy” by Matt de la Peña: Danny is half Mexican on his dad’s side, but he was raised by his mom, a blond and blue-eyed “Gringa” who can’t help him fit in with Mexicans or the snobby white kids at his prep school. A story about baseball and discrimination, about what it means to be “Mexican” or “white” or just plain confused, this is a powerful book about growing up “in between.” -Sandie
5. “The Dead and the Gone (Last Survivor Series Book 2)” by Susan Beth Pfeffer: Alex Morales is a Catholic Puerto Rican from NYC who attends a private school on scholarship. His biggest problem was keeping up and proving himself at his school. However, after an asteroid hits the moon and Earth is caught in the midst of horrific natural disasters, Alex’s goal is to survive and to protect his sisters. Pfeffer does an excellent job in portraying a Puerto Rican, Catholic boy. -Diana
6. “Romiette and Julio” by Sharon Draper: This is a modernized, multicultural retelling of Romeo and Juliet but with an African-American Juliet (Romiette) and a Latino Romeo (Julio) set in Texas. The warring families are rival gangs. The colloquial language isn’t for everyone, but it’s a bold exercise and worth a read by a respected Coretta Scott King Award-winning author. -Sandie
7. “Under the Mesquite” by Guadalupe Garcia McCall: Lupita is a Mexican-American teenager from a border town in Texas who is struggling with keeping her family together while her mother battles cancer. Garcia McCall’s tale of a poor Mexican-American border family is credible and accurate. Of course, Garcia McCall herself is also a Mexican-American author from a small border town in Texas. -Diana
8. “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan: This is a classic coming-of-age story that follows Esperanza as she goes from a carefree Mexican girl preoccupied with parties and her eventual quinces to a life of difficulty and deprivation in Great Depression California, where she and her mother escape for the possibility of a better life. But instead, that better life comes with hardship and a high, high cost. -Sandie
9. “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: This a classic book about Esperanza and her siblings who live in poverty in a Hispanic Chicago neighborhood. Cisnero is a Mexican-American writer who was born in Chicago and lived there like Esperanza in the book. She is able to truly depict the Latino experience in Chicago. -Diana
10. “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent” by Julia Alvarez: Growing up in Miami, I knew a ton of Americans of Cuban, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Colombian, and Puerto Rican descent, but no one from the Dominican Republic. Yolanda and her sisters were the first (fictional) Dominicans I ever met. This story of family relationships and being neither fully of the old or new world, it resonated with me as a 15 year old, and it still does today. -Sandie