We are undergoing a revolution right now. I’m finally seeing more covers with characters that look like me—like on Maureen Goo’s books—and reading stories with characters that love like I do—three cheers to that ace representation in Let’s Talk About Love! Minorities in the YA book community have been searching and waiting for books that truly reflect how we move through the world. And now we’re finally getting the stories we want and need.
But promoting diversity in YA isn’t just about reading books with characters of diverse backgrounds—it’s also about supporting the diverse authors behind them. And while authors are not their characters, I think stories feel different when they’re written by a person who can more intimately understand their characters’ experiences. To me, that’s why OwnVoices authors and stories are essential.
So here’s just a smattering of my favorite OwnVoices Little, Brown for Young Readers books and their equally amazing authors!
By Samira Ahmed
The *newly minted * New York Times bestseller is a gut-wrenching story set “fifteen minutes into the future” where Layla and her family are forced into a Muslim internment camp. I will never pass up the opportunity to hear Samira Ahmed speak about this book. Seriously, she brings me to tears every time I listen to her. Samira wrote this book for the Americans, immigrants, and Muslims just like her—but any American who’s been told to “go home” when they already are home will be moved by this story. I implore you: watch this video now. And then go read Internment.
The Astonishing Color of After
By Emily X.R. Pan
When I first heard about The Astonishing Color of After, I was SO intrigued. I’d never read a YA book set in Taiwan, let alone a book where the main character’s biracial ethnicity and heritage were some of the central focuses of the novel. Emily’s Taiwan is vivid and intense—you can feel how much this place means to her and her main character, Leigh. Her portrayal of depression and grief are real and intimate—and Emily’s own experiences with mental health and loss add even more depth to Leigh’s journey. I could read, analyze, and sob through this book over and over again.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)
By L. C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts at its core is unapologetically queer. Often times I think writers are pressured to write for a “wider” audience—to make characters white so white audiences are sure to relate to the story, to explain non-English words so English speakers aren’t left out, etc. But something wonderful about Jack of Hearts is how it refuses to comfort non-queer audiences. L. C. Rosen holds back no punches. Of course that’s not to say straight and cis readers won’t enjoy it (you will—I promise). But having a queer book, written by a queer author, for queer people makes this book even more special.
Tyler Johnson Was Here
By Jay Coles
In Tyler Johnson Was Here, Marvin’s life changes when his twin brother Tyler is shot and killed by a police officer. When you walk through the world as a person of color, especially black and brown folks, there’s always a nagging sensation that tonight will be the night that something bad will finally happen to you. And with so many wonderful Black Lives Matter books in the world, the YA community has made it clear that we want to discuss and understand why this happens. Jay Coles’ novel is so rooted in the present (and is also just a damn great book). Now that Tyler Johnson is in paperback, there’s never been a better time to READ IT IMMEDIATELY!
The Summer of Us
By Cecilia Vinesse
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love a good travel story, and I love them even more when they have love. I think Cecilia Vinesse would agree with me, considering her latest YA contemporary about a group of best friends romping through Europe before they part ways for college. There’s lots of romance a-brewing in The Summer of Us, but Rae and Clara are definitely my favorite couple, who deserve ALL THE LOVE in the world. I’m always here for an OwnVoices f/f romance—and I’m even more down when the girls are ADORABLE AND PERFECT.
By Alex Bertie
The list of Trans YA books—let alone written by Trans YA authors—is frustratingly short. That’s why I’m so excited for the US release of Alex Bertie’s memoir, Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard! Alex is a well-known Trans activist (you should check out his Youtube videos on gender identity and sexuality), and his memoir tracks his entire transition process. Just like his videos, Alex’s book is raw, emotional, authentic, and educational. This is a memoir you don’t want to miss!
When the Stars Lead to You
By Ronni Davis
Where are all the fluffy, cheesy, heart-sweeping romances with Black and biracial girls? That’s a question that stuck with me when talking to Ronni Davis about her debut YA contemporary. Of course it’s important to have stories that navigate Black Pain and violence. But we all contain multitudes: and people of colors’ stories are not only dictated by pain. That’s what I love so much about When the Stars Lead to You. Ronni’s story touches everything—from applying to college and worrying about scholarships, to racism and toxic relationships. Definitely keep an eye out for this book later this year.
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph
By Brandy Colbert
Speaking of fluffy romances with Black girls, haaavvve you read any Brandy Colbert books??? If not, where have you been! Come join the Official Brandy Fan Club! Everyone at NOVL already loves Brandy because of her previous YA books, Little & Lion and Finding Yvonne. But her next book, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, is particularly touching and heart-warming. Brandy always puts amazing Black girls front and center in her stories, and Dove is no different. I love all of Dove’s smart and meaningful conversations about family, race, sexuality and desire!