Some time ago, I wrote a recommendation list of YA books by authors of colour, and I’m back today with a follow up to that post! There’s not much else to say about this, so without further ado, let’s get into it!
(Just as a note, not all of these stories are technically Young Adult, but they’re all books that will appeal to the YA readership).
With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
This is a beautiful story about a teenaged mother, Emoni, who is trying to balance caring for her daughter and elderly grandmother, with school and her dream of becoming a chef. And also that cute boy that just turned up in her class.
Emoni is black and Puerto Rican, which I think might be the identity of the author as well (but I’m not certain). Her cultural heritage was so well woven into this story, particularly with all the food. I am 100% won over by food. It was just so well-written, so poignant and so refreshing.
Pet is a middle-grade book about a transgender black girl named Jam, who lives in a perfect world, where monsters no longer exist. Until a monster (Pet) turns up, and tells Jam that there is another monster, very close to her. And she has to find it, before the monster causes more damage than it already has.
Jam is black and the author is Nigerian. The book deals powerfully with themes such as pain, a society in denial of evil, and racism (though to a lesser extent). *I would give this a content warning, as it deals with child sexual abuse, although in a more allegorical way*
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Descendant of the Crane is a Chinese-inspired fantasy novel about the young daughter of an emperor. When the emperor is murdered, Hesina sets out to discover who killed her father, but obviously there are all sorts of secrets to unravel along the way.
This book is heavily inspired by Chinese culture and mythology and it was a lot of fun. The setting and characters are all Chinese-inspired, and the author is a second-generation Chinese American.
Sister Heart is another Middle Grade novel, but it’s a powerful read that a lot of older people would benefit from reading as well. It’s a novel in verse about a young Aboriginal girl (whose name we’re never told, which is an important part of the story). After she’s removed from her family, she’s placed in an Aboriginal girl’s home, where she’s forced to do domestic labour, speak English, and forget about her family and homeland. It’s an absolutely heartrenching look into the genocide of First Nations people in Australia.
The main character is Aboriginal (though a specific nation is never given). The author grew up believing she was Indian, but later learnt that she was of Palku Aboriginal descent.
Perveen Mistry Series by Sujata Massey
These books aren’t YA specific, but the protagonist is quite young and they would definitely appeal to the YA audience. Perveen Mistry is a young female lawyer working in 1920s Bombay, India. So it’s got all the best things, mysteries, feminine feminists, history, and a look into issues such as racism, colonialism, feminism and a number of other things!
Perveen is a Parsi Indian, and the author is a second generation Indian-American.
This is Romeo and Juliet, but set in America and about two rival Vietnamese restaurants. They hate each other, but everyone seems to have forgotten why. Of course, Bao and Linh fall in love and then have to navigate their families’ complex pasts and all the normal teen rom com things.
There’s some great diversity rep in here, but the majority of the cast is Vietnamese, either first or second generation, including Bao, Linh, (and the protagonists of the companion novel as well, Viet and Evie). The author is also the youngest child of Vietnamese immigrants to America.
The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk
The Other Side of Perfect is a beautiful story about ballet, identity, confronting racism, grief and a host of other amazing themes. Alina was destined to become a New York City Ballet dancer…until she falls, shatters her leg and loses everything. In a bid to get her out of the house, her parents force her to try out for the school musical. And of course there’s a romance, and there’s grief, and it’s just a really good story.
Alina is Asian (I can’t remember her exact identity and I couldn’t find it online) and the story deals heavily with anti-Asian sentiments in dance, as well as racism in general. The author is Asian-American as well.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Essentially, Noemi’s cousin seems to have gone mad. She’s sending Noemi rambling letters that talk about ghosts and spirits and make no sense. In a panic, Noemi travels to the remote, ramshackled mansion her cousin and her new husband live in, which is where the story begins. Upon arrival, Noemi is immediately assaulted by visions of blood, death and a faceless golden woman, until she begins to fear that she too is losing her mind. Of course, it’s up to her to unravel the dreadful mystery that holds the mansion together, a curse so terrible it has been carried all the way from England to the depth of the Mexican jungle.
I read this one recently and I was immediately sucked in by the typical European gothic horror transplanted into the hot, steaming Mexican jungle. It was so unique and such a brilliant mixture. I need to see more of this sort of thing.
The majority of the characters here are Mexican, as is the author.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
This is a captivating and poetic novel based on the old Chinese legend of the moon goddess and her daughter, who sets out to save her mother from the wrath of the Celestial Emperor. I’m currently reading this one, so I can’t give too much more info on it, but the characters and settings are inspired by Ancient China, and I believe the author is Malaysian.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite diverse reads?
One thought on “YA Books By Authors of Colour (Part 2)”
I’ve read With The Fire on High, A Pho Love Story, and The Other Side of Perfect. Putting the rest on my list!