Monday, May 12, 2014

Diversity in kidlit

I love books that feature diverse characters from other cultures or races or ethnic backgrounds than my own. I go out of my way to find them. Recently I read Played, by Liz Fichera, with a Native American main character, Sam. Then I discovered Liz Fichera regularly promotes YA books with diverse characters on her website, and encourages others to do this same on a regular basis. Other websites promoting diverse YA books are Diversity in YA, DiversifYA, Mitali Perkin's blog, and YA Highway has occasional posts on diversity in YA. I'm sure there are more... also, I haven't run across similar blogs for middle grade books (please comment if you know of any).

I join many others in saying that I appreciate the growing number of secondary characters who are of different colors and races, but we need more MAIN characters. And we feel that white-washing the covers is sneaky and wrong (showing the main character as being decidedly more white than he/she is in the book). We also need more non-white writers and authors. We know you're out there (speaking to you, A.K.!)

My plan is to highlight a book with a non-white main character every month, starting with Played this month. This is a companion book to Hooked (which I plan to read soon), and highlights some of the secondary characters from Hooked.

The main characters are Riley (suburban white girl) and Sam (from the Gila River Indian reservation); this is one of those great "you're the last person I'd ever fall in love with" stories that I never get tired of.

Highlights of this book, for me:

~A main character that's Native American... I loved Sam! 

~Sam's friends on the Rez (Gila River Indian Reservation near Phoenix)

~His grandmother and her baskets

~The road trip to California (on a motorcycle!) and its unexpected consequences

~just a touch of a reverse love triangle going on between Sam, Riley and Fred

~the secret about Sam's father

~My first impression of Riley wasn't too great but she had some lessons to learn about peer pressure (haven't we all?) 

Do you have any book recommendations that showcase diversity?


  1. I agree with you about secondary characters. I love when diverse types are chosen for such roles. It adds so much flavor to a story. Plus, I usually learn a lot about other cultures, beliefs, etc...

    1. Oh I love the learning... other than real life, no better way to learn than through a good book

  2. I see much more diversity in MG books than in YA, for sure. In YA a recent read with a non-white protagonist is Gilded by Christina Farley. In it, a Korean-American girl, whose father moves her back to Korea after her mother dies, discovers her family has had generations-long interactions with some of the Korean deities.

    1. I've been tempted to read this one... I read the sample chapter and it didn't hook me, but I might try it again (sometimes I have to be in the right mood)

  3. It's good that books like this are turing up more and more often! Pet peeve, though: "diverse" characters added as token nod towards the issue. There should never be a token anything.

  4. Margo, you touch on a topic that really bothered me when I was a kid. All the white, middle-class and upper-class families inhabiting the kids' library shelves.

    Thanks for the links to the blogs.

    1. I know... especially since I was always in city schools where white was barely the majority. I'm so thankful for the diversity I grew up in real life and hope it gets that way more in fiction, too. Slowly but surely.

  5. I love diversity books. Our world includes more than just one race. I want to open up the literary world for others.

  6. Simone Elkeles has some great ones (at least two different series if I remember right), and many of Rick Riordan's books also have really fun diverse leads.



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