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Stuff for the Teen Age, For Teachers

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: A Few of Our Favorites


If I told you that we had diverse books at the library, what kinds of books do you think I mean?  Would they have multicultural characters from different parts of the world?  Who speak different languages?  Who have different sexual orientations?  Who have disabilities?  

YES to any or all of the above!

We Need Diverse BooksIf you follow social media like Twitter and Tumblr, you’ll notice lots of posts about books that include the tag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.  This is a way that people can promote books that reflect the different types of readers in the world.  One of the advantages of finding diverse books is that they’ll include characters who reflect YOU.  But one of the other advantages is that they can be about characters who are nothing like you at all.  

I’d already started working on a #WeNeedDiverseBooks reading list a while ago.  Then I had several conversations with the kids in my Teen Advisory Group about diverse books, and they gave me some more great suggestions.  They talked about how diverse books opened their eyes to what it would be like to live under very different circumstances.  These books helped them imagine what it would be like to live in another country, or what it would be like to spend every day in a wheelchair unable to talk to other people who assume that if you can’t speak then you must be stupid.  My TAG members also reminded me of several books in which the characters change between different bodies as the stories progress, so in some ways those are the ULTIMATE diverse books!  

What follows is a list of some of our favorite diverse books.  If you’re looking to find even more diverse books for teens, check out the books tagged with “diversity” on our Best Books For Teens 2014 list, and also  visit the website of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign!

The CrossoverEvery DaySay What You WillThe Shadow Hero

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Twin brothers Josh and Jordan face some tough challenges, both on and off the basketball court.

The Changers series by T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper [Book One: Drew and Book Two: Oryon]
Ethan wakes up on the first day of high school to discover that he has transformed into a girl ... and that this is the first of four transformations.  

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Anda is an American teenager who loves the adventure, the treasures, and the thrill of teaming up with her friends to defeat her enemies in the Coarsegold Online videogame.  But who ARE those friends and enemies, really?  

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Melody is smarter than almost everyone around her, but because she can’t walk or talk, nobody else knows what’s really going on inside her head.

Every Day by David Levithan
A is sixteen years old, and has never been the same person twice. Every morning, A wakes up in the body of a different sixteen-year-old: a boy, a girl, an athlete, an addict, a star student, a burnout. Then A falls in love, and things get REALLY complicated.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
This is a powerful true story told from the point of view of a young girl who grew up during a time of great turmoil in American history.

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
This is an unusual friendship/romance book that mixes elements of YA bestsellers like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park.  Amy has cerebral palsy and Matthew has OCD, so it also puts an extra spin on the whole idea of teen problem novels.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
This story is told from the point of view of a girl whose biggest concerns used to be dealing with her family, her school, and her job.  But then she upsets a bully without realizing it, and soon all of her other problems start to seem small in comparison.  

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Gabi writes about trying to deal with the challenges in her life. That means dealing with her drug addict father, looking for love and acceptance while trying to be a "good girl," and trying to find her own true voice.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
A bi-curious teen tries to deal with a giant insect apocalypse, with the help of his best friend and his girlfriend.

Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart
This is the story of three teenage girls on three different continents who would normally have nothing in common.  But the “blue gold” used to make cell phones connects all of their lives in ways they’d never expect.

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
A young Indian dancer has to decide if she’s strong enough to rebuild her life after she’s crippled by a tragic accident.

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti  by Laura Rose Wagner
A teenage girl named Magdalie survives the Haitian earthquake of 2010, along with her cousin Nadine. The two girls have grown up as closely as twin sisters, but in the aftermath of the earthquake their paths suddenly diverge.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Hank just wants to live a normal life and work in his parents’ grocery store in Chinatown. But his mother wants him to be a superhero instead, and she won’t take no for an answer.


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Orleans by Sherri L. Smith. Female MC of color and OC author!

Diverse Books

What good does purchasing one (1) copy of a "diverse" book, and then shelving that one copy at a Research Library like the Schomburg where the books do not circulate? As you very well know, the books at the research libraries are inaccessible to anyone who doesn't have all day to sit in the library reading. So I can only conclude that the intent is to get "credit" for having diverse books without actually making those books available to the public that needs them. Otherwise, NYPL would buy one copy for a research library, and, at least, one copy for a circulating branch library. The current practice is unethical.

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