If you work in a diverse library district, you probably have adult patrons asking for books by Zane or Sistar Souljah. Chances are you begin blushing or lowing your already hushed voice as you read some of the urban fiction titles out loud to patrons.
We know that it’s great for adults to read in front of their teens but when a parent is reading about hustling, their teens might be reading the same books and we aren’t always comfortable while we are directing teens to the adult urban fiction section/books.
A great alternative is urban fiction for teens or books that feature teens of color. Below you’ll find a list of urban fiction and books with teens of color.
First things first, the technical definition of urban fiction is:
Urban fiction, also known as street lit or street fiction is a literary genre set, as the name implies, in a city landscape; however, the genre is as much defined by the socio-economic realities and culture of its characters as the urban setting.-Wikipedia
Continue reading Diversity YA Life: Urban Fiction
Image is important when you are a teen, especially in the era of the selfie. Posting photos on social media for all to criticize can have ill effects on a teen’s image.
In recent months, body shaming has been headline news due to comedian Nicole Arbour’s vlog called Dear Fat People. Her “satirical” commentary sparked a nationwide conversation about harmful speech. Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, and Selena Gomez have spoken out about people who call out their weight in photos. The common denominator is that fat shaming must stop and we must learn to respect everyone regardless of how they look.
Recent YA novels have addressed body image in different ways. Some novels are about bullying, some focus on relationship issues with parents, some feature boys, and some are just stories that feature characters that aren’t thin. Regardless of the issue, readers come in all shapes and sizes and all teens should see themselves in books, which is why the latest installment of Diversity YA features not-so-skinny POVs.
Below are a list of YA novels that feature teens of varied size and circumstance.
- Fat Boy Vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach (2015 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
When Gabe finds out that the vending machine money funds the cheer squad instead of the band, he makes it his mission to change it back. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Not-So-Skinny POVs
It’s Halloween and it’s time for more booklists about scary books. This booklist features scary books with diverse characters. Many diverse horror novels are also historical fiction, and these books often include folklore, mythology, and religion.
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith—American Folklore/Hoodoo
Hoodoo by Smith is about a 12-year-old boy nicknamed Hoodoo from Alabama in the 1930’s. Hoodoo, raised by his grandmother, sees a strange man one day and weird things begin to happen to his family and friends. Hoodoo must solve the mystery of his father’s death and conjure spells to save his loved ones.
Hoodoo or conjuring/rootworking is folk magic that uses natural resources such as herbs and even animals to enhance one’s life. People who practice hoodoo are often seeking love, wealth, or health. Hoodoo is believed to have originated from the 19th century in the southern states of America where there was a huge concentration of slaves. Because of the varied nationalities of the slaves, Hoodoo is the mixture of many different cultural practices including Native American herbal knowledge.
The Jumbies by Tracey Batiste—Haitian Folktales
Corinne’s father tells her the story of the Jumbies, but she knows that they are just stories adults tell to frighten children. One day, Corinne meets a beautiful stranger who quickly woos her father. When Corinne finds out the strange woman wants to steal the land for herself and the Jumbies, Corinne gathers her friends and family to help her find her unknown magic to stop the stranger.
The Jumbies is a retelling of the Haitian tale “The Magic Orange Tree” about a girl with an evil stepmother. When the stepmother starves the girl as punishment, she steals three oranges. The stepmother finds out and the girl runs away only to discover a magical orange tree that she can control. The girl seeks revenge on the stepmother with the orange tree. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Horror with Diverse Characters
Much of diverse young adult literature is contemporary, realistic fiction, or historical fiction about the struggle of being a person of color. As a teen library worker, I get to know the personal lives of teens and some of their stories are heartbreaking. From poverty to bullying, I recognize that the struggle is real and I am happy to be a non-judgemental adult soundboard. I am also grateful for the plethora of young adult fiction available so that I can hand a book to a teen I feel will provide some insight and comfort.
But when life is tough, many teens also like to escape into fantasy and science fiction. Readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror also like to see themselves in these books. If people of color can survive slavery and oppression and poverty, they can also survive zombies and maniacal kings and dragons. So, where are the black Hermiones?
I am a teen services specialist and a major part of my job is to connect teens with books. I have an avid reader, who is Middle Eastern, who asks me to recommend fantasy books about once a month. A year ago when the We Need Diverse Books movement started, I asked her to do a cue card about why we need diverse books and she stated that she would like to see more Middle Eastern characters in fantasy. A little over a year later, I gave her The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and she came back and absolutely raved about the book. She said that she particularly loved the inside cover because there was a girl who looked and dressed like her. This is one reason why we need diverse books.
If you are a library worker looking to enhance your diverse young adult repertoire or a teen reader looking for yourself in a magical world or a speculative fiction reader seeking something new, here’s a list of speculative young adult fantasy/science fiction titles for you to try. Please note that some titles feature characters of color in a supporting role—but that’s okay because Hermione was a supporting character, too. Continue reading Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror