1. Like No Other by Una LaMarche: This is a story about Devorah Blum an 18year old girl whose family is part of the strict Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement and Jaxon Hunte, a black West Indian “nerd” who meet each when they are trapped on an elevator. Their meeting changes them both in ways they never thought possible. The fact that this book shares about two very different cultures is what makes is remarkable. The fact that these two even meet, let alone fall in love is truly amazing. It was one of our favorite diverse books.
2. Pointe by Brandy Colbert: This book is about an African-American girl Theo who is a promising ballerina with a lot of issues. Her life becomes even more complicated when her childhood friend Donovan comes back after having been kidnapped and kept for four years. The book touches on topics like sex, drugs, friendship, and family.
3. The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: This was a lovely story written in verse. The story is about Daisy a 16 year old high school student who is a good girl. She always does what she’s supposed to even helping out her parents with her severly autistic brother. She has conflicting feelings about him, but she’s surprised by the anger she feels when her parents announce to her that they’re putting her brother in a full time institution. Kehoe caputres vividly what it must be like to have an autistic sibling in the home.
4. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: McGovern’s story is about Amy, a girl with cerebral palsy who walks with a walker and talks with a voice box. During her senior year she talks her parents into hiring other students to be aides for her while she’s at school so she can be around peers her age who are “normal.” That’s how she gets to know Matthew, another senior at her school who has obsessive compulsive disorder and has difficulty with social interactions. As they become more than just a friends, neither one is sure how to handle the relationship and many mistakes are made. It’s a poignant novel that’s well worth the read.
5. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I loved this book about twins Jude and Noah (one girl, one boy, one straight, one gay) dealing with loss, love, and art so much that I actually ghost wrote a review when my editor and I realized the original author didn’t fully capture the book’s greatness. Nelson’s rapturous love scenes, gorgeously described art, and her description of the inimitable bond between twins makes this book unforgettable.
6. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: The winner of this year’s National Book Award is one of those middle-grade books you instantly know will be a classic. Written in verse, it’s an engaging, funny, and touching look at Woodson’s upbringing in the South in the North, in a time of life when candy and dancing and best friends named Maria are magical. A prodigious writer, Woodson shows young (and not-so-young readers) the big and small moments in her life that still hold a special place in her heart and will make every reader want to memorize her words and remember their own stories.
7. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Robin is a local DC author, so when I realized I had received her book at BEA, I was excited to promote it via the Diversity Book Club. A fictionalized account of two young women — one black, one white — on opposite sides of integration at a Virginia high school in 1954, “Lies We Tell Ourselves” is powerful and thought-provoking. After the girls are assigned to a class project together, it’s eventually clear they’re attract to each other, complicating an already tense situation. No, it didn’t really happen, but Talley researched what life during integration was like, and the story, as Alaya Dawn Johnson says in her NPR review, rings true.
8. “My True Love Gave To Me”: Four of the short stories in the holiday anthology featured diverse characters or themes — the ones by Matt de la Peña, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, and Stephanie Perkins. While I expected as much from de la Peña and Levithan, I was pleasantly surprised that Forman and Perkins incorporated interracial romances in their short stories. Both authors have written about diverse characters before, but this time felt different with one of them making the love interest African American, and the other writing an Asian main character. I loved several of the stories, but I was particularly excited to see the diversity included in the collection.