Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters".

During my childhood and teen years I never saw characters in books that reflected who I am or even anything close to that. As someone who is Sri Lankan American there aren't really that many books out there with Sri Lankan American characters these days but I would have been happy with Indian protagonists too. I remember stumbling across a paperback YA novel that featured a teen foreign exchange student from Vietnam. Just the fact that she was Asian was something new to me. Sadly that was the only book I found back then and the other characters were all white. 

Now there is so much more diversity in books but I hope there will be even more books that reflect people across all races, religious beliefs, gender orientation and those with disabilities or even mental illness. I love reading about people from other walks of life and who have different life experiences and beliefs to my own but it is good to read books about people who are similar too. It can really help especially for teens and kids to find characters they identify with.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

The new Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teen who always admired the hero Ms. Marvel and then gains her own super powers unexpectedly and decides to use them for good. At the same time she is dealing with the pressure of pleasing her traditional parents and being an American teen. 

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett is an amateur detective and after she passes out her new business cards she gains a client and a dangerous new case with connections to her father's murder. She also happens to be a Muslim American but I like that it isn't her defining characteristic. 

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Mary was a common thief who was rescued from the gallows and educated and trained to be a female spy. This series looks at both women's rights and the role of women in society and issues of racism and class. Mary is part Chinese and part Irish. She has to come to terms with her heritage and family legacy as well as what she wants out of life as a woman in Victorian times.

Shine, Coconut Moon by Nisha Meminger

Samar is an Indian American but she has been raised as a "coconut" (brown on the outside, white on the inside) by her mom so she doesn't really identify with her Sikh heritage. Then her uncle comes to visit and the aftermath of September 11th and racial prejudice have Samar rethinking things.

Does My Head Look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal was born in Australia but her family is originally from Pakistan. When she decides to start wearing a hijab to school, it is a decision that makes waves among her fellow students and the school administration.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This novel set in Iran features gay teen Sahar who is in love with her best friend Nasrin. Homosexuality in Iran is a crime but being a transsexual is not (though there is discrimination against them). When Nasrin's family arranges a marriage for her, Sahar decides to undergo gender reassignment so she can be with Nasrin as a man. The novel explores homosexuality, transgender identity and first love in a sensitive way.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

I love the original cover of this book and I loved the story too. Ai Ling is a brave, strong and intelligent heroine in this YA fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology. Author Cindy Pon is also one of the founders of Diversity in YA.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Ida Mae dreams of being a pilot and when the U.S. enters WWII and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) is formed she has her chance to try. The only problem is that she is black so she must pass as white to get in the program. The novel looks at issues of racism and sexism.

Joyride by Anna Banks

Carly has been living with her brother Julio since their parents were deported to Mexico a few years ago. Now she and Julio are working hard to raise the money to try to smuggle them over again. Arden is one of the popular, rich kids at her school.  Ever since his sister died, he has been aimless, quitting the football team and playing more and more pranks in her honor. When he meets Carly he thinks he has found his perfect partner in crime but their friendship is frowned upon by his racist father and her worried and protective brother. The book explores culture, values, racism and illegal immigration without being too heavy.

The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma

Nithya is a college student whose future is planned out for her. She is going to graduate and go to medical school at a top university. She will also have an arranged marriage. Nithya has been okay with these plans till she meets James. Nithya knows her parents would never approve of her dating let alone dating someone who isn't even Indian but she can't seem to help her feelings. I like how this New Adult novel looks at the challenges of dating someone from another culture and religion but also the similarities between them. 


  1. Joyride and Flygirl look really good!

  2. Fantastic list! I have only read The Agency, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Tiny Little Things also has a lot of diversity in it as well...if you can stomach the mean ballerinas.

  3. Great list, though I've not read any of these books.I've been going back and forth over whether I want to read If You Could Be Mine or not, and I think I've finally decided I do. It sounds so intriguing!

  4. Great list, though I've not read any of these books.I've been going back and forth over whether I want to read If You Could Be Mine or not, and I think I've finally decided I do. It sounds so intriguing!


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